Archive for February, 2009

“The Great Salvation Tendered and Offered”

February 27, 2009

This is the title of a sermon by Andrew Gray (1633-56).  He died at the age of 22 and yet left behind him a legacy of sermons that still enriches the church today.  He was a popular preacher, even more so than James Durham as the following anecdote demonstrates:

Mr Durham not having a popular way of speaking to the common people he with some of his Elders would have seen the people running away from him to hear Mr Gray in the Gutter High Church.  The Elders seemed to be very displeased but Mr Durham said “Let them alone let them go where they think they profit most for it is probable if I were in their case I would do the same thing.”
Wodrow’s Analecta 3:109

A testimony no doubt to the humility of Durham – but also to the giftedness of Andrew Gray.  Anyway back to “The Great Salvation Tendered and Offered.”  Here is one extract from his sermon:

This everlasting Gospel which is preached unto you, is that glorious Star, which must lead us to that place where blessed Christ doth lie.  This Gospel and glad tidings of the great salvation, is come near unto you: And Christ is standing at the everlasting doors of your heart, desiring that ye would open unto him.  This is his one great request, which Heaven this day hath to present unto you, and it is, that ye would at last embrace this great salvation freely offered by him. [Emphasis added].

It is safe to say Gray understood what it is to preach the free offer of the gospel.  There is lots more of this in Gray. This is simply one example from him of the gospel preaching which won the hearts of so many in Glasgow and which Durham would have loved to have sat and heard.

I’m in the process at the moment of transcrbing Rutherford on Rev 3:20 from a previously unpublished manuscript.  Hopefully it will see the light of day soon.

A Fantastic Resource!

February 21, 2009

Posts are like buses – you wait ages then two come along at once 🙂  Anyway this is just to draw attention to a project I have known to be in the works for some time.  It is the digitisation and free download (yes I said free) of UK PhD theses (excluding Oxford and Cambridge sadly).  Just to whet you appetite and as an example you can now get access to a searchable version of Michael Horton’s PhD thesis “Thomas Goodwin and the Puritan Doctrine of Assurance” for free.  The link is:

You will need to register.  They have a 10 day timeframe for digitising and making available and requested PhD’s not currently available for download.


Durham on Dort, the Objects of Predestination, and Unity

February 21, 2009

Was Durham Supra of Infra?  Hard to tell as most of his comments about this topic are in sermons where he dismisses the dispute as not edifying (bear in mind the context).  Of the few who have discussed this most have him tagged as infra but I’m not so sure we can really say  (and the drift of thought in Scotland at the time was probably Spura e.g. Rutherford and P. Gillespie).  Anyway here is an interesting passage from him on the liberty he wants to see on this matter in relation to Dort:

It is not to be thought that all orthodox divines are of the same mind in all things that are decreed in the Synod of Dort, particularly in reference to the object of predestination; yet the synod has not made any division by censuring of such, neither have these who differ from that determination broken off communion with the church, but have kept communion, and union in the church has not been thereby interrupted.  Yet those who apprehend themselves to be right cannot but think the other is in an error, and if this forbearance is not allowed, there can never be union in the church, except we should think that they behoved all to be in the same mind about such things, and there should never be a decision in a church, but when there is absolute harmony.

What is he saying here:

  • Not everyone who deserves to be classified “orthodox” agrees with Dort on the objects of predestination.  I assume Durham is of the opinion that Dort specified the objects of the decree of election in a broadly infralapsarian manner.
  • He believes Dort was within it rights to specify an answer to the question of the objects of predestination.
  • He commends the Synod for making that determination in a way that has not lead to division in the church.  I assume this relates to his understanding of the intentof Dort which must be that they wished to state their understanding of the reformed view without the intent of driving the other reformed view from the Church.
  • He commends those who “lost” over the objects of predestination at Dort with not disrupting the unity of the Church.
  • He correctly observes that there are issues where there can be disagreement without division/disunity.  Without some latitude on secondary issues there could be no unity and we would be in the position of denomination of no more that 3 churches.
  • The church can declare it’s mind on an issue (not related to the fundamentals) without necessitating that all agree with that decision on pain of discipline.

I think Durham in general combines well a desire for doctrinal precision and a determination to uphold that precision with a desire for the unity of orthodox believers.  See his Treatise on Scandal which if put into practice would leave us with less divisions in Reformed Presbyterianism than we currently have!

David Lachman’s helpful introduction to the modern reprint is available here:

Law and Gospel According to the Marrow

February 2, 2009

I’ve posted a few times on the law gospel distinction and this is an area I’d like to read more widely on.  Here are some thoughts from a classic Puritan work mentioned in my last post The Marrow of Modern Divinity.

There is a section entitled simply “The difference between the Law and the Gospel.”  The author of the Marrow E.F begins here be stating that there is little in the Marrow from him – all the credit he can claim is gathering the doctrines of the Marrow from other respected theologians.  He is trying to articulate an already extant Reformed law/gospel distinction (with a heavy dose of Luther) rather than inventing something novel.

He begins by quoting Luther to the effect that “in the case of justification, [we are] to separate the law and the gospel as far asunder as heaven and earth are separated.”  E.F. outlines the leading differences between law and gospel:

… the nature and office of the law is to show unto us our sin, (Rom 3:10), our condemnation, our death, (Rom 2:1, 7:10). But the nature and office of the gospel is to show unto us, that Christ has taken away our sin, (John 1:29), and that he also is our redemption and life, (Col 1:14, 3:4). So that the LAW is a word of wrath, (Rom 4:14); but the GOSPEL is a word of peace, (Eph 2:17).

E.F. notes the law gospel distinction is not a distinction between the Old and New Testaments as law and gospel are found in both.  So as there is no simple Old New classification of law and gospel “we are to take heed, when we read the Scriptures, we do not take the gospel for the law, nor the law for the gospel, but labour to discern and distinguish the voice of the one from the voice of the other.”  The way to do this is to:

…  consider … that when in Scripture there is any moral work commanded to be done, either for eschewing of punishment, or upon promise of any reward, temporal or eternal—or else when any promise is made with the condition of any work to be done, which is commanded in the law—there is to be understood the voice of the law.   Contrariwise, where the promise of life and salvation is offered unto us freely, without any condition of any law, either natural, ceremonial, or moral, or any work done by us, all those places, whether we read them in the Old Testament, or in the New, are to be referred to the voice and doctrine of the gospel; yea, and all those promises of Christ coming in the flesh, which we read in the Old Testament; yea, and all those promises in the New Testament, which offer Christ upon condition of our believing on his name, are properly called the voice of the gospel, because they have no condition of our mortifying annexed unto them, but only faith to apprehend and receive Jesus Christ; as it is written, (Rom 3:22), “For the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all that believe,” &c.

He goes on to give some helpful examples:

Law. The law says, “Thou art a sinner, and therefore thou shalt be damned,” (Rom 7:2, 2 Thess 2:12).
Gos. But the gospel says, No; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”; and therefore, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, (1 Tim 1:15, Acts 16:31).

Law. Again the law says, “Knowest thou not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; be not deceived,” &c. (1 Cor 6:9). And therefore thou being a sinner, and not righteous, shalt not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gos. But the gospel says, “God has made Christ to be sin for thee who knew no sin; that thou mightest be made the righteousness of God in him, who is the Lord thy righteousness,” (Jer 23:6).

Law. Again the law says, “Pay me what thou owest me, or else I will cast thee into prison,” (Matt 18:28,30).
Gos. But the gospel says, “Christ gave himself a ransom for thee,” (1 Tim 2:6); “and so is made redemption unto thee,” (1 Cor 1:30).

Law. Again the law says, “Thou hast not continued in all that I require of thee, and therefore thou art accursed,” (Deut 27:6).
Gos. But the gospel says, “Christ hath redeemed thee from the curse of the law, being made a curse for thee,” (Gal 3:13).

Law. Again the law says, “Thou are become guilty before God, and therefore shalt not escape the judgment of God,” (Rom 3:19, 2:3).
Gos. But the gospel says, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son,” (John 5:12).

E.F. concludes with the importance of the law/gospel distinction in justification:

Therefore, whensoever … any doubt or question arises of salvation, or our justification before God, there the law and all good works must be utterly excluded and stand apart, that grace may appear free, and that the promise and faith may stand alone: which faith alone, without law or works, brings thee in particular to thy justification and salvation, through the mere promise and free grace of God in Christ; so that I say, in the action and office of justification, both law and works are to be utterly excluded and exempted, as things which have nothing to do in that behalf. The reason is this: for seeing that all our redemption springs out from the body of the Son of God, crucified, then is there nothing that can stand us in stead, but that only wherewith the body of Christ is apprehended. Now, forasmuch as neither the law nor works, but faith only, is the thing which apprehendeth the body and passion of Christ, therefore faith only is that matter which justifies a man before God, through the strength of that object Jesus Christ, which it apprehends; like as the brazen serpent was the object only of the Israelites’ looking, and not of their hands’ working; by the strength of which object, through the promise of God, immediately proceeded health to the beholders: so the body of Christ being the object of our faith, strikes righteousness to our souls, not through working, but through believing.