Thursday, December 31, 2009

Francis Asbury

The following excerpt is taken from Methodist Heroes of Other Days by Samuel Gardiner Ayres, first published in 1916. The electronic version of this work has been produced by the Holiness Data Ministry and is represented by the Wesley Center Online. The entire work can be read there or purchased in CD format.


Chapter 1


An English lad, whose principal "foible" was a love of play, and whose young apprentice manhood was pure and good, showed no particular sign that he was to act the great part which he did in later life. When but a mere lad he began to preach in England. He was not as closely attentive to his duties as he should have been, as is witnessed by a letter of reprimand written to him, and still preserved.

When only a little past twenty-six years of age he voluntarily left his native land and came to America and became a true American. From then on to the end of his career his was a life filled with pain and suffering. No year passed without his having a hurt or ailment of some sort. Sometimes he had to be lifted on and off his horse and put to bed like a child. At other times, with little strength to spare, he sat in his chair and preached to a small or a large congregation. He addressed a dozen or five thousand, as opportunity offered.

In 1772 Wesley appointed this handicapped young man of twenty-seven the superintendent of all the churches in America. He was only one of nine preachers, and there were only three hundred and sixteen members in all the American colonies, and so it did not seem such a great undertaking; but before John Wesley died he became almost jealous of Francis Asbury, so great had the work grown to be. When Francis Asbury died there were no less than six hundred preachers and two hundred and fourteen thousand members.

We have mentioned the personal physical hindrances which were always a thorn in the flesh. To these we must add the times of discouragement, which must come to every sick man. He had his sleepless nights over the state of the church, the debt on Cokesbury College, the indifference of the people, and the backslidden state of many members. He toiled over bad roads in winter, cold and heat, snow and rain, through swamps and over mountains, making the rounds of the Conferences and charges. At the beginning his tours extended to two thousand miles a year, and later they exceeded five thousand miles and even reached six thousand miles in eight months. He visited the South thirty times in thirty-one years. In some sections the houses were filthy and the fare poor. He shared the poverty of the people or enjoyed being entertained "like a President."

He and his companion frequently rode twenty-five, thirty, and even thirty-five miles in a day without food for man or beast. "I find it hard to ride eight or nine hours without any other nourishment but a little bread and tea," he remarks; but on one occasion he returns thanks over a handful of nuts, and on another over a crust of bread for two. He tells how he enjoyed some potato and bacon after a ride of twenty-seven miles without food. On one occasion the lunch was a peach pie. Of course he was tired. He records in his Journal: "Rest, rest, how sweet! Yet how often in labor I rest, and in rest labor!" After a hard ride of three days he records a poor time in preaching. He earned it. Sometimes he slept on the ground in the woods without even a tent over him, or, again, on the floor in a log cabin on a deerskin filled with fleas. He was glad when he had a bed, even if the snow or the rain came through the broken, leaking roof. He was sometimes obliged to associate with drunken and profane men. He was in dangers oft, yet he never ceased to do his duty, and his everlasting cry was for the souls of men, and no pain he had was so great as the heartache caused by the fall of a member of the flock.

His prayers as recorded in his Journal would make a book. One has a particularly pathetic note: "Lord, remember Francis Asbury in all his labors and afflictions." And who shall say that this prayer was not answered? So often he records his belief in a Divine Providence: "I can say hitherto the Lord hath helped us through deeps, deserts, dangers, and distresses. I have told but a small part of our labors and sufferings; let the great day of eternity reveal the rest." But this was only the setting for a life in which many hours were sweet and happy in praise and service: "O what sweetness I feel as I steal along through the solitary woods! I am sometimes ready to shout aloud and make all vocal with the praises of His grace who died, and lives and intercedes for me." "I have suffered much -- I am pained and sore, and poor Jane stumbled so often! but my limbs and my soul are safe. Glory! Glory!" "The prospects of doing good are glorious." "I groan one minute with pain, and shout glory the next." "The Lord was my helper and my mind was in peace." "I began and ended the day with God." There are other references, which might be quoted, showing the sweetness of his soul. All the time he was seeking the best and highest experience, and he finally found it in 1803: "My mind is in a great calm after the tumult of the Baltimore Conference . . . in addition to the charge of the superintendency to feel and to live in perfect love."

Only the year before his translation he said: "My mind enjoys great peace, and divine consolation. My health is better, but whether health, life, or death, good is the will of the Lord. I will trust him and will praise him. He is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. Glory! Glory! Glory!" And this he said when he resigned to younger hands the burdens of his work, but he ceased not to toil until the last. He preached his last sermon in Richmond, Virginia, March 24, 1816, from the text: "For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth." He sat on a table prepared for him and preached for nearly an hour "with much feeling." He was carried from the church to his carriage. It is not the end of his journey, for he travels Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. He came to the home of Mr. George Arnold and rested on Saturday, and on Sunday, the 31st day of March, 1816, he took his last long journey to the land of rest.

His legacy was a great one -- a life filled with toil and sacrifice, not devoid of faults, 'tis true, but ever striving for the best. He traveled about one hundred and fifty thousand miles in the thirty-seven years of his life as bishop, preached more than nineteen thousand times, ordained, appointed, and loved one thousand ministers, served four generations of laymen, winning fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren for the kingdom of God. The number he won for the kingdom can never be told. He was the real founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America, and to him and his care it owes more than we can record. His triumph never ends.

I'm not sure what to make of this item. Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church in Orange County, California (one of the richest places in the world) is coming up short this year, $900 thousand short to be more accurate. Apparently giving is down among affluent church goers and the church went on a fund raising effort over the past couple days to meet the shortfall. I don't know yet how they made out but I have to ask myself a question. What in the world does a pastor do with all that money? Something strikes me as being a disconnect here. Churches used to serve a community or a neighborhood of like minded believers. One of the more precious places I remember from years ago was the small white frame church down the road that served as a backdrop for not just Sunday services but for community meetings, volunteer efforts and a host of fellowship activities geared for the service of Christ. There was community, there was personal acknowledgement. There was a sense of purpose that money cannot purchase. What has happened to the pastor and his church that it cannot exist except for being wallowed up in "big money"?

Rick Warren Looks For a Lot of Money By Year End

Update: It looks like the Mega Church might just be able to pull it off. The world awaits ...

Can they?

Growing Strong Opposition to Public Funding of Abortion

A contentious issue of abortion can always be expected to cause stirs among the American public but with the recent health care funding debate across the land, the funding of abortion is back at center stage. Contrary to liberal proclamations of support, a new poll by the Quinnipiac University shows strong opposition to any public funding. 72% of Americans are opposed to any public funding of abortion by the federal government. This is a good sign in the fight for the rights of the unborn.

See the story here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sheep stealing …

God so loved a very few of His creation and knowing every man is totally corrupt He would unconditionally elect those few individuals to a certain salvation. Having already elected these few souls, He sent His own Son to die a death on the Cross at Calvary that would only be intended for those elect souls. Nobody else could ever benefit given God predestined the lost souls for the purpose of damnation. That atonement saves those elected to salvation and seals the condemnation of those predestined to damnation. This expressed grace of God cannot be resisted by those He elected nor can it be frustrated. For those whom God elected and Christ died for, they are dragged willingly into the Kingdom of God and persevere eternally. ... you sir might be one of those few that God loves.

Of course such a message cannot really be preached effectively because there is nothing of the LORD in it yet these thoughts comprise the Gospel for many Calvinists once they have been indoctrinated into their sect. Having been brought into the Kingdom via the Gospel preached by most in Christ, the new bought Christian soon falls prey to teachings that rub harshly against the grain of the very Gospel preached to them in the first place. I can't count the number of times I have heard or seen Calvinists claim to have been saved in an Arminian church setting but once they started to read their bibles they became Calvinists. Why is it that the LORD would see fit to bring souls into His Kingdom by the preaching and ministry of lovers of the LORD only to later through gnosis to reveal to them that the real truth lies down the road at the "other" church? I think it is merely the flesh of intellectualism that seduces souls away from their first love.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Message From Our President (tongue in cheek)

Have a Merry Government-Regulated Christmas

Courtesy of Frank J. Fleming at Pajamas Media

The following is the transcript of the speech President Barack Obama gave for this holiday season.

My fellow Americans, as you spend time with your family this holiday season, I have an important proposal for you all to consider. Many of you like to celebrate Christmas. Children love to wake up Christmas morning and go see all the presents waiting under the tree. But what about the children who don't get any presents? What happens with them? The United States Marines have their Toys for Tots program but that just attacks the symptom. We need a real solution, and that means tackling what is at the heart of the problem: Santa Claus.

For too long, present-giving has been held hostage by the whims of this single man who is accountable to no one. Bearded, obese, and probably mentally unstable, Santa is someone we obviously don't want near our children. He's even somehow associated with known malcontent Jesus Christ (I'm not quite sure who he is, but I remember Jeremiah Wright mentioning him once or twice so I assume he has something to do with the creation of the AIDS virus).

Every year, Santa engages in some sort of domestic spying program, watching our children like a pedophile in wait, and he determines which children are "naughty" or "nice." His methods for determining this are unknown; we also can't know whether there is a racial disparity in these lists. He then makes his presents for the select few using non-union elf labor and comes to our neighborhoods in an unregistered sleigh pulled by disease-bearing caribou. Then Santa breaks into our houses and engages in his personal form of justice, leaving presents for the children he arbitrarily deems "good" and coal for the children he labels "bad." This is the worst form of vigilante justice — even worse than anything Batman would do — as it targets children.

Some would say we are helpless to fight the tyranny of Santa and must do nothing, lest he harms our kids; others say we must end Christmas and abolish all gift-giving. This is a false choice. We can have Christmas and presents, and we can be free of the judgmental madman known as Santa. What we need is a government takeover of the Christmas business.

Read the rest of this wonderful satire here.

My Fifty Second Christmas

Christmas this year in the Mallett household is a little different than in past years. We have focused on giving gifts to the grandchildren within the family. A couple of reasons drove this decision. Certainly financial reasons come into play as my wife and I have three of our adult children and our youngest grandchild living with us this season. We have also made a particular decision to try to downsize our lives financially and bring a greater simplicity to our days here. The second driver for this is really simple on my part. Christmas with all its commercial trappings appeals less and less to me. The television starts before Halloween in some cases. The Christmas exploitation runs strong to the point of nausea. While I didn't this year, my inclinations are moving more toward pulling my pots and pans together and putting my modest culinary interests to work for those in greater need. I am not one to make New Year's resolutions but if I were that might be my focus for 2010.

Christmas is not grounded in scripture but in tradition and perhaps it is time to establish new traditions. Our children are grown now. The grandchildren are still sure to receive plenty from Papa and Nana but something is missing for me. There isn't a sense of contribution that settles my soul. I look out on my front lawn and I see a blowup tall toy soldier, lots of lights, strands wrapped around a Palm. We are baking in the kitchen today which is a joy for me. Three more of our grandchildren arrive tomorrow and we will enjoy a family get together. Yet … I want to do something different for next year and I think I'll enjoy the preparation.

Wesley’s Eighty Sixth Christmas

Friday, December 25.--(Being Christmas Day.) We began the service in the new chapel at four o'clock, as usual; where I preached again in the evening, after having officiated in West Street at the common hour. Sunday, 27. I preached in St. Luke's, our parish church, in the afternoon, to a very numerous congregation on "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come" [Rev. 22:17]. So are the tables turned that I have now more invitations to preach in churches than I can accept. – December 25th, 1789 entry in John Wesley's Journal

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How Does A Christian Ever Justify Being Episcopalian?

The Episcopal Church seems to have driven another apostate nail into its side with the recent election of an openly homosexual woman to the position of assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. If confirmed this would be the second bishop in service with the Episcopal Church living in an outward and open reprobate lifestyle. While I have never had any interest in participating in this liberal and fallen organization, I have been curious to observe the parallels between this Anglican organization and the Presbyterian liberal factions noted most perversely among the PC-USA sect. I suppose it demonstrates that regardless of Calvinist or Arminian leanings, apostasy can gain a footing in any organization. Prayer for these souls is essential.

Episcopal Church Elects Second Homosexual Bishop

Wesley on the Creation of Man

John Wesley, when commenting on Gen 1:26-27, offers a well thought out discussion of what is entailed by the creation of man in the image of God. There are attributes, characteristics, that define us as something unique from the rest of creation. We are more than the sum of physical creation… in Wesley's words


We have here the second part of the sixth day's work, the creation of man, which we are in a special manner concerned to take notice of. Observe,

  1. That man was made last of all the creatures, which was both an honour and a favour to him: an honour, for the creation was to advance from that which was less perfect, to that which was more so and a favour, for it was not fit he should be lodged in the palace designed for him, till it was completely fitted and furnished for his reception. Man, as soon as he was made, had the whole visible creation before him, both to contemplate, and to take the comfort of.
  2. That man's creation was a mere signal act of divine wisdom and power, than that of the other creatures. The narrative of it is introduced with solemnity, and a manifest distinction from the rest. Hitherto it had been said, Let there be light, and Let there be a firmament: but now the word of command is turned into a word of consultation, Let us make man - For whose sake the rest of the creatures were made. Man was to be a creature different from all that had been hitherto made. Flesh and spirit, heaven and earth must be put together in him, and he must be allied to both worlds. And therefore God himself not only undertakes to make, but is pleased so to express himself, as if he called a council to consider of the making of him; Let us make man - The three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, consult about it, and concur in it; because man, when he was made, was to be dedicated and devoted to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  3. That man was made in God's image, and after his likeness; two words to express the same thing. God's image upon man, consists,
  4. In his nature, not that of his body, for God has not a body, but that of his soul. The soul is a spirit, an intelligent, immortal spirit, an active spirit, herein resembling God, the Father of spirits, and the soul of the world.
  5. In his place and authority. Let us make man in our image, and let him have dominion. As he has the government of the inferior creatures, he is as it were God's representative on earth. Yet his government of himself by the freedom of his will, has in it more of God's image, than his government of the creatures.
  6. And chiefly in his purity and rectitude. God's image upon man consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, Ephesians 4:24; Col 3:10. He was upright, Ecclesiastes 7:29. He had an habitual conformity of all his natural powers to the whole will of God. His understanding saw divine things clearly, and there were no errors in his knowledge: his will complied readily and universally with the will of God; without reluctancy: his affections were all regular, and he had no inordinate appetites or passions: his thoughts were easily fixed to the best subjects, and there was no vanity or ungovernableness in them. And all the inferior powers were subject to the dictates of the superior. Thus holy, thus happy, were our first parents, in having the image of God upon them. But how art thou fallen, O son of the morning? How is this image of God upon man defaced! How small are the remains of it, and how great the ruins of it! The Lord renew it upon our souls by his sanctifying grace!
  7. That man was made male and female, and blessed with fruitfulness. He created him male and female, Adam and Eve: Adam first out of earth, and Eve out of his side. God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants, from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another. God having made them capable of transmitting the nature they had received, said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth - Here he gave them,
  8. A large inheritance; replenish the earth, in which God has set man to be the servant of his providence, in the government of the inferior creatures, and as it were the intelligence of this orb; to be likewise the collector of his praises in this lower world, and lastly, to be a probationer for a better state.
  9. A numerous lasting family to enjoy this inheritance; pronouncing a blessing upon them, in the virtue of which, their posterity should extend to the utmost corners of the earth, and continue to the utmost period of time.
  10. That God gave to man a dominion over the inferior creatures, over fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air - Though man provides for neither, he has power over both, much more over every living thing that moveth upon the earth - God designed hereby to put an honour upon man, that he might find himself the more strongly obliged to bring honour to his Maker.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Holocaust of Ideas

These thoughts are going to carry me toward a different objective than I usually pursue. There is most often, if not nearly always, a theological pursuit, an exegetical notion, a contrasting sectarian idea that I seek out in this intimate space. At the moment however, I am piqued somewhat at the arrogance of false ideas, deliberate misrepresentations and the frustrating response of the typical worldly canard. We have each come out of this, some from a further reach than others, but each of us were at some time or another expert at the canard, the fraud perpetrated upon others in a desperate attempt to legitimize or present ourselves as meaningful in the discourse. Now nothing of this is surprising. In fact we know scripturally that the carnal mind is at enmity with God and who can craft the greatest deception than a mind at war? Wonderful … I now feel better having spewed my collective wisdom into the thimble.

What drove this to the page? I occasionally frequent a discussion board in the world, a world that is truly at war with God, with the nation, with sensible people of many persuasions. It is not generally a theological pursuit but at times the discussions lean toward the scriptural rebuttal. It is a natural event when the participants view faithful souls as "Holy Rollers", fundamentalist extremists, whacked out promoters of mythology. It is the nature of the unredeemed mind to cavort with foolishness. Obviously, the leftist-liberal with his Statist Fundamentalist mindset and a gross enmity toward God is not going to fathom the things of God. The spiritual things of God are all noise to him, nonsense and meaningless chatter. There is no understanding (Luke 24:45, Eph 1:18). Nonetheless, the unbeliever will quote Christ, pervert His words and attempt to turn Christ upon those who love Him and understand His teachings. Of course I know this going into the discussion yet it remains a frustrating experience to observe a lost, blaspheming soul heaping coals upon his own head especially in light of my own previous expertise at such.

The world is lost and it thinks itself well founded.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Inerrancy Resource …

Over the years I have not been a big fan of the term "inerrancy" regarding scripture preferring the use of "infallibility" as a better representative of the truth of scripture. The various arguments for and against inerrancy have not swayed my ground with regard to a full expression of the truths of scripture however the battle of the term and it's advocates and opponents has been on-going since Warfield first elevated the matter to church attention. Fundamentalism, as a political movement among various church groups, latched onto the inerrancy debate in the 19th century and has spawned several associated movements, in particular the King James Version Only adherents. The more extreme advocates of inerrancy tend to favor this latter group of believers while the polar opposites tend toward open theism and liberal excess.

I stumbled across this link on another site. It presents an interesting discussion and is a good reference for understanding some of the arguments and responses of both sides. In addition, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy offers the modern background of this issue.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Something to Ponder

THERE are two extreme tendencies in the ministry. The one is to shut itself out from intercourse with the people. The monk, the hermit were illustrations of this; they shut themselves out from men to be more with God. They failed, of course. Our being with God is of use only as we expend its priceless benefits on men. This age, neither with preacher nor with people, is much intent on God. Our hankering is not that way. We shut ourselves to our study, we become students, bookworms, Bible worms, sermon makers, noted for literature, thought, and sermons; but the people and God, where are they? Out of heart, out of mind. Preachers who are great thinkers, great students must be the greatest of prayers, or else they will be the greatest of backsliders, heartless professionals, rationalistic, less than the least of preachers in God's estimate.

The other tendency is to thoroughly popularize the ministry. He is no longer God's man, but a man of affairs, of the people. He prays not, because his mission is to the people. If he can move the people, create an interest, a sensation in favor of religion, an interest in Church work -- he is satisfied. His personal relation to God is no factor in his work. Prayer has little or no place in his plans. The disaster and ruin of such a ministry cannot be computed by earthly arithmetic. What the preacher is in prayer to God, for himself, for his people, so is his power for real good to men, so is his true fruitfulness, his true fidelity to God, to man, for time, for eternity.
– E.M. Bounds

Thursday, October 01, 2009

All for Some and Some for All or Some Such …

I was browsing through a few articles earlier on the SEA site and came across a recent article looking at a few questions and troublesome scriptural passages that some of our Reformed brethren seem to struggle with. The entire piece is certainly worth running through but one intriguing question caught my attention. How do the Reformed explain 1 Tim 2:4? My experience has been that the Calvinist will defer "all men to be saved" to mean all classes of men yet the suggestion of classes does not seem to be suggested at all in the full context of the passage. When we examine the full context of Paul's instruction to Timothy it is notable that all men or simply all is a common theme from verses 1 through 8. Examining this further we see an exhortation by Paul for the benefit of all men and he focuses even on a subset of men that certainly are not all elect as we know there are ruthless rulers and authoritarians in our day as in his. He follows this with the clear instruction that God desires to see all men saved. Is there any rhyme or reason why the all men of God's desire should be any less than the all men of Paul's supplication? Let's look at the passage from the KJV.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." (1Ti 2:1-8 AV)

One common objection I encounter with the statement "Who will have all men to be saved" is the rejoinder "Why are all men not saved if God will have them all saved?" I have heard this from the Universalists as well even though I make no connection between Calvinists and Universalists for their own sakes. The reply to such a line of reasoning is found in the context of the whole passage. The phrase does not address what God is going to do but rather offers what God desires and in noting this we also can see the encompassing purpose of the exhortation, that being the vehicle of prayer and supplication. I think it is important to note in grasping this urgency of prayer and intercessions the last phrase of the passage, "without wrath and doubting". The Christian should never pray for the deliverance of souls in any measure of anger at the soul or with so much as a doubt his prayer could be useful. How can we doubt our Gospel message to the soul on the other end of our reach? Paul's intent was to preach, pray, exhort, and entreat to every soul never doubting they too could be reached for he stated God's very word as …

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth …"




Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Kinds of Lost Souls

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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I was informed recently that one of the blogs I link to in my profile contained an offensive slur. I do not know all the circumstances of that particular site but until it is resolved I have removed the link. For those who might have followed the link, please accept my apologies for not monitoring my links more frequently.

A Calvinist Ran Away This Morning

… 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

The Enabled Will of Cain

"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

My Anger is Rekindled This Evening

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.

Is Our Faith Grounded in Sectarian Creeds and Confessions?

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

Thinking of Dr. Albert Outler for a Moment …

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

Wesley on Justification

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

More Thoughts of Arminius on Justification

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

Arminius on Justification

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.



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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Simple Distinctive

With the many discussions I have had, some enlightening and others divisive, regarding the distinctive differences we have as Arminians with our Calvinist brethren, I have struggled for the simple statement. Books have been written and tempers raised in trying to craft an understanding of these differences. I have lingered over election and predestination as the defining differences however I am moved to consider something else for now… I like old books. There is something treasured in a lot of them and I am especially drawn to 19th century writings, produced from a time when books were the medium of any significance. The 19th century produced a rich heritage of Wesleyan writings and in browsing through a few of them earlier, I came across this passage. It is taken from M.L. Scudder's American Methodism first published in 1867. The Wesley Center for Applied Theology has been gracious in providing several holiness works for research and enlightenment. This is one of them and I think the distinctives offered are right on the money.

The one controlling doctrine that gives distinctiveness to Methodism is, that the work of salvation by Christ depends on the enlightening, renewing, and sanctifying in-workings of the Holy Spirit; and hence, that the individual is saved, and saved only, as he becomes the subject of this work of the Spirit. In connection with this, it teaches also, that the atonement of Christ hath provided that every man may receive this Spirit, and become the subject of its sanctification.

Romanism asserts that sin can only be destroyed by the fires of purgatory. Calvinism and Lutheranism teach that it remains in the believer till death. Methodism asserts that the grace of Christ can "sanctify wholly," "here and now."

These distinctive doctrines that we have ascribed to Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Wesleyanism are not only true in their application to the churches that take their tenets from the men who give them names, but they can each be directly traced to the personal experience of the great Reformers themselves. Calvin sought for "subjection to the will of God," and taught his followers to seek more for submission to, than for reception of, the grace of God. Luther's struggle was for forgiveness of sin; but, with his interpretation, it was more "a work done for him than done in him," and his followers hold rather to "justification pro forma than pro spiritu." Wesley sought and gained a higher state, -- a religious consciousness that the " blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin:" he taught his followers that they were to know an inward, as well as outward holiness. - American Methodism, M.L. Scudder, S. S. Scranton & Co., Hartford, Connecticut, 1867, p.31

Monday, August 24, 2009

Arminius On Whether God Is Freely Good Or Through Necessity

On one of the fellowship boards I occasionally participate in, a discussion ensued around the question of whether God is freely good or good by the necessity of His Holy nature. It was related to another free will discussion but it spurred an exchange regarding Arminius sentiments on the matter. I tend to agree with Arminius regarding the source and existence of God's goodness. In the realm of truth and falsity, the LORD is the definition of goodness and the only yardstick by which goodness can be compared. Dare we ask can God sin? Can God be something other than what He is? If God can be something other than what He is by necessity and willfully depart from the truths and promises, then our hope and trust in an infallible LORD falls short of blessedness and instead becomes a mere convenience captive to the whims of a God freely able to be something other than our thrice Holy LORD. His Holiness is not a point in time. It is an eternal nature of an eternal LORD and unless we are willing to challenge His eternal nature then we cannot embrace the notion that God is free to pursue unrighteousness.

Arminius addressed this issue in detail below (from His Apology)

ARTICLE 22 (2.)

It is the summit of blasphemy to say, that God is freely good.


In this article likewise, our brethren disclose their own disgraceful proceedings, which I would gladly allow to remain buried in oblivion. But, because they recall this affair to my recollection, I will now relate how it occurred.

In a disputation, it was asked, "can necessity and liberty be so far reconciled to each other, that a person may be said necessarily or freely to produce one and the same effect?" These words being used properly according to their respective strict definitions, which are here subjoined. "An agent acts necessarily, who, when all the requisites for action are laid down, cannot do otherwise than act, or cannot suspend his acting. An agent acts freely, who, when all the requisites for action are laid down, can refrain from beginning to act, or can suspend his acting," I declared, "that the two terms could not meet in one subject." Other persons said, "that they could," evidently for the purpose of confirming the dogma which asserts, "Adam sinned freely indeed, and yet necessarily. FREELY, with respect to himself and according to his nature: NECESSARILY, with respect to the decree of God." Of this their explanation I did not admit, but said necessarily and freely differ not in respects, but in their entire essences, as do necessity and contingency, or what is necessary and what is contingent, which, because they divide the whole amplitude of being, cannot possibly coincide together, more than can finite and infinite. But Liberty appertains to Contingency.

To disprove this my opinion, they brought forward an instance, or example, in which Necessity and Liberty met together; and that was God, who is both necessarily and freely good. This assertion of theirs displeased me so exceedingly, as to cause me to say, that it was not far removed from blasphemy. At this time, I entertain a similar opinion about it; and in a few words I thus prove its falsity, absurdity, and the blasphemy [contained] in the falsity.

(1.) Its falsity. He who by natural necessity, and according to his very essence and the whole of his nature, is good, nay, who is Goodness itself, the Supreme Good, the First Good from whom all good proceeds, throughwhom every good comes, in whom every good exists, and by a participation of whom what things soever have any portion of good in them are good, and more or less good as they are nearer or more remote from it. He is not FREELY good. For it is a contradiction in an adjunct, or an opposition in an apposition. But God is good by natural necessity, according to his entire nature and essence, and is Goodness itself, the supreme and primary Good, from whom, through whom: and in whom is all good, etc. Therefore, God is not freely good.

(2.) Its absurdity. Liberty is an affection of the Divine Will; not of the Divine Essence, Understanding, or Power; and therefore it is not an affection of the Divine Nature, considered in its totality. It is indeed an effect of the will, according to which it is borne towards an object that is neither primary nor adequate, and that is different from God himself; and this effect of the will, therefore, is posterior in order to that affection of the will according to which God is borne towards a proper, primary and adequate object, which is himself. But Goodness is an affection of the whole of the Divine Nature, Essence, Life, Understanding, Will, Power, etc. Therefore, God is not freely good; that is, he is not good by the mode of liberty, but by that of natural necessity. I add, that it cannot be affirmed of anything in the nature of things, that it is freely, or that it is this or that freely, not even then when man was made what he is, by actions proceeding from free will: as no man is said to be "freely learned," although he has obtained erudition for himself by study which proceeded from free will.

(3.) I prove that blasphemy is contained in this assertion: because, if God be freely good, (that is, not by nature and natural necessity,) he can be or can be made not good. As whatever any one wills freely, he has it in his power not to will; and whatever any one does freely, he can refrain from doing. Consider the dispute between the ancient Fathers and Eunomius and his followers, who endeavored to prove that the Son was not eternally begotten of the Father, because the Father had neither willingly nor unwillingly begotten the Son. But the answer given to them by Cyril, Basil, and others, was this: "The Father was neither willing nor unwilling; that is, He begat the Son not by will, but by nature. The act of generation is not from the Divine Will, but from the Divine nature." If they say, "God may also be said to be freely good, because He is not good by co-action or force:" I reply, not only is co-action repugnant to liberty, but nature is likewise; and each of them, nature and co-action, constitutes an entire, total and sufficient cause for the exclusion of liberty. Nor does it follow, "co-action does not exclude liberty from this thing; therefore, it is freely that which it actually is. A stone does not fall downwards by co-action; it, therefore, falls by liberty. Man wills not his own salvation by force, therefore, he wills it freely." Such objections as these are unworthy to be produced by MEN; and in the refutation of them shall I expend my time and leisure, Thus, therefore, the Christian Fathers justly attached blasphemy to those who said, "the Father begat the Son willingly, or by his own will;" because from this it would follow, that the Son had an origin similar to that of the creatures. But with how much greater equity does blasphemy fasten itself upon those who declare, "that God is freely good? For if he be freely good, he likewise freely knows and loves himself, and besides does all things freely, even when He begets the Son and breathes forth the Holy Spirit.