Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

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.
p9

Duty faith:

… the Lord hath commanded to repent and turn unto him (offering Reconciliation in Christ) therefore it is my duty so to do.
p10

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…
p76

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.
p38

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.
p126-7

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.
p120-1

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.
p136-7

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

Weekly Update 31 – James Durham on “Particular Redemption”

December 1, 2007

One of Durham’s largest essays in his commentary on Revelation is entitled, “Concerning the extent of the merit of Christ’s death, or, if it may be accounted a satisfaction for all men” (Revelation, Old Paths, 2000, 378-412).  Some of the following is fairly heavy going but hopefully worth it.

In this essay Durham advocates the position that the sufferings of Christ are “not intended by Christ, nor accepted of by God as a price and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and for procuring of Redemption to them but only for some peculiarly chosen of God, and by his decree of Election separated from others” (p378).  He engages those whom he feels deny this position, while at the same time holding to a predestinarian system of theology i.e. not Arminians.  He names John Cameron, Richard Baxter, John Daillie and William Twisse as his opponents.  Twisse is a fascinating character who often is lauded by certain extreme predestinarians (usually opposed to the free offer) for having written a treatise, The Riches of God’s Love unto the Vessells of Mercy, consistent with His Absolute Hatred or Reprobation of the Vessells of Wrath(Oxford: Printed by L.L. and H.H. Printers to the University for Tho. Robinson, 1653) and for advocating a supralapsarian ordering of the decrees.  It is one of the grand ironies of this whole debate that Twisse seems to have actually held some form of universal redemption (even if conditional).  Twisse was prolocuter (chairman) of the Westminster Assembly until he stepped down on grounds of ill health in 1645 – the WCoF was not approved by the Scottish Church until 1647.

I don’t want to post on all the details of Durham’s arguments so I’m just going to highlight a few of the more interesting and significant points he makes:

  1. The extent of the atonement is determined by the Covenant of Redemption (p378, 379).  The extent of the Covenant of Redemption is determined by a logically (not temporally) prior decree of election (p400).  The extent of the atonement is therefore particular not universal.
  2. Christ’s sacrifice “in respect of the person who died… may be and by Divines is said to be, of an infinite value” (p378).  But when we are speaking of the intent of Christ in laying down his life as a satisfaction that is where the Covenant of Redemption and particularity comes to the fore.
  3. Because of the Covenant of Redemption the atonement must secure its own application i.e. the salvation of those for whom it was offered.  That is, there was a bargain between the three Persons of the Godhead that a seed would be given to Christ on condition that he lay down his life for them – the Covenant of Redemption.  Now if Christ laid down his life as per the covenant for his sheep, and then they were not saved, the Covenant would have been broken by God.  Unthinkable! (p383).
  4. Durham believed that a universal redemption was pastorally harmful in that it “would weaken the redeemed’s consolation and enervat the grounds of their praise… to say that all are redeemed by Christ’s death, yet so, that the greater part of them shall never be justified… doth exceedingly weaken the redeemed’s consolation… [and is] derogatory to the solid consolation of the redeemed, whatever be pretended” (p384).
  5. Durham believed that a universal redemption, coupled with election did not solve any pastoral problems for “seeing the asserters of this conditional [universal] Redemption do admit of an absolute Election unto life as we do… then they will have the same cavils… to meet with: for, the connection betwixt Election, Faith, and Salvation is no less peremptor, (so that none can be believe and be saved but an Elect)…” (p408).
  6. A particular redemption does not cause any additional pastoral difficulties, even for the unsaved for, “this Doctrine of particular Redemption (to call it so) doth never make salvation impossible to any that will receive Christ and rest upon Him: but on the contrary, though it deny that all men are redeemed, or shall be saved,; yet it doth assert this Universal, that all whosoever shall believe, are redeemed and shall be saved…” (p386).
  7. Durham acknowledged that the common blessings that come on all men are consequences of Christ’s atonement and “largely speaking” are “contained in the Covenant of Redemption” (p392).  But “the proper fruit of Christ’s purchase… is saving mercies” (p391).  Durham is cautious and generally unwilling to speak of common mercies as a proper fruit of Christ’s death.  Why he takes this position is interesting.  Durham is attempting to guard against being forced to say that the proper fruit of Christ’s death is greater condemnation for the reprobate.  The reprobate enjoy common blessings and grace from God but ultimately they abuse these and receive greater condemnation than if they had never received these blessings.  Durham is anxious to argue that greater condemnation comes not “from the Gospels being revealed to such persons, but from their abusing and slighting of the same” (p392).  Durham does not want a fruit of Christ’s death to be greater condemnation, so we have to distinguish between the main intention of Christ’s death (redemption) and other consequences which are not proper fruits: “otherwise we might say, that the greater inexcusableness and condemnation of many Reprobates, are proper fruits of Christ’s purchase…” (p393).
  8. Christ’s satisfaction and intercession are of equal extent, and indeed “it is His satisfaction that regulateth (to speak so) his intercession” (p399).
  9. Durham argues that “world” in John 3:16 cannot be taken to mean “all men” (p405).   This was the standard Scottish view of the text at the time.  This is one of the few places I may not be on the same page as Durham – I’m more of a Marrowman myself.
  10. The free offer of the gospel is not endangered by a particular redemption for “neither doth this way [universal/conditional redemption] and the ground thereof give ministers any more solid ground to make the offer of the Gospel indefinitely in their public Preaching: for… we can assure hearers that whosoever believeth shall partake of life and of the benefits of Christ’s Redemption; and by virtue of the general Call and Warrant which we have in the Gospel, we may invite them to believe in Christ, [and] require faith of them…” (p409-10).

These then are some of the points Durham makes on the subject of particular redemption.  For me the two key points that emerge are:

  • The prominence of the idea of a Covenant of Redemption in Durham’s defence of particular redemption
  • The prominence of Pastoral concerns in Durham’s formulating of a particular redemption.  When Durham came to defend his doctrine of particular redemption he wasn’t simply engaging in ivory tower theology, rather he was defending a truth he believed helped him best in his Pastoral duties.

Weekly update 20 – Durham on Objections to Receiving Christ

September 17, 2007

I’ll start this post by noting that Durham’s Sermons on Isaiah 53, Christ Crucified, have been reprinted by Naphtali Press. John (Rabbi) Duncan described reading Durham’s sermons on Is 53 as akin to “eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ”.  They are excellent sermons and contain much that is good for the soul.  So go and buy them!

In this post I’m picking up on Durham’s sermon on Matt 22:4, Gospel Presentations are the Strongest Invitations.  This sermon is found in The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, p43-79. For the three previous posts on this sermon see, here, here and here.

Throughout this sermon Durham has been preaching the gospel offer:

God the Father, and the King’s Son the Bridegroom, are not only content and willing, but very desirous to have sinners come to the marriage. They would fain (to speak with reverence) have poor souls espoused to Christ.
p44

Towards the end of the sermon Durham comes to consider some objections his hearers may have had to accepting the free offer of the gospel.  They centre on our inability, and election.  How does Durham deal with these issues pastorally?

OBJECTION. “Alas, I would come to the wedding, but I cannot come. I would believe but my faith is not prompt and ready.”
ANSWER. Does not the covenant provide an answer to that also? It calls for nothing but your subscribing … It comes to this, “yes” or “no”. And if you say that you cannot say “yes” in faith … is there not a promise of grace that though your hand is, as it were, withered, if you attempt it, you shall be enabled to stretch it forth?

p74-5

This is an objection from our inability to come to Christ.  “I would come to Christ but I am dead in trespasses and sins so I can’t come.”  Durham answers by pointing us to the example of the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:10).  Could he stretch forth his hand?  No.  Was he commanded to?  Yes.  Did he argue with Christ about this – why have you asked me to do something I can’t do?  No.  He just went ahead in obedience to the command.  This should be our pattern.

What more do you have to say? Lay out your objections. These words “all things are ready” will answer them all. The garment is ready to be put on, yea, Jesus Christ is your wedding garment; take and put Him on. He is the cure for all your diseases; apply Him for the cure of them all.
p76

To paraphrase Durham – There is no objection you can come up with but it is answered by “all things are ready”.

OBJECTION … there are several other needlessly disquieting objections … (and, alas, that there should be such trifling, if I may call it so, such whining, as it were …) among which is this one: “I do not know if I am in the covenant and contract of redemption. I do not know if I am one of God’s elect.”
ANSWER 1. What is this? You do not well know what you say. Have you anything to do with that secret by a leap at the first hand. Are you not called to marry Christ? Is not this his revealed will to you? I protest in His name, this is the thing that you are called to; and will you make an exception where He has made none? Or will you shift obedience to a clear command, upon a supposed decree which you can not know but by the effects … Will you reason so in the matter of your eating and drinking? … Will you this day refuse your dinner … Because you do not know if God has appointed …
ANSWER 2. … Were there ever any who had that doubt cleared to them before they came to Christ? Who would ever have come to Him if they had stayed till that had been taken out of the way? Has the Lord told that to any before they came? Has He said to them, “Believe, for you are elect”? But His method is thus “Believe, and you shall know in due time that you are elect.”
ANSWER 3. Is there anyone who can say that the offer or the refusal of the match depended on this? If any of you will say, “Because I was not elect, He refused me,” then He will answer, “How often would I have gathered you.” And no more ground for sentencing professors of the gospel to destruction will be needed than this: “Man, woman, you had the offer of the gospel and refused it; therefore go to your place.” He will not judge according to the decree of reprobation, but according to His call and your dislike to it.

p76-8

This is the objection – I don’t know if I am elect or not.  Durham answers this in three ways.  First he points out that we don’t look to God’s secret decree in any other aspect of our lives.  We don’t ponder over our meals and think – I’m not sure I should eat this, maybe God hasn’t decreed that I should have a meal tonight.  Durham reasons – if we don’t meddle with God’s decree in all other aspects of our life then so it should be with our salvation.  We are to look to the revealed will of God which is that we should come to him for salvation.  Second he points out that no one ever knows they are elect until after they believe.  To say I won’t believe until I know I am elect is, for Durham, to put the cart before the horse.  Third Durham protests that we will not be condemned for being a reprobate, but for unbelief.

Well then, what is the sum of the matter?

This is our commission to you today. We tell you that the King has made ready for the feast; yea, all things are ready. Come, then, and let there be no more debate about the matter … Only deliver up yourself to Him, and, in the Lord’s name, I tell you that you shall be dearly welcome.
p78-79

I’m not sure what I’ll post on next week.  I’ve been wandering in the bypath meadow of secondary scholarship on 17th century Scottish theology recently and there is not much edifying in there to post on.

I’m off on holiday this week so it will be Monday again when I post – or possibly even Tuesday.

Weekly Update 15

August 11, 2007

This is the third week of blogging through James Durham’s sermon Gospel Presentations are the Strongest Invitations. One more week to go on this sermon. This sermon is found in The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, p43-79.

It is the duty of all to whom the good news of this marriage comes to come to it, and, when they are invited to it, presently without all delay to yield.
p56

Once again we see Durham clearly advocating what we would call “duty faith”.  Also for all who are invited the marriage is “good news“.  Further note Durham is appealing for an immediate response to the gospel.  He did not direct his hearers to go away and think about things.  No, his hearers were to come to Christ, “presently without all delay“.

All who come may expect a very good and heartsome welcome. None need to fear that they shall not be made welcome … The Lord will not look down on such as come; nay, He is waiting to welcome them, and to meet them, as it were, midway, as we see in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15).
p56

The Lord is “waiting to welcome” sinners!  What a comforting truth.

There is very good news here … therefore I would exhort you all to believe this report. There are, alas, few who do indeed believe that the eternal God has this design of marriage between Him and sinners … believe that this is the good word of God … and that He is waiting to ratify them to all who give them credit … believe that this offer is really His.
p57-8

The gospel is good news.  That is what it is – to all who hear it.  Also note, for Durham, the gospel offer is not man’s offer, it is God’s.  It would therefore not be correct to say that it is simply the preacher offering, it is the preacher offering in Christ’s stead.

Be holily amazed and wonder that the offer of this marriage comes to you, and that He is content to marry you.
p58

It is a wonderful and amazing thing that the gospel should come and tell us that God is content to marry us in Christ.

What is our commission today? This is it … the King … speaks to you by us, and we speak to you in His name, and tell you that our blessed Lord Jesus is wooing you. We declare, publish and proclaim it.
p58

What is the preacher’s commission?  To speak on God the Father’s behalf and proclaim that in the gospel Jesus Christ comes to woo all the hearers of it.  How many fulfil their commission?

Our Lord Jesus is not far to seek. He is here waiting to close the bargain with you. This is our errand, to proclaim these glad tidings to you … Is not the Father ready? He has given His consent. Is not the Bridegroom ready, when He has done so much … The feast is ready, the garments are ready … The contract is ready … He is ready to accept you if you will accept Him. Our blessed Lord Jesus says that He is content to marry you … there is in effect nothing wanting but your consent, and let that not be wanting, I beseech you.
p59

In the gospel we have then the consent of God to close the bargain of salvation with us.  On the side of God, all things are ready.  All that hinders our salvation is our unbelief.

It is not one or two, or some few who are called; not the great only, nor the small only, nor the holy only, nor the profane only, but you all are bidden; the call comes to all and every one of you in particular, poor and rich, high and low, holy and profane. “Ho (proclaims the Lord, as it were, with an “Oh, yes!” in Isaiah 55:1), everyone that thirsts, come; and he that hath no money, let him come.” “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely” Revelation 22:17. Our blessed Lord Jesus … In His name we invite all of you, and make offer of Jesus Christ to be your Husband …
p60

The gospel does not only come to “sensible sinners” as per later hypercalvinistic developments.  It comes to every hearer of the gospel.  All are invited.  Note also for Durham the gospel offer is not as it were an indiscriminate message that just happens to be proclaimed in a wide audience.  No, the gospel is a particular and specific invitation to each individual who hears.

We make this offer to all of you, to you who are atheists, to you who are graceless, to you who are ignorant, to you who are hypocrites, to you who are lazy and lukewarm, to the civil and to the profane. We pray, we beseech, we beg you all to come to the wedding … We will not, we dare not say, that all of you will get Christ for a Husband; but we do most really offer Him to you all, and it shall be your own fault if you lack Him and go without Him.
p60

Again there is no limit of the offer to “sensible sinners” – even atheists receive this offer!  Note Durham’s descriptions of preaching the gospel.  It is praying, beseeching, begging.  Does this characterise the preaching of many today?

Before we proceed any further, we do solemnly protest and, before God and His Son Jesus Christ, take instruments this day, that this offer is made to you … that the Lord Jesus is willing to match with you, even the most profane and most graceless of you, if you are willing to match with Him. He earnestly invites you to come to the wedding.
p61

Even the least sensible sinner in the audience receives the earnest invitation of Christ.

I would not put one of you outside the reach of this invitation. However carnal we may be in speaking His mind, yet we do not desire to obscure or limit our Lord’s grace. He calls all of you to the wedding … Come, then, oh, come and subscribe …
p61

Again there is no limit on the gospel offer.

This is very well becoming … to make this offer to great and small, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, gracious and graceless, hypocrites and profane. There is here no exception of persons with Him; the blessed God is content to match with the most graceless and godless of you as well as with those who are gracious and godly.
p62

No sensible sinner here!

There is joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, and the price was paid for the elect who are yet graceless as well as for those of them who are now gracious; for all were once in the same condition. Therefore do not look with straitened hearts on the rich and liberal allowance of our blessed Lord Jesus.
p62

Durham believed in and preached a definite efficacious atonement – “the price was paid for the elect“.  But he was always conscious of the danger of his congregation drawing false conclusions from this and getting caught up in speculations as to whether Christ’s death was for them.  Durham therefore points to the character of those for whom Christ died – sinners.  Therefore he reasons, are you a sinner?  Then don’t exclude yourself, for Christ died for sinners.

We call you to believe, and we declare in His name that, if you will take yourselves to Him in good earnest, you shall be saved … You who are profane, take Him … You who are self-righteous, take Him … Whatever you are … take Him.
p62-3

Again the gospel is to all hearers, not just a select few.

You must not delay to come and close the bargain; you must not put it off till tomorrow, nay, not an hour. All things are ready. Just now, now is the accepted time: here stands the blessed Bridegroom … We dare not be answerable to our Master, nor can we be answerable to our trust and commission, if we shuffle by or thrust out any of you if ye do not thrust out yourselves … let me beseech and beg you to come to the wedding.
p66-7

There is to be no delay in accepting the offer of Christ.  It must be received now.  No preparationism here!  (The doctrine that sinners must go through certain prolonged stages before coming to Christ.)  Again note for Durham preaching the gospel involves begging and beseeching.

We cannot allow you an hour’s time to advise … close with Him presently, or you may never have the like opportunity … The King is on His throne … His servants invite in His name. Come, therefore; come without further lingering …
p68

The offer must be accepted immediately because who knows if the hearers will live to receive another offer?

Weekly Update 12

July 21, 2007

Back to Durham at last!  But err…. not on either of the subjects I mentioned last week (common grace and the pastoral benefits of definite/efficacious atonement).  I will post on these subjects in the coming weeks but this week I want to post Durham’s responses to two common objections to accepting the gospel among hearers of Reformed preaching:

  • Election of a limited number of individuals to salvation
  • The inability of man to believe apart from special divine grace

First let’s set some context.  Durham has just gone through two vital areas with his congregation:

1) The “grounds that a lost sinner has to receive Christ”

These are “the fullness and sufficiency of the mediator Jesus Christ”, “the well orderedness, freeness and fullness of the covenant of grace” and “the nature of the offer of grace in the gospel” (Christ Crucified: Or the Marrow of the Gospel, Dallas, Naphtali Press, 2001, p124-125).

 2) The “warrants and encouragements a sinner has” to come to Christ

First, Durham notes the free offer of the gospel provides all the warrant anyone needs to trust on Christ.   “Do you not think that the offer of the gospel is a sufficient warrant, and ground of encouragement to believe on him?” p125.  He also makes the interesting statement “If you think Christ real in  his commands, is he not real in his offers?”  For Durham the gospel offer is “real”.  It is, and by its nature must be, genuine and well-meant.

Second, Durham notes that “He has so ordered the administration of this gospel, as he has purposely prevented any ground that folks may have of scaring  [fearing] to close with Christ” p125.  Durham notes Rev 22:17 Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely and comments “It is not only, to say so with reverence, those whom he [God] wills, but it is whosoever will” p125.  Durham goes on to note that Christ “sometimes weeps and moans because sinners will not be gathered (as Luke 19:41-42 and Matt 23:27).  Can there be any greater evidences of reality in any offer?” p125.  The last part here is very important.  For Durham it is impossible to conceive of an offer more genuine than the free offer in the gospel.  (This use of Christ’s weeping over lost sinners is similar to what we saw in Clarkson’s preaching a few weeks ago).

Durham also notes we receive a warrant to believe from “the manner and form of God’s administration” namely by “covenant and many promises” which God has ratified by an oath making them doubly sure.  The great command being to believe (1 John 3:23) also gives us warrant to take Christ as our Saviour (p126-127).

Durham concludes this section on warrants to believe, with a stirring exhortation:

“… we would again exhort you, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in his stead, not to neglect so great salvation.  O!  Receive the grace of God, and let it not be in vain.” p127

Having considered the grounds and warrants of faith, Durham proceeds to “remove a doubt or two, that may stand in the way of sinners resting on this ground”.  I’ll consider these in turn.

First Durham considers the objection from election.  “It may be some will say, that the covenant is not broad enough, because all are not elected, all are not redeemed nor appointed to be heirs of salvation…” p127.  Durham responds to this in two ways:

  • He denies that election is the cause of anyone’s unbelief.  “How absurd is this reasoning… we are… speaking… to the nature of the gospel; so that, whoever perish, it is not because they were not elected, but because they believe not; and the bargain is not of the less worth, nor the less sure, because some will not believe…”p127.
  • Durham says that to seek knowledge about whether I am elect or not before I will believe in Christ is to “overturn the whole course of Christ’s administration, and of the covenant of his grace” for “Did he [Christ] ever, a priori, or at first hand, tell folks they were elected? … God’s eternal purpose or decree is not the rule of our duty, nor the warrant of our faith, but his revealed will in his word…” p127.

So Durham essentially says, no one will be condemned on the ground of being non-elect so this should not be your concern.  Unbelief is what men will be condemned for so worry about that!  And in any case no one can know whether they are elect or not apart from coming to Christ.  So don’t worry yourself about the hidden things, look to the revealed will of God and act accordingly.

I think this fits in well with the WCoF’s direction that “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word…” http://www.epcew.org.uk/wcf/III.html

Next Durham considers the objection from the moral inability of man to believe.  “But secondly some may object and say, “I am indeed convinced that believing is my duty; but that believing being a thing I cannot do, why therefore should I set about it?”  Durham again answers in two ways:

  • First “This is a most unreasonable and absurd way of reasoning; for if it be given way to, what duty shall we do?  We are not of ourselves able to pray, praise, keep the Lord’s day, nor to do any other commanded duty; shall we therefore abstain from all commanded duties?  Our ability or fitness for duty, is not the rule of our duty, but God’s command; and we are called to put our hand to duty; in the sense of our own insufficiency, acknowledging God’s sufficiency; which if we did we should find it go better with us…” p127
  • Second “None that ever heard this gospel, shall in the day of judgment have this to object… that they would fain have believed, but their mere infirmity, weakness and inability did impede them.  For it is our sin and guilt that we are unable; yet where the gospel comes, that is not the controversy, but that folks would not come to Christ, would not be gathered, that when he would, they would not…” p128

So Durham answers that apart from God we are unable to do anything, but that doesn’t stop us going about other duties, so why should it stop us believing?  In any case, the real issue is not that “we would believe if we could, but we can’t”.  Rather it is that we are unwilling to believe, even though Christ is willing that we should come to him.

I think that gives quite a clear indication of how Durham responded to arguments against receiving the free offer of the gospel from election and moral inability.

Having discussed these momentus subjects Durham notes “If folks soberly and gravely considered of what concernment it is to make use of the gospel, and what depends on the profitable and unprofitable hearing of it, how serious would both speakers and hearers be?” p131.  The utter levity of a lot of modern “reformed” preaching (where jokes outnumber exhortations to believe in Christ) is a sad sign that we have lost sight of “what depends on the profitable and unprofitable hearing” of preaching, namely, the eternal destiny of souls.  How many today preach “as never sure to preach again, as a dying man to dying men”?

I’ll close with a little plug.  If you go to the May edition of the Free Church Witness (http://www.freekirkcontinuing.co.uk/FCC/Witness%20and%20Explorer_files/wee05-07%20witness.pdf) then you will find an article Towards a Christian View of Recreation by yours truly.  It was on pages 8&9 in the print version  but the pages are a bit random on the online version when my article is on pages 15 & 18!  The mystery Puritan I quote is of course George Swinnock.  See, I do occasionally talk about things besides the free offer of the gospel!