Archive for the ‘David Dickson’ Category

David Dickson and the “Judicial Laws”

May 4, 2011

Truth's Victory Over Error

Did the Lord by Moses give to the Jews as a body politic sundry judicial laws which expired with their state?


Do they oblige any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require?

No. (Exod. 21; 22:1-29; Gen. 49:10; 1 Cor. 9:8-10; 1 Pet. 2:13-14; Matt. 5:17,38-39).

Well then, do not some err, though otherwise orthodox, who maintain that the whole judicial law of the Jews is yet alive and binding all of us who are Christian Gentiles?


By What reasons are they confuted?

1. Because the judicial law was delivered by Moses to the Israelites to be observed, as to a body politic (Exod. 21).

2. Because this law, in many things which are of particular right, was accommodated to the commonwealth of the Jews, and not to other nations also (Exod. 22:3; 21:2; Lev. 25:2-3; Deut. 24:1-3; 25:5-7).

3. Because, in other things which are not of particular right, it is neither from the law of nature obliging by reason; neither is it pressed upon believers under the gospel to be observed.

4. Because believers are appointed under the gospel to obey the civil law and commands of those under whose government they live, providing they be just, and that for conscience’ sake (Rom. 13:1, 1 Pet. 2:13-14; Titus 3:1).

David Dickson, Truth’s Victory Over Error, 122

“this Error of seeking Righteousness by our Works”

October 12, 2009

One doctrine the 17th century Scottish theologians got right (among many!) was justification.  While England was being troubled by both neonomianism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other the Presbyterian leaders of the Scottish church avoided both extremes.  It was the entrance of the dead faith of moderatism that paved the way for the neonomianism of Baxter to enter the Scottish Church.  It was this the Marrowmen did so much to fight against.  But among the mid 17th Century leaders of the Scottish church all was well.  Here is David Dickson opposing the error of those seeking to add “works righteousness” to justification:

Unto this Error of seeking Righteousness by our Works, after entering in the way of Justification by Grace, we are all naturally inclined; for, the Covenant of Works is so engraven in all Adam’s Children, Do this and live, that hardly can we renounce this way of Justification, and howsoever it be impossible to attain Righteousness this way, yet hardly can we submit our selves to the Righteousness by Faith in Christ, which not only the Expereince of Israel after the Flesh maketh manifest, but also the Experience of the Galatians lets us see; for, they having once outwardly renounced Justification by Works, and embraced the Covenant of gracious Reconciliation by Faith in Jesus, did turn about for a time, to seek Justification by the Works of the Law, and were on the way of falling from Grace and Communion…
David Dickson, Therapeutica Sacra (Edinburgh: Evan Tyler, 1664), 298.

Why is justification a perennial issue for the Christians?  Because we are all by nature inclined to want to add something to our justification.  Dickson’s example of the Galatians gives all a stark warning against this tendency:

…the Galatians, who having begun in the spiritual way of Justification by Faith, sought to be perfected by the fleshly way of Justification by works, and did fall in danger of falling from Grace and excluding themselves from the blessing of the promise through Christ.
Dickson, Thereputica Sacra, 746.

But what of the teaching of James.  Dickson accounts for this well:

…the Gospel doth not teach us to seek the Justification of our Persons before God by Works, but by Faith in Christ, and then teacheth us to seek the Justification of our Faith before Men in our own and others Conscience, by the sincere endeavour of new Obedience…
Dickson, Thereputica Sacra, 315-6

May we all be enabled to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (WLC Q&A 70):

What is justification?

Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Eternal Justifcation (Just for a change!)

January 21, 2009

David Dickson in his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith Truth’s Victory Over Error discusses the question “Are the elect justified, until the Holy Spirit in due time actually apply Christ to them?”  He answers “No (Col. 1:21-22, Titus 3:4-7).”  He explains:

Well then do not the Antinomians err who maintain that the elect are justified from eternity, or when the price of redemption was paid?


By what reason are they confuted?

1. Because all that are justified have been strangers and enemies to God, and the children of wrath (Eph. 2:3; Col. 1:21; Titus 3:3; 1 Cor. 6:10-11).
2. Because none are justified until they believe in Christ; Galatians 2:16, ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even when we believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.’

So Dickson and Rutherford and Durham are all on the same page on “eternal justification”.  I hope to post a comparison of Durham’s sermon on “come for all things are ready” with Rutherford’s but time is difficult to find for any substantial blog posts these days.

Weekly Update 41 – Random Quotes From David Dickson (and two from Durham!)

February 9, 2008

I’ve spent about 5 minutes on my thesis this week due to work pressures so I’ve not had time to pull anything together for the blog.  Here are a few quotes from Dickson from Therapeutica Sacra on various topics.

Revealed will/secret will distinction:

…the revealed Will of God in Holy Scripture; wherein is set down to us what we should believe, and what we should do, and what is the Reward of the Obedience of Faith, and what is the Punishment of Disobedience.

Duty faith:

… the Lord hath commanded to repent and turn unto him (offering Reconciliation in Christ) therefore it is my duty so to do.

Understanding of “he descended into hell”:

…not without ground have Orthodox Divines taken in Christ’s Sufferings in His Soul, and the detaining of His Body in the Grave (put in as the close and last part of Christ’s Sufferings) as the true Meaning of that Expression, He descended into Hell…

Definition of the Covenant of Redemption:

This Covenant of Redemption then may be thus described. It is a Bargain, agreed upon between the Father and the Son designed a Mediator, concerning the Elect (lying with the rest of Mankind in the state of Sin and Death, procured by their own Merit) wisely and powerfully to be Converted, Sanctified and Saved, for the Son of God’s Satisfaction and Obedience (in our Nature to be assumed by Him) to be given in due time to the Father, even unto the Death of the Cross.

Definition of the Covenant of Grace:

The Covenant of Grace is a Contract between God and Men, procured by Christ upon these Terms, that whosoever in the sense of their own sinfulness shall receive Christ Jesus offered in the Gospel, for Righteousness and Life, shall have Him and all the Benefits purchased by Him, according to the Covenant of Redemption; and that God will be his God, and the God of his Children.

Mosaic covenant – grace or works?:

Such was the Covenant, which the carnal Israelites made with God in the Wilderness, and which their Posterity did follow, turning the Covenant of Grace, whereunto God was calling them into a Covenant of Works of their own framing: For, the Grace which was offered to them in Christ, under the veil of Levitical Types, Figures and ceremonies, they turned into an external service of performance only of bare and dead Ceremonies, and into a Ministry of the Letter and Death: For they did not take up Christ to be the End of the law, for Righteousness to every one that believes in Him, but did think, that both the Moral and Ceremonial Law was given unto them of God, to the intent that they should do the external Works of the Moral Law so far as they could; and when they transgressed the Moral Law, they should flie to the Ceremonial Law, and make amends for their Faults by satisfying for their Sin by the external Sacrifice of some clean Beast offered to God, or by the washing of their body, and their Clothes.

Which is in line with what James Durham says:

Distinguish betwixt God’s intention in giving, and the believers in Israel their making use of this law; and the carnal multitude among that people their way of receiving it, and corrupt abusing it contrary to the Lord’s mind. In the first sense it was a covenant of grace: In the second, it turned to be a covenant of works to them; and therefore it is that the Lord rejects (as we may see, Isai. 1. 13. and 66. 2,3. Jer. 7. 22.) their sacrifices and services as not commanded, because rested on by them, to the prejudice of grace, and contrary to the strain and scope of this law complexly considered.
James Durham, The Law Unsealed, Edinburgh: Thomas Lumisden and John Robertson, 1735, p6

They would both direct, “Ye would distinguish betwixt this law, as given to Adam, and as given to Israel: for, as given to him, it was a covenant of works; but, as given to them, ‘tis a covenant of grace…” (Durham, p15).

The decree of election and unbelief:

First, God so executeth and perfecteth the Decree of Election, that in the mean time He hindereth none, of all the Hearers of the Gospel, from receiving the Grace of Christ offered therein. He excludeth no Man from embracing the Covenant; but, on the contrair, He opens the Door to all that are called, to enter into (as it were) the outer Court of His dwelling House, that they may so draw more near to Him; and so He doth not particularly manifest any Mans Reprobation.

Lots more helpful material, but I’d better stop now.  Hopefully back to Dickson on the free offer next week.

Weekly Update 40 – David Dickson (1583-1662)

February 2, 2008

David Dickson.  It is about time I posted something on him.  Professor of theology at Glasgow and then Edinburgh universities, co-author with James Durham of Sum of Saving Knowledge, close friend of Durham, profoundly respected in the Scottish church, prolific author and commentator – in short a mammoth figure in Scottish Reformed theology and well worthy of consideration.

Dickson’s most formal treatments of the free offer of the gospel are found in his Therapeutica Sacra (Edinburgh: Evan Tyler, 1664).  [Sadly Dickson offers no comments on WCoF 7:3 in his work on the Westminster Confession Truth’s Victory Over Error.]  I am not going to comment in detail on his views on the free offer this week but I’ll just set some of the scene before picking up on Dickson again next week.

The main thing we must take heed to in this work, is to give to God entirely the Glory of His Grace and Power and Wisdom, so that the Glory of Mans Regeneration be neither given to Man, nor Man made sharer of the glory with God, but God may have the whole glory of His free Grace, because out of His own good-will, not for any thing at all foreseen in Man, He lets forth His special Love on the Redeemed…

This was the overarching theological commitment of all the Reformed figures I have covered on this blog – the entire work of salvation is of God’s grace, power and wisdom.  They all present their views of the free offer in a context where salvation is a result of God’s “special love” for the redeemed.  It is not possible to deflect the views of Durham, Dickson, Clarkson, Ball, Brown, Calvin, Sedgwick, Manton, etc by claiming they were somehow less than “Calvinistic” in their theology. 

These are the All Men whom God will have saved and doth save, 1 Tim. 2. 4. these are the All Men of whom the Apostle speaks, 2 Pet. 3. 9. God is patient toward us (to wit His Elect) not willing that any of Us should perish, but that we All should come to Repentance…

Dickson interprets 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Pet 3:9 as referring to the elect.  This was the standard Scottish view of these texts during Dickson’s lifetime.  I post this to note that there was diversity in understanding of individual texts amongst those theologians who held to the same overall view of the free offer and predestination e.g. for Calvin 2 Peter 3:9 refers to all men and for Thomas Manton 1 Tim 2:4 refers to all men.  Incidentally, I read the Scottish theologian Robert Rollock as implying a universal reference to 1 Tim 2:4, “… 1 Tim. ii. 4, after he hath admonished that we are to pray for all men, he addeth, that God will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. Out of which it followeth, that in the publishing of the Gospel, God hath respect not only of all men in common, but also distinctly of every several person; which regard also he will have us to have in our prayers.” (Robert Rollock, A Treatise of God’s Effectual Calling in Select Works of Robert Rollock (ed. William M. Gunn; 2 vols.; Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1849), 1:215).

Sometime Grace is taken for every Gift or Good bestowed by God upon the ill Deserver: In which sense, Gifts, common to Elect and Reprobate, are called by the name of Grace. Rom. 1. 5. Ephes. 4. 7.

Dickson has no problems with the terminology of “common grace”.  God bestows gifts and good things on the reprobate which is “grace”.  I am puzzled by the reference to Rom 1:5 and Eph 4:7 – neither of these texts seem to be speaking of common grace.

The Doctrine of Reprobation must not be determinatly applyed to any particular Person, how wicked soever he shall for the present appear; neither must the suspicion which any Man may have of his own Reprobation be fostered, because particular Reprobation of this or that person, is among the Secrets of the Lord, not to be medled with, whereof a Man may not give out Sentence before the Lord hath revealed His own Decree. But on the contrair, all the Hearers must be warned and pressed to be wary to entertain any hostile thought of God, or to foster suspicions of Him as implacable, but rather think of Him as their faithful Creator: Just indeed yet Merciful, Long-suffering and Bountiful, both to the kind and the unkind, as they shall find if they will seek Him…

Reprobation for Dickson is a doctrine that is to be preached.  But it is a doctrine that must be preached in such a way as to highlight the outworking of the decree of reprobation as it relates to individuals is archetypal theology i.e. unknown, and unknowable.  The doctrine of reprobation is not to shape my view of God’s relation to me as an individual – in this respect it is “not to be meddled with”.  Rather we are to beware of “hostile thoughts towards God” and take our view of God from him being our “faithful Creator”.  This is a helpful way of explaining the doctrine of reprobation – maintaining faithfulness to Scripture in preaching reprobation while guarding against driving men to despair.

I think these are four features which obviously influence what Dickson says on the free offer:

  1. An overarching commitment to God’s sovereignty
  2. A tendency to limit seemingly universal texts to the elect (limiting the exegetical base for the free offer)
  3. A commitment to common grace
  4. A doctrine of reprobation that places the outworking of the decree in  the secret things that belong to the Lord and directs men away from it to the revealed truths of the gospel that “whosoever will may come, etc”

Next week I’ll probably post on Dickson’s views on the free offer from Therapeutica Sacra and possibly the week after that from his commentaries.