Thomas Barlow (1607-1691): A post-Restoration Oxford disputation on unconditional election

Thomas_Barlow

 

Thomas Barlow (1607-1691) was one of the preeminent Reformed divines within the post-Restoration Church of England. Having previously been the librarian of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Barlow became the provost of the Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1657, and the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford in 1660, while simultaneously serving as the archdeacon of Oxford. He retained these positions until he became bishop of Lincoln in 1675. Alongside his former Queen’s colleague Thomas Tully (1620-1676), who became the principal of St. Edmund Hall in 1658, he was actively involved in anti-Arminian polemics at Oxford and within the Church of England more broadly.

A number of disputations held under Barlow at Oxford were translated from Latin into English and released as part of his posthumously-published The Genuine Remains of that learned Prelate Dr. Thomas Barlow, late Lord Bishop of Lincoln (1692). One of these disputations (on p. 577-582) addresses the question of whether eternal election unto salvation is based on foreseen faith (An electio ad salutem sit ex fide praevisa?):

Election is twofold.

  1. Human, when man.
  2. Divine, when God chooseth, and of this only it is disputed. And this election is twofold.

First, of a thing, when a thing not a person is chosen. So God is often said to choose Jerusalem and Mount Sion, and Isaiah, 58.6. eligere jejunium. But of this we enquire not.

Second, election is of a person, which likewise is twofold.

  1. Of Christ as man. For so he was in the number of the elect. Math. 12.18.
  2. Of those united with Christ: namely of the angels, who persevered in their obedience; and of men, God ordain’d, and elected some men to offices and honour in this world; as Saul to the government. Others he elected to salvation and glory in heaven; and of these our question is.

Now here we say that this divine election, by which God chooseth certain men from eternity to salvation, is not an act of the divine intellect or knowledge by which he knows; but of his will by which according to his good pleasure he determines of us.

The reason is because the divine knowledge is natural and necessary; so that it is impossible that God should not know every object that could be known; but election is a free act; since it is a thing confessed, potuisse Deum vel nullos condidisse, vel conditos non elegisse, vel plures, vel pauciores, vel alios pro suo beneplacito, & jure absoluto quo in creaturas utitur. [i.e. that God could have elected none, or more, or fewer, or others, according to his good pleasure and the absolute right which he has over his creatures.]

The divine knowledge doth equally look at all objects possible or future, but not so his election; which is a discretive act, and passeth by some to perish for ever, while it prepares grace and glory for others.  Now when it is ask’d, if election be from faith foreseen?

First, we do not deny that faith was foreseen from eternity, since ‘tis manifest that the knowledge of God is equally eternal with his will. For sicut quicquid est futurum erat ab aeterno futurum, ita etiam ab aeterno cognitum [i.e. just as whatever is future was future from eternity, so likewise what was known from eternity]. But

Secondly, we enquire of the habitude that the foreseeing of faith hath to election. This habitude for foreseen faith in order to election is threefold, and may have the notion,

First, antecedentis [i.e. of an antecedent], so that God chooseth none to heaven, in whom he had not seen faith to come, or did see that faith would come before they were actually elected.

Secondly, it may have the notion conditionis [i.e. of a condition], and so faith may be consider’d as a condition necessarily required in election.

Thirdly, foreseen faith may further have the notion of a cause, and so not to be only an antecedent and a condition of election, but to have the notion of a cause from whence election follows as the effect.

Now when ‘tis enquired, if election be of faith foreseen, historical faith is not meant, nor a faith of miracles; the which unregenerate men may have; but the meaning is of justifying faith which is proper only to the regenerate.

Up till now Barlow has been clarifying that the question being addressed is whether God’s election of people unto salvation is based on God’s foreseeing of them having justifying faith. He concludes negatively that, in God’s eternal decree of election or predestination unto glory, there neither is, nor can there be, any consideration based on any foreseen antecedent action, quality, merit, cause, reason, or condition in us humans. God’s election is therefore entirely unconditional. Barlow offers a number of reasons for this:

The first reason of this conclusion, is; if election be from faith foreseen, then faith foreseen is some way a cause of election: the which consequence though the Remonstrants will sometimes deny and seem not to allow foreseen faith as the cause of God’s electing, as may be seen in the Collatio Hagiensis, p. 103. Yet elsewhere they speak it out plainly in writings held by them most authentical, namely in Actis Synodalibus Part. 2. p. 6. where they tell us, fidem & perseverationem in electione considerari ut conditionem ab homine praestitam, ac proinde tanquam causam [i.e. in election faith and perseverance are considered as a condition fulfilled by man, and accordingly as a cause]. They add this reason, because the condition prescribed and perform’d doth necessario alicujus causae rationem induere [i.e. necessarily takes on the function of a cause].

And indeed they must needs be forc’d to confess this: For, if we ask them why God chose Peter and not Judas, they say, because God foresaw that Peter would believe. So that from their hypothesis, it must needs be that foreseen faith was the cause that Peter was chosen before Judas.

Now I do subsume, that foreseen faith is not the cause, nor reason, nor motive any way of election.

First, because the Scripture allows of no cause of election extra Deum ipsum [i.e. outside of God himself]: but refers it altogether to his εὐδοκία & beneplacitum [i.e. good pleasure]. For this consult Ephes. 1.11. and Rom. 9.11.

On the other hand, If you will believe, you shall be elected, is no where to be found in Holy Writ, either expressly, or by equivalence. There is I confess this proposition in Scripture, He that believes shall be saved, but not he that believes shall be predestinated; because God never required faith as antecedaneous to his decree.

Secondly, if faith be an effect and consequent of election, then is it not the cause of it, or antecedaneous motive; because ‘tis altogether impossible, and implies a manifest contradiction, ut idem respectu ejusdem sit antecedens & consequens, causa & effectus [i.e. that the same thing may in the same respect be both antecedent and consequent, both cause and effect]. But faith is an effect or consequent of election, therefore ‘tis not a cause, or antecedent motive of it.

The minor I prove out of Eph. 1.4. According as he hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, &c. And v. 5th sheweth that God did predestinate those whom he would adopt for sons, not such as were sons. But if he had chosen such as believed, then he would have chosen holy men and sons. But sanctity, and our sonship are not the cause, nor antecedent motive of election. For, Rom. 8.29. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son: not as if they were then so.

Again if election were of works, then the Apostle might have had an Answer to his Objection in a readiness, as to what he mentions in the 9th of the Romans about the children neither having done any good or evil, and in vain had the instance there been brought of the potter’s power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour and another to dishonour. Whereas if election had been from foreseen faith, he had spoke more aptly thus, Hath not the potter the art to know the difference in several parts of Clay, and to separate the good from the bad? But the Apostle’s similitude is exactly pertinent, if we suppose election to be absolute, and all creatures to be in an equal state.

The editor notes that Barlow offers a final reason for God’s election not being based on foreseen faith and perseverance, namely, “that infants are elected, but not from faith and perseverance; for they are not capable thereof.”

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John Edwards (1637-1716) on God’s justice and rewards

John_Edwards

 

There is righteousness in God’s rewarding. The Apostle tells us, that he that comes unto God must not only believe that he is, but that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). There is, as our Saviour informs us, a difference of rewards, there is a prophet’s reward, and a righteous man’s reward (Matt. 10:41), i.e. God will reward, but in a different manner, those who shew kindness to either of these. Yea we are told in the same chapter, that he who refreshes a disciple with a cup of cold water, shall be recompensed for it. Whence we may infer, that no good action (be it never so mean) shall go unrewarded. Now, ‘tis plain that God’s justice is shewed in this, for else the Apostle would not have said (Heb. 6:20) God is not unjust to forget the labour of love. And (2 Thess. 1:6) It is a righteous or just thing with God, to recompense to you that are troubled, rest. It is manifest therefore, that God acts according to the laws of justice and righteousness, when he rewards the good services of the faithful in this life. And he doth so when he crowns them with everlasting glory in the mansions of the blessed, as we may gather from 2 Thess. 4:8, There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day. By the tenor of the New Covenant, there is assured unto all believers eternal happiness, both as God is merciful, and as he is just. That the crown is laid up for them, is the product of divine mercy, that it is actually given to them, at the great day of accounts, argues God to be righteous, for seeing he hath engaged by his promise to bestow heaven upon them, it becomes an act of justice or righteousness to perform his word and promise: though to make this promise to them at first, was an act of mere grace and favour. So that the remunerative justice of God is not to be measured by the rules and proportions of human justice, which is according to men’s merits: but God’s giving a reward to holy men (none of whom are in a capacity to deserve anything at his hands; yea whose daily failings render them obnoxious to him) is to be reckoned as an act of mercifulness and liberality.

– John Edwards (1637-1716), Theologia Reformata, vol. 1 (1713), p. 100-101.

Thomas Allen (1681-1755) on the perseverance of the saints

ThomasAllen

 

Thomas Allen (1681-1755) was a Reformed conforming churchman and rector of Kettering, Northamptonshire, for a sturdy innings of 41 years from 1714 until his death. Prior to his long ministry at Kettering, Allen studied at Wadham College, Oxford, and served as rector of Irchester, Northamptonshire. He died in his parish church (St Peter and St Paul’s, Kettering) as he was reading prayers.

Allen published a number of works during his lifetime, one of which is his devotional book The Practice of a Holy Life; or, the Christian’s Daily Exercise, in Meditations, Prayers, and Rules of Holy Living (1716). One of the “daily exercises” in this book treats the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Allen writes that, if it were possible for the faith of a true regenerate Christian to be overthrown, then it must be overthrown “either by God, or by some inferior cause.” Yet “God will not, and no inferior [cause] can overthrow it.”

God will not overthrow the faith of regenerate believers because:

he has made an everlasting covenant with them, never to turn from them, to do them good; but will put his fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from him (Jer. 32:40); that is, his fear shall be the cement whereby they shall adhere and cleave unto him forever. Whom he loves in Christ Jesus, he always loves unto the end (John 13:1). They that trust in him, are like Mount Sion, which cannot be removed (Ps. 125:1). They are sheep, which no man can pluck out of his hands (John 10:29), chosen ones, whom it is not possible to seduce: Neither shall they be tempted above what they are able to bear (Matt. 24:24; 1 Cor. 10:3). And tho’ they fall, yet shall they not utterly be cast down; for the Lord upholdeth them with his hand (Ps. 37:24). Christ Jesus will not undermine their happy state; for he is the prince of their salvation, has washed them in his own blood (Rev. 7:14), has engaged himself to advance them to his glory, and, of all the Father giveth him, he loseth not one (John 6:39). The Holy Ghost will not alter it; for he it is that enables them to do the will of God, seals them unto the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30), and is not come to stay a day or two, but abide in them forever (John 14:16).

Allen hence concludes that “[s]ince it cannot be by God, it must be by some inferior cause, either the Devil, or by the loss of faith, or by some great sin, that their estate is vanquishable, or not at all.” He accordingly goes through these three inferior causes to determine whether it is possible for them to cause the falling away of a believer, and argues:

Not by the Devil; for though he be a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and his wrath is increased, because his time is short (1 Pet. 5:8), yet his head is broken (Rev. 12:12), his main strength is gone (Gen. 3:15), and greater is he that is in them, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).” And tho’ he marcheth after the sons of God, as Pharaoh did after Israel, with all his strength, yet they go forth with an high hand (Ex. 14:8) and mighty is he that defends their cause against him.

Neither can they hazard their estate by the loss of faith. This indeed is the very bond of adoption: and if [there was a way] it could be lost, there were danger; but, blessed be God, there is none. Faith is the gift of God, begotten in them by the Holy Ghost, independent of the will of the flesh, or of man (John 1:13), and therefore must partake of the nature of God, which is, to be unchangeable (Mal. 3:6) and without repentance (Rom. 11:29). And though it may be much weakened, and for a time be without fruit, as trees in winter, and seemingly lifeless, and dead; yet that it should finally miscarry, is impossible: for Christ, in the person of St. Peter, has prayed for the faith of all his elect (Luke 22:31). And God cannot but hear, and answer, a prayer so agreeable to his own will: otherwise, if but one could perish, then may all; for one has no more privilege than another: and if all, then Christ may have died in vain, which is a gross absurdity.

Neither, lastly, can sin dispossess the sons of God from their inheritance: Nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom. 8:35), therefore not sin: All things shall work together for their good (v. 28) and therefore sin, among the rest, though contrary to its own nature, shall promote it: much wariness, fear, humility, thankfulness to God, and charity to men, is wrought by it. And though God permits them to fall into it, to shew them their weakness, he will not let them lye in it, to shew them his power. The promise of God to Solomon, is the freehold of all his children: I will be his Father, and he shall be my son: if he sin, I will chasten him with the rod; but my mercy shall not depart from him (2 Sam. 7:14). And they are bidden daily to pray, lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:13), which were to no purpose, if it were not his will to hear them, and to establish, strengthen, and settle them in every good word, and work, till he has brought them to his heavenly kingdom.

Stable therefore is the adoption of sons by faith in Christ, which, whosoever is possess’d of, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters; new graces, and new assurances of that eternal life which he is hastening to; such a I know, whom I have believed. I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day; that he will deliver me from all evil, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. Who will lay anything to my charge? Who will separate me from the love of God in Jesus my Lord? I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.

Thomas Allen (1681-1755), The practice of a holy life; or, the Christian’s daily exercise, in meditations, prayers, and rules of holy living (1716), p. 265-267.

Richard Duke (1658-1711) on faith’s role in justification

Richard Duke

 

To add to previous posts from William Ames, Thomas Chalmers, Henricus Siccama, and H.C.G. Moule on faith’s role in justification, here is a small snippet from the Reformed conforming churchman Richard Duke (1658-1711), who served as a prebendary of Gloucester, rector of Witney, Oxfordshire, and royal chaplain to Queen Anne. The excerpt is taken from his Fifteen Sermons preach’d on Several Occasions (1715), p. 254:

As there is no merit in works, so neither is there in faith; and tho’ God do’s justifie the believing man, it is not for the worthiness of his belief, but the worthiness of him, in whom he believes. In whom he believes, and from whom alone it proceeds also that he do’s believe. For let us give to faith all the highest elegies that are recorded of it, and very glorious things are spoken of it in the Book of God; let us own all its victories which are so triumphantly display’d in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, and what is greater than all those what the same Apostle speaks of it in the text, through it ye are sav’d, yet that there may be no room for doubt but that salvation is still entirely to be ascrib’d to grace, we are at the same time taught that this faith, instrumentally imploy’d in so great a work, is itself of grace, it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Nathanael Taylor (fl. 1671-1691): Reformed instruction of children in a rural post-Restoration Church of England parish

Nathanael Taylor

 

Nathanael Taylor (fl. 1671-1691) was a Reformed conforming churchman, vicar of Hibaldstow, Lincolnshire, and first master of the Grammar School in nearby Brigg, Lincolnshire – which still exists today as Sir John Nelthorpe School, Brigg. Little else is known about Taylor, and he is not to be confused with his dissenting contemporary namesake Nathanael Taylor (d. 1702). In the picture above, taken from the front matter of a published sermon of his, Taylor can be seen in clerical habit, teaching the children at his school.

Despite information on his life having been lost in the sands of time, we can nevertheless get a good idea of the doctrine Taylor the rural parish minister would have taught his pupils, as in 1683 he published his A Practical and Short Exposition of the Catechism of the Church of England by way of Question and Answer, which, the title page explains, is intended to “instruct children in the true Protestant religion of the Church of England.” Two extra editions of this exposition were released over the following two years.

It does not take long to spot the Reformed credentials of Taylor’s exposition, which is peppered with citations from various domestic and foreign Reformed divines, including William Nicholson, John Arrowsmith, Richard Baxter, Edward Leigh, Franciscus Junius, Immanuel Tremellius, Richard Hooker, James Ussher, John Pearson, Philippe Du Plessis-Mornay, Johann Heinrich Alsted, John Calvin, William Ames, and even the Belgic Confession. This work was furthermore published under the patronage of the bishop of his diocese, the Reformed churchman Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln.

Judging by the lack of information on his life, Taylor was most probably never well known to his contemporaries, as of course has been the case with most parish ministers throughout the ages, particularly rural ones. Yet his reading and absorption of the Reformed sources of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was clearly extensive, and undoubtedly those children who had sat at the feet of this Gamaliel in a small Lincolnshire town would have been nurtured in Reformed orthodoxy from a young age. Below is a sample :

Q. How doth Christ save us?

A. 1. Christ underwent the whole wrath of God due to us, and so satisfied God’s offended justice (2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 26 and 27). 2. He performed actively what the law required, and so was without sin (Matt 3:17; 5:17). 3. Hence God is, through him, reconciled to us (2 Cor. 5: 18, 20-21). 4. Christ hath made known to us the terms of salvation, that we on our repentance for sin, and closing with him by faith, and living in obedience to him in the life of faith, may be saved (Luk. 24:47; Joh. 3:16). 5. He by his Word, ordinances, ministers, Spirit and graces, instructs us in his will, and enables us to perform what he requires (Jam. 1:28; Phil. 1:6). 6. He intercedes with God his Father, for the pardon of those sins attending our persons and performances, and pleads for the acceptance of us and them, on the account of his merits and mediation. (p. 31)

As a final taster, consider also Taylor’s beautiful exposition of what we should learn from Christ’s threefold office:

I learn from the offices of Christ, 1. That as Christ is my Lord and King, so I ought to obey him; and as he loved me so as to dye for me, I ought to love him so as to live to him, and to my power promote his kingdom and glory (2 Cor. 5:15). 2. As Christ is Prophet I ought to reverence God’s Word, ordinances and ministers, and to obey what Christ by them and his Spirit doth teach me to be my duty, it becoming me to have an ear to hear where the Almighty God condescends to speak (Prov. 1:24, 26, 28). 3. As Christ is my High Priest and Saviour to expiate my sin, and save my soul by his merits and mediation. I learn to disown all merits and works of righteousness of my own, and not to relie on any creature’s righteousness for justification, but wholly by faith and obedience, close with and live to him, expecting from him my salvation on the account of his own merits and free grace (Is. 64:6; Luk. 17:19). I learn also to disown all co-mediators, as saints and angels, and to account him as the sole procurer of my happiness, to whom my complaints of wants, and prayers for supplies, ought to be offered up and made known. (p. 32-33)

George Stradling (1620/21-1688): The inheritance of the saints, by its very nature as an inheritance, excludes all purchase on our part

George Stradling

 

George Stradling (1620/21-1688) was a Reformed conforming churchman who served as Dean of Chichester Cathedral for the final sixteen years of his life. Before becoming Dean of Chichester, Stradling had successively been a fellow of All Souls’ College and Jesus College, Oxford, and served in a number of parishes, including Fulham and St. Bride’s Fleet Street, London. He was furthermore also a canon of both St. Paul’s and Westminster.

In an All Saints’ Day sermon on Col. 1:12 included in his posthumously-published Sermons and Discourses upon Several Occasions (1692), Stradling discourses beautifully on the saints’ inheritance as being entirely a gift from God:

1. Our Lord himself hath told us, that God is beforehand with us; that whatsoever we can do is due from us to Him; that when we shall have done all those things which are commanded us, we must say, that we are unprofitable servants, and have done but that which was our duty to do (Luk. 17:10). And then what merit can there be in paying just debts?

And, 2. St. Paul hath told us, That we can do no good thing without Him too, who worketh in us both to will and to doe of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). So that He crowns His own gifts in us, and rewards not our deservings.

Besides, 3. Our goodness extendeth not to God, says David (Ps. 16:2). And being unuseful, how can it be meritorious? Nay, our best works are so imperfect and so sinful too, that the utmost they can expect is but a pardon, and not a reward; and were they never so good and perfect, yet what proportion can they bear to such a reward as an inheritance in light? Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, to a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory? (2 Cor. 4. 17). Where we must not let pass an elegant antithesis; For affliction there is glory; For light affliction, a weight of glory; and for momentary affliction, an eternal weight of glory; to shew the vast disproportion between these things; so vast, that even martyrdom itself (the highest, utmost proof of our love to God) is, in St. Paul‘s account, nothing in comparison of that glory we expect; For I reckon, says he, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8. 18)

IV. And lastly, the very word inheritance excludes all purchase on our part. For this were to renounce succession, to cast off all filial duty and affection, not to own ourselves sons, but mercenary purchasers; yea, and purchasers of an inheritance already purchased for us by Christ, and for his sake freely bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father out of his own pure goodness and bounty, to which alone we must ascribe it. For we all (the best of us) have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). And we are told (Rom. 6:23) that, The wages of sin (our proper wages) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. The Apostle might have said (and indeed the antithesis or opposition there seem’d to require it) But the wages of Righteousness is eternal life; but he altered the phrase on set-purpose, and chose rather to say, The gift of God is eternal life; that we might from this change of the phrase learn, that although we procure death unto ourselves, yet ‘tis God that bestows eternal life on us; that as He hath called us to his kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12), so he gives that glory and that kingdom for no other reason but because he is pleased so to do; It is your Father’s good pleasure, for into God the Father’s good pleasure Christ resolves it, to give you a kingdom (Luk. 12:32). No merit, nor so much as any good disposition in us for it; He prepares it for us (Matt. 20:23). And he prepares us for it too here in the Text, by making us meet to be partakers thereof.

For what meetness could he find in us for such an inheritance? Title to it we have none, being by nature the children of wrath and disobedience (Eph. 2:2, 3). Mere intruders here and usurpers, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and we, the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12). Qualifications proper for it we have none too; that, an inheritance in light, we, darkness; that, an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Pet. 1:4), we corruptible, polluted, and still decaying. Οὐχ ἱκανοί ἐσμεν —cries out our Apostle, We are not sufficient, not fit (for the word signifies either) as of ourselves, but our sufficiency, or fitness (call it which you will), is of God, (2 Cor. 3:5; 2 Pet. 1:4), who as He makes us partakers of his divine nature, so meet partakers of the divine inheritance, not by pouring out the divine essence, but by communicating to us those divine qualities which will fit and prepare us for the sight thereof; by putting light into our understandings and holiness into our wills, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). By cleansing our hearts, and washing our hands, that so we may ascend into the hill of the Lord, dwell and rest in his Tabernacle (Ps. 15:24). He gives us faith, and with that a prospect of our inheritance; and He gives us hope, and with that an interest therein; And, to sum up all in one, He gives us his Holy Spirit, the earnest of that inheritance (Eph. 1:14), who worketh all our works in us, writes his laws in our hearts, and by softening, makes them capable of his divine impressions: In short, that divine Spirit, which by regenerating makes us new creatures, and so fit inhabitants for the new Jerusalem, calling us first to virtue, and then to glory: to that, as the way; to this, as the end (2 Pet. 1:3).

2. But besides this divine operation, we need divine acceptation also, whereby we may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God, our inheritance (2 Thess. 1:5). For all our works and graces here being imperfect, can never capacitate us for it without God’s gracious acceptance. And therefore κατηξίωσεν ἡμας saith St. Chrysost. here. ‘Tis God’s καταξίωσις, not our ἄξια, his dignifiying of us, not our own dignity, that renders us worthy. And ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς, He makes us accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). And when the saints of God are said to be worthy to walk with Christ in white (Rev. 3. 4), ‘tis because He casts his garment of righteousness about them; and if their good works (which yet are but God’s own gifts) weigh down, ‘tis because He puts his grains of allowance into the scale.

But what need all this, either divine operation or acceptation, to make us meet partakers of the inheritance in light, may the enemies of God’s grace here say? What need we go farther than ourselves and our own nature for it? For Pelagius will tell us, that we are in as good a condition now as Adam himself was before his fall; our faculties the same, as strong and as able as ever; our understandings as clear to discern, and our wills as free to choose good and evil; that all the harm our first parent did us, was but to give us a bad Example, which ‘tis our fault if we will follow, and since our happiness depends on ourselves, that we are to blame ourselves, if we miss of it. And although some have thought this too gross to make man the sole author of his own fate, yet they have very little mended the matter, by so parting stakes between God and him, that they still allow the latter the better share in the work of his salvation. For they deny all preventing grace (the proper mark of a Semi-Pelagian) although they are pleased to grant a concurrent and subsequent one on God’s part to enable him to do his work with more ease and sureness, which otherwise would cost him more pains and hazard. However they so far agree with Pelagius, as to place this meetness for the inheritance in man himself, putting it into his own power to dispose himself to his conversion by an act of his own free-will, antecedent to God’s grace. A piece of heathen divinity borrowed from Seneca and Tully. For Seneca in a Stoical brag could say, That we live, is from God; but that we live well, is from ourselves. And, This is the Judgment of all Mankind, says Tully; That Prosperity is to be sought of God, but Wisdom to be taken up from our selves. On which saying of his, St. Augustine passes this judgment, That by making Men free, he made them sacrilegious. For what greater sacrilege than to rob God of his power to convert us, or at least to let him go but as a sharer with as therein? When, as to the first act of our conversion, we are as purely passive as to that of our creation or resurrection. We cannot create ourselves, and, being dead in trespasses and sins, no more raise up ourselves to a spiritual, than to a natural life: No, God must convert us, that we may be converted: Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned, says the Prophet Jeremy (Lam. 5:21. & Jer. 31:18). Nay, The very preparations of the heart in Man are from the Lord, says Solomon (Prov. 16:1). And, It is God who worketh in us both to will and to do, says St. Paul (Phil. 2:13). We cannot come to Christ, except the Father draw us (Joh. 6:44). Nor when we are drawn to Him, do anything without Him; Himself plainly telling us so (Joh. 15:5). Without me ye can do nothing; He does not say a little, but nothing. God must prevent and follow us with his grace, plant good inclinations in us, and nurse them up too. He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4), not that we were so before he chose us. He chose us first too, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (Joh. 16:15; 1 Joh. 4:10). He chose us also out of his own love, and then loved us for his choice, and made us Holy by his very choosing us. No prevision of our faith or good Works, but his own free goodness and mercy determined his choice; He found us not meet to partake of the inheritance, but made us so, says the text; Could we make ourselves meet, we might thank ourselves and not the Father, as the Apostle here exhorts the Corinthians and us to do.

– George Stradling (1620/21-1688), Sermons and Discourses upon Several Occasions, p. 300-308

James Clifford (c. 1622-1698) on the second article of the Creed

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James Clifford (c. 1622-1698) was a Reformed conforming churchman and musician, chorister of Magdalen College, Oxford, canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, curate of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s, and chaplain to the Society of Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet Street. While known primarily for his The Divine Services and Anthems usually sung in the Cathedrals and Collegiate Choires in the Church of England (first edition 1663), Clifford three decades later also wrote A Catechism containing the Principles of Christian Religion (1694), which contains the following golden Q&A on the second article of the Apostles’ Creed. Notice also the emphasis on comfort in relation to each doctrine, taking its cue from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. Declare unto me the second part of the Creed, concerning faith in God the Son. Which is the second article?

A. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

Q. What is signified by that word JESUS?

A. This word signifieth a Saviour. (Matt. 1:21)

Q. Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Saviour?

A. Because he saveth us from all our sins (Heb. 7:25). Neither ought any safety to be sought for from any other, nor can elsewhere be found (Acts 4:12; Is. 43:11).

Q. Whom doth he save?

A. He saveth all and only the elect and believers, which have been, are, or shall be, even from the beginning to the end of the world (Jn. 3:16).

Q. What evils doth he deliver his elect from?

A. From all sin. So the angel testifieth (Matt. 1:21; 1 Jn. 1:7). And also from the punishment of sin: for the cause being taken away, which is sin; the effect is taken away, which is punishment (Rom. 8:1).

Q. How doth Christ save his elect?

A. 1st, He saveth us by his merit or satisfaction: because, by his obedience, passion, death, and intercession, he hath merited for us remission of sins, reconciliation with God, and everlasting life (1 Jn. 1:7; Rom. 5:19; Is. 53:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). 2ndly, He saveth us by his efficacy, power, and operation: because he not only obtaineth, by his meriting for us, remission of sins, and that life which we had lost; but also applieth effectually unto us, by virtue of his Spirit, through faith, the whole benefit of our redemption. For what benefits he merited by his death, he doth not retain them unto himself, but bestoweth them on us.

Q. What is it therefore to believe in Jesus?

A. It is not only to believe, that he is able to save, and that he is the only means to obtain salvation by; but also, that he is my Saviour (Lk. 1:47; Ps. 27:1). And that I rely wholly upon him, and none but him, for the salvation of my soul (Jn. 6:68).

Q. What comfort hast thou by this?

A. That though I am guilty of innumerable sins, both original and actual, even the breach of the whole law, and so am worthy to be damned; and have all the plagues of God, due to my sin, cast upon me; yea though I were a bond-slave to sin and Satan: yet I believe that Jesus is my Saviour, and that he hath delivered me from all my sins, both the guilt, and the satisfactory punishment of them; and also from the power of sin and Satan (Lk. 4:18).

Q. What is signified by the word CHRIST?

A. Christ signifieth anointed.

Q. Why is he called Christ, that is, anointed?

A. Because he was ordained of the Father, and anointed of the Holy Ghost, the chief Prophet and Doctor (Deut. 18:15), who hath opened unto us the secret counsel, and all the will of his Father, concerning our redemption (Jn. 15:15). And the High Priest, who, with that one only sacrifice of his body, hath redeemed us (Heb. 9:28), and doth continually make intercession to his Father for us (Rom. 8:34). And a King, who ruleth us by his Word and Spirit; and defendeth and maintaineth that salvation which he hath purchased for us (Lk. 1:33; Jn. 10:28).

Q. What benefit hast thou by this?

A. That both I, and all the elect of God, are made spiritual kings, priests, and prophets (Rev. 1:5-6). Kings, in bearing rule over our hearts, and mastering our rebellious thoughts, wills, and affections (Rom. 6:12). Priests, in offering up to God our spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5) of prayer (Ps. 141:2), of thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15), of alms (Heb. 13:16), of a contrite heart (Ps. 51:17), of our whole souls and bodies for the service of God (Rom. 12:1). And prophets, in applying that knowledge we have, to the benefit and good of others (Lk. 23:32).

Q. Now shew me why this Jesus Christ is called the only Son of God, seeing we also are said to be the sons of God?

A. Christ is called God’s only Son, because he alone is the co-eternal and natural Son of the eternal Father (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 1:5). The angels also, and Adam before his fall, are his sons, by creation. But we are sons adopted of the Father, by grace, for his sake (Eph. 1:5; Jn. 1:12).

Q. What comfort cometh by this?

A. It sheweth the wonderful love, and great mercy of God to me, that when I was, by nature, the child of wrath and perdition, he spared not to give his only Son for me, to make me his child, and heir, by the grace of adoption (Jn. 3:16).

Q. Wherefore is he called our Lord?

A. Because he redeeming and ransoming both our body and soul from sin, not with gold and silver, but with his precious blood, and delivering us from all the power of the devil, hath set us free to serve him (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:9).

Q. What is the comfort of this?

A. That Christ being my Lord, and I living under his dominion, I need not fear what enemies, whether devil, or wicked men, can do unto me: If God be on our side, who can be against us? And though I was under the prince of darkness, having Satan my Lord, until I believed in Christ; yet since I am Christ’s, and he is my only Lord, and that by purchase with his blood, by gift from his Father; and by marriage contracted, to be consummate at his appearing.

– James Clifford (c. 1622-1698), A Catechism containing the Principles of Christian Religion, p. 50-59.