Archive for the ‘2 Peter 3:9’ Category

Weekly Update 29 – Obadiah Sedgwick

November 17, 2007

I’ve covered Rev 3:20 a few times on the blog, but it is a very important verse for understanding the free offer of the gospel in the C17 and so I don’t apologise for posting on it again.  This week I’ll share some of my notes on Obadiah Sedgwick’s work The Riches of Grace Displayed In the offer and tender of Salvation to poor Sinners (London, Printed by T.R. and E.M. for Adoniram Byfield at the Bible in Popes head Alley near Lumbard Street, 1657).  It is a classic Puritan study of Rev 3:20.

Sedgwick (1559/1600-1658) was an active member of the Westminster Assembly and a Presbyterian.  1658 is the same year that Durham died.

In reading the following, bear in mind that Sedgwick begins his exposition by explicitly denying that he is teaching free will or common sufficient grace, p9-12.  (Please note – when you read a Puritan/Reformed author denying common sufficient grace that is not the same as denying common grace.  Reformed/Puritan authors to a man held to the language of common grace while they denied the Arminian construct of common sufficient grace [every man is given enough grace to believe if he chooses to; the choice is his].  There is a difference!)

Now on to some of Sedgwick’s interesting statements:

1) Have you ever heard a preacher say “Christ is more willing to save you, than you are to be saved” and secretly winced and muttered “Arminian” under your breath?  Hear Sedgwick, “What is meant by Christ’s standing at this door… Christ is a thousand times more willing to come to thee, than thou art to come to Christ…” p4-5.  He also speaks of Christ’s “earnest desire” for admittance p5.

2) Rev 3:20 in its context is addressed to “a company of meer hypocrites” p13.  They were “a most destitute people: not a dot of goodness, nor any one rag of grace, nor good in any one part…” p14.  You get the picture.  Rev 3:20 is addressed in its original context to the unsaved.  Given this is what they believed is it any wonder that the Puritans applied this text evangelistically?

3) How does Christ address these unsaved hypocrites?  Unspeakable condescension – he begs!  “Yet at their doors does Christ stand and knock, He begs at the doors of beggars, mercy begs to misery, happiness begs to wretchedness, riches begs to poverty…” p15.

4) Sedgwick poses the question, “He [Christ] hath stood at our doors more than one day or night, more than one week or two, more than one year or two, more than twenty years or two.  Would he do this if he were not willing to come in and save us?”  p22.  It is not “unreformed” to speak of Christ’s willingness to save sinners.

5) Sedgwick pointedly applies the text to unbelievers: “The first use shall be a reproof unto all such who do shut the doors against Jesus Christ, against a willing Christ, a saving Christ, a Christ that stands and knocks… they are guilty of the greatest sin in the world, they despise the greatest, the kindest, yea, the only salvation of their souls.” p28.  They are guilty of rejecting Christ’s “offers” p30.

6) Sedgwick believes that an inability to see the willingness of Christ to save sinners is the root cause why many refuse to come to Christ even though they see that they are sinners: “The truth is, all that the troubled soul urgeth… is the questioning of Christ’s willingness to save it; All those objections of greatness of sinnings, of want of deeper humblings, and want of holiness, of long resistances… Arise from this suspicion, Christ is not willing to save sinners…”  p33.  That is why the free offer of the gospel is so important pastorally.

7) Sedgwick comments that “Jesus Christ waits long upon sinners, and earnestly labours with them for entrance and admission”.  p37.  Two examples Sedgwick gives of this are Christ’s thirty years in the flesh knocking upon the hearts of the Jews, and Noah preaching for one hundred and twenty years before going into the ark.  Of course, in both these instances, the knocking was rejected which confirms that Sedgwick believes Rev 3:20 applies to unbelievers who ultimately refuse to come to Christ.

8 ) The free offer in Rev 3:20 is an expression of love.  “What do these passages hold forth, but the great love of Christ, the long expectation of Christ, the earnest importunity of Christ with sinners to come and be happily conjoined with him.” p38.

9) Christ is sorrowful when his offer is rejected. “Christ hath stood at thy doors, with commandments in one hand, and with entreaties in another hand, he hath stood at thy doors with promises in his mouth, and with tears in his eyes; he hath stood at thy door with heaven in his fingers, and sorrow in his soul; with arms of mercy to clap thee, if thou openest; with floods of compassion to bewail thee, if thou refusest” p44-45.

10) Now in all this are we only speaking of Christ as man?  Where does the divine nature come into this?  “Christ is God, and because he is God he is merciful, willing to show mercy to sinners in misery, and unwilling to destroy them… God is a long-suffering God, and so is Christ; He is a much-suffering Christ, and a long-suffering Christ. 2 Pet. 3.9 The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It is the greatest of mercy to be willing to pity or pardon sinners, and it is the greatest of goodness, to offer help unto them, And it is the greatest of patience to wait long on them.”  p49-50.  Note the universal application of 2 Peter 3:9.

11) Sedgwick comments: “Of the just cause of a sinner’s damnation: It is of and from himself: never lay it on God’s decrees, or want of means and helps.  What could I have done more for my vineyard, &c? Isa. 5. So what could Christ do more? he calls, and crys, and knocks, and entreats, and waits, and weeps, and yet you will not accept of him, or salvation by him? … I was offered Christ and grace, I felt him knocking by his Spirit but I slighted him, grieved him, rejected him, and now it is just with God to shut the door of mercy against me…” p55-6

12) Sedgwick believed that the “offer” is equivalent to a “beseeching” and that every hearer of the gospel has a duty to receive Christ.  p57.

13) The free offer comes to all who hear the gospel, not only to “sensible sinners” for: “There is a latitude, a full latitude in the offer of Christ and grace: No sinner (under the Gospel) is excluded by Christ, but by himself.  Although the Application of Christ be definite and particular, yet the proclamation is indefinite and general…” p76-7.

There is lots more in Sedgwick but I’ll stop here.  How typical is Sedgwick in all this?  Well the evangelistic application of Rev 3:20 was standard C17 fare and most of his language quoted above could have come from any host of C17 Reformed preachers/theologians, including Durham.  On some things e.g. the correct exposition of 2 Pet 3:9 there would be differences but overall what I’ve quoted above is pretty unexceptional stuff for the C17 Reformed.

Next week I’ll probably post on Manton’s exposition of Ezek 18:23.  Lots of important stuff in there.

Weekly Update 26 – Calvin, The Free Offer and The Free Church of Scotland

October 26, 2007

This is a bit of a short post as I’m spending most of my time working towards writing up some of my thesis.  I should hopefully be able to offer a few “weightier” posts in the coming weeks.  I’d ideally like to post something soon covering Durham on Justification (which is partially related to the free offer), and also another post on the Covenants.

This post focuses on Calvin and one of the few truly good theologians of the 20th century R.A. Finlayson.  For those who may not have heard of him, Finlayson was Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free Church of Scotland College from 1946-66.  According to the Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology he was “a founding member of the Scottish Tyndale Fellowship, which later became the Scottish Evangelical Theological Society… He was also active in the beginnings of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship… He was much in demand as a preacher and conference speaker, with a wit as sharp as his pen.” p321.  It is one of his conference addresses I want to quote from now.  It is ‘Calvin’s Doctrine of God,’ Able Ministers of the New Testament, Papers read at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 1964, p3-18 Rept. Tentmaker.

His paper helpfully covers many aspects of Calvin’s theology but I want to focus in on the part where he discusses Calvin and the free offer of the gospel.  In reading this, remember that Finlayson’s audience were not academics but Pastors.  Here it is:

There is the further difficulty of reconciling the expressions of God’s desire for men with God’s absolute decree concerning man. It would seem clear that God wills with genuine desire what he does not will by executive purpose. This has led theologians to make use of the two terms, the decretive will and the perceptive will of God, or His secret and revealed will. For example it is revealed that God would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, while he has not decreed universal salvation. Commenting on 2 Peter iii. 9, Calvin says: ‘But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches out His hand, without a difference, to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to Himself, whom he has thus chosen before the foundation of the world’.

Thus it cannot be said that God merely desires the ultimate salvation of all men without also desiring their repentance and faith and sanctification: for as Calvin says that would be ‘to renounce the difference between good and evil’. The position could thus be more clearly put as meaning that God desires all men to be righteous in character and life and to use the means he has appointed to that end. It is in harmony with the revealed will of God that without the use of means appointed by Him the end shall not be attained. As a holy God, the Creator commands all his moral creatures to be holy, and He cannot be conceived as in any way obstructing their pursuit of holiness by His decree.
p16

Now I just want to make two points here.

First Finlayson is accurately representing Calvin.  Calvin has no hesitation in using “desire” (or similar terms) in reference to the salvation of all men – or that “all men be righteous” and “use the means he has appointed to that end”.  He does this frequently.  I’ve already covered Calvin on 2 Peter 3:9 so there is no need to repeat the arguments here.  I mention Finlayson’s take on Calvin because it comforts me that much more theologically able people than me have read the same source material I have and come to the same conclusion!

Second Finlayson is accurately representing his own tradition in allowing that God desires the salvation of all men, or that “all men be righteous”.  In his views here Finlayson is merely stating the standard doctrine of the Free Church of Scotland from its inception.  This type of language could have come straight from many of the “founding fathers” e.g. Thomas Chalmers.  Incidentally, Finlayson comes from the same Scottish Presbyterian tradition as John Murray of Free Offer of the Gospel fame.

Like I said, next week should be more “weighty”.