Archive for the ‘Eternal Justification’ Category

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.

Eternal Justification Again (Rutherford v Crisp)

January 14, 2009

One thing that is good about reading Rutherford is that he is clear about what he believes and does not believe, about theologians he finds helpful and those he does not.  One of those theologians he finds unhelpful is Tobias Crisp of Christ Alone Exalted fame.  According to Rutherford, Crisp is a “libertine,” an “antinomian”, and in his sermons “you will find grace turned into wantonness” and “much … to depress and cry down holiness.”  Now I have not read Crisp, and I know the accuracy of Rutherford’s reading of Crisp has been challenged but, leaving that to one side, I want to pick up on Rutherford’s use of Crisp as a springboard to critique “eternal justification.”

The theme of “eternal justification” recurs at various points in Rutherford’s corpus but I’m limiting myself to The Trial and Triumph of Faith at this point.  Anyway, he makes his position clear, “justification is a real favour applied to us in time, just as sanctification … We cannot be justified before we believe.”  He continues:

Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, to the Galatians, taketh for granted, that justification is a work done in time, transient on us, not an immanent and eternal action remaining, either in God from eternity, or performed by Christ on the cross, before we believe … we are justified by faith, which certainly is an act performed in time … Satisfaction is indeed given to justice, by Christ on the cross, for all our sins, before we believe … but … that is not justification, but only the meritorious cause of it … Justification is a forensical sentence in time pronounced in the gospel, and applied to me now, and never till the instant now that I believe.

Accordingly, justification is not “formally an act of the understanding, to know a truth concerning myself.”  Rather, it is “an heart-adherence of the affections to Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, at the presence of which, a sentence of free absolution is pronounced.”  Rutherford explains how the work of Christ on the cross relates to justification:

Christ taketh away our sins on the cross, causatively, and by way of merit, while as he suffereth for our sins on the cross … Now, this was the paying of a ransom for us, and a legal translation of the eternal punishment of our sins; but it is not justification, nor ever called justification.  There is a sort of imputation of our sin to Christ, and a sum paid for me; but with leave, no formal imputation, no forensical, and no persona law-reckoning to me, who am not yet born, far less, cited before a tribunal and absolved from sin.  When Christ had completely paid the sum, Christ was justified legally, as a public person, and all his seed fundamentally, meritoriously, causatively, but not in their persons.

So, when in time the believer is justified by faith “the believer’s person is accepted, reconciled, justified, and really translated by a law change from one state to another … There is a real removal of all sins…”  What Rutherford is doing is steadfastly refusing to collapse time into eternity and turn life into nothing more than a “tale that is told, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Like I said before, the blog will probably be focused on Rutherford for a few more posts now.

John Owen Conference

August 23, 2008

So this week was spent at the John Owen Today conference.  It was good to meet people I had only made contact with over the internet in the past (e.g. Marty Foord, Mark Jones and John Tweeddale) and to make new contacts.  This was the main benefit of the conference as not many of the papers were directly relevant to my thesis – I was unable to attend the most relevant paper (John Owen’s Gospel Offer: Well Meant or Not). 

The most thought provoking talk for me was the first of the conference by Prof VanAsslet on “COVENANT THEOLOGY AS RELATIONAL THEOLOGY: The Contributions of Johannes Cocceius and John Owen to A Living Reformed Theology”.  The particular point I found interesting was his stress on the relationship between the denial of a distinction between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace and eternal justification.  Essentially VanAsslet argued that a proper distinction between the covenant of redemption (the triune God’s eternal counsel) and the covenant of grace (the execution in time of this eternal counsel) helped prevent time (covenant of grace) being swallowed up in eternity (covenant of redemption) thus mitigating against eternal justification.  VanAsslet noted historically if the covenant of grace is collapsed into the covenant of redemption there is the danger of eternal justification emerging (e.g. Gill).

Moving away from the conference, and to keep this blog vaguely related to the free offer the question has again been raised in a recent article – just who is the gospel offered to and must they be sensible sinners.  (The inference of the article was sensible sinners).  Well lets see how James Durham would answer.  So Mr Durham, who is the gospel offered to:

“The person called to this, is expressed thus, if any man, etc. which putteth it so to every hearer, as it it went round to every particular person, if thou, and thou, or thou etc … because where the Lord saith any man, without exception, who is he that can limit the same, where a person of whatsoever condition or qualification is found, that will accept of the offer according to the terms proposed?” (Revelation, Rept. Old Paths, 2000, 274).

Right so the gospel is offered to everyone who hears preaching.  But Mr Durham, are you really sure the gospel offer isn’t restricted to sensible sinners – I mean we would never offer the gospel to those most insensible of sinners, professed atheists, would we?

“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.” (Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Soli Deo Gloria, 60)

Finally I found out this week that there is an unpublished manuscript sermon by Samuel Rutherford on Rev 3:20!  I assume that Rutherford takes the same view of this verse as Durham i.e. it is an evangelistic appeal to unbelievers.  In which case this sermon is hugely significant for my thesis and would, perhaps, depending on its length, be worth transcribing and including as an appendix to my thesis.  I need to get up the the National Library of Scotland and read this sermon post haste!

Eternal Justification?

August 13, 2008

About the most worthwhile thing in R.T. Kendal’s book Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979) is the following quote from Rutherford on eternal justification:

‘justification in God’s decree and purpose from eternity, is no more justification than Creation, sanctification, glorification, the crucifying of Christ, and all things that fall out in time; for all these were in the eternal purpose of God.’
Samuel Rutherford, Survey of Spiritual Antichrist (1648), ii.19.

Along the same lines good Mr Durham says the following:

It is true, God’s purpose and decree of pardoning sin, is Eternal, as all the decrees are; But this actual pardoning of a sinner is no more from Eternity, than his creating or glorifying men, yea, in the same decree, he hath proposed the giving of both Repentance and Pardon, in the method laid down.
Commentary on Revelation (rept. Old Paths, 2000), 316

I’ve long been meaning to post on Durham and ‘eternal justification’ as he takes the opportunity to dissent from the idea a few times in his writings.  Maybe at some point I’ll find the time to write a post on it…