10 September 2008

How a Toned-Down Gospel Undermines Holiness

by John Newton

herever and whenever the doctrines of free grace and justification by faith have prevailed in the Christian church, and according to the degree of clearness with which they have been enforced, the practical duties of Christianity have flourished in the same proportion. Wherever they have declined, or been tempered with the reasonings and expedients of men, either from a well-meant (though mistaken) fear lest they should be abused, or from a desire to accommodate the Gospel, and render it more palatable to the depraved taste of the world, the consequence has always been an equal declension in practice.

So long as the Gospel of Christ is maintained without adulteration, it is found sufficient for every valuable purpose; but when the wisdom of man is permitted to add to the perfect work of God, a wide door is opened for innumerable mischiefs—the divine commands are made void, new inventions are continually taking place, zeal is diverted into a wrong channel, and the greatest stress laid upon things, either unnecessary or unwarrantable. Hence, perpetual occasion is given for strife, debates, and divisions, till at length the spirit of Christianity is forgot, and the power of godliness lost, amidst fierce contentions for the form.

To sum up this inquiry in few words. The Gospel is a wise and gracious dispensation, equally suited to the necessities of man and to the perfections of God. It proclaims relief to the miserable, and excludes none but those who exclude themselves. It convinces a sinner that he is unworthy of the smallest mercy, at the same time that it gives him a confidence to expect the greatest. It cuts off all pretence of glorying in the flesh, but it enables a guilty sinner to glory in God. To them that have no might, it increases strength; it gives eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; subdues the enmity of the heart, shows the nature of sin, the spirituality and sanction of the law with the fullest evidence; and, by exhibiting Jesus as made of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to all who believe, it makes obedience practicable, easy, and delightful.

The constraining love of Christ engages the heart and every faculty in his service. His example illustrates and recommends his precepts, his presence inspires courage and activity under every pressure, and the prospect of the glory to be revealed is a continual source of joy and peace, which passeth the understanding of the natural man. Thus the Gospel filleth the hungry with good things, but it sendeth the rich and self-sufficient empty away, and leaves the impenitent and unbelieving in a state of aggravated guilt and condemnation.

From John Newton, The Works of Rev. John Newton, 4 vols. (New Haven: Whiting, 1824), 2:270.


Stefan Ewing said...

The last two paragraphs are the most beautiful description of the Gospel I've ever read.

This by the guy who wrote Amazing Grace; the guy who'd been a slave ship captain in another life? God's grace truly is amazing.

"How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"
(Isaiah 52:7)

I've just been waiting an excuse to quote that verse....

W. Ian Hall said...

Tremendous post - The old slave trader knew the depths , glories and wonders of God's sovereign grace.

Rob Hughes said...

What an amazing piece of writing. Beautiful. With reference to the need in today’s church you will be hard pressed to find words more important and pertinent. These words drip with wisdom… “So long as the Gospel of Christ is maintained without adulteration, it is found sufficient for every valuable purpose; but when the wisdom of man is permitted to add to the perfect work of God, a wide door is opened for innumerable mischiefs.”

“The wisdom of man.” Oh how true is that! “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:4) God is sovereign and His gospel works.

P.S. Note to Phil. I'm going to pinch this and post it on my blog. Hope you don't mind!! :-)

M. R. Burgos said...

It's relevance is staggering.Great post...

Patrick Eaks said...

John Newton said:

It proclaims relief to the miserable, and excludes none but those who exclude themselves. It convinces a sinner that he is unworthy of the smallest mercy, at the same time that it gives him a confidence to expect the greatest. It cuts off all pretence of glorying in the flesh, but it enables a guilty sinner to glory in God. To them that have no might, it increases strength; it gives eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame;

I am not sure about everyone else, but this sounds like a miracle to me…….

Praise God for his Saints of days gone by, who held to the one and true gospel!

DJP said...

Coolest. Guest-writers. Anywhere.

Stefan Ewing said...


Actually, I was listening to YOUR senior pastor's sermon from a few years ago on Luke 18:9-14, as I was reading this last night. What a perfect juxtaposition—that's what the Gospel's all about! (For anyone curious, go here, then find July 4, 2004).

May we come every day to the throne of God with a heart as repentant and contrite as the publican's, and pray simply for God to have mercy on us for our sins, through the shed blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.

DJP said...

That's great. Reddit's a wonderful preacher, isn't he? We're really blessed.

Stefan Ewing said...

Yeah. He's one of those preachers who seems to start off kind of quiet, and then as he gets into his sermon, he starts to grab you and pull you further and further in, until you're convicted.

Heck, given the text (which I was searching for sermons on), I knew what the gist of his sermon would be, and I was still convicted, and came away feeling more like the Pharisee than the publican!

Michael said...

It proclaims relief to the miserable, and excludes none but those who exclude themselves.

The post as a whole was simply wonderful...how well put by a very gifted individual. Question though...in the portion I quoted (above), this doesn't sound very "reformed" (if you will). Not that this detracts from the overall premise of the message at all...I just noted a bit of free will / Arminian language.

Perhaps I'm just being too sensitive...

Anonymous said...


John Newton was as Calvinistic as the day is long, so maybe understand that line in that light.

I also stuttered at the initial mention of "free grace" but then I remembered that author and realized how some groups co-op certain terms to fit their meanings.

Great article.

I once heard John Piper talk about how men like Newton understood that the weight of our sin acts as ballast in order to prevent the greatness of God's free grace from capsizing us when it's wind hits our sails.
It seems to me that the "Free Gracers" have forgotten that very thing and been capsized.

Thank God for men like Newton who wrote such things, and guys like the Pyro's who remind us from time to time.

Lou Martuneac said...

It proclaims relief to the miserable, and excludes none but those who exclude themselves.

Michael you noted, "...in the portion I quoted (above), this doesn't sound very "reformed" (if you will). Not that this detracts from the overall premise of the message at all...I just noted a bit of free will / Arminian language."

IMO, the author, in that statement, was recognizing the twin truths of Divine Sovereignty & Human Freedom.


Anonymous said...

I had to pillage this for my own site as well. Great word. Thanks for sharing!

Peace & Blessings,
Simple Mann

Michael said...

Oh...I see it now. I guess I just had my hand on the "free will argument" button and pressed it too soon :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this! One can never meditate too much on the gospel!

Chris said...

"So long as the Gospel of Christ is maintained without adulteration, it is found sufficient for every valuable purpose; but when the wisdom of man is permitted to add to the perfect work of God, a wide door is opened for innumerable mischiefs—the divine commands are made void, new inventions are continually taking place, zeal is diverted into a wrong channel, and the greatest stress laid upon things, either unnecessary or unwarrantable. Hence, perpetual occasion is given for strife, debates, and divisions, till at length the spirit of Christianity is forgot, and the power of godliness lost, amidst fierce contentions for the form."

Phil, this quote makes me think of a comment you have just recently made along these same lines regarding Christian higher education :^)

Oh, what a precise description, as Newton's voice in the past speaks into our lives in the present! He describes what has occurred, and is continually occurring, especially within the liberal arts, social sciences, and fine arts disciplines at "Christian" college--the ones that revolve around ideas, aesthetics, or the world of the mind. Of course, this is absolutely the case in those disciplines that are directly associated with the bible and/or theology. The former category has ample opportunity within its curriculum to incorporate theology in various degrees or applications, and it is within these window of opportunity that heresy, even blasphemy, enter into the minds of unsuspecting students with full force. Why? Because I think we have countless bastions in these various departments of so-called Christian schools that have faculty who are either unregenrate pagans or believers living as prodigals (in desperate need of repentance). Whatever category they fall into, members of this collective and sad lot are not terribly difficult to figure-out: they love their petty discipline and their ego more than God (if they are the ones who are actually believers); otherwise, they are the same pagans we can find at any secular university who likewise love their discipline and their ego--period.

Stefan Ewing said...

Pastor Phil, your posting of this today has been very providential. Thank you, and thank the Holy Spirit for moving you to share this with us.

I don't normally link to my own blog, but I've responded (get it? "responded"?) here: The Gospel.

Stefan Ewing said...

Sorry, "your posting of this" yesterday.

Strong Tower said...

"and came away feeling more like the Pharisee than the publican!"

And so it should. The wrong perspective is to say: "I am glad I am not like that Pharasee." A function of the law should be to throw us down before God. It is like the prodigal story. As long as we think of ourselves as the prodigal having come to our senses we miss the fact that the elder brother was depending upon his obedience rather than the grace of the Father. We can be at home and eat with the pigs never having the fatted calf and miss the fact that it is because of grace that we have remained home in the first place, all the while looking down upon the brother who has strayed as if something were wrong with him that is not also wrong with us. Praise God that the Gospel exposes our depravity and puts it to death that we might cry out for the mercy offered.

Stefan Ewing said...

"I am glad I am not like that Pharisee"

Hah! That would be richly ironic.

David Regier said...

It is apparently possible to be a Christian songwriter and maintain a degree of depth.

DJP said...

...or at least was once possible.


David Regier said...

As regards that particular miracle, I am not a cessationist.

reformedlawless said...

Excellent post. The gospel is central to our faith. A failure to see sin for what it is is a failure to see God for who He is, holy, holy, holy.


~Mark said...

Stunning, thoroughly stunning. This one I think I will print and hang on my door for all to see.

Thank you SO much for sharing it with us!

Anonymous said...

This left me breathless and teary-eyed, worshiping God once again for His amazing grace.

Phil said...

This was a good post...although I think I'm basically with Reid Ferguson on the extent of the atonement and Terry Rayburn on most else :) Here's a favourite quote,from John Brown,which I once got of the website freeoffercalvinists-'The free unlimited extent of the invitation-'If any man...'The free and unresticted nature of the invitation now deserves notice. Not only is the descriptive character of those invited,'those who thirst'common to all human beings,but the invitation is so fashioned,that no human being can find the shadow of a reason for thinking himself excluded.'If any man thirst-any human being,however mean,guilty,depraved and wretched,wish to be happy-let him,in the believe of the truth about me,exercise the affections which that truly believed naturally produces,and he shall be happy.'It is not,'If any man be deeply sensible of his guilt,depravity and wretchedness,let him come to me and drink'. Such are invited;but if that were all,as some have taught,thus,however unintentionally, clogging with
conditions the unhampered offer of a free salvation,men might think that till they had brought themselves,or were in some way or other brought,into a state of deep contrition,and earnest seeking after pardon,and holiness,and salvation,it would be presumption in them to come to Christ,or even look towards the Saviour for salvation.But the invitation is,'Whosoever wishes to be happy,let him come to me,sinful and miserable as he is,and in me he shall find salvation. If thou art not a brute, if thou art not a devil- however like the one in sensuality,or the other in malignity-thou art invited. If thou art on earth,not in hell,thou art invited.''(Comments on John7v37. Discourses and sayings of our Lord. BOT Vol2 p9-10).

Strong Tower said...

"Not only is the descriptive character of those invited,'those who thirst'common to all human beings,but the invitation is so fashioned-"

I wonder how that squares with: Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains...

And that follows upon the heels of John 7 and fits with the continuing discourse with religious leaders. Blindness and light, thirst and living waters, sin and forgiveness are the parallels. The disciples understood this and said: "Then who can be saved?" A similar question to Nicodemus'.

The problem is that men don't know that they are blind, they don't know that they are thirsty, they don't know that they need forgiveness and cannot until the depth of their depravity is exposed. So I am wondering how it is that it clogs the issue when Jesus seems to be clear enough that the disciples would actknowledge that even the poorest man is too rich, even the most thirsty man swims in pools of potable water, that even the most wicked believe themselves righteous enough that they need no forgiveness. It is those who say they can see who cannot acknowledge their blindness. Then it seems it would follow that the quote doesn't capture the reality that no man who considers himself capable of thirsting will come. The person who thirsts comes, but the man who can get thirsty, or in some other way believes himself able to slake that thirst has no idea of the kind of drink that he needs. What man is concerned about his unworthyness? What man is concerned about his worthyness? Both are the same man. It is the man hopeless in himself, utterly helpless one way or the other that finds himself thirsty for the drink that is offered.

Jesus questioned, "Do you think them greater sinners than yourself?" And Elihu's answer, "What can man do to God?" God's answer to Job is that it does not obtain in man to either thirst or to be slated, but is according to him who makes all things what they are.

No, all men do not recognize God as Job did but all think they do as Job had done. Not all see the fountain set in front of them, and man is by nature filled with his own satisfaction and thirsts for nothing except his own approval. The thirst for self-righteousness as a means to acceptance or self-exaltation, a supposed attainment of it, both flow from a polluted heart that does not seek the fountain of righteousness of God's heart, and cannot. It has no need to, though it would be happy to take of drink in the kind of its own appetites. The offer assumes that all men thirst but for what is another question. The offer also assumes that some do thirst for righteousness that is not their own.

Now to the quote, I am not sure that Brown was speaking of the condition of mens hearts universally as to the desire of the Gospel. It appears that the quote is in reference to the presentation as an assumption that a true thirst is there.

As with many of the others at the site you mentioned, the free offer assumes the condition present in all men because we are not given the knowledge of the decreedal will of God to know its presence. The free offer is made in the blind and as Brown said, to condition it upon some prior necessity of seeking within to assess ones depravity or election, would create a situation to the contrary of the sovereign work of the Spirit. It would in fact beg men to become humble as a matter of their own working.

Anyway, depravity is not a general consensus of mankind, quite the opposite, so also thirst is not. And what most reformers like those listed would say, is that the heart of man is deperately wicked, no one can know it. If it were in man to recognize his own depravity, to find some way to bring himself to contrition, there would be some vestigial good in man by which he could do so. That some have called Pelagius' Island.

From Shedd on the same page of free offers you gave: "God offers Christ's sacrifice to every man, without exception, and assures him that if he will trust in it he shall be saved, and gives him common grace to help and encourage him to believe. This is a proof that God loves his soul and desires its salvation. But God does not, in addition to this universal offer of mercy, promise to overcome every man's aversion to believe and repent of his resistance of common grace. Election and preterition have no reference to the offer of salvation or common grace. They relate only to special grace and the effectual application of Christ's sacrifice. The universal offer of mercy taught in this section evinces the universality of God's compassion towards sinners." (Calvinism: Pure and Unmixed. BOT p.27)

And this is true of all those listed as far as I could tell. The question then is not do all thirst, for indeed they do, but what is it that they thirst for and the answer from an evangelical position is, we do not know, but as many are being saved are added to the church because God opened their hearts to the thirst of the Gospel and overcame their distaste for the drink offered. Our part is to offer the cup, it is not our part to determine what the thirsty man wants to drink.

Phil said...

Phew...I'm way too tired to think through that properly. Just a few points on my understanding. Man is dead in sin-but his inability is a moral one,not a natural one,that manifests in 'unwillingness'despite God's willingness to receive. The point is to point out the freeness of the gospel without preparation. John 16v8,9 tells us that the Spirit convicts the world of sin in their unbelief-not by law in the conscience- but by the gospel. There is on example of post-Pentecost law preaching to conviction. Preparationism is an anti-gospel error. Second thing-man has by general revelation,a knowledge of their guilt in a conscience that accuses them, an accompanying sense of sin,and an awareness of some of the pain and misery associated with it. All that is naturally evident of a needy condition. The gospel comes to deliver man from their bondage to the law in their consciences and the power of sin that works by it-to a repentance that is from such dead works,to rest in Christ. Of course,that comes to man with invitation 'without works',and efficaciously 'without works'. One does not need to know their 'inability to come' to come to Christ. That would rule out all but doctrinal Calvinists! One needs to come to Christ,to come to him. To be willing to receive a full and free pardon. That God enables that willingness I'm not doubting. But that is not man's responsibility. His is to be willing...as Spurgeon once said(although was not always consistent with)-the free gospel offer is not just for 'sensible sinners',but for stupid ones as well. And to receive him freely-in spite of our attempting to qualify ourselves in our unbelief-is the only way to be saved,and the only way the Holy Spirit is directly active in(whatever he's doing sovereignly overruling in circumstance).

Strong Tower said...

"Preparationism is an anti-gospel error."

Exactly. Which is what Brown was saying as far as I can tell, and if you drop down the page Spurgeon admits his discomfort with "invitation systems" but denies that he was ever inconsistent about the need for the evangelistic call. You can take that up with him when you meet him.

"One does not need to know their 'inability to come' to come to Christ", absolutely. However, one does need to acknowledge his utter helplessness, that is his depravity, to be able to repent. He must know he is a sinner in need of a savior, as RC Sproul might say, "Saved from what?" Both the doers of evil and the doers of good are in utter darkness. The evil men love the darkness rather than the light. They do not recognize their darkness as darkness as Jesus said they say they can see. But those who do righteousness come into the light. They recognize their darkness and the metaphoric meaning is depravity, utter sinfulness, utter dependence upon the light for both the vision and the illumination. They come into the light by something done by God. It is not owing to their inherent condition that they recognize their darkness, for darkness cannot recognize darkness anymore that blindess can see. At some point in the advent of the light the doers of righteous are given eyes to see it. Or so Jesus told Nicodemus, that unless they are born again they cannot understand.

And what I was saying addresses the moral inability of course, and not the natural. Man does have conscience. That is not the issue. That the Gospel appeals to that in all men is beyond doubt, but being seared it cannot respond in any man. That all men do thirst, I said. Where did the gods of the ancients come from? Just as all men are in darkness led by the imaginings of their corrupt minds, it is what they thirst for, and the desire to taste of Christ and see that he is good does not inhere in any except the elect and not of a prevenience, but as a gift given in the hearing of the Gospel. It is that point that as far as I could tell is the breaking point in all the men listed at that site. None of the orthodox Calvinists on that page, not even Calvin himself agreed, that it was left to man to find any merit in himself toward the effectual call and their conclusion was that it should not be presented in such a way as to encourgage inner seeking as if there were some prevenience but instead should be preached in such a way as to evoke immediacy in repentance. The light comes, the righteous see it, they are not looking at the darkness to discover who they are, but they know they are not the light and are drawn to it because they have been given eyes to see the light is not the darkness. It would rob effectual of its very definition if the effect was in anyway in man.

The general call, i.e., free offer, of the Gospel is denied, but not really by any of those who are properly called Cavinist. By "doctrinal Calvinist" I suppose you mean those who some how believe that it is belief that saves. That is never the case, God forbid that Christ should be reduced to a law, for what difference would there be then between men except their freewill, or that is to say the proper exercise of the law?

As I quoted from Shedd, the mistake that the detractors make, be they hyper-Calvinist, or Arminian, is to say that the evangel attaches itself to election and effectual calling. It does not. God requires no intermediate agency to regenerate, but does require through the foolishness of the Gospel to call all men to repentance and through it grant salvation to those whom he has elected. It is not before, but after, that we hear the voice saying, "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." We do not know the precision of the decree for the same reason that "If they had known who he was they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." Our blindness in the appeal on either side denies us any ability to determine for ourselves from with ourselves the will of God.

I have no problem with what you said in as much as you are not also attaching the free offer to the doctrine of election and effectual call, either in the affirmative or negative as do certain so called Calvinists, or Arminians. Any attempt to direct men to soul searching is wrong, be it the anxious bench tactics of Finneyism or a so called high Calvinism that places some understanding within man that must be discovered by him. In both cases it is left to the resolve of man. To the defense of the Gospel call the Calvinists' reponse was to defend the free offer because it is testified to in Scripture as the means by which God calls his own. But they denied that man himself was free in any way to avail himself of the drink needed except he be born again.

Here is something I don't understand: "The gospel comes to deliver man from their bondage to the law in their consciences and the power of sin that works by it-to a repentance that is from such dead works,to rest in Christ." First of all, sin not does not gain its power from the law. Sin seized the opportunity affored in the power of the law, the judicial power, because of weakness already in man, sin. It gains its power in a judicial sense to accuse, and justifiably so to put to death by law. The law is not sin, nor the battery of it, it is the executioners tool by which sin kills, but the tool itself is righteous. What Christ did was to circumcise sin from us, not the law. The law is powerless to execute where sin is not found. Second, is or is not the command to repent law? What is meant when Ezekial says "I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to walk according to my statutes" if by being saved we are set free from law? It is true we have been set free from the law of sin and death, but true freedom is bondage to Christ, the bondage to keep the law perfectly and a bondage that is freely given us in him in a new creation and a new heart. It is the bondage of Hosea, of a wife bought back and though a slave is called a wife, a help meet to do the work God has given to be done. Far from being the anihilation of law, Christ is the fulfillment of it. That Christ is given by grace doesn't eliminate the fact that he was born under the law. So he teaches that the way of the cross is ours to bear. It is not in doing good that grace is found, nor is it found in denying evil. But, just as it is not for us to discover for ourselves if we are the elect but to walk in it, so to Christ commands us to keep his commandments eventhough the keeping of them is not within us to do, but it is he who works in us the willing and the doing of them.

1 Joh 3:4 contrasts the one who commits sin with the keeper of righeousness. The former is called the anomian, the one without law. I suppose that the anomian would say that there is no longer law, as opposed to the antinomian, who is against it. The first often is subsumed in the second. But, wait. In Christ Jesus we have been given his perfect active obedience as well as his perfect passive obedience. He was no anomian and John is saying that neither are his children. That obedience is necessary for salvation and it is the perfection of the law as embodied in Christ into whose image and likeness we are being transformed and in whom we live. It is not that Christ gained a righteousness by the works of the law for he is the righteousness revealed from heaven, nor is it that we have a righteousness which is from the law but a righteousness bestowed upon us in Christ of grace. Yet, a righteousness that does not obey the law of the Spirit of life, that is do this and you shall live, and deny the law that brings death, do not do or you will die, is no righteousness at all. The active obedience to the law that we now enjoy we know as the fruit of the Spirit. It seeks good and does no harm. We have been set free to keep the law and we put to death the deads of the flesh by the keeping of it. You might say that that is law. I say yes, but it is the good which all men should do such that we add to our faith virtue. It is not that we are in bondage to gain a righteousness from the works of the law. To the contrary, we have a righteousness so that we keep the law. We teach to do good and to deny evil by love. To deny the necessity of the law is to deny the very person of Christ given to us, the Law Keeper, into whose image we are being conformed. It is then not that the law is evil, it is good. We are not saved according to our keeping of it. We are saved by Christ's keeping it for us. The Father has created us new through the Spirit unto good works, prepared for us to walk in, law. The law is no threat to the law keeper, only the lawbreaker and a man who denies that he can break the law is a liar and the truth is not in him. The obediences we perform are according to law, also, but that by grace. To deny it is to deny Christ as he said, love keeps the commandments. And as Paul said the law is good if used lawfully.

Our righteousness is an alien one, but real nonetheless. No one can apply Hebrews 12 and exempt the believer from the scourgings. Indeed to deny that punishments are applied to the believer is to deny sonship. Every son he receives he scourges. If the law was not being applied there would be no scourgings. But we suffer also as evil doers because our flesh is under the condemnation of the law. We, that is our new man who is in Christ, is not, for Christ became a curse for us. The means that God has chosen is his word that washes from us the impurity in us. It is the law. It teaches us to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit. But even Paul tells us what the law is directed toward, i.e. the punishment of sin, and the works of the flesh we all know. The word pierces, divides between the soul and spirit and excises. The Scripture commands us to keep commandments, if indeed we love him. He has given us that, but requires it of us. As Augustine said, "Command what you will, and give what you command." No denial of law there, rather a sound confirmation of it. It also requires of us to undergo what Jesus did in the days of his flesh, though he was without sin, suffering as an evil doer. While our salvation, both our justification and sanctification are not by the law, it is not without the law. Yes, most assuredly, we live this life not by law but by grace but we walk in this life in the Spirit by the commandments, good works prepared for us to do, the law.

Phil said...

What an avalanche! I really don't know what your ission is with me here, strong tower. Is it Reid Ferguson on the atonement, or Terry Rayburn on what it is to be "not under law but under grace" that you or object to?

I gave that quote purely to set forth - in the same vein as the Newton quote - a free gospel. That was all. The only people I might have expected to do other than rejoice in that were those who were married to their law-works for entering into life - or else those who had lost the gospel. I did not expect to be clouted over the head by a Strong Tower - or given a theological lesson. Thank God for a free gospel offer for "whosoever will", and for effectual grace. If you object to what I said about the atonement, then pelase, you'de be far better interacting with Reid's writing on it. I haven't read it, but check out his notes on the atonement for his discussion at the Bunyan Conference.

Second, I didn't intend to go into all this when I left that quote, but I'll just state this now. The charcter of going on in the living of the life is the same as Brown says is the character of entering into life. Anything less falls under the "condemnation" of Gal3v3 "having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the law?"

I don't hold to any CT view of "eternal moral law" as eternal demand on the conscience. The "Law" in the NT in its immediate sense is the Mosaic written code given to Israel only. In its wider sense it is the "performance system" of "do this and be blessed, do this and be cursed". I'm saying that, a la so many NT passages - Col2v14, Rom7v1-6, Gal2v19, Gal3,4, Rom10v3,4, such as scheme is what the gospel delivers from - so that - we may "bring forth fruit to God in a new and living way".

"Law" a system makes its demands on a nature dead in sin to and proved - ultimately - as is also the testimomny of men's consciences - that attepting to produce fruit to receive the blessing of holy God is futile. It is, in fact, of the essence of the sin in the Garden - this "going about to establish one's own righteousness as one's own god".

Grace asks of nothing, but gives what law was never inclined or intended for. (I also don't hold to the imuptation of Christ's so-called "active obedience" for this reason.)

The old creation was crucifed at the cross, and the new creation is one that learns to live out of its new bature, not seeking God's love, favour or blessing by anything it does.

Law is indeed "the strength/power of sin" (1Cor15V56). Not becuase the commands were not "holy, just and good", but becuaee of two things 1) we were not 2)righteousness fundamentally cannot come by law.

This should be very evident form the simple practical consideration that Heb10v1,2 etc alerts us to - We should be living with consciously clear consciences on account of our having being washed once-and-for-all by the blood of the Lamb "perfected for ever" as those who are "being sanctified" in that light. That is, an appropriation of eternal justification withput works is the charcter and strength of sanctification also. None of this can take place while we live under the law as a "rule of life". On the contrary, as soon as we put the demand on the conscience we feel miserable and guitly - and so we should - unless we're kidding ourselves as self-righteous hypocrites. Law is killer. Always has been, always will be. That was what it was intended to be. A "ministry of condemnation".

Now as to what our law is in the new covenant - because let me make clear that I believe that without the Spirit, we are none of his, and I have a high (higher view) of regenration than the "two nature- esque" men - it is the indwelling Christ himself, who is joined in one with our spirits(1Cor6v16), and out whose resurrection life we can now start to learn to live - not by a system of law - but by faith that rests in him. And becuase he is active, we are not passive, but active, as we do so - but in a spiritual fashion - and not fleshly self-effort is a response to "law as demand". His life is our law, and his life is our life...and as we rest in him, we bear the fruit of the SPriit(who was NOT given to help us to keep the law - that "law-grace marriage" for sanctification totally overthrows Paul's argument in Rom6, which is effectively saying that law is "weak and useless" - whoever we are - for fruit bearing - in fact - as Rom 7 will illustrate - it is THE fundamental springborad (as Lloyd-Jones says) that sin always uses as its platform. It thus outs power into sin. Why? Because the basic rebellion of man is his independence - his attempting to earn God's love, favour and blessing by what he does in answer to "ought to's" - self-producing "righteousness". It's THIS reason why man assumes justification by works, or a semi-pelagian law-grace marriage - because this is his "rule of life". But many professing Christians live just like this now they're in "sanctification mode". You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?! No, justification and sanctification are all of one character. 1Jn3v4 has the essence of the sin of the heart as "lawlessness" - that is, not "denying that law is a rule of life as demand in the conscience" - least it contradict all these other passages. Rather, "lawlessness" is a lack of submission to Christ's authority- a lack of submission to the "righteousness which comes from God" - both for justification and thus sanctification. It is a rfusing to live in the freedom werewith Christ has made us free, thuis quenching the Spirit, livng by law as demand, putting strength into indwelling sin, and bringing forth the fruit of the flesh - because - married to Christ, we're trying to bring forth fruit to God from an old husband that he died to (righteously) free us from. It's effectively spiritual adultery. That way, we're not living out of our new natures in love to him, as those "complete in him" and having "everything pertaining to life and godliness", but out of the flesh. We're saying to our new husband "our you love, favour and blessing out on me, because I'm going to my old husband."And making it out that that's exactly wahat he wants us to do. No way. We neither need "Moses" to "send us to Christ" to "enter into life" - he can't help us - all he can do, methophorically speaking, is club us over the head for our imperfection in the face of holy God when we relate to God on law-terms...nor does Christ then "send us back to Moses to be sanctified". Rather, "I died to the law that I might live unto Christ". If righteousness (for justification or sanctification) can come by law, then Christ died in vain. And I nullify the cross and his grace. "Law" and "grace" cannot be married - put new wine in old wineskins, and you lose the charcter of both. As Joseph Prince effectively says in "destined to reign" with ref to the chruch at Laodecia,you mix hot and cold and all you get is lukewarm. Would that is were one or the other so that the hot would stand out clear"

I'm going to have to sign off. I have M.E, and I'm really sagging. You may be interested to read this that I wrote I while back (among my other comments there); its comment 87 here;


Phil said...

Apologies for the myriad of mistakes. I couldn't have made more if I'd tried, but I hope you can decipher the gist, and take pity upon me in my tiredness.

Phil said...

I just wanted to add a quick thought concerning Brown's statement; 'Not only is the descriptive character of those invited,'those who thirst'common to all human beings,but the invitation is so fashioned,that no human being can find the shadow of a reason for thinking himself excluded'.

The veracity of that statement all hinges on what is meant by "thirst". Now clearly, in the quote as the whole, Brown is just setting forth the freeness of the gospel of grace - with no preparation. He's saying that whoever you are, wherever you are, right now, just as you are, there's an invitation for you to come and receive a full and free pardon and the gift of repentance. You todon;t have to feel like your "thirsty" to come to Christ.

Now when Jesus says with the invitation "come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden", and "whosoever will ,let him take of the water of life freely" he's making the widest invitation to sinners as they are. He's not saying, "you're qualified to come to me IF you feel heavy laden and weary on account of the Spirit's conviction alerting you to your condition, so that you may then come if you so wish". That would be what I mean be preparationism/law-"conviction" as necessary prearation of the gospel (ever).

Nor, clearly, is Jesus saying "if you feel thirsty enough out of some vestigial goodness in mankind, or prevenient grace enabling all mankind to 'choose or refuse'- to genuinely, out of your own initiative, truly desire the water of life, you of course may". That is not possible for one "dead in sins in trespasses", becuase such a one is unwilling to come of his own initiative.

Therefore, Jesus' wide invitation is for sinners who, are, in some sense, hungry, thirsty, weary and burdended in their natural state. But because it is the widest of invitations, and not limited to those who feel that way, all people (though they supress the truth of their thirst and neediness with variour fleshly schemes of self-sufficiency), we have on top of Mat11v28's invitation, the whosovever will at the end of revelation.

This is what Brown's getting at. He saying, that (despite knowing that men have no vestigial goodness and no enabling prevemient grace that leaves them the deciding factor), all men are waery, laden, thirsty...as Augustine once said "they have a God-shaped hole". They are conscious of - though they supress it and its ramifications out of a natural hatred of a God they believe lies about - guilt, condemnation, sin and a measure of its misery; they often want to be better (but are "condemned" in this state to futily try improve the flesh with the flesh; they stumble through external consequences which they may feel are against them because they don;t own God as their Sovereign Father etc. All that means a weariness and thirstiness and neediness that Jesus invites all men to put down. (And lovingly compels his Bride-to-be to put down the same way).

I think this is a another scriptural "both-and" that is important. Man is unwilling to receive the solution, though he is weary and needy - and knows it (especially when he isn't supressing the knowledge of it in various ways). I think calvinism needs to own this compassionate edge that it sometimes loses.

Strong Tower said...

"Law is killer. Always has been, always will be. That was what it was intended to be. A "ministry of condemnation.""

But the passage says: Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Notice Romans 7 says nothing about the eternal law of God as being impotent to bring life, but instead the dead letter of the law written upon tablets of stone. The law did not change when they were written upon hearts of flesh. And notice too you have transposed what the cause of death is. It is not the law, the law is the executioner. It was sin which brought forth the fruit of death. The law could not, it was the way of life: Deuteronomy 30. It was sin and not the righteousness of the law that killed. You get the cart before the horse. The law was the way of life, not death, Psalm 119:142; Isaiah 42:21. And if you care there are a couple dozen more that equate God with his law and the way of righteous as the law of God.

Yes, our righteousness is not by the law. But the righteousness of God is his Law. The binding to a new husband does not void it, it secures the fulfillment of it, for the two become one. And you have spoken correctly, we do not put to death the deeds of the flesh by the law of the written code, that is what Romans/Galatians is speaking about. The law requires a perfect obedience, an impossibility for you and unless the active, that is the perfected obedience of Christ is imputed to you you have no righteousness by which to put to death sin. He could and did put to death sin and does and will. His right came from the fact that he was the Law Keeper and if you remember it was the law that commanded the High Priest to sacrifice the Lamb. That it is imputed to you does not annul the law, though it annuls the covenant of death which was a righteousness by the law. But we, being weakened as we are by SIN, not the law cannot fulfill it out of our flesh, it can only be done by the Spirit of Christ in us. God did what we could not do in providing Christ. As I said, it was not that Jesus gained any righteousness by the law, but he kept it perfectly and if you are in Christ so do you, putting to death the deeds of the flesh. But your sin will put you to death by the law if you do not kill it and that by the commandment of the law. But it cannot kill the new man because Christ has put to death in his person sin and the new man is a new creature without sin. The law puts to death the flesh, but not by the works of the law according to the flesh which bring death because of sin, because as Paul said there is that other principle at work in your flesh which need to be put to death. But the works Christ, the Spirit of life, who kept (keeps the law) perfectly on our be half, so that he can be both just and the justifier of sinners, does it for us. When you sin what is it that tells you you have? And you will have to explain why it is that Jesus reissued the covenant if it is not in effect to put to death the lawbreaker, your flesh. If you don't break the law, how are you convicted and what convicts you, the Spirit? What is repentance? The keeping of a commandment, yes, and that by the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Is sin an infraction of grace? How is grace ever violated? No, to the contrary, the Holy Spirit convicts you as it does all the world of sin and that by the law. It tells us as Paul did to put to death the deads of the flesh, a command, a law, which you by the Spirit must obey if indeed you have the Spirit that will not allow you to do as you will.

The caricature of Calvinists as non-compassionate is an old song. The free-offer has always been the mainstay of evangelical Calvinism. The cold, heartlessness of an doctrinal Cavininism does not derive from the doctrines of grace. It was the accusation of the enemies of them. Though I would agree that historically a minority who claim the name have exhibited that. But we own compassion. Opposed to any form of Pelagianism, we offer what the works crowd could never, an actual atonement not a theoretical one based on the insecurity of our works.

As to Augustine's "god shaped void" I mentioned Augustine just to examine the fact that the law has always been a necessity within the doctrines of grace. It was not upon the issue of law that Pelagius battled Augustine, but the issue that the fulfillment of it was a given, Christ being both the Law Giver and the Law Keeper.
I would not agree that it is a god shaped void. Instead, I would agree with Jesus that what men are filled with is the shape of their father the devil which is why what they thirst for is not God but a god fashioned in the form of their own imaginations.

I am not a Covenantalist. What I can say is that the Law, "You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself" is still in effect, and they sum up all the Law and the Prophets, not void them. It is inescapable. We do not labor under the threat of death should we fail but we strive toward the high calling in Christ, to be conformed to his image. We do that by grace as the righteousness of God directs us, so Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit. You may want to say that you live by grace, but I still contend that Augustine was correct that God commands, that is, gives law, and also contend that with that he gives what he commands, the keeping of it, Romans 2. We are at first passive then active from our initial sanctification (definitive if that is the term you prefer) throughout our progressive sanctification. It is by doing good that we inherit the kingdom, but it is not a good that we are doing, but he who is in us does the work. See, you are fond of part of Galatians but then tend to miss the importance of Paul's speaking by the Spirit the commandments (law) of God. Phillipians tells us the same. How does one explain that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We have been set free and are no longer under the law as a lord, but have matured to keep it and that by the finished work, the active obedience of Christ. It is not that we were children and were trained by the law so that the law would have no enduring reason. To the contrary, when we were children the law held us slaves to unrighteousness, but now that the fullness has come, we have been set free to keep it and that by the Spirit. The commandment of love your neighbor is still binding, but it issues not from the heart of a rebelious child but from the heart of a full son. The adoption in Christ has brought us out of the former relationship to the law, into a new one, a living way, instead of being executed by it we execute it.

For the anomian this is contrary, but for the lawkeeper, it is the new nature crafted in the image of the Son of God. The law is not contrary to righteousness, it is righteousness, for Christ said, "I did not come to annul the law, but to fulfill it." And he is the righteousness of God revealed from heaven. What the anomian is confused about is whether or not they are bound to it as if bondage to righteousness is the same as bondage to sin. We are bound to the law in righteousness, so it cannot be that righteousness comes from the keeping of it. The law teaches us that righteousness is alien to us. It is embodied in another. It belongs to God alone. By God being in us, the law is fulfilled in us. Not because we by some means bring Christ down, rather God did it for us by sending his Son, in the likeness of the man of flesh to fulfill the law.

Tell me, did you go to school? Did what you learn there only have purpose while there? Does a child trail behind his father sowing seed only to forget at harvest that some seed must be set apart for the next year's planting. Does he, when he inherits the land, forget the lessons learned when it comes to management of his own? The law still functions in the mature as the rule of life, those who void it will die. And though the law no longer functions as a school teacher to teach us how to live, it nonetheless functions as the way of life instructing us on our way through life.

Yes we have been given that life, and a righteousness which is from above. We cannot add to it, we cannot take away from it; we do not gain the harvest by it; we cannot gain God's favor by it, indeed it is God's favor. That does not mean that it has ceased being the means by which we bring every thought captive to his will. And what is his will? God still commands, and will forever, do this and live as Augustine said, he commands, and gives the commandment. That he has satisfied the demands of the law so that we can never fail to keep it, he has done so by submitting himself under the law to suffer the penalty for our sin. That is not just the sins of you past, but your present and your future. And Paul said, that we would indeed be resurrected with him if we suffer with him. The penalties are applied, not as the means of becoming a son, not as a means of gaining righteousness, but as the righteousness of God recreated in the image of his Son. Though you deny it, Christ's active obedience, both his passive obediences and active obediences have been credited to us by faith and that is the means by which we are co-heirs carrying out the destruction of the rule of the flesh, and not just in ourselves by in all the world. The discipline that we undergo now we undergo as sons having already inherited the promise.

That may be a mystery to you, it is not to me.

And I am sorry for the avalanche, but I didn't set off the cannons. You did, and you're as fond of giving a theology lesson as any.

That is quite a book that you wrote at Challies, but let me say this: either you have not read the Scripture or you have been blinded to the reality of it. You said: "This is, to me, one of the most comforting and assuring and glorious aspects of our faith. We are never called to crucify our old man. Why? Becuase it has already happened - the old man was crucified with Christ on the cross. Nowhere does the Scripture call upon you to crucify your old man; nowhere does the Scripture tell you to get rid of the old man, for the obvious reason that he has already gone. Not to realize this is to allow the devil to fool you and to delude you." But we are called to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The flesh, which is a parallel to the principle of sin, which is parallel to the old nature, which is parallet to the old man.

Now if you have been reading your Scripture go back and use these terms interchangeably wherever flesh is used and see if it doesn't make a little more sense.

You went on and on with your explanation of: "That has been done; the old man was crucified with Christ. He is non-existent, he is no longer there. If you are a Christian, the man that you were in Adam has gone out of existence; he has no reality at all; you are in Christ.”

Really, so you don't sin? You won't die? Death my friend is the penalty for sin. As I said a person who says he has no sin, that is the remnants of the old man, is a liar ant truth is not in him. It is an impossibility to say that your old man is not active, a reality that you will not have to in this life rid yourself of. You're going to die. The real question is how you do that. When Paul said I am convinced that nothing in me, that is my flesh (the old man) is good, what did he mean? Why: "For though we walk in the flesh, (what did he mean) we are not waging war according to the flesh," if there is no flesh? Paul doesn't just use the term in Romans and it is clear that it is paralleled to the old man. Or Peter: Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. If there is no old man by which to be tempted? And James says those passions come from with you: "Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."

Paul further states concerning the old man, old self (alaios anthropos is the same use in Romans 6:6): Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds

Yahp, you're wrong, it appears.

Phil said...

For various reasons I'll just point out that in your hasty caricature as a 'law-man'-who is,I believe(like I have done)overlooking the newness of the new covenant- you've also rubbished Martyn Lloyd-Jones' quote,as I was just quoting him.

Reidster said...

Glorious quote from Newton. A must for all of us to have and muse upon often. No one speaks of grace as eloquently as those who've been the most aware recipients of it.