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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

John Calvin on Common Grace: The Two Wills of God

The word of God, indeed, in itself and by its own nature, brings salvation, and invites all men indiscriminately to the hope of eternal life; but as all are not inwardly drawn, and as God does not pierce the ears of all—in short, as they are not renewed to repentance or bent to obedience, those who reject the word of God render it, by their unbelief, deadly and destructive.

While God foresees that this will be the result, he purposely sends his prophets to them, that he may involve the reprobate in severer condemnation, as is more fully explained by Isaiah in Isaiah 6:10. This, I acknowledge, is very far from being agreeable to the reason of the flesh, as we see that unholy despisers of God seize on it as a plausible excuse for barking, that God, like some cruel tyrant, takes pleasure in inflicting more severe punishment on men whom, without any expectation of advantage, he knowingly and willingly hardens more and more.  -- John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 23:34.

(Please note the distinction Calvin is making is the distinction between the general call or outward call of the Gospel and the effectual call of the elect.  The outward call or general call is not an endorsement of the contradiction proposed by the Van Tilians that God desires to save the reprobate.  Such a doctrine would logically imply a contradiction in God's mind, which is impossible.  Charlie)

The following is from Calvin's Harmony of the Gospels (Vol. 3) and is a comment on Matthew 23:37:

Again, when the sophists seize on this passage, to prove free will, and to set aside the secret predestination of God, the answer is easy. “God wills to gather all men,” say they; “and therefore all are at liberty to come, and their will does not depend on the election of God.” I reply: The will of God, which is here mentioned, must be judged from the result. For since by his word he calls all men indiscriminately to salvation, and since the end of preaching is, that all should betake themselves to his guardianship and protection, it may justly be said that he wills to gather all to himself. It is not, therefore, the secret purpose of God, but his will which is manifested by the nature of the word, that is here described; for, undoubtedly, whomsoever he efficaciously wills to gather he inwardly draws by his Spirit, and does not merely invite by the outward voice of man.

If it be objected, that it is absurd to suppose the existence of two wills in God, I reply, we fully believe that his will is simple and one; but as our minds do not fathom the deep abyss of secret election, in accommodation to the capacity of our weakness, the will of God is exhibited to us in two ways. And I am astonished at the obstinacy of some people, who, when in many passages of Scripture they meet with that figure of speech [116] (ἀνθρωποπάθεια) [anthropopatheia or "anthropopathism"] which attributes to God human feelings, take no offense, but in this case alone refuse to admit it. But as I have elsewhere treated this subject fully, that I may not be unnecessarily tedious, I only state briefly that, whenever the doctrine, which is the standard of union, [117] is brought forward, God wills to gather all, that all who do not come may be inexcusable.

Calvin's reference here is not to the Arminian absurdity of the two wills of God as His "permissive" will and His "perfect" will.  By this the Arminians mean that due to "libertarian free will" God must permit evil and reprobation or else God is responsible for evil.  By "perfect" will the Arminians mean God's moral law or "preceptive" will.  But this is not what John Calvin means at all by the term "two wills" in God.  He means that the secret will of God is His eternal decrees to both election and reprobation or the "double decree".  (Cf.  Romans 9:11-13; 1 Peter 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Acts 13:48).  The secret will of God only becomes obvious after something happens in real time, for all that comes to pass is ordained by God's decree:


But he is unchangeable, and who can change him? Whatever he has desired, he does. 14 For he fulfills his decree against me, and many such things are his plans. 15 That is why I am terrified in his presence; when I consider, I am afraid because of him. (Job 23:13-15 NET)

Clearly Deuteronomy 29:29 refers to this distinction of two wills as both God's secret decrees and  God's revealed will or precepts in the moral law:
 
It is a remarkable passage, and especially deserving of our observation, for by it audacity and excessive curiosity are condemned, whilst pious minds are aroused to be zealous in seeking instruction. We know how anxious men are to understand things, the knowledge of which is altogether unprofitable, and even the investigation of them injurious. All of them would desire to be God’s counsellors, and to penetrate into the deepest recesses of heaven, nay, they would search into its very cabinets. Hence a heathen poet truly says, —

"Nil mortalibus arduum est:
Coelum ipsum petimus stultitia."Hor. Od. 1:3-37.
"Nought for mortals is too high;
Our folly reaches to the sky."

On the other hand, what God plainly sets before us, and would have familiarly known, is either neglected, or turned from in disgust, or put far away from us, as if it were too obscure. In the first clause, then, Moses briefly reproves and restrains that temerity which leaps beyond the bounds imposed by God; and in the latter, exhorts us to embrace the doctrine of the Law, in which God’s will is declared to us, as if He were openly speaking to us; and thus he encounters the folly of those who fly from the light presented to them, and wrongfully accuse of obscurity that doctrine, wherein God has let Himself down to the measure of our understanding. In sum, he declares that God is the best master to all who come to Him as disciples, because He faithfully and clearly explains to them all that it is useful for them to know. The perpetuity of the doctrine is also asserted, and that it never is to be let go, or to become obsolete by the lapse of ages.  Calvin's Commentary, Deuteronomy 29:29.

Let it be said here that Cornelius Van Til's view that Scripture is not the very thoughts and words of God, but merely an analogy of God's thoughts, undermines the doctrine of special revelation and opens the door for skepticism.  Calvin clearly says that God lowers Himself to communicate His very thoughts to us on our level.  Nowhere does Calvin intimate the idea that God's thoughts are not the same as our thoughts but instead he says that God lowers Himself and speaks to us His very thoughts on our level.  Furthermore, Calvin says that God's Word does not change over time but remains the same throughout the passing of time.

Be that as it may, the fact that God's secret will or decretive will does not contradict His general call to salvation.  Moreover,  the implication is that God's general providence is not "grace" to those who refuse to believe.  In the end it is a curse to them because they harden their own hearts and refuse to believe:


With regard to the words, the discourse as related by Matthew is defective, but its meaning must be supplied from the words of Luke. The mention of scribes and wise men along with prophets tends to magnify the grace of God; by which their ingratitude becomes more apparent, since, though God left nothing undone for their instruction, they made no proficiency. Instead of wise men and scribes Luke mentions apostles but the meaning is the same. This passage shows that God does not always bestow salvation on men when he sends his word to them, but that he sometimes intends to have it proclaimed to the reprobate, who, he knows, will continue obstinate, that it may be to them


the savor of death unto death, (2Co 2:16.)


The word of God, indeed, in itself and by its own nature, brings salvation, and invites all men indiscriminately to the hope of eternal life; but as all are not inwardly drawn, and as God does not pierce the ears of all—in short, as they are not renewed to repentance or bent to obedience, those who reject the word of God render it, by their unbelief, deadly and destructive.


While God foresees that this will be the result, he purposely sends his prophets to them, that he may involve the reprobate in severer condemnation, as is more fully explained by Isaiah, (Isaiah 6:10). This, I acknowledge, is very far from being agreeable to the reason of the flesh, as we see that unholy despisers of God seize on it as a plausible excuse for barking, that God, like some cruel tyrant, takes pleasure in inflicting more severe punishment on men whom, without any expectation of advantage, he knowingly and willingly hardens more and more. But by such examples God exercises the modesty of believers. Let us maintain such sobriety as to tremble and adore what exceeds our senses. Those who say, that God’s foreknowledge does not hinder unbelievers from being saved, foolishly make use of an idle defense for excusing God. I admit that the reprobate, in bringing death upon themselves, have no intention of doing what God foresaw would happen, and therefore that the fault of their perishing cannot be ascribed to His foreknowledge; but I assert that it is improper to employ this sophistry in defending the justice of God, because it may be immediately objected that it lies with God to make them repent, for the gift of faith and repentance is in his power.


We shall next be met by this objection, What is the reason why God by a fixed and deliberate purpose, appoints the light of his word to blind men? When they have been devoted to eternal death, why is he not satisfied with their simple ruin? and why does he wish that they should perish twice or three times? There is nothing left for us but to ascribe glory to the judgments of God by exclaiming with Paul, that they are a deep and unfathomable abyss, (Romans 11:33.) But it is asked, How does he declare that the prophecies will turn to the destruction of the Jews, while his adoption still continued to be in force towards that nation? I reply, As but a small portion embraced the word by faith for salvation, this passage relates to the greater number or the whole body; as Isaiah, after having predicted the general destruction of the nation, is commanded


to seal the law of God among the disciples, (Isaiah 8:16.)


Let us know then that, wherever the Scripture denounces eternal death against the Jews, it excepts a remnant, (Isaiah 1:9; Romans 11:5;) that is, those in whom the Lord preserves some seed on account of his free election.  Calvin's Commentary, Matthew 23:34.

5 comments:

aaytch said...

Deuteronomy 29:29 says that some 'things' in God's Will are his own secret and some 'things' are revealed to the Elect, and presumably yet other things are revealed generally, to whomever and however God wants to reveal them... all for the singular purpose (Will) of glorifying Himself. It does not say that God has two separate wills.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Deuteronomy 29:29 is referring to what is revealed in Scripture. Special revelation.

Charlie J. Ray said...

God has only one will in regards to what He has predetermined and what actually happens in real time. His moral law is the preceptive will of God. It is what He commands us to do, even if we are unable to obey because of our sinful and corrupt nature. Only God's monergistic grace can enable us to choose to obey even after baptism and conversion. Obedience is always the work of God and is in no way a synergistic "cooperation" with God's grace. Grace is always effectual.

The prayers in the 1662 BCP reflect this:

"...And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen." From Morning Prayer.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 KJV)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Even our cooperation is a gift of God.

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