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REJOICING IN THE ETERNAL TRUTH
AND GREAT MERCY OF GOD
A DELIGHTFUL GIFT
Following on from Ch. 5 above, it is incumbent on anyone who is owned by the Lord, to give praise, for it is n onerous ownership, but even reciprocal in one degree, that my Beloved is mine and I am His, whether this be taken (as in Song of Solomon Ch. 5) individually, or as part of the Church, which is the spiritual bride of Christ (Ephesians 5).
First is it not wonderful that with Calvin having inadvertently made his hideous error with his 'decretum horribile' so daftly attributed to God (though even Einstein once attempted to divide by zero, so that even eminent scholars can fall when their desires - his for a more static universe - are concerned), Wesley, for all the flaws in his system, at least gave a good correction in this one point. Is it not also good that Spurgeon spoke so eloquently and briefly in this same arena.
It is also a lovely thing that the old Presbyterian Church of Australia, which was one of those openly and actually including an addition to the Westminster Confession, as a subordinate standard of the Church, under the scripture in entirety, in the form of a LOVE OF GOD emphasis. In the light of this, the Confession was to be read with this in view, though this was by a clever trick, nullified practically in 1991*1. The Constitution, though in this aborted, however remains against the day when anyone will restore it. A whole movement, the Methodists, made much of the emphasis on the love of God, in stringent contrast to Calvin, and of course, Wesley's letter to Whitefield on this topic is a classic.
It has long been lamented that there have been a number of extremes throughout church history, which have tended to provide needless division, and this has been one, and others are treated in The Bay of Retractable Islands. In the present case, predestination and freewill, treatment is found at preliminary level in Ch. 2 and then more directly in Ch. 3.
Before looking at some of the historical comings and goings, where the Lord kept His word, as traditions this way and that flew about, consider Psalm 117 in its pithy message, as ROCK in the Lord.
1) THE TRUTH OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER
First we look at the word of Spurgeon, then at the letter of Wesley and last at the statement enshrined as a discipline for any approach to the Westminster Confession, and in the light of which (still, in the constitutional format of the PC of Australia) that Confession is to be read.
Before we proceed with some of these elements, let one thing be done. Let us praise God because as in Psalm 117, "His truth endures forever." It is not subject to cultural change, Reformation omission, Romanist distortion, Church lore or tradition, cultural dictation or psychological subversion. Thus it cannot be made into a bucket of psychic pulp, to make people feel happy. It is great to feel happy, but even this can be illusory, and with wisdom, it is necessary to be happy for the right reasons. This is so, not only that it might endure, this state of happiness, indeed this spiritual joy which has higher dimensions, but more importantly, that it might reflect the presence of God, like oil in a machine, like beauty in flowers, which can be scraggy affairs if left in a vase in an airless room for too long!
His TRUTH ENDURES. This is a great thing: that we should have open access to the truth is worth more than this world in total (including all sea-side properties and the space about it). Without the truth, knowledge of what is what and what is not about our origin, meaning, destiny, the grounds for it, its parameters and its culmination, indeed its consummation, what is to be found then ? Then human life is a mixed-up maelstrom of malodorous, often malicious, impassioned follies and fiascos. Then, it breeds tyrannies, revolts, concussions, useless discussions, bugs in the void, useless dreams, a maelstrom of ignorant philosophies, captives of desire, disdainful of logic, partial things in the twilight that skirt the darkness of logical disease if not filled with irrational fever.
It is as if someone were told, now this thing, called a car, is often misunderstood. It is not really for roads. That is a primitive, barbaric concept indeed; it is for use in agricultural labour. You should experiment and see how best to use this sleek thing, this lightly sprung vehicle, and whatever you do, never use any gear but the first, since this is required for power, and we need power in agriculture, though some idiots attempt to put it on roads.
This is no exaggeration. That is the skew illustrating the way man treats his life, his neighbour, his spirit, his prospects, disordered, a mirage of desire, of moral intonings without ground, if any! (cf. Romans 1-2).
What man is FOR is so seductively obfuscated that people, limping away from the truth, invent the most torrid horrors for man:
as in World War I and its imperial European pomp to be
the most powerful nation to the glory of God,
as in World War II, with Hitler similarly in the
philosophy of human power and glory,
Yet in fact, since survival has nothing to do with arrival, but simply takes this for granted, nothing was gained; but a few million souls perished, often in profound and grievous horror.
The Cold War did more yet in violating human vulnerabilities, as an atheist sovereign tried to make an inane Communism*2 survive, without success, and carried millions more by induced famine it appears, to the grave as part of the 'experiment' in confusion. Many more were sent to Siberia, to be used like living machines, fed little, frozen much, treated worse than animals, sought as subvertible, ruled by horror. The Islamic militant war supervened, to bring back a former land holding*3 and make some religious entity without logical foundation or historical attestation*3, with some unbiblical data from the Old Testament and the Christian Church brought to bear, to have rule and to subjugate much in man. Thus the atheist, pseudo-religion*4 of Communism, still carried on in shocking conditions in North Korea, and in appearance only in China, having had its chief day, has now to behold this quasi-religious religion-paraded force in its:
seeking to control new lands, as in Afghanistan, India now,
colliding with Russian aspirations in sundry republics of the former USSR,
drumming for the decease, destruction or removal of Israel,
While then human devastations are being dynamised by the dreams of man, atheist, quasi-religious - and perpetually confused versions of man's religious desires appear as a cost
for ignoring the Bible, secure in its logical and empirical attestation*6, and
for acting as if God just thought of things needed for mankind, after a few thousand years had passed,
so that new religions could be created to help suppress other peoples, be a paean of pride to man, or whatever other thing was felt to have appeal to the human psyche (cf. Barbs .. 17).
It is objectivity, however, testable, transparent,
sure, which is needed, not simple subjectivity PLUS FORCE.
THAT is in itself a confession of untruth (cf. SMR pp. 50ff., 62ff.).
There is however only one Book which gives evidence of credentials from the beginning, as early as man was, and of a line of practical tests to authenticate it, from early times to the present, in which the flow*7 of confirmations is massive, leaving this generation no excuse (cf. John 15:22ff.).
THE TRUTH ENDURES, says Psalm 117:2.
But it says somewhat more: "The truth of the Lord endures." It is the God who made man who ALONE COULD have truth, because
ONLY He has knowledge from the first (of what He did), being from eternity (so knowing by Being who He is); and
as Creator, He has total omniscience
The works of the Lord it is, that those who love Him pursue with desire, since they ARE His, and thus some of the great scientists, the most innovative of all time have been Christians who knew their Creator as such! Who does not know of Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Lord Kelvin, of Carl Linnaeus, Faraday, James Joule, James Maxwell, John Fleming, Werner Von Braun, Joseph Lister, Georges Cuvier, Samuel Morse, Charles Babbage or Francis Bacon. Hundreds now of Ph.D. scientists continue the attestation, some with more courage than others!
This is merely one aspect. In art, literature (and what a testimony have William Shakespeare*8, Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth here) and philosophy, for though this has now become mostly an avenue for cultural assault, there is yet the attestation of enduring truth, as with St Augustine in his work, The City of God, and with people like Professor C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, who in our own day, have wrought a work to reach the masses with biblical truth seen in contrast to philosophic jumble sales.
"The truth of the Lord endures forever." Thus is the word of Psalm 117. This is the reason why multitudes have written to show it, and not to betray it; and this entire 189 volume set now on the Web, IN PRAISE OF CHRIST JESUS, of which you are now reading, has been written only FOR the Lord, in terms of the BIBLE, using logic to show that it is the eternal truth, that wisdom savours it and that man needs the salvation there attested in Jesus Christ. Works of many kinds have been over the centuries engaged in, by missionaries, in defence against slavery, in opposition to slavery as by Wilberforce and John Newton, against ignorance as with Elizabeth Fry, against industrial cruelty, as with Lord Shaftesbury. Works of forbearance without number, of grace, of gracious longsuffering, of courage and of kindness have multiplied because of the truth in the Bible which not only endures, from generation to generation applied, for millenia, but endures forever.
Its Gospel is unchangeable, unerring, as in Galatians 1, incapable of mutation, adequate in information, glorious in grace, ancient in testimony, lively in culmination, showing a better way, that of love, than the fevers of imperial passion and lordly arrogance among men. Nietzsche detested it, sought to make it appear weak, when meekness was the issue. His philosophy reaped its own reward in the arrogant, masterful, superbly masculine, indomitable tyrannical trials of many in his native Germany since, and not there alone by any means. Indeed, Hitler was almost a puppet to such concepts, merely pinpointed in a form of Darwinism which loved to SELECT the fit, and IMPOSE their imaginary and ambiguous fitness on those who saw better what ENDURES, that he did. Arrogant insolence does not endure, though it may have its day*9.
2) HIS MERCIFUL KINDNESS IS GREAT TOWARDS US
Moreover, says Psalm 117, "His merciful kindness is great towards us."
It is first of all, HIS. It is not mercy or kindness in isolation, like spiritual atoms with enriched core. It is great indeed. It is no small thing to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13). " Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." In the domain of love there are many specifics (I Corinthians 13), and there is a foundation (I John 4:7ff.), without which mere affection can be mistaken for it. However WITHIN love, there is none greater than this, that a man lay down his life, and that, for his friends.
The merciful kindness of God, His sense of impending and desired fellowship to give to us
for our good and our blessing,
of pardon in a peace-productive field,
of atonement in His own blood, for which He had
first to become incarnate,
of a rich goodness over our ways:
this is there.
That is good and indeed magnificent. Yet this is not all, just as His truth as an enduring wonder, is great; but it is not all.
There is yet more, for His truth, IT IS FOREVER.
Equally here, we find His merciful kindness is there. This is not all, for it is GREAT. But what is greater yet in His beauty of holiness is this, that it is great TOWARD US.
It does not simply have some application to us, like a social welfare program in the interstices of its formulation and information. WE are its butt. HE is personal, we are personal, and from Him, it is great toward us!
It is great first in this, that He loved. Next, it is great in that He SO loved, being specific, specialised and devoted in intent. Thirdly, it is the whole world that He SO loves, so that there is no racial, temperamental, social, financial, scholarly or other dimension for selection. It is great in that also.
God loves the people He has made and SO loves them that He GAVE. Giving is better than thinking, though thinking may find where and why to give! What then did He give ?
He gave His begotten Son. Mary was the human-flesh site and situation for the incarnation, and the result as Luke 1:35 specifies, is that what comes from this overshadowing by the Holy Spirit over her, is to be CALLED the Son of God. That was done, and THEREFORE, says Luke 1:35, this is the name of the result. It is THIS SON that He gives. That He so enshrined Him in flesh as His Son is the more lovely in this, that it is He - there being no marriage in heaven - who was and has been and is and will be His everlasting word (John 1:1 cf. The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 10), who is so incarnated. In a sense, it is the Speaker-Spoken relationship which becomes the Father-Son relationship. It is His SON who thus comes to earth, from the glory which He had with His Father before the world even came to be (John 17:1-3).
Nor is even this all. It is His ONLY BEGOTTEN Son whom He gave. Man has many children; God wrought to incarnate ONE ONLY. THIS ONE He gave.
He is sufficient for all, being God, in His sacrifice; He is efficient for any, being God at work, in His coverage; He is proficient for each, welling up through His Spirit in His children (John 4, Romans 8).
Thus anyone who believing, takes this Son (John 1:12-14), is given authority to become a child of God. This is the adoption (Ephesians 1), which includes an eternal inheritance, already assured (Ephesians 1:11).
Calvin made it too narrow in intent as seen earlier in this volume; Wesley was true to its scope, as we shall shortly see, but for all that, tended to short-circuit its eternity of nature. God however has made it clear that it is great indeed toward us. It is secure. It is broad, it is high, it lacks nothing, it seeks for all with passion, it provides for any in its fashion, notorious in the dress of the cross of Christ.
THEREFORE we should do what else is found in Psalm 117. What is this ?
We who are Gentiles, the other nations (and Israel is far from excluded, as in Isaiah 42,49, where it is the Gentiles who are ADDED!), should praise the Lord. We should possess our possessions, for there are no spiritual recessions and you do not in any case have to borrow, for HE, the Lord Jesus Christ, has paid it all (Romans 3:23ff., Matthew 20:28, Titus 3). You should have a heart as kindled as any bush-fire that devastates; but this, it is kindled with non-destructive joy, and it is delight to praise the Lord in a flame of spiritual fire (Psalm 104:4). We should cease to be languid, if so afflicted, or to be too sure of ourselves, trusting in our own little ways, but instead expansively seeing the magnificence of His eternal truth which He always sustains, and His merciful kindness which is great towards us: PRAISE Him.
Our hearts should be full of praise to Him for His bounty, His justice, His mercy, His sacrifice, His atonement, His bodily resurrection. We should not be among those who drift, as did the blighted PC of New Zealand, when it forget about the basis of faith in the bodily resurrection of the death-to-death dealing Christ, and made it an optional to its cultural revision of Christianity. We should continually rest in the wonder of His praise, the marvel of His dealings, the presence of our Lord by His Spirit even within us ("Christ in you, the hope of glory" - Colossians 1:27). Sleazy, queazy counterfeits should be avoided not with a mere intellectual coolness, but as one fights a bushfire, as when Paul in Acts 16ff. is found reasoning vigorously with those in the synagogues, and addressing them with no small fervour!
PRAISE the Lord. It is better to praise Him altogether, moreover, not for some cut-down version of the Gospel, as from an illiberal God, but with due realisation that it is FOR all, that the sacrifice is SUFFICIENT for all, desired divinely for all, adapted to all, as the Presbyterian Bible Church had it and indeed as noted above, the RPCES for years. We should not listlessly suffer anyone in our spiritual midst to restrict the rejoicing or the blessing or the intent of the Lord in some mangled concept of sovereignty, as if it short-circuited grace. We can urge, exhort and vote.
The mystery is revealed, as we have seen in Ephesians and Colossians, to this huge massif of love, that ALL THINGS be reconciled to Himself. THIS is the scope of the delight of God in His love, towards the whole human race. There are no exemptions from this most glorious, divine salvation but those for which man is wholly responsible. He is doubly responsible, once in sinning to sever, and again now, in preferring darkness to light, even when it liberates, is personal, is paid up, is the gift of love! (cf. John 15:22ff.).
GOD so loved; but this is the condemnation, that man loved darkness rather than light. Such is His word (John 3:19). Rejoice then that those to be in heaven are those who love light more than darkness, as known before all time by the Lord, and thus there is no tension, as if there were lesser races and lower breeds. It is ALL for whom He so seeks, not in mystification merely in word, but in salvation in blood-based fact! Such is the word from Colossians 1.
Rejoice GREATLY therefore and forever.
Now as introduced earlier, we look at some of the expansive beauties to be found in history in terms of this appreciation of the scope of the divine love, which is limited not by mystery, but by man as foreknown before all time (Ephesians 1:4) by God. These relate to Spurgeon, Wesley and lastly, to a contemporary but battered body, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, one which as founded had a love of this loveliness of the Lord.
Life Story ... Appendix 1
* On Spurgeon, the following both to concur and to go beyond, is of interest.
It is taken from Predestination and Freewill, and extended.
Spurgeon next ponders the text: "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated." The context states that before the birth and irrespective of the works of either, their divine destiny was dispensed. Thrusting aside two hermeneutic infertilities is a preliminary. He rejects the effort to equate "hated" with "loved less". If "hate" is a somewhat strong translation, it is nearer the original than is the amendment: and use what word you will, Esau was not directed? blessed or treated with divine affection. Nor is the pinch of predestination escaped by equating "Esau" with a tribe. First, the context is concentrated on individual considerations; furthermore, is not a nation composed of individuals? Even if it were not so, this selective type of principle is not the less operative because vaster in scope. Let us face it, he says, there was a decisive divine difference in approach portrayed as predestination.
That word! Its mention is like the tang of doom to the Arminian who reacts with flashing eye. But is this response consistent for him? Surely such a man would assert that his own salvation depended on an effusion of divine grace. that it was grace which brought him in; that he will glory in that; that he could not reach it and but for this grace, he would have remained blind.
Wait! says Spurgeon. If it was the superabundance of divine grace which drew you, how is it that that unconverted man is not also so drawn? Are you sure that you do not intend that you were simply sharper than he? Never! comes the swift responses he has not as yet received so gracious an effusion as I was blessed to obtain. Spurgeon is implacable: If he never does, is he not therefore separated from you by a decisive difference in divine approach and by nothing else? And is this not precisely what I called predestination? Thus we agree but you are less happy to consider these consequences of your own emphasis.
As here indicated, Spurgeon wishes to clarify thinking, to establish principles but he has no intention of carrying them to the further point where there is a gratuitous addition to Scripture, or a collision with it. In this respect, he asserts, much harm is done by considering positive and negative predestination as determined by the one principle. The procedure is mistaken. The two types of apportionment of destiny should be seen to be governed by two appropriate principles.
With the (positive) election of grace, it is this:
The sinner in debt to God with his life, can expect short of grace
to pay with the condign consignment of that life beyond the presence of God.
A rifling (not selfdependent but yet selfdirective) renegade,
his is just exclusion.
But God will have mercy; delights in it; shows it;
the man is swamped in grace, restored by forgiveness,
penalty is lifted and life is restored.
The principle is one of grace: pure, unmerited, unsearchable, unattainable, but bestowed.
We have no problem: divine discretion engenders delightsome bounty in this positive case.
A new principle applies in the case of negative election: it is justice, a pure justice not to be confused with the vindictiveness, spite or bitter ebullitions of parting personalities, retaliatory after injury rather than pursuant of equity. The will of the reprobate wanted what it got, with respect to God: that is, none of Him. Is not preference as well as justice catered for? for he has got what he wanted. Who shall complain?
These are two principles: grace and justice each appropriate to its subject, and neither to be applied to the subject matter of the other. Where now is controversy ?
But the truthloving Spurgeon does not ignore a possible appearance of inconsistency. We may divide; but have we conquered? Would it not appear that the electing God has declined to pour out a necessary and efficacious grace upon some men like Esau; and does not this abstention raise the anomalous thought that He specifically created some souls with the purpose of damning them!
Is not this, counters Spurgeon, to libel the Lord? It is contrary to the principles which God reveals of His character: and it is mere inference. Can we infer in these supernal regions which directly move upon the divine personality? he asks. Do we not recall the dangers of shallow doctors of limited mind but unlimited "understanding" whose shallowness brings, through a misleading sophistication, not triumph but defeat! No. Just as God's word, in promise form, staggered even faith to believe it, when Abraham heard it seem to surpass normal providence in promising him a child at his great age, so here God's word in the form of doctrine seems to surpass logic in its propositions.
With our premises of the greatness of His excellence above us, we may consistently postulate that in some such way this apparent deficiency*43 (not after all an express statement) may be filled up, and the difficulty overcome with a like power in the regions of understanding. But for the present, let us adhere to what we know and pursue it.
(End of citation.)
Spurgeon rightly regards it as blasphemy to attribute the withholding of saving grace from a man as an initiative for which God in sovereign simplicity of action and desire, is responsible. In the sermon on Jacob and Esau, he declares this (colour added).
Why does God hate any man ? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly - it is the same thing - created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him ? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever ? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loved man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deal with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets. In hell there will not be a solitary soul that will say to God, O Lord, thou hast created me worse than I deserve! But every lost spirit will be made to feel that he has got his deserts, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at the door of God, that God had nothing to do with his condemnation, except as the Judge concerns the criminal, but the himself brought damnation upon his own head, as the result of his own evil works. Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty ? That were to libel God and to dishonour him ... My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man's soul at God's door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.. . Salvation is of God ... if you perish, at your own hands must your blood be required.
The concept of simple sovereign damnation Spurgeon rejects in terms aptly summed as being a hideous caricature, as 'blasphemy', in terms of mean-minded and so forth. Man when reprobate is entirely responsible for his own damnation in a way which is therefore not a mirror-image of the fact that God is entirely responsible for his salvation.
Spurgeon, as shown in Predestination and Freewill, while going well in making this distinction and emphasis, well indeed, does not go far enough. It is shown there as in other of the reference chapters given above, that in fact the LOVE of God is towards all, even to the point of wishing them to be saved, but not to the point of requiring it by force. Love has restraint, and no meaning when it is merely contrived. He knows what He is doing in predestinative mode as well as in historical appeal, whether through Christ Himself or the prophets. While the human will is decisively not operative in this as shown in the above work, and clear from scripture, it is decidedly relevant (cf. SMR Appendix B).
It is thus responsible, even though because of its pathology it was dysfunctional to the point at issue; for God is able to know the heart of a man beyond sin, beyond all things, in reality, and to comprehend where love is apt and where it would be a perverted intrusion masquerading as love, when love it is not.
God has made His principles clear to the point, as in Colossians 1:19ff., that whether on earth or in heaven, HE would have all reconciled to Himself; and the domain in which He is speaking is the ultimate, "having made peace by the blood of the cross."
HOW HE chooses to speak of anyone in view of this and all the related scriptures, is purely His own choice, whether He speaks of Esau or anyone else. He does not have to ask permission to meet the shortsightedness or terrestialisation of theologians, if they become so minded! If He wishes to stated the result of foreknowledge, that is for Him. If it be negative, this too is His option. It has nothing to do with the METHOD of foreknowledge, the divinely stated principles at work in it. It does not negate the words of Jesus Christ as in Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42, and John 8:58, where His way and desire is as shown, and that of man as shown, and the result as shown. Moreover it is known by the One equal with God, a member of the Trinity, who speaks what His Father has commanded Him (John 12:48-50).
God is at liberty to speak of the entire process of finding and funding at whatever point He will; and to stray from the principle in order to satisfy a presumption about what point in the entire process is in view, is mere limitation of the Holy One of Israel, and of all Christians. It is a foozle of the first order, a solecism for instruction in logic classes. It is to add to the word of God, beyond what it says, concerning steps and stages.
Even a teacher can review the exam result for a student, and speak of that in drama, or the labours of the student, or speak again of what it reveals, and direct his thoughts to either phase. How much more the Lord speak of the DEFINITENESS of the results of His election, those chosen in Christ, when He so desires, and at other times, of the principles on which that same election is based. He may speak of how He did it, why or how, and each phase has a sufficient basis for understanding in the Bible, which It is not really difficult to take and adopt in perfect harmony. Follow ALL of the word of God and avoid extraneous and extravagant conclusions which both intrude in eisegesis, and contradict what is written.
Such matters as these are expounded at length within the references given. They are continually seen in the scriptures where the appalled grief of God and the intensively yearning love are conjoined with consequential and condign punishment, alone apt where love is reviled, remedy is disregarded as in the infinite and pre-temporal knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:4, II Chronicles 36, Ezekiel 33:11, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, John 3:16, Luke 19:42ff., Isaiah 48:18ff., and see Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Supplement 6).
We come in survey of steps the Lord took to keep the reality
of the scope of His love clear, lest some mislead and people do not take the word
as written in the Bible, and so review some action
between Wesley and Whitefield.
This is taken from our volume, Serenity not
Serendipity... Ch. 14,
with very few adaptations.
If Whitefield found that the marvel of his being rescued from the sin, which amply deserves eternal destruction, moves him to relish the concept of free, undeserved, distinguishing grace, not in its historical impact there for all;
yet Wesley found the wonder of the love of God which is not in some aristocratic or divisive way limited
in its actuating force as if to select only the most lovely or attractive,
so that it could and would penetrate whatever the barrier, in its own integumental magnificence, and man had only himself to blame,
to be no less wonderful.
God FINDS in His own inimitable way, says one; God LOOKS in His own pervasive munificence, says the other. Each had much to marvel at. In reality, there is no barrier to BOTH these emphases, since each is in the Bible, as in Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, on the one hand, and in Romans 9 and John 1 on the other, to mention but two of the vast array related to these arenas, for each.
The love as we see in Predestination and Freewill and others of the references given in the first part of this letter, is just as broad as Wesley and John 3:16 with I Timothy 2 unequivocally declaim; and the mystery of the wonder of God's actual selection, having shown that love whether here or there, now or then, in predestination or application, so that He removes by His active transformation of the sinner in sovereign rescue, is just as practically selective, in that phase, as Whitefield feels and may cite from Romans 9 or John 6. It is the truncation effected upon the word of God in one or other aspect, instead of far more profitably, upon the philosophic trends which were pulsing past it, or lagging beneath it, which is needed. It is not then word of God but the word of man, which needs the truncation.
In my work just cited, it was my aim first to find from scripture alone propositions and principles clearly asserted, without reference to desire or tradition; and then to show the wonder of the harmony, since it is demonstrably there. That in turn became an apologetic device, since nothing else in philosophy or theology can match this scriptural harmony, which is there because there is nothing self-contradictory in God, who does not deny Himself (Proverbs 8:8, II Timothy 2:13). The imagination of irresolvable problems in such matters is the product of tradition and that unwise; it is contrary to the word of God, and it has been a privilege to demonstrate this very thing, to the glory of God and the verification of His word.
Now with reference to your question about psychic fragments and so on, which you cite, when people make their own gods, the remaining thing is to consider the context of that. Here it is.
Q. How can I know God?
A: First by believing in Him.
Q: Oh I have no trouble about that - the trouble is this: I tend to make my own. I find it cheaper in cigarettes too.
A: Any 'god' you make is a word, or possibly a psychic fragment, a mental spawn, dependent on you; except that it may be of interest to the fraud friends who love to invade human kind, not only in wars on earth but in wars for the life of man. The sheer, fermented LUST which man often finds within him, not sexual, that is small by comparison in some ways, but spiritual - to be, to find, to know, to direct, to have the vision, to implement it at the cost of a few tens of millions of lives if necessary, as with Hitler and Mao. He KNOWS all except this, that his knowledge, being self-derivative, is self-confined, and what is needed is knowledge unconfined to the culture, history, genetics and prejudice of the latest artisan of mankind.
This is the context from which you statedly drew.
Thus you see in the site from which you quote for some reason, that there is nothing remotely akin to involuntary clumsiness or confusion in view in this context, such as appears in the zealously scripturally inclined Calvin and Wesley. Rather and emphatically we find in this citation above, a self-confining creation of pseudo-gods by man's own pseudo-divine pretensions. It does not really relate at all to the case in hand or the issue in view. Indeed, the citation from my works and the topic in view are so far apart that it becomes an interesting thought to see why any person would even try to put them together.
Since both the principle you invoke, from my words, and the matter you cull, from Wesley, are far removed from each other, each sailing on a different sea, the question is doubly irrelevant. I do not mind your making such mistakes, provided you are in earnest! You may say you were only asking ... if so, then I am only replying; but your exclamation marks and your flitting about to gain these varied words in their respective spheres, both suggest an element of design, as does the tendency to accumulate one idea with another and the type of drift of it all, which however lands nowhere. If then it is instructive to you, it is still well.
As to the love of God, Wesley was inveterate in his passion to proclaim it. It would seem fitting in answering the scope of your enquiry to show something of this.
Here is an extract from the sermon on Free Grace which he preached. To be sure, he seems as far from realising that the WAY of predestination INCLUDES the very LOVE of Christ which he so strenuously wishes to protect from intrusive erosion, for in this Christ pre-incarnate was present WITH that very love (Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 13:8); and he is as aloof from seeing the presence of this love in predestination as Calvin is from doing so! Yet Wesley at least stresses its NATURE and REALITY, though he erroneously fails to discern the scriptural presentation of its presence unremitting in predestination, which removes all his criticism, though he does not realise this (cf. Predestination and Freewill and the references given in the preceding chapter). Calvin does not so stress; and while it is not an attempt to rate the one and the other, when it comes to the highly specific point of whether Wesley was a prime advocate of the love of God, it is simply a fact.
That he made a foozle in applying this to predestination is regrettable; we are not here to judge the man, but to determine his emphasis.
That Calvin made such an extravagant omission of the same love in the very attitude of God, this too is a foozle; but until we learn to humble ourselves and not to regard it as lèse-majesté when we err, in sincere confusion or tangential thought, we are too important. It is not so very surprising when we err; but it is imperative in the fear of God to seek to avoid it with all our hearts, avoiding partyings in theological clans, and seeking irenically, with very stout words if necessary but happy and hopeful hearts, the resolution which we are assured is there.
And it is there, as I have found and if you wish, experimentally found and attested in many a volume (cf. the 7 vol. set on this site). Some also is included in the list of references given in the first part of this letter; and it is found ONLY by following ALL the word of God, without equivocation or interruption.
Discounting then Wesley's errors in application, we still can see the dazzling passion to protect the love of God from minimisation, to expand it to its proper purlieus, its profound and scriptural dimensions. In this, then, he was indeed a prime mover. There are many prime movers; and the host of sincere and passionate lovers of the Lord must not be lost sight of, just because all do not write. When you read the History of Methodism as I have done, you must be struck with the passionate attribution of free grace of man, out of pure love, which stuns the recipients and brings amazement to their souls, that such grace and love could be. This is exemplified in the case of Charles Wesley*11, John's brother, who expresses such thoughts in hymns such as Amazing Love - asking how can it be that You, my God, should die for me!
When this is seen, then the clouds of unfitting words can be seen through, as when one peers through mist; just as the intensity of Calvin can be regarded before the aweful majesty of scriptural truth, which he too seeks to preserve, but in one point fails, seeking like Wesley to PROTECT: but in his case, it is to protect the sovereignty of God, as for Wesley it was the love of God.
Neither need have done so, or to have erred in their strenuosity. The scripture protects itself.
However, let us hear, for all their mistaken application, the words of Wesley, to see the imposing emphasis, which is the point which you raised.
1. And "the same Lord over all is rich" in mercy "to all that call upon him:" (Romans 10:12) But you say, "No; he is such only to those for whom Christ died. And those are not all, but only a few, whom God hath chosen out of the world; for he died not for all, but only for those who were 'chosen in him before the foundation of the world.' " (Eph. 1:4) Flatly contrary to your interpretation of these scriptures, also, is the whole tenor of the New Testament; as are in particular those texts: -- "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died," (Rom. 14:15) -- a clear proof that Christ died, not only for those that are saved, but also for them that perish: He is "the Saviour of the world;" (John 4:42) He is "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;" (John 1:29) "He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world;" (1 John 2:2) "He," the living God, "is the Savior of all men;" (1 Timothy 4:10) "He gave himself a ransom for all;" (1 Tim. 2:6) "He tasted death for every man." (Heb. 2:9)
2. If you ask, "Why then are not all men saved?" the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, "As I live," saith the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." (Ezek. 18:3, 32) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" (2 Pet. 3:9) "He willeth that all men should be saved." And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, "Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life." (John 5:40) "The power of the Lord is present to heal" them, but they will not be healed. "They reject the counsel," the merciful counsel, "of God against themselves," as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, "How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37)
Thus manifestly does this doctrine tend to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, by making it contradict itself; by giving such an interpretation of some texts, as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture; -- an abundant proof that it is not of God. But neither is this all: For, Seventhly, it is a doctrine full of blasphemy; of such blasphemy as I should dread to mention, but that the honour of our gracious God, and the cause of his truth, will not suffer me to be silent. In the cause of God, then, and from a sincere concern for the glory of his great name, I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. But first, I must warn every one of you that hears, as ye will answer it at the great day, not to charge me (as some have done) with blaspheming, because I mention the blasphemy of others. And the more you are grieve with them that do thus blaspheme, see that ye "confirm your love towards them: the more, and that your heart's desire, and continual prayer to God, be, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!"
1. This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, "Jesus Christ the righteous," "the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth," as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden." If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying one thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in "whose mouth was no guile," you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity; -- then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, He wept over it, and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, -- and ye would not;" EthelEsa -- kai ouk EthelEsate. Now, if you say, they would, but he would not, you represent him (which who could hear?) as weeping crocodiles' tears; weeping over the prey which himself had doomed to destruction!
2. Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, "He willeth all men to be saved:" More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit "seeketh rest and findeth none;" so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!
It is well, therefore, consider such of the things Wesley urged on the love of God; for in this field, he is most passionate and his concept of the scope of it, per se, is that of the Bible precisely as in John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Luke 19:42ff., and so on; and hence he is rightly indeed thought of as one emphasising it. He did so in the teeth of strong and sophisticated opposition and in this, for all his manifest errors, he was something of a hero. For that matter, so was Samson, but alas, he made too many mistakes! Nor are these alone in that ...
Thus I would advise that instead of answering yes to any of your double exclamation mark atmospherics, I answer, no; but one continues to note that there were faults of another kind, for all that, shared not least by Calvin, with whose system, largely right, but critically wrong in one antecedent element, it shares the role of contributor with strength not surrounded by accuracy. It is the errors which should now be abandoned, just as those of Calvin should be abandoned. As to their persons, it is not necessary to mock them, or act as if to exclude them or take whatever similar action some may seem to find attractive; it is necessary to use scripture to correct the error, and heart to appreciate the contribution outside this element. This would be the general character of my response in surveying this field.
In fact, for my part, for the sake of Paul's command in I Corinthians 3, and the love of God, I COULD not call myself a Calvinist, for it is misleading in spirit as well as in terms of his major error, so to do; and far less an Arminian, since this interferes heavily with dogmatics and systematics adequately derived from the Bible and the use of the term, derived from the leader's name, likewise in the personal and forbidden field as enunciated by Paul.
Such terms should be put where Paul indicates, OUT OF PLACE ALTOGETHER as labels for one's doctrine. Rather, with thankful hearts, we should continue to absorb what is provided, but to excel in this one thing in doctrine: following what is written before and above all that people whosoever they may be, write about it! That is the outcome of the matter; and it is also the income of it! This is the point I have made on ISSUES, not this and that person whether today or then; it is THIS which must be met and which is a commanding challenge; and understanding is the thing to be sought.
Thus we read in Proverbs 9:10-11:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:
and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased.
If you be wise, you will be wise for thyself: but if you scorn, you alone will bear it."
How much more often the first part of this quotation seems to be mentioned, than the second!
Indeed, emphatically, I would respond that it is high time the churches ACTIVELY sought to be rid of this
I am of Apollos rigmarole, which Paul equates with immaturity, this partisanship; it is time to think again carefully and avoiding sides, to return irenically to all the scripture. Both Calvin and Wesley in this have served the church: that in the clangour from their opposing statements, sparks have come, and some have begun to think. There has been at least some tendency to avoid the provocative and often ultra-scriptural statements which the 'sides' have set up. If more of Arminianism is systematically wrong than of Calvinism, and if indeed Calvin's five points, taken in a scriptural context, are good, yet the pre-systematics of Calvin is especially lacking. Wesley having with some vigour (and with no small attendant error) shown this up: yes, he is indeed one who has emphasised the love of God.
Past the anguish and the ecstasy of philosophy, religious enthusiasms and aborted séances, there is this simple fact that God so loved the world, that God would have all to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth, yes whether in heaven or on earth, He would have all reconciled. There is the majesty of beneficence, the mastery of munificence, the guilelessness of mastery and the advent of holiness, wholesome in its beauty, serene in its amplitude, knowing in its results, deprived of nothing but what is self-deprived, seeking nothing but to give, and in giving, to gain what is beautiful in spirit, made so freely by His grace. The emphasis on such things is evangelical in its outreach and a jewel bursting with light.
Failure to see further aspects as here, is like an interference pattern in the light; but God has blessed both emphases, and each has been attended with great outpourings of blessedness. The restoration of ALL the emphases, however, is most blessed, and as with all doctrines from the word of God, is to be sought with zeal.
Is it not wonderful that neither you nor I have to worry about the destinations of these liberal givers to the Church; but just consider the issues they addressed and as they sought to do, PROGRESS in the word, growing both in GRACE and in KNOWLEDGE as Peter indicates (II Peter 3:18). Actually, it is entirely delightful to follow the word of God, once you get rid of the barracking phenomenon about parties. For one thing, it is then and only then that all mysteries stand solved, that are basic to man's thought, and light makes darkness flee. If in heaven, Christians will know as they are known, yet even now, the divine word has nothing writhing or twisted, crooked or unsusceptible to light, as it states (Proverbs 8). In fact, as it states, so one finds and so one writes to show it, and has written.
How the verifications multiply: for the word of God verifies itself in its harmonies WHEN and only when followed carefully; and again it is marred in presentation in the disharmonies which result when it is not so closely followed; for it is majestic and unique and not susceptible to man-handling; and again, it declares that it is plain to him who understands, not being intrinsically twisted. In some ways, it is like radioactive material and the critical mass for explosion.
You either have it or you do not; and it is not to be guessed at, but sought with great care. The critical mass for scripture is faith in God, in His word, in His biblical deposit of it, in His power and grace, in His sovereign will and in the power He has to move in the hands of men, in His ability to resolve mysteries and dissolve doubts, to answer those who challenge the faith in whatever way not in our wisdom or knowledge, but by His own donated power and such things as these. In the church, some have this work to do and some that, but in the Church God provides.
As to the Bible itself, that grand spectacle of the needed thoughts of the heart of God for man, it stands like a witness, a tower, a rock of incredible magnitude, on which to be built: never shuddering, no tide able to over-tower it, overpower it, overturn it; no, not even the greatest wave can subvert or hurt it.
This is faith; it is also empirical fact; seen in history, it is found in experience alike.
The sheer majesty of its perspective when it is taken as it is, not as it is moulded to be for this reason or that, is all but overpowering in the intensity of its immensity; yet as with field glasses seeing distant sights, what one sees is clear and soon to be shown in its delicious detail when one travels to that place: so in heaven is all to be revealed, just as its outline is on earth. It is like seeing a glorious view and waiting with delighted anticipation the revelation of its detail.
It is TRUTH which Christ is, which His word is, and to the jot and tittle it stands, undimmed, undiminished, incomparable in objective fact; for nothing can solve as it can, predict as it can, resolve tensions, solve dark mysteries, accommodate all that is offered, and then presiding in beauty, bring peace in its mutually harmonious ministrations. That, it is what truth is like. It has no problems with errors, since it lacks them; with obscurity, for where the brilliance of divine light is present, darkness has no place. Christ in leading us into all truth (John 16:13-15), is not leading us where darkness dominates; and this, it is that heuristic and empirical fact which is its own verification. This, as I often point this out in field after field, it is only to do it justice!
If more is to come, and it is, then what is to be lost is not confusion or unclarity, but the firstlings which yield as when a car surging forwards to a mountain chain, draws closer to the leading mount, leading to the full revelation of beaming day. What more then is to come but more of Christ, the very exact image of the Father, more of the Trinity which He so exhibits and manifests, more of that truth which puts all things to be in Christ, as Lord (Ephesians 1:10, Revelation 5), for ever and ever. Growing up in grace in such an environment is like living in a spiritual Garden of Eden; but this, it is the garden of the Love and Grace of God in Truth and Peace.
Now in the scope of my answer to your query, it seems most fitting to show something of Whitefield's reply concerning this sermon of John Wesley, which apparently he did not present until Whitefield had left the country. This will enable us to see in some detail the nature of that evangelist's emphasis on the love of God, so that it will become easier, in such famed and eloquent company, to see what Wesley was saying on this topic, in a broader perspective of his times. Such extracts from Whitefield's reply, for this purpose, and what follows from it in one's duty to the Lord, are given below. It is to be borne in mind, in fairness to Whitefield, that some of Wesley's non sequiturs, mistaken inferences broaching even the infernal, though they came from a failure to perceive the nature of predestination (in which many gave him but little help, to be fair there also), were in need of correction indeed!
This is so, just as the provocations Wesley suffered were in need of correction. Two planes on wrong courses may well collide; correct placement from the source, in this case the Bible, is imperative for each as for ALL.
Let us then hear from Whitefield a little.
Bethesda in Georgia, Dec. 24, 1740
Reverend and very dear Brother,
God only knows what unspeakable sorrow of heart I have felt on your account since I left England last. Whether it be my infirmity or not, I frankly confess, that Jonah could not go with more reluctance against Nineveh, than I now take pen in hand to write against you. Was nature to speak, I had rather die than do it; and yet if I am faithful to God, and to my own and others' souls, I must not stand neutral any longer. I am very apprehensive that our common adversaries will rejoice to see us differing among ourselves. But what can I say? The children of God are in danger of falling into error. Nay, numbers have been misled, whom God has been pleased to work upon by my ministry, and a greater number are still calling aloud upon me to show also my opinion. I must then show that I know no man after the flesh, and that I have no respect to persons, any further than is consistent with my duty to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
This letter, no doubt, will lose me many friends: and for this cause perhaps God has laid this difficult task upon me, even to see whether I am willing to forsake all for him, or not. From such considerations as these, I think it my duty to bear an humble testimony, and earnestly to plead for the truths which, I am convinced, are clearly revealed in the Word of God. In the defence whereof I must use great plainness of speech, and treat my dearest friends upon earth with the greatest simplicity, faithfulness, and freedom, leaving the consequences of all to God. For some time before, and especially since my last departure from England, both in public and private, by preaching and printing, you have been propagating the doctrine of universal redemption. And when I remember how Paul reproved Peter for his dissimulation, I fear I have been sinfully silent too long. O then be not angry with me, dear and honoured Sir, if now I deliver my soul, by telling you that I think in this you greatly err.
Here we see how predestination and its godly truth does require sacrifice, as do many other elements in the Christian life, whether practical or doctrinal; and one must indeed be willing to be regarded as a crank or some other luscious enunciation of the spiritually lascivious lips of those who condemn, if one is to be faithful to God. This is good in Whitefield, as is the drive to be true to what he can assuredly see; and predestination, albeit to be understood with all the other concurrent teaching of the Bible, is certainly one of the basic features of the Bible. Thus Whitefield appreciates that this is a test to him, that it means he must resolve whether he should he love Wesley's contentment or God's word the more. He finds it costly indeed, but acts for the Lord, as must any servant of God.
Both found it hard to diverge, each from the other; but since each had scriptural basis for some of their divergence, there was an impulsion of duty. If it was not carried out in either case as it should have been, entirely, this does not impute a lack of motivation.
But, I fear, taking it for granted [that election was not a biblical truth], you only enquired whether you should be silent or preach and print against it. However this be, the lot came out "preach and print"; accordingly you preached and printed against election. At my desire, you suppressed the publishing of the sermon whilst I was in England; but you soon sent it into the world after my departure. O that you had kept it in! However, if that sermon was printed in answer to a lot, I am apt to think, one reason why God should so suffer you to be deceived, was, that hereby a special obligation might be laid upon me, faithfully to declare the Scripture doctrine of election, that thus the Lord might give me a fresh opportunity of seeing what was in my heart, and whether I would be true to his cause or not; as you could not but grant, he did once before, by giving you such another lot at Deal.
Indeed, honoured Sir, it is plain beyond all contradiction that St. Paul, through the whole of Romans 8, is speaking of the privileges of those only who are really in Christ. And let any unprejudiced person read what goes before and what follows your text, and he must confess the word "all" only signifies those that are in Christ. And the latter part of the text plainly proves, what, I find, dear Mr. Wesley will, by no means, grant. I mean the final perseverance of the children of God: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, [i.e., all Saints] how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). [He shall give us] grace, in particular, to enable us to persevere, and every thing else necessary to carry us home to our Father's heavenly kingdom.
Here once more Whitefield is in sound territory, directly taking what the Bible states, for the 'all' in this instance is undoubtedly to those who will receive all things, and hence is a Christian encompassment, and is not at all here inclusive of the field of the whole world. The offering as of old, was presented that all may come and take it by faith (I John 2:2); but not all do (Deuteronomy 29:14-20), nor is it operative for such, but for those who so receiving Him, have Him so delivered up for them, as Paul puts it, so that all things are theirs.
The substitutionary atonement of Christ is strictly for many (as in Isaiah 53:1-6, Matthew 26:28, Romans 8:32), decisively limited, just as the love which sent Him is statedly as we have repeatedly cited from the word of God, NOT so limited.
This latter point of course is a major contention of Wesley, who however allowed false implication to move him to 'defend' the love in other aspects as he conceived them, where there is neither need nor scripture; just something similar led Calvin to defend the sovereignty, where there was just the same lack of need and scripture for his conception in the field of the extent of the love of God towards salvation.
What flurries false implications can cause; and did cause!
Whitefield proceeds to an analogy which is less appealing as an encomium for truth, however.
The instance which you bring to illustrate your assertion, indeed, dear Sir, is quite impertinent. For you say, "If a sick man knows that he must unavoidably die or unavoidably recover, though he knows not which, it is not reasonable to take any physic at all." Dear Sir, what absurd reasoning is here? Were you ever sick in your life? If so, did not the bare probability or possibility of your recovering, though you knew it was unalterably fixed that you must live or die, encourage you to take physic? For how did you know but that very physic might be the means God intended to recover you by? Just thus it is as to the doctrine of election. I know that it is unalterably fixed (one may say) that I must be damned or saved; but since I know not which for a certainty, why should I not strive, though at present in a state of nature, since I know not but this striving may be the means God has intended to bless, in order to bring me into a state of grace?
In this case, Whitefield slips or rather slithers in his argument. The whole point and nothing but the point is a simple one. Is God the author of an election which in its final bases lacks the love which would have all men to be saved, as He expressly states, so that having made peace by the blood of the cross, He might reconcile all things, yes all, whether in heaven or on earth, to Himself; or is He not! Is the scope of His repeated assurances right or wrong ? Is His word here to be believed or not ? (Cf. Great Execrations Chs. 7 and 9).
Whitefield and many of his error, think of the scope that it is not so. Wesley and many of his justice, think that it is so; and the Bible STATES so. Wesley is squirming almost in torment, feeling the truncation of the love of God is not only not truth, but approaches blasphemy, as it does. When God IS love as He states categorically likewise, and affirms the categorical scope of His love in an arena of categories, God and man, and someone nevertheless truncates the attribution of this love, it is no small offence.
Now it is unwise to be pontifical. If it is a serious offence, yet it is not mere rebellion, for there is a profound confusion which has belaboured the ears and infected the mouths of many for long on this issue; and it is deep. Yet its depth is no ground to cut from the stanchions of His word; and in fact, it is only then that drowning is terribly near. On the other hand, this love is of this stated quality, and all the failures in the world of Wesleys to realise the truth of universal double predestination (cf. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11) do nothing to excuse this truncation made by many on the contrary part. Another man's error is no ground at all for making one of one's own; and another man's truncation, in this case of the scope of God's crucial love, is no ground for truncating something else, in this case predestination with its attendant assurance, as Wesley does. It works both ways, it works for one and for all affected or afflicted.
Further Wesley's talk of assurance which nevertheless, he makes clear, is not to be misinterpreted into eternal in the normal sense of chronologically or for all time and for ever assurance, in his sermon, is mere misuse of terminology.
To be assured that you may have no ground for assurance in objective fact, this is no assurance at all. On Wesley's part, in his theology, this misses the point just as thoroughly as does Whitefield here on the other side: for on the one hand the latter has someone with a HOPE that just MAYBE he may be cured of sickness, in his analogy, as if in the lifelike case for medical illness; but on the other hand, the man is supposed to know assuredly that the case is fixed. Whitefield asks us, Does he not in ignorance of which way it is fixed, still hope and take physic ? Yes he may, but it is not the hope of one who knows the desire for his cure to be at the crucial level. Where this is known or knowable, how vastly the case changes!
In the case in question, on the basis presented, the sick man in the truncated love situation might be seeking health in the teeth of a gale of affliction adapted specifically to his demise. That, on that model, is one of the possibilities, and it is not a lean one.
Hope in such a case is a small thing compared with that where the underlying desire is known to be for his recovery (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).
There is no doubt that Wesley, in the field of love, is here onto something correct, and Whitefield is not meeting the scope of the case aptly. The solution for both is simple: God does LOVE as much as Wesley declares, for GOD HIMSELF declares it over and again; and He HAS PREDESTINATED just as surely as Whitefield correctly asserts, for GOD HIMSELF declares it over and again as in Romans 8 and 9, Ephesians 1:4. If it is a horrible decree, as became a customary usage in the phrasing of it, this is only because God is not taken at His word, so that a predestinative caricature - it is little less - comes into vogue, as if doing something BEFORE TIME means that it is done WITHOUT this DECISIVE and PERVASIVE LOVE of which God speaks. What amazing and even appalling confusion is this!
WHEN it is done is not the point at issue; but HOW and WHY it is done. What is moving in the heart of God in actuating His mission is statedly repeated, categorically and clearly. That, this being so, the matter is resolved and known and to be applied is equally clearly depicted.
It is for the omission of the scriptural fact of ultimate scope of the divine love and its direction, on the part of Calvinism and the omission of the scriptural fact of the actuality of the before-time predestination (both ways) on the part of Arminianism that the futile quarrel has proceeded. IT IS perfectly possible, to pursue the analogy of medical sickness, that the patient will recover, and no qualification is possible. GOD WOULD HAVE IT, though He does not force it, even weeping rather than force as we have often seen (cf. SMR Appendix B), and weeping in sorrow that it is not to be so, proclaiming the calamity that they did not know the day of their opportunity, with grievous importunity (Luke 19:42ff.), as so often in the Bible.
It is not something indifferent to Him; it is not something unknown; and thus the aweful and wonderful desire is to find Him and so to be saved: for this is His appeal and stated desire. There is no possibility that you will be finding Someone who never has had thought for your health, or considers it outré altogether. He is there, and His inclination being known, you seek Him with zeal, with passion to find Him, knowing that cold, determinative headwinds are not in His heart to frustrate you in every way, but rather warm, loving thoughts to impel you in any way fitting.
The divine ATTITUDE in all this is clearly crucial and could make all the difference to seeking Him, quite logically, in the analogical terms. To be sure, since the human spirit is limited, the time may come when the person no longer seeks the Lord, is filled with folly so that light is obfuscated and only judgment remains. Operations on tissue too often repeated, and not completed, may in time remove scope for any operation! Thus in II Chronicles 36, long was the entreaty time from God, the sending, the passion; but in time, the wrath arose without remedy! So it states.
Yet whether this is the condition or not, it is a resultant as in II Chronicles, where the wrath of the longsuffering Lord was aroused to that point over the centuries, that there was "no remedy"! If the person seeks the Lord there is no pretervailing position which excludes a priori. Foreknown before all time, the outcome, yet not foregone the income in the surging love of God. Those who seek find; and when they do not seek, that is their own. The point is that the love is there, and it is not pre-empted out. It may go, but that it is not because in all eternity, it never came!
The contrary is the scriptural assertion, and it is therefore to be believed. When it is applied, as we have seen in the list of references in the first part of this letter, then the harmony is found. It is like this, quite often, in human life. When a misconception concerning someone's nature or personality or reliability is in one's mind, then there seems a vast contradiction arises with other aspects of that person. When the misunderstanding is cleared away, then all is seen in a perspective understandable because not marred by error.
IF the man is certainly going to die because this is an established fact IN GOD'S PREDESTINATION, based on something less than this pervasive love which HE declares, this has little to do with the case of someone who does not (because unsaved) KNOW where he stands in this respect, but DOES know that the One who loves has gone to the cross in human form rather than let any in this world perish without Him (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).
The cases are so disparate as to possess an entirely diverse dynamic. The effect on health, in the illustration, could be crucial. Grace is far more gracious that is so ample; and the grace of God, the love of God does have this scripturally stated amplitude; and it does matter both in the harmonies of His word and the wonder for man in the preaching of the love of God.
Those who see and so do, have in this, a primary thrust on the love of God.
The one case is alluring; the other could be a subject of bitterness, if not for oneself, then for others. If before salvation, the sinner does not credit this divine declaration on His love, so be it; it is not in the omission of God, but of man that the fault or if you prefer, limit lies. Sin is a fatal disease; it DOES disenable from spirituality (I Corinthians 2:14); it is entirely up to God to save, and there is nothing in man in his pathological state, to which salvation pertains, he being without God and without hope as Paul declares in Ephesians 2:12.
However this is no sad case, for if it were entirely up to your billionaire brother to pay your million dollar fine, this would be entirely relevant IF HE LOVED YOU enough to die for you! People get different glimmers of truth in their darkness as the Lord acts; and here is one perpetually therapeutic, enlivening, delightful, and true. It is when the truth is the best and the most wonderful that people like Charles Wesley justly write as they wrote in Amazing Grace.
It would be cold comfort if the Lord's actions were like statistical data, simply unforeseeable and His heart unknown as to what charity He held towards to any human nature, such as desiring to meet the need of the one who calls on his name, desiring their salvation BECAUSE He so loves (Psalm 145, John 3:16). Where there IS such a desire, and He states it to be so, then the situation arises to new blessedness.
The case then ultimately is always there, for God IS love and SO loved the world and WOULD have all, and WAS pleased that all fulness dwell in Christ that through the blood of the cross ALL THINGS should be reconciled. This is the testimony of the love, its power and its purvey and NOTHING truncates it.Even if, when it is seen in the eternal sight of God, hatred for the reprobate becomes the shaft of destiny, still this is the final repudiation, and it is in the face of the impelling love which He so often, so clearly and so passionately attests. This is the radiating reality, the attested magnificence, the enthralling scope of it.
The application of this is dealt with in some detail in a working hypothesis, which nevertheless is close to all the scriptures, in SMR Ch. 8 in its opening sections, and in no known way contrary in principle to any. However the thing is WORKED, however, the fact of this attitude in God, that firstly He would have all, and secondly that those preferring darkness in the very presence of His light are rejected indeed and become the object of hatred, remains (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4). It is HE who, in the face of this stated love of His own, ascribes the will of man as relevant in His sight to His exclusion which known from the first, sets in at the last (cf. SMR Appendix B, John 3:17-19). While it is indeed His own operation, these are His stated criteria of operation.
It is not profitable to be forever hedge-clipping the scriptures and using one of these potent facts as if the other did not exist. It is ALL scripture which is profitable; and ALL omission which is entirely unprofitable (II Timothy 3:16); and indeed as here, such omission (or addition for that matter) is productive of endless clash and confusion. Good is the desire first for truth, then for peace, then for the love of the brethren, to avoid this partisan piece of theological politics, and avoiding callow camps and their rivalries. Instead, it is good and seemly to get back to the holy, wholesome and vitalising facts.
In analogy, it is like returning from a spree in some scientific laboratory in which a whole REGION of facts is omitted because people either cannot or will not put them together with another relevant area of fact, so that at last such escapade coming to an end, sobriety is restored, and the solution found by honest and assiduous investigation.
Alas, the analogy is too near the point for comfort, for in another realm, in much of so-called science, pseudo-science in such great demand today, where for religious reasons it veers from all the facts, in insisting on the myth of 'creation' by organic evolution, from creative forces neither there nor attested, either in performance or in principle, and this despite lethal anti-verifications (cf. Secular Myths and Sacred Truth, SMR pp.140ff.), and continual confirmations of divine fiat creation. Once again, and here for direct, secular reasons in decisive rebellion from the word of God, this is precisely what has happened.
What grief it is in man, and how grievous for him when his errors reach the escape velocity of direct rebellion and the creation of gods that are not there: for what pity can at last remain for our race in these Race Riots, not of one kindred, but of the whole camp of our human race, riots against both divine truth in the Bible and natural data in this world! They go together and they hasten towards the hell of wilful disjunction from truth; and except the mercy of God intervene, there is for all this no hope. While pity plays, truth must at last interrupt its musings; for where factious fiction is chosen, truth is not appreciated, even if it is the fountain of life and light.
Hope meanwhile there is ONLY because God is love, is merciful, and goes to any godly extent whatever to find the lost and to forgive the wandering, calling as in Psalm 107 again and again to Himself, willing to forgive, in attitude the very epitome of love, of that love with which He SO loved that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but instead have eternal life, an attitude for ALL THINGS, yes on heaven and on earth.
Hence we do not despair for our race, for who knows in the LOVE of God
whom He will yet save, and yet deliver from the blasphemies which abound, whom in His understanding and wonderful heart, in grace exhume, and whom restore to the light.
It is well it is not of our works, for these would never save us. Indeed the Calvinist emphasis on this depravity is most just, and on the divine sovereignty in election is most true; except that it is not so limited in the love input that is associated with it, for God declares to the opposite effect. Delimited is the result, but unlimited is the actuating love.
Determinate are the sheep and goats, but no goat is God who has elected in grace. It is not in terms of a penchant or preference, as if love gave way to desire, and desire to preference as in the case of any who prefers this or that one; but in terms of that very love which needing sovereign intervention to save ANY in their pervasive sinfulness (whether in pride of not being so, or lust in being so), and desiring to save all, in purity of love saves whom He will, and this not in such a way as to defy and defile the image of God status, but to recover it; nor in such a way as to make exclusion an ultimate aim of His heart and purpose of His thrust. He knows the end, and He knows how it arrives, and He deplores the non-arrival where folly rejects His mercy (cf. Luke 19:42ff.), even to the point of weeping.
It is WHEN he is saved, that the sinner rightly knows whom he has believed and is properly persuaded that God is able to keep that which he has committed to Him against that day, as for Paul (II Timothy 1:12). God we then realise has indeed called us and saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace as Paul also declares (II Timothy 1:9) so that those justified are those foreknown and to be gloried (Romans 8:29ff.). This is the testimony which He makes in us generically (Romans 8:16), the thing being sure from the foundation as Whitefield makes so clear so well in his letter, following Paul in this.
The thing being known and worked into by the Lord, it is not subject to the ebb and flow of any chance, whether psychological, geological, chronological or medical! It is known to God, instituted in history, attested by His Spirit, proclaimed by His word and will be worked out by God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2). In all this, Whitefield and Calvin are perfectly correct ; just as Wesley is, concerning the love which went into it, God BEING love as Wesley, for his part correctly and relevantly asserts from I John 4.
Thus, in the analogy, either the man knows he is certainly and irrevocably going to go from his sickness to death, or he does not. If he does, then there is no hope, and no joy in 'physic' or medicine. If he does not, then there may be. If the man is irrelevant to God, who has sovereignly acted past all question of 'mere' love for ALL THINGS relevant, a love He Himself asserts to be there, then the sick person may indeed feel it hopeless, having nothing in God on which to lay hold, no assurance of a divine felicity of love to which, despite all his sin, he can look with absolute assurance. Far off, he may not be moved at all to call on the name of a god of this uncertain sort. He may even find it repulsive, as Spurgeon statedly did.
Whitefield can assert that if the sick man does NOT know this certainty, then he has hope and acts as a man sick might. Wesley's point of view however remains relevant in this respect, that if it is beyond himself entirely, there being no point of contact, then he might feel that the universe is cold and hard toward him, that God has nothing standing on which to place oneself, and that for all he knows the case is closed. Moreover such a Being is very different to the aspiring affections than the actual one.
Here then there is confusion and truncation in doctrine; but though it is error, it may not be merely wilful error, and sight obscured does not match blindness.
In these areas and arenas of life, where confusion and incomprehension may come, where the case is challenging, it is wise then to leave to God the ingredients and the judgment involved. HE, He not only knows all and has to estimate nothing, being in possession of all the facts, but knows the spirit of man infinitely in wisdom, truth and justice. He knows who has done what, in intensely variable circumstances, and what is the spirit of each; and why whatever has happened has happened; and in His infinite wisdom, He can do what neither man nor angel is commissioned to perform.
To be sure, in the lesser case of hope, the man, the patient might still hope that God might have something; but it is a groundless wish, not enticing as would a certain knowledge of at least a love toward Him which was not truncated into exclusion of his case from its ambit of interest in his salvation. He might relapse into a lack of interest as in a lottery, as it might appear to him. In his pain, this distance might seem mere obscuration, and in his tempest, lead only to frustration. If we are going to be practical, as Whitefield suggests, then let us indeed be so!
The Gospel as it is has everything, since the truth is that God is love. It lacks nothing, either from the error of Calvin or from that of Wesley. The love is there as stated; the power is there as slated; and the time will come as dated, for God indeed knows the number of His elect. That of course has NOTHING to do with HOW He has made them so; only with the results of it, and THIS confusion is so frequently found as to make it a delight to leave the judgment to God in such questions and affairs.
In the unscripturally truncated case, the character of the Saviour then lacks lustre, becoming rather more like an aristocracy selection for whatever seems attractive or meaningful to God. How wonderful therefore in His sovereign love God KNOWS who are His, and ensures that they are given to His Son. So do we read in John 6:35-36.
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger,
and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me,
and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."
It is indeed not a horrible decree, decretum horribile, but a wonderful decree, decretum mirabile, since all hangs on it and it is sure; but this is so ONLY because of the stated pervasive character of the love of the One whose it is, whose will it represents. It is wonderful because it is NOT ONLY freely given when it was not necessary for the gift to be made at all; NOT ONLY because it is given in such a way that it cannot miss, but ALSO because its gift is directed towards all.
Though God indeed hates some, this is in terms of the scriptures cited, not the elemental, eternal and original fact as if to prevent the applicability of the stated love, but the consequence of its application; for to imagine that God is love and that in any of His actions for eternity this fact is overlooked is not merely ludicrous, but a gross caricature of the divine love. Indeed, it is a just use of such a phrase to designate Spurgeon's declared response to such a treatment of the divine love. Such horror he rightly expresses for the concept that because God's grace in the field of salvation is freely available without contribution from man, that therefore we may justly work backwards or in reverse, and assert that where it is not found it is because it did not exist (cf. Predestination and Freewill Section II).
What then do we find ?
Overall, in all his letter of reply, Whitefield seems just as immune to Wesley's thrust and focus of passion as does Wesley to Whitefield's aspiration and delight of doctrine. They talk and miss the target, churning the surrounding seas. Each speaks well of what is indeed scriptural in places; but ignores the appeal of the other where that focus is in view. Each takes his own focus way past scripture or short of it; though each equally is insistent on much substance in what actually is there, as well. Dividing from the word, in these respects, they do not conquer. For all that, each in his own way contributed wonderfully to the kingdom of heaven with passion for the truth when seen, for souls, to overcome mere encumbrance, in seeking fidelity to God. It is humbling to see it, and it is well that our hope, who believe and seek to follow His word in all things, rests on Christ and in nothing on ourselves.
Indeed, it would seem that this very failure on the part of two such zealous evangelists, Wesley most prominent in presenting the love of God and Whitefield His sovereignty, though for each there were wheels within wheels, Whitefield being eloquent on the settled character of the love of God for His people, and Wesley on the horrible nature of rejecting a love so pervasive: it is well that it is instructive!
It is NOT that the word of God is unclear, for He asserts that it is; and when one is always willing to be CORRECTED by it, however elevated may be one's post or pride, it is indeed a self-verifying matter, for its coherence, its answers to all the questions men ask philosophy, informed from their own wits, which cannot adequately reply, these its divinely given responses by contrast are a marvel like the surging seas. The answers all stay there in power, the coherence continues and one's awareness of it continually increases, while its applications act, its predictions pound into reality in history and the promises of God to one's own life accrue like bank interest, constant and sure; yes and more, for that interest may fail, but this simply does not. It is not seasonal; it is not limited; it is like His love, pervasive in kind, though the results of its rejection are also imposing, however rebellious the folly which leads to it.
That, it is the pity, the everlasting pity of pride, rebellion and self-assertion, autonomy and independence even away from God. How lovely to be in His tabernacles, to behold the beauty of the Lord, to be in His love and in His stock, like a branch in the vine; but if one will not, so be it. It is horrible; but as to the decree, it is not this which is horrible, for it but advertises the result of such love in contrast to the calamities it paid to remove for all who would come, with power and certainty. No, it is the refusal which is as horrible as Proverbs 1 and 8 show it to be in the face of the explicit divine entreaty and action, call and exhortation to the contrary.
There has been a misplacement of terms here, and it is time they were put back once and for all, where they belong. Let us move to another aspect.
Let us, then, hear Proverbs 1:20-27 in this field of impact.
"Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
"She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
"How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
"Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
"Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you."
Look at that awful hiatus marked with periods, above, where the appeal and the provision is magnificent, for God will even MAKE His word known; but no, so BECAUSE He called and they refused, the rest follows, just as in Luke 19:42ff., and cases all but innumerable throughout the Bible.
Yet this is but one of the features. We need a little more exposure to another.
Just as we presented some of Wesley's imperfect (in application) but strong thrust (in pith and point), concerning the universal love, so from the letter of Whitefield do we find this excellent cover of some of the thrust of excellent predestination.
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:33-39).
This, dear Sir, is the triumphant language of every soul that has attained a full assurance of faith. And this assurance can only arise from a belief of God's electing everlasting love. That many have an assurance they are in Christ today, but take no thought for, or are not assured they shall be in him tomorrow-nay to all eternity-is rather their imperfection and unhappiness than their privilege. I pray God to bring all such to a sense of his eternal love, that they may no longer build upon their own faithfulness, but on the unchangeableness of that God whose gifts and callings are without repentance. For those whom God has once justified, he also will glorify.
This covers the fact of predestination and its beauty, which is sure; but it does not touch the point, the scope of the love of God ... if we may put it so, as advertised!
Nevertheless, proclaiming this provision is fine, for God is a great lover and the exercise of His mercy free; and proclaiming the excellent virtues of the divine predestination, both ways, pervasive also, is fine also, since it is wrought in love and prevents any chance or change from intervening, attesting the unalterable impact of a love which this world does not know, but which is directed towards it. It is all fine, and participates in what is great, being facets of the grace of God. We may exult in this as in the other. The placing of these divine and holy things to be understood, however, in any kind of adversative position is pathetic in the sense, that it excites pity, and makes deplorable confusion.
The point is simple: it should ALL be proclaimed, for ALL scripture is profitable for instruction. And how great is that profit, when neither floor one nor floor two being omitted, the whole glorious construction shown in the word of God is seen. No tower falls, and it all stands irrevocable, more than the soaring mountains. This is true, even when in foolish controversy, men at as if to limit God, and speak as if HIS delimitations involved a contradiction of His assertions, of His wishes, or as if His love meant a mutability or a minimisation, when the opposite is both reasonable and revealed.
Thus when the issues are considered in their full scriptural amplitude,
and one becomes accurate in what one asserts concerning those of the past,
and when one applies what is applicable to its own field, and not to something divorced from it,
alien to it, and when one avoids the use of language for one thing, made superficially and inaccurately of another, and fails to confuse error with rebellion, and the creation of gods
with confusion in seeking even in deep matters to serve the One who is revealed:
then there is no ground for such suggestions as made in the enquiry addressed to this site,
and which in these two chapters we have answered.
The answer to each query, then, is this: first correct your conceptions,
accuracy and relevance considerations, and then receive the answer to the corrected
and placed questions in the perspective of the Bible. This done, to one and to all points made,
the answer is this.
No, it is not so. It is good that you are so interested, but no interest will buy the capital of these assertions which you present for evaluation.
Since saddened centuries have passed while these issues have been continued in partisan theological politics, the cocky tending to be assured of this and blasting, and the partisan forces of the other side to be assured of that, and often both belittling belligerently, it may be that discussion could usefully be continued on points for clarification; though it may be doubtful indeed if they are not by now covered in more than thousand pages in The Predestinarian Quaterion ( Now the Predestination and Freewill Heptad).
Let us however, if such discussion is to be, keep STRICTLY to the Bible, seeking only to interpret it, and avoid the mere rehash of things which do not originate in it. What we have cited here is because the matter began on citation; but what is the end of the matter, is the issue and truth itself before the Lord and before His word. Here alone is it profitable at last to dwell, and here for discussion to move, as if to look at the lab work, and not at the records: it is then that there is much profit, seeing it for oneself direct.
If indeed, the Bible is to be interpreted, and this is the issue here, it alone needs to be cited, and if a case is to be made, here is the laboratory! Our excursus has been illustrative of this, and shown the danger where reaction displaces reason, and reason displaces revelation, growing lax in its use, and failing to realise the dominance of truth which is in the very Source of its own existence in mankind, without which it becomes like a snipped branch, withering because of displacement!
In all these things, then, it is back to the word of God, the Bible, and on with the application, using examples and conceptions germane to your questions, to adorn the point, illustrate the principles and proceed to the elements. How rewarding it is, moreover, when this is done consistently: for it is rather like the mathematical answer at the back of the book.
After all the student's efforts (as in philosophy), here is the actual working answer which meets the case; and there is no other; nor is there any room for dancing and prancing about, for the Bible is a precise instrument, grand in style, exact in delineation, the word of the very God who made our DNA, and made liberty with which its results can be deployed. The Bible does indeed give the wisdom of God; and it is not merely as a source book, but as a teaching and presentation organ without parallel, from God Himself.
That its fidelity is so extreme that when you follow ALL it says continually, constantly being willing to adjust to all it has, you find the resolution of problems, the light on issues, the harmony of concepts and the beauty of it all more overpowering than any sunset or floral munificence: this is an added delight*3 and a determinate verification of it. Such things are shown in some detail in the Quaternion, and this therefore is verification of the word of God, the Bible, of its glorious origin.
The teaching of the Bible is indispensable, inevacuable, ineluctable, permanent, profound and stable. It never runs into trouble; and the trouble is all in those who depart from now this, now that part of it. This author or any other merely human instrument is no criterion; but That Author has so appointed His word. It is because it is His word, the word of God, the Bible, that it is our business to expound, showing a reason for the faith to those who ask, and the wonder of it to those who see.
As to this author, it is nothing in him, for it is all a matter for the Lord whose help is sufficient and whose power none can limit; indeed, one has had to change in this very area, some forty years ago; but the word of God does not change. It is this which is munificent in magnificence, in dissolving doubts in the presence of the Lord, the living God.
Psalm 119, Psalm 111 and Psalm 12, like Matthew 5:17ff.: these state it as it is.
As to the first, it will be edifying as to atmosphere and passion, to hear the first 20 verses at this point.
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
"Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
"Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
"How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
"Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You!
Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
"I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
"Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times."
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
The need to safeguard a Church with the Westminster Confession even as a subordinate standard, and even where as in the PC of Australia, it was only the substance that was required, in terms of making clear the universal scope of the love of God towards salvation was given clear and practical place when this Australian Presbyterian Church was founded. Thus it has a Declaratory Statement making clear its insistence concerning that scope, in this document, part of the Constitution. This has been one of its most excellent features, using what is good from the past, but not binding it stringently as if we had a new bible, or biblical authority.
One must note here that for some 15 years, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod had something in the same line inserted into its declaration of intent. The author knows, since in 1967, in transferring ordination to that Church from the PC in NZ, because of its indifference to the bodily resurrection of Christ, and shameless mockery of this in a ludicrous, faith-denying statement*, it was made a condition of my joining this new denomination, that such an additional statement be added. The RPCES Synod graciously agreed to have this addition inserted as a statement of faith, though one to be read in accord with the Westminster Confession.
Since the Confession does not deny this point, but merely omits it, this was sufficient. The addition was one actually to be found in the Declaratory Statement of the Bible Presbyterian Church, since its inception in the late nineteen thirties, so that here and there were Reformed People who were not to be bound by shortfalls in the field of contest in the Reformation, but made refinements as needed. The full, relevant statement in the Bible Presbyterian Church read,
“First: its firm and glad belief in the reality and universality of the offer of the Gospel to mankind.
We believe that Christ’s atonement
is sufficient for the sins of all, adapted to all,
and is freely offered to all men in the Gospel.
We believe that no man will be condemned except upon the ground of his sin."
It was this latter part or its equivalent, was included by the RPCES Synod, so that I could join it.
IF Calvin had not so sadly erred, then extreme reactions such as those of Wesley might never have occurred. Of course, Wesley in his Arminian creed, made his own action, a thing as far from the Bible concerning the sovereignty of God as Calvin in his own approach, fell short on the love of God.
However, the PC of Australia had and in theory at least, still has its own Declaratory Statement in which it acknowledges a need and acting on it, makes this Statement the BASIS ON WHICH the Confession is to be interpreted. It includes the point that due attention must be given to the biblical fact that God is not willing that any should perish. This has evidently been a sore point with reactionaries, for whom the Reformation stress of many, distancing the Church from its own self-important prelates of the day, making the sovereignty of God magnificent, often forget to deal adequately with the SORT of sovereignty He has, indeed the nature of His being and desires, as self-expressed in the Bible.
For many, it was almost as if BEING sovereign in some way sundered certain types of love and their extent and restraint because of purity of heart, so leading them to a mysterious minimisation! This needed correction and some Presbyterian Churches, like the John Wesley, without being misled by his Arminian errors, followed this aspect in isolation from it. The reason was good: THIS aspect happens to be scriptural!
Alas and grief, for this happy state of affairs, from 1901-1990, in the Presbyterian Church of Australia, ceased to be. The reason is not only not far to seek; some of its eventuation was once more, personally experienced by this author. Thus in the early nineteen seventies, together with an elder, I spoke with the highest official of the PC of Australia concerning certain reform movements which were becoming evident, as what was to become the Uniting Church separated from its Presbyterian and Congregational Church base. He spoke freely and frankly.
He and many others, he indicated, did NOT believe in Calvinism (or, as far as could be discerned, in the infallible Bible), but since he felt there was no other focus about which a reformation back from liberalism could be reached, Calvinist it would be.
Thus, the Declaratory Statement (DS) was emasculated, suppressed in practice, said to add NOTHING to the Confession, which of course has equally NOTHING about this attention the scope of the love of God in this respect.
Thus the DS in 1991 this was made null by this simple device of having the Church declare that it added NOTHING to the Confession; and it appears that this situation remains an unconstitutional horror*10, a defilement of the purity of the Church as at its institution in 1901, and is a horror to this day. It was intended, the DS states, for tender consciences; but to the flames with those, for now it is made nothing beyond the Westminster Confession, though palpably it is much more.
Yet, for all that, this is only the decision of one misled Assembly meeting, and it remains possible that some day the Constitution of the PC of Australia will once more come into force, and distinguish the Church, as it used to do for some 90 years of its history, as one of those moderates which wish not to live by some Calvinist concept (on Augustine's variations, see Predestination and Freewill), but on the one hand by the entirety of the Bible, the word of God, and on the other, with careful assurance that its Westminster Confession adherence as a subordinate standard (its substance) be not imagined to limit the scope of the love of God.
If indeed, the love of God does not matter, what does ? It is the fountain from which Christ issued, and the atonement resulted as in John 3! ANYTHING about it is crucial. Its biblical scope of part of this majesty and this reality. At ordination, every Minister is required to strive for the purity of the Church, and one does not so cease from commitment to so fine and noble a thing!
Ch. 14 of Serenity not Serendipity ... presents the matter of perspective, with reference to this same topic of the PC in Australia, and an excerpt follows.
"IT PLEASED THE FATHER ...
TO RECONCILE ALL THINGS T O HIMSELF ...
HAVING MADE PEACE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE CROSS"
Putting it all together from all the Bible
and so enabling many in extremes to be one in Christ Jesus,
the Bible in itself the extreme against all extremities
THE DOMAIN OF LOVE
It is not come IF you like, but God KNOWS you and SO you will come. It is not the juggernaut of manipulation, but the investigation of the reality of a creation neither amorphous nor autonomous, but in the love of God open to His all-discerning eye, even before this world, works foreseen or other, or the question of differential merit in sinners so much as arose (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff., Romans 9:11). GOD FOREKNEW HIS OWN. He WOULD have all. He SAYS so. He laments for what does not come, to the uttermost, and did just that publicly; but in no way, direct or indirect, does He avoid the image of God which He made, as if to nullify what it is. Hence history is what it is.
Indeed, the whole matter of the destiny of each member of this human race, it is not an "if" proposition, except as an hypostasis for envisagement in a simple demonstration of the rationality of declaring man responsible for his judgment, even in the face of the declared scope of the nature of the love of God for lost sinners in toto (Colossians 1:19).
It is a matter, biblically, of KNOWING. God knew because He foreknew His own. This is not a mystery - except as with all the glory of God, in its munificence and magnificence - for you either know someone or you don't. When the knowledge of God is concerned, it is a thing of totality. In His knowledge of all, lies the difference for any. Indeed, from this comes the predestination of any, statedly (Romans 8:30,17).
What does He know ? The Bible makes it clear that the ultimate ground of the crucial destiny of man has nothing to do with merit, differential or otherwise (Romans 3:22-27, 9:1-16, Ephesians 2:1-12). In fact, it not only specifies and testifies to the total scope of His divine desire toward the lost, as a total category, but to Himself as the resistant cause of any avoidable exclusion from His grace, which follows from His knowledge, itself independent from any consideration of future works (Romans 9:11-12).
What resists is grace and love, mercy in the very domain of truth. God IS love (I John 4:7ff.), so that any effort so to twist His word as to deny that ULTIMATELY all must conform to this criterion, is mere verbal twitter. While then love distinguishes who are its own, this is HIS love, and not some abstraction, just as His sovereignty is HIS, and not that of some abstraction.
It is He, the Lord who discriminates in one sense of the word, KNOWING and seeing who are His own; but it is non-discriminatory discrimination, for God indeed is no respecter of persons. It is discernment, not prejudice.
In haste to make sovereignty of some kind run God, some speak of a horrible decree of predestination; but it is not so. There is NOTHING horrible in love; and God is love. The horror throughout all the Bible is one, utter ingratitude shown in complete hostility and alienation, moving even in His own all-knowing divine sight past any temporal constraint, to the abhorrence of salvation sufficient for its eventual exclusion by the heart of man. While it is a pre-temporal utter knowledge in the mind of God, it is one of truth, and while sin gives cover to all, each being under its diseased blinding sight of the ultimate (I Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 4:17ff., Romans 1), nothing covers from the eye of Him with whom we have to do.
What God knows, logically before sin's entrance and final judgment, the will of the soul, negativing the truth whether with gross avaunt! to God, with rebellion aflame, surreptitious and insidious lurking or ostentatious divergence, so that this then is the registration in truth, or else in an inclination past the realms of history and all that happens, known to God, is the basis of all destiny. Sin is merely an intensification of disablement that makes dysfunction towards God so fatal that He cannot even be found, except He Himself should liberated. Yet this liberation so far from being an act of mysterious division, leaving some unhappily out, is scripturally asserted to be the attainment of love, the evacuation triumph of mercy which, known before the ages, has secured in advance its targets. Love does not blush for its restraint; nor does mercy fail because it is not stuffed into the back trouser pockets of those departing.
Quite simply, the God who would have ALL, as He repeatedly states, grieved that some fail to come, foreknown works apart, yet bears it. Love is noble, pure, constant, persistent, insistent but not depraved, and gathers its won neither by devices subtle nor deviousness absurd, but by that purity which is its own perfect fulfilment.
None of this is guesswork; it is direct from the word of God, or by certain and necessary inference, as rightly stated and required for all doctrine and teaching in the Westminster Confession faith. One dare not teach atom or iota beyond His word, or below it; but of it must come each statement, guarded as more precious the crown jewels of any sovereign, since this Sovereign, the banner over whose banquet is love (Song of Solomon 2:4, Ephesians 3:17-21, I Corinthians 13, is infinite in capacity, truth intrinsic, creation His donation that man should be with all things to His glory (Isaiah 45:11ff., 51:16), that liberty with love should adorn His people made in His image (John 8:34-36), that consummation should be in truth (Ephesians 1:9-10), and glory should fill the earth (Luke 1:14, Jeremiah 4:14-5:2, Isaiah 45:15-25).
Indeed, were it not for Him, the earth would become unlivable (Matthew 24:22), just as in the end, it will become void, a nullity (II Peter 3, Matthew 24:35), because of the warrant out for sin (II Peter 3:7-13), when all the agents of evil, spirits or mankind, find their come-uppance (Revelation 19-20).
It is not because He CANNOT (Ephesians 1:11, Luke 1:37) save all, through any deficiency of love or power (I John 4:7ff., Ephesians 3:20); but because He WILL not violate the sanctity of man's image, in His own likeness, to MAKE him puppet, spiritual lobotomee, however vile the misuse and however wretched the abuse. Nor will He suffer the impulse of a moment to sully the salvation of man, or anything of cost or payment by Himself to reduce the efficacy of His salvation (Philippians 2) as if man could choose in the state of sin (John 1;12, Ephesians 1:4); but the divine has made the human holy through an intervention before any sin could mar, or any downfall obscure.
Sin, then, never damns in view of the grace of God (I Timothy 2), EXCEPT it be against the blood of Christ, against His mercy itself. There is nothing of mystery in this, and everything of chaste love, constantly attested from the word of God (Ezekiel 33:11, Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff., Hosea 7:1, II Chronicles 36, Ezekiel 20, Hebrews 10). Labours many does He make, travails of mercy, before the end shows its bulking shame; and this to man, and not to God, as if to deny what he continually affirms, or to expose what never had any truth, nor will have. It is indeed THIS which is the condemnation before Him who SO loved that His only begotten Son was a gift for salvation, and loved the world, not coming in judgment but with this mandate where judgment has no place, where amplitude has no bounds, where the will of man is made manifest in history as before it, and horror blazes, as a domicile does, when set on fire.
John 15:21-23 shows that at least, because of principle, the equivalent of knowing and rejecting redemption through Jesus Christ the Redeemer, is required before love lets go: and this, not because it is lax or tired, or languid, but because its infinitely costly redemption ultimately is denied, in man before he was made, known to God before time was. History has much to reveal, whether in the pangs of doubt and fighting for or against conviction of sin (John 16); or in the blessed oblivion of shame secured by the overwhelming power of the working of the Spirit of God; but it all comes from the fact that GOD HAS KNOWN what man was, each one, and executes in HIS power what is neither a type of spiritual shanghaiing, nor a testimony to truth in man, but an infinite comprehension; for the Lord KNOWS who are His (II Timothy 2:19).
It is He who liberates all who may be, could be, might be if only this or that ... saved; for ALL is provided and nothing lacks from God, that any man might be won, saved, liberated, made whole, and eventually, entirely holy when the tempest past, peace is infinite over all! (cf. Psalm 7, Revelation 21-22).
THIS IS the condemnation, that light has come and darkness is preferred; and THAT IS the situation in the light and face of the non-judgmental thrust towards the whole world, of the cost-constant heart of God, who spares, will spare and above all HAS spared nothing that so it might be. To decry THAT love is to play other tunes while Rome burns, to make a new song that is sad indeed, mournful in its imaginary decree so horrible, which neither was nor could be. It is a sublime decree which liberates any, and which was made visible in the death of Christ, that all the world should be reconciled, and if not, then in the uttermost and last resort, because of the special and self-sinning blight of man, inveterate in tenacity, immaculate in misconception, a blinding binding which would rather darkness than light, even before the soul-searching wisdom of God, whom no sin can blind, and before whom no circumstances can prevail.
It is MAN and not circumstances which is the final recourse of ruin, despite the intense spiritual amours of God.
Such is the word of God, consistently, coherently, from the first to the last (Genesis 1, 3, Revelation 22:17, John 3:17, Colossians 1:19ff.), and whoever falls on this Rock, the reality of Christ who weeps and laments, but does not bash in the bastions, is confused, just as is the one who is concussed similarly, as if man could evacuate from his sin in himself, and find power to sign a purchase order from Christ, intact in his errant and erratic follies. To be sure, God penetrates past the restraining force and power of man's psyche to know His own, but equally THIS is the work which was discerned before time, and its betrayals; for known to God are all His works before the foundation of the world (Acts 15:18).
But what is this! to have God, to make of Him such an ogre! Such is the shame
from those who would have Him create some not an emblem
of self-appointed shame before endlessly expansive love,
as His word constantly shows (cf. Jeremiah 50-51,
where He would have healed even Babylon),
but devotees to destruction and damnation without light,
evacuees from opportunity, despite all His importunity; and such is no small distortion.
"And this is the condemnation, that He MIGHT have loved to the uttermost, but did not,
being concerned to have an exclusive where mystery selected,
and love had its repose short of the uttermost."
This might be the new unbiblical substitute.
When GOD says where the ground of condemnation lies, in the face of His light,
love and payment repeatedly defined to the uttermost extent,
then one had better believe Him. Calvin has great things for the Church;
but his error here is not one of them. How foolish, on top of countermanding
so many scriptures, to violate this command, that
one should NOT follow any man or theologian or teacher,
saying I AM A CALVINIST, or even a PAULINIST.
It is the word of God which stands, and whoever is used to write it is not an author, but one used to transmit according to the word of God, ALL of which is equally His and not man's (cf. I Corinthians 2:9-13). God must be given the majesty which is His due, and not some alien mystery which is untrue, a logos horribilis, made by man.
When a system, such as Calvin's, therefore,
depends on violation of what God has to say in this field
(and the case*1 of Matthew 23:37 for example, this by Christological mayhem,
separating into an entire diversity, the thoughts of the Father and the Son,
and making a cleft between them),
in its orientation towards His outgoing will, from eternity,
thus departing from conformity to His stated nature,
and thereby makes another piety, diverse from the divine purity thus revealed:
it cannot be scripturally held.
Predestination does not direct foreknowledge*1A, but the biblical order is the opposite! Sovereignty does not direct God; God directs events, AS sovereign, and as to that, the One shown and known throughout the Bible.
Secondly, to differentiate and diffuse such a thought in the name of "Calvinism" is doubly forbidden. Yet it goes on. If Calvin makes one colossus of an error, amidst the myriads of fine things which flowed from his pen, is the world to follow him in this, like some sporting idol! May the Lord forbid. Or is it to ignore the excellent other things so often found in his presentations, because many love to wander, and extremes become a norm! May the Lord preserve from such a folly.
Hence, in view of the dangers of such extraneous extremes, was the Declaratory Statement of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, so wisely and blessedly added to the substance of the Confession in the notable union of 1901. In this lies the enlightened stress on the need to add to that Confession certain emphases without which it might prove offensive indeed to some, and the scope and quality of the love of God is one of these things. Indeed, just reason for this concern we have been considering, and the background for it which might well have been operative, in whole or in part. Nor did the Scotch themselves fail to seek more scope for evangelical emphases, as in The Marrow of Divinity.
Thus when in 1991, this Declaratory Statement was unconstitutionally declared a zero addition to the Confession, this once great Church fell. It had turned from a vast lapse in attacking the Bible with fruitless vehemence (1935-1974), when something of this long decline was admitted in a Church publication in Victoria, one that spoke of some 40 'years ín the wilderness', to this reactionary severity to elevate a system instead of the word of God, a Confession*2 as ground for variance, and not the word of God, above all, in Christ beyond all and for all. This was achieved by a manipulation so contrary to its foundation that it became a new assault, as if the beauty of the original could not be tolerated, but the flower of its function has to be attacked, if not by acid, then by the smart clippers of casuistry. Whatever the intention, such was the appearance of the result, a clammy compression into the format of man, a voiding of an update on the Confession, giving to it the scope it needed, in preliminaries before Calvinistic system, in the domain of the love of God for the lost.
Put differently, this body had turned from Liberalism in its prodigious emptiness and irrationality, linked in the end to the secondary infection of neo-orthodoxy, that changes the meaning of terms gratuitously, so constructing a new religion on the basis of the form of the old and fulfilling the biblical admonition that in the last days there would be a form of religion without godliness (cf. II Timothy 3). It had turned to an unmitigated Calvinism, exposed in this 1991 General Assembly divorce from the Constitution.
By then, piracy in the first place from 1935, and what in effect was a Calvinist coup in the second, these alike had disturbed the peace and stolen much from the treasures of the Church. Small wonder, then, that a most prominent Church officer, around 1974, admitted to the author and another elder with him, that while he did not believe in Calvinism, he would vote for the changes on this basis, since he with his friends, could see no other effective RALLYING POINT for the Church! Is this then 'faith' ? and is this how it was done, that the Church so lapsed a second time!
CALVIN, APOLLOS ET AL.
I Corinthians 3:3-11,18-23
Calvin was not by any means entirely bereft. His one enormous failure was in a pre-systematic setting that made correction necessary; and in 1901 when the Union occurred for the major Presbyterian bodies in this country, the Church had not failed to make this, thus being exceptionally blessed in vigilance. Now, however, some 90 years later, barren and bereft on this topic, so well addressed by John Wesley in a letter to Whitefield*3 (viewed in isolation of the former's Arminian system), as by Spurgeon in one exposé, the Church has suffered its second cou'p, its coup d'église, and is captive to a lapse so grave in itself, that its excision of its own original care in its Declaratory Statement makes it almost inconceivably grave!
It is awesome and wonderful how the Lord turns the Church this way and that, from this error and its companions in extreme reactions and adventurous leanings to the merely adventitious, and while vast multitudes using the name of Jesus Christ (as in the follies of the faithless Inquisitions of Romanism*4, and latter in the sects) may seem to carry the day as did Arius for a little, yet the core and the germ in it, the word of God and its own crushingly clear message continues and abides forever. Rebellions ruin; but grace reigns. Evils multiply but Christ exposes and restores in the midst of this world's various illicit versions of Christianity, a people for Himself.
It is as shown in the references of *3 below, not a matter of rushing to condemn PERSONS, though this is necessary often enough when the basics of grace and truth are disregarded in the Church, but to expose errors in themselves and call all back to the Bible itself, far from the erratic and often abusively intrusive traditions of men (cf. Mark 7:7ff.).
Will the PCA be delivered, restored to its former free biblical stature and scrupulous care ? An ear open to the only actual remedy for its spiritual defalcation (it is nothing less than this!) is something only the Lord can achieve; but His love is long and large. Meanwhile it is necessary to preach the whole counsel o0f God and not snippets of convenience, and to this task, where not a theologian but the Bible itself is the rallying ground, His people must continue, despite slander or shame, lest the very stones rise up; for His people must stand not to be crushed under the Rock (Matthew 21:44), but ON the Rock as foundation, whose word is incisive, decisive and to be followed in ALL things (Matthew 5:17-20, 7:15ff.).
Let no man impugn the love of God, nor yet the sovereignty of God, nay nor let any add to it for imagined system, nor subtract from it to remove it. All the theologians that ever were, rolled into one, will never improve on the word of God. Their task is rather to show it in its beauty, and not distort it for any imagined duty.
*1 See as marked above. See also *10 below.
SEVEN VOLUME SET
Predestination and Freewill Heptad, given here has its formal name:
ON PREDESTINATION and
LIBERTY and NECESSITY,
RESPONSIBILITY, DUTY and CREATIVITY
On this, see:
Beauty for Ashes Ch. 6 (and Hong Kong, and the movement of nations in the last century a concern),
with News 98, News 37.
A useful larger selection:
Aviary of Idolatry, Delusive Drift or Divine Dynamic Ch. 5,
News 37. 44, 69, 97 (the exploiters, the fanciful,
the Communists, the de-godders and the realities), 98,
News 150 - Taiwan,
The Grating Grandeur and Aggrandisement of Man,
and the Meekness of the Majestic Messiah Ch. 2
Beauty for Ashes
Hong Kong, and the movement
of nations in the last century a concern),
Tender Times for Timely Truth
SMR pp. 925ff., 971-972;
Beauty of Holiness
(war and force, rising downwards, Tiananmen and truth),
Ch. 4 (liberty, Tiananmen, worship and its direction in time, its terms and code of truth); History, Review and Overview Ch. 1,
Impossible to Men, Open to God Ch. 5
See also Lord of Life Ch. 8.
See note from al Qaeda, in Lord of Life, Ch. 8, *1.
See on Islam and logic, testimony, action and developments:
More Marvels ... Ch. 4, esp. *4,
SMR pp. 829ff. , 1080
Dancers, Prancers, Lancers and Answers Ch. 3, *1A misconceptions about the Cross, variable and mutually conflicting, on the part of the Koran
Lord of Life Ch. 3 (and force), 1081ff. (and faith), Outrageous Outages ... Ch. 5;
His Wounds Opened Eternity Ch. 4; 3
Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 9,
Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 8 (in perspective), see also *1,
Highway to Hell
Divine Agenda Chs. 6, 3 (an overview of religious truancies, including Marx, Darwin and Koran);
Highway to Hell (Koran citations in both, with ideational parallels in perspective, in the former; and in the latter, futile depravities in endless ideologies such as Sudan has shown so significantly, Islam ablaze without glory),
cf. Overflight in Christ Ch. 1 (and the Koran's musings);
1493 (esp. Britain and sharia);
News 138, Beauty for Ashes Chs. 4, 7
BARBLISS 5, Acme ... Ch. 9 , Great Execrations ... Ch. 3, SMR p. 1O88D - three major religions in some ways in concert, astray.
News 138, Beauty for Ashes Chs. 4, 7, SMR pp. 1074ff., esp. 1079, 1081ff.
(These latter show this religion, with the other three major conspiracies towards the ultimate - why conspiracies ? It is because men conspire, or breathe plans together for a control, rule or oversight not ordained by God: these are breaths of man, and the breath that matters is that of God, in and by which all scripture is inspired by Him (II Timothy 3:16, Isaiah 8:20), in the Book of the Lord (Isaiah 34:16), the Bible, and sustained and implemented by Him (Matthew 26:54ff.). Other ideas for rule are always unruly, since they always tend to use power for what neither reason nor truth compels.).
See also SMR pp. 822ff., 986ff., 1O88D.
See in particular:
Cascade of Truth ... Ch. 4 (Jewish solution)
Galloping Events Ch. 3 , 4 (Jews, gibes and the like: broad biblical survey, including Romans 11, which may be used with survey aspects in ALERT 10, GGEPI,
Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 2 (Swedish frankness on anti-Jewish European feeling, Zionism and racism, US decline),
Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 4.
GBP Appendix, It Bubbles Ch. 10, Ch. 11,
Regal Rays of Revelation Ch. 1, Galloping Events Ch. 4,
The Open Door, the Closed Mind and the Call of Christ Ch. 8, Appendix.
SEE also Glory, Vainglory and Goodness Ch. 7, *2 (for further exposition, of 'Israel' in biblical terminology, and implications) with OCC 8;
Pitter 9 in conjunction with Lord of Life 3 re perspective in modern history, seen from the Biblical forecasts, including basis for concern one month before the Twin Tower disaster as recorded here;
For a large overview of this with many contextual issues: see
The Bay of Retractable Islands Chs. 18 and 19.
With this, see Grand Biblical Perspectives Chs. 3 and 4.
More Marvels ... 3, His Time is Near Chs. 4, 10, (Zephaniah, God has no favourites to distort, no enemies to impel; failed solutions and divine mercy: focus Israel and the world)
Acme ... Ch. 9 (the word and the Word that unites past the scurries of the Age),
News 4, 6, 9,12, 14, 20, 32, 33, 34, 39, 41, 53 (pan-Islam and Europe at work);
"Comfort Ye, My People" Ch. 9 (is the World Court caught on the wall ?);
It Bubbles ... 2, 7, 8, 9
Great Execrations Ch. 4
(Review - its meaning, purpose and historical significance:
biblical background and contemporary events, Ezekiel),
also with Ezekiel,
It Bubbles Ch. 1, 10 (incl. land %),
11 (Syria, sin and the Middle East, % and practicalities, cleavage and realities including UN)
Divine Agenda Ch. 8 (God's plans and man's - emphasis on Balfour Declaration ),
Dastardly Dynamics ... Ch. 10 (humanism in riot and revolt, unfunded fiasco, while force becomes à la mode, Israel being inconvenient, and meaning nothing: though it is to be found where it IS as God said, for the world is His and His mind is not obscure! - Luke 21:24, Micah 7, SMR Appendix B.)
See also Index ISRAEL.
See Zechariah 14:5, Luke 21:24, Galloping Events 4 , It Bubbles ... Ch. 10.
On this, see:
Repent or Perish Ch. 7, pp. 152ff.; ROP 2;
Christ the Wisdom ... Ch. 6;
29, 6 -7,
A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-3; SMR 3,
Little Things Ch. 5, see Cartoons, SMR pp. 146, 271, 295, 422C, 1138;
Wake Up World! Your Creator is Coming Ch. 5, End-Note 1A,
Tender Times ... Ch.
Repent or Perish Ch. 7, pp. 152ff.;
TMR 9, Epilogue,
The Defining Drama Ch. 4,
Biblical Perspectives Ch.
What is the Chaff to the Wheat! Chs. 3, 4, 10, 11,
THE BRIGHTLIGHT... Ch. 7.
With the above, also consult:
Deity and Design Chs. 3, *3, 8
LIGHT DWELLS WITH THE LORD'S CHRIST
WHO ANSWERS RIDDLES
AND WHERE HE IS, DARKNESS DEPARTS
See for example, SMR Chs. 8- 9.
A fascinating and most apt little book cites very numerous passages from the works of Shakespeare which, overall, show considerable knowledge, discernment, and intermingling of biblical passages and concepts in his works. It is called:
The Gospel in Shakespeare.
See for example Possess Your Possessions Book IV, Chs. 2 and 3,
History, Review and Overview ... Ch. 1, Manifesto of Deity Ch. 6,
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of Australia has a very specific requirement concerning its Declaratory Statement. The 1991 Assembly meeting in effect made the Confession the criterion in questions to be resolved. You have liberty if it gives it to you. The Constitution however is the opposite. The Confession has liberty if the Declaratory Statement gives it to it. Not otherwise. This represents, alas, a second invasion of the once so excellent Church, the first having been from the radical liberal slant, which took over increasingly from 1935-1974. The present slant concerns the Calvinist contention, via the Confession which though not extreme as some are, yet has nothing positive to say on the specific matter of the love of God for those to be lost, towards their salvation. Thus while it does not deny this, it does not affirm it, whereas the D.C. does so, in more than one way.
Meanwhile, the Westminster Confession is to be read "in the light of" the D.C.". That is what the Constitution requires, and this is the bond of union by which the Church came to be in 1901. This has been transgressed by the 1991 nullification procedure re addition to the Confession from the D.S., making the Confession the sum of doctrine that binds. IT. In effect, the Declaratory Statement is being read in the light of the Confession. Had the framers of that Constitution which led to the initial union that made the PC of Australia in 1901, held such a desire, doubtless they would not have expressed the opposite!
The 1991 Assembly, in taking action to bind the whole Confession per se UNTIL it be shown from it that there is that in it which it does not require, nullifies this provision on the love of God, as also the liberty formally guaranteed in the same DS. Firstly however, it was only the substance of the Confession which was bound, in the D.S., and secondly it was itself unbinding anything in the Confession which might be construed contrary to the D.S., and thirdly there was a strong emphasis in the D.C. not to be found in the Confession. Thus there is a subversion of the constitution.
Indeed, it adds, this D.C., more that relates tof this precedence of the Statement over the Confession, which must bear the light which the D.C. sheds upon it. This is found in Ch. 2 of the Constitution and Procedure and Practice of the PCA, sections 114-116. The Church, it states here, regards "as vital to the Christian faith," certain things. These include
"1) "the love of God to all mankind, His gift of His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and the free offer of salvation to men without distinction on the ground of Christ's all-sufficient sacrifice."
"2) a matter "of God's eternal decree, including the doctrine of election to eternal life."
a) As in the W.C., this is to be understood such that "neither is God author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."
b) "Further", it is stated that "the said doctrine is held in connection and harmony with the truth - that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, that He has provided a salvation sufficient for all, and adapted to all, and offered to all in the Gospel, and that every hearer of the Gospel is responsible for his dealing with the free and unrestricted offer of eternal life."
This further, which is beyond the point from the Confession (good as far as it goes), is specific that
i) the fact that God is not willing that any should perish is mandated to be read together and in harmony with the eternal decree about who is elected and who is not (which is precisely one thing which has been shown on this site).
ii) God is willing that all should come to repentance.
iii) The salvation divinely provided is in no way inept, in applicable or inappropriate to ANY.
Once this is done, the deficiencies of the Confession, read IN THE LIGHT of the D.C. are remedies, misconstruction is removed and the Church takes on a moderate and scriptural perspective. There is simply no room for the 'horrible decree' of Calvin here, by which the relevant love of God for those to be lost being removed, there is just a frank and acknowledged mystery as to why this is so, this decree - hence the horrible. Indeed, once you remove love as the basis of the Lord's action, you remove a grand theme in His name, and there is not only mystery, but misery.
See also Light of Dawn Ch. 1, Serenity Not Serendipity ... Ch. 14.
Finally, because of its close relevance, an excerpt from The Biblical Workman, Ch. 8 (slightly adapted for this purpose), concludes this section.
The PC of Australia in the beginning wisely added this stress on the love of God, removing any ambiguity from the Westminster Confession, and requiring it to be read in this way, which as so often shown here, is in effect to take it with the amplitude which the Bible requires for this doctrine.
In 1991, however, the bland General Assembly statement that the DS does not alter any doctrine in the Confession, and its action in binding the whole Confession per se UNTIL it be shown from it that there is that in it which it does not require, nullifies this provision on the love of God, as also the liberty formally guaranteed in the same DS. From the first, this liberty in the church was granted and operative, as a thing done, and not merely prospective, to all; and there was formally required no more than the substance of the Confession, with certain basic provisos which were too direct to be annulled.
The Bible ruled as the fundamental, the word of God, the sole final determinant of doctrine; and the Confession helped, bound only in its substance. If ANYTHING was the substance of the Confession it was of course, the focus on Christ and the focus on the Bible as the infallible source and criterion of all doctrine (Ch.1 is eloquent). That could not be altered; and this was officially indicated in a church publication by the church's lawyer or 'procurator' (Basic Documents on Presbyterian Polity, 1961, p. 92 - see The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, pp. 181ff.). Legal documents must, he stated, be read as one whole, and the unalterable adoption of the word of God as the criterion of doctrine for the Presbyterian Church of Australia, was as certain as the definition of just what that 'word of God' was, BY the Confession.
The 1991 General Assembly, in proceeding in this way to make the whole Confession, itself, the Church’s Confession, naming it by itself, unfortunately has subverted by this language, by this phrasing feature, the sole determination place of the Bible, and with it the requirement that WITH the Confession allowance must ALSO be made for the emphasis in the Bible on the love of God.
In this it has derogated the Declaratory Statement which preserved a Scriptural breath on the topic. It was this which the Declaratory Statement (DS) REQUIRED as the light in which the Confession was to be read, and it is this which this cavalier approach to the Confession arrests, binding it to an extent which is past its own self-imposed limitations and permission, while rifling the Church's constitution of this amiable breadth, which had ensured the added emphasis on love, from the Bible.
- Thus the 1991 idea for the Confession, namely the
- concept that there be no alteration of anything in the Confession, from without,
if there be no contradiction from within it, idea, or
- the nostrum - take it as it is, if it does not let you do otherwise, in all of its parts:
- this has a double action.
- It subverts not only the DS interpretation requirement made by the Constitution,
- but almost with gravely amusing ceremony, the Confession's own justly humble position as well!
Indeed, if there is one thing which acclaims that excellent Confession, it is its own idea of its own place, which it puts forth with admirable humility. No, said the Assembly, it is what IT (the Confession, this mere word of men) says, which is to stand UNLESS IT (the Confession) gives liberty otherwise. What a failure in faith is this! What subordination to tradition, what violation of the Confession itself in exalting it!
Now of course it does give just that! This is the irony, intense and almost comic - in its Chapter on Liberty, Ch. 20, Section II, together with Ch. XXXI, Section IV. These indicate that the Lord has left man's conscience FREE "from the doctrines and commandments of men, in any thing contrary to his word or beside it, in matters of faith or worship." Thus from the BIBLE ONLY could any such matter be determined, not from the commandments of men as a criterion. The TEST is the word of God, not the word of men; the standard is the same; the binding is no more and no less. The rest, such as any confessional statement, is a "HELP" as the Confession in XXXI, IV states, noting that "all synods of councils since the apostles' times whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as an help in both." (Colour added.) This simple and admirable fidelity is not what by itself, now appears to be bound.
Actually of course, this does not remove the always present requirements of the scripture, or legally, for that matter, of the Constitution which here through the DS, evokes this aspect of Biblical teaching which we are considering, namely, the love of God. In practice, however, the provision of 1991 is an affliction, a misstatement and precisely the sort of error against which the Confession so wisely set itself.
Worse, since the Confession refuses to have itself bound, the Assembly meantime refusing to go beyond it and to affirm categorically and directly (as in the late 70's) the infallibility of all the Bible, the rigour is laxity. Only what refuses to have itself bound (the Confession), IS bound, and results under its purvey; and what is allowed is this: that what it does not require is not required. If it leaves you free, you can have freedom; if the Confession does not so permit, you are not permitted. Hence is ultra-conservatism and traditionalism the downfall of the very doctrinal basis of the church, which while legally present by argument, as we have seen, is not so by the enforcement of this legal consideration. Indeed, where direct faith fails, what is left! But let us return from the implications of this change, to the current reason for our interest.
On the love of God, then, the Westminster Confession was to be read in the light of the DS; it was not to be read some other way. There was to be no allowance for the Confession's approach, UNLESS it was to be taken IN CONJUNCTION with this specified OTHER indication. The totality of standard was twofold, at this SUBORDINATE level: the Confession's teaching PLUS that of the DS; or you prefer, it was to be the one in the perspective of the other - in its 'light'.
It is useless to protest that in the opinion of this or that body, they are the same on the point. It is enough to see just how many times the love of God is even mentioned in the Confession! (In fact, twice, with one reference to 'loving' in its around 16,000 words.) The Confession indicated what was (and is) a body of system; and the pre-systematics are not given the express and extensive place they have in the Bible, and intensively this is true of the LOVE OF GOD. Some may feel they are implied; some may not.
Whatever the FEELING however, the FACT is that the Confession WITHOUT the (added and extraneous, or extrinsic, because imposed from outside) emphasis and direction of the DS is NOT PERMISSIBLE, by the constitution of this church. THAT is what the Union of 1901 demanded, in reference to tender consciences. The 1991 Assembly however made this fact NOT ONLY to be left behind, but countermanded. It was REQUIRED that the ONE be the determinant, just the one. That was the status quo. Which one ? The Confession.
Thus, in terms of the Constitution of the Church, whatever way the Confession might have been taken on this point of the love of God, the requirement in the DS removes one way. The sovereignty of God, says the DS, is to be taken in conjunction with the fact that God is not willing that any should perish. Thus, to say no more, it moves to stifle an ambiguity that might be found in the Confession. Its two or three references do not require this understanding. The DS does!
Whether or not Calvin would be happy, is not the issue (cf. Predestination and Freewill Ch. 2, pp. 76ff.); the word of God is clear. The system of his 5 points is not in fact contradicted in this (cf. Predestination and Freewill) ; but this DS condition or qualification, assuredly provides a pre-systematic addition of the utmost Biblical importance, concerning the glorious amplitude and abundant wonder of the love of God. It prevents a restrictive misuse of system. It is good to be tolerant and gracious in dealing with one another in these mighty depths of the wonder of the love and sovereignty, both wholly intact and Bibically required. It is not however good to subvert an agreement of history, even if as far back as 1901, which gave to the Australian church its constitutional existence, and which maintains with fidelity the Biblical breadth: either ethically or doctrinally!