William Perkins writes on this topic the following, “Election is God’s decree whereby of his own free will he hath ordained certain men to salvation, to the praise of the glory of his grace. There appertain three things to the execution of this decree, first the foundation, secondly the means, thirdly the degrees. The foundation is Christ Jesus, called of his Father from all eternity to perform the office of the Mediator, that in him all those which should be saved might be chosen.”
How did William Perkins see predestination as being carried out through the covenants?
Perkins taught that God established a covenant of works with Adam in paradise, thus setting a covenantal context for the fall. Similarly, He made the covenant of grace as the context for the salvation of the elect.
How did William Perkins see reprobation as a logical concomitant of election, and what were the differences he emphasizes between the two?
Perkins wrote “If there be an eternal decree of God, whereby he chooseth some men, then there must needs be another whereby he doth pass by others.” Two differences of emphasis exist between reprobation and election, however. First God willed the sin and damnation of men but not with the will of approval or action. God’s will to elect sinners consisted of His delight in showing grace and His intent to work grace in them. But God’s will to reprobate sinners did not include any delight in their sin, nor any intent to work sin in them. Rather He willed not to prevent their sinning because He delighted in the glorification of His justice. Second, in executing reprobation, God primarily passes over the reprobate by withholding from them His special, supernatural grace of election.
How did Williams Perkins see preaching as essential for bringing in the elect?
Munson writes, “Perkins’ golden chain of the causes of salvation is linked through the instrument of preaching. Perkins wrote on the preaching of the Gospel “This gospel must be preached. It is the allure of the soul, whereby men’s forward minds are mitigated and moved from an ungodly and barbarous life unto Christian faith and repentance.” Perkins also said “The gospel preached is that ordinary means to beget faith.” Plain and powerful preaching of Scripture was not merely the work of a man, but a heavenly intrusion where the Spirit of the electing God speaks.
The Son’s generation was connected to the idea that the Father is the fountain of all deity (fons totius Deitatis). Thomas Goodwin uses this term, but he was always careful to insist that the Son and Spirit were “very God of very God”. Leigh speaks of the order of the persons to explain the doctrine, “the Father is the first person from himself, not from another both in respect of his Essence and person. The Son is the second Person, from his Father in respect of his Person and filiation, existing by eternal generation, after an ineffable manner (and is so called God of God) by reason of his Essence he is God himself. The Holy Spirit is the third person proceeding from the Father and the Son in respect of his person.” Leigh refers to the Nicene Creed to referring to the Son as (“God of God”) to speak of the Son’s eternal generation. Thomas Goodwin likewise argues for the “begottenness” or “eternal generation” of the Son based upon the Father communicating to the Son the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead.
For Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) the being of God is necessarily bound up with the concepts of essence and existence. In Charnock’s exposition of John 4:24 “God is a Spirit”. “He hath nothing corporeal, no mixture of matter, not a visible substance, a bodily form. Charnock notes that (John 4:24) is the only place in the whole Bible where God is explicitly described as a Spirit. Charnock states if God exists He must be immaterial because material by nature is imperfect. Charnock also describes God in two ways, by affirmation God is good and God has no body.
Charnock begins by noting the difficulty of this topic. In his attempt to understand eternity Charnock contrast the attributes of God with the concept of time. Eternity is perpetual duration, without beginning or end, but time has both beginning and an end. He explains how God as God must be eternal, and that eternity properly belongs to God. The Scriptures constantly speak of God as eternal (Exodus 3:14, Rom. 16:26). Nothing can give being to itself. Acts, whatever they may be, are predicated on existence, a cause precedes an effect. God’s very existence proves that He has no being from another, otherwise He would not be God therefore God must be eternal.
Charnock describes how when God acts He does so according to the counsel of His own infinite understanding. No one is His counselor. Charnock speaks of the divine will as something that is not rash, but follows “the proposals of His Divine mind, he chooses that which is fittest to be done.” Knowledge and wisdom differ insofar as knowledge is the “apprehension of a thing, and wisdom is the appointing and ordering of things.” God possesses an essential and comprehensive wisdom. The Son of God however is the personal wisdom of God. Wisdom, as a necessary perfection in God, is manifested in the Son of God, who “opens to us the secrets of God.” The work of Christ manifests the wisdom of God as both the just and the justifier of the ungodly; but Christ also reveals the preeminent wisdom of God, for in the incarnation the finite is united with the infinite, immortality is united to mortality, and a nature who made the law is united to a nature under the law all in one person.
For StephenCharnock Christ is the image of God’s holiness because since God in His glory is “too dazzling to be beheld by us,” the incarnation makes it possible for the elect to not only behold the holiness of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), but also become holy like God through Jesus Christ. Therefore in God’s goodness he provides a means in which we can apprehend this holiness, the application of this therefore has a Christ centered focus.
Charnock affirms a threefold dominion in God, that which is natural and therefore absolute over all things; that which is supernatural or gracious, which is the dominion God has over the Church; and that which is glorious (i.e. eschatological), which refers to the kingdom of God as He reigns over saints in heaven and sinners in hell. The first dominion is founded in nature; the second in grace; the third in regard to the blessed in grace; in regard of the demand, in demerit in them, and justice in him. The dominion of God is to be distinguished from His power. The latter has reference to His ability to affect certain things, whereas the former speaks of His royal prerogative to do as He so chooses.
The Westminster Confession of Faith makes some important points about the interpretation of Scripture, including chapter 1.9: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” A text may demand an allegorical interpretation because it literally is an allegory, but theologians are not to go to the text with the fourfold method (the literal sense “is that which is gathered immediately out of the words,” which is then coupled with the “spiritual sense,” divided into allegorical, tropological, and anagogical) in mind as a basic presupposition for interpreting the Bible. The Scriptures themselves must dictate how they are to be interpreted.
Another specific exegetical tool used by the Puritans to interpret Scripture is the analogy of faith (analogia fidei). Needed explained are the differences between the analogy of faith and the analogy of Scripture (analogia Scripturae). The Scriptures interpret the Scriptures, so that “when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture,… it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” The analogy of faith (analogia fidei) resulted from the fact that the Bible is the Word of God and therefore possesses an intrinsic consistency and unity. That is to say, the Scriptures do not contradict themselves. The analogy of faith maintains the internal consistency of the Scriptures, which are not contradictory. The analogy of faith differs from the analogy of Scripture (analogia Scripturae) insofar as the analogy of faith is a principle whereby a theologian uses the “general sense of the meaning of Scripture, constructed from the clear or unambiguous loci [passages] as the basis for interpreting unclear or ambiguous texts.” The analogy of Scripture, however, more specifically has in view the interpretation of unclear passages by comparing with clearer passages that are related to the difficult text in question.
Another specific exegetical tool used by the Puritans to interpret Scripture is to understand the limits of human reasoning. John Owen did not mince any words when it came to another fundamental aspect of interpreting the Bible. Those who attempt to interpret the Scriptures “in a solemn manner, without invocation of God to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation to him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from anyone who so proudly and ignorantly engageth in a work so much above his ability to manage.” Owen affirmed that the Holy Spirit works on the minds of the elect so as to enable them to understand the Scriptures since He is the immediate author of all spiritual illumination. Christians cannot assume this will happen, as if to take for granted this spiritual privilege; rather, they must pray that God would enable them to understand His mind and will, which apart from the Spirit is impossible. We must not allow our fallible reasoning a place of preeminence above the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit enables Christians to receive all of the truths of Scripture without letting reason dominate the way. If reason was to dominate our interpretation this will lead to various theological errors. Goodwin claims that the cause of all theological errors “hath been for the want of reconciling these things together.” He clearly has in mind those who exalt reason over revelation, which meant that so many glorious truths were denied in favor of reason. Reason cannot work out the mysteries of the Bible. If reason becomes the primary principle, and not faith, we will understand nothing, or little, of the mysteries of salvation. In the same way, Flavel suggests that reason is no better than a “usurper when it presumes to arbitrate matters belonging to faith and revelation.” Instead, reason sits at the feet of faith. Indeed, God’s works are not unreasonable, “but many of them are above reason.”
Answer, A Christological focus. Now what the puritans meant by the phrase Christological focus in interpretation needs explained. A major principle of interpretation used by the Puritans was the idea, firmly rooted in Scripture, that all of God’s Word points to Christ.
- John Owen states, ”There are, therefore, such revelations of the person and glory of Christ treasured up in the Scripture, from the beginning unto the end of it, as may exercise the faith and contemplation of believers in this world, and shall never, during this life, be fully discovered or understood.”
- Thomas Adams (1583–1652) remarks that Christ is the “sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line…. Christ is the main, the centre whither all these lines are referred.”
- Similarly, commenting on how Christ is the scope of the Scriptures, Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) remarks: “Christ is the pearl of that ring, Christ is the object, the centre wherein all those lines end: take away Christ, what remains?—Therefore, in the whole scriptures let us see that we have an eye to Christ; all is nothing, but Christ.”
Because Christ, as the God-man, makes revelation possible to sinful, finite creatures, He also becomes the foundation and center of the Bible. Christ is, as it were, the fundamentum Scripturae (basic principle of Scripture).
For Goodwin, supernatural revelation is explicitly christocentric, and only Christ could merit a supernatural end on account of the dignity of His person, something Adam could never do as a man “from the earth” contrasted with the “man from heaven,” Jesus Christ. Goodwin explains the distinction between natural righteousness and supernatural grace as the difference between knowledge of God that is natural to man and knowledge of God in a supernatural way that goes “above nature.” Goodwin considers these two ways of knowing God in the state of innocence.
Goodwin claims that Adam did not have complete, innate knowledge of God’s attributes and so needed to enlarge his “inbred, obscure” knowledge of God. Similarly, Adam had the knowledge of God’s will sown in his heart, which included the moral law. When confronted with a moral decision, Adam had an innate sense of what to do in any given situation. This moral law remains in humans after the fall, but it is reduced to a mere shadow, “an imperfect counterfeit.” Further, in agreement with what has been noted above, Adam’s knowledge was improved by observation of creation.
In Goodwin’s mind, whether Adam possessed supernatural knowledge or not comes down to the type of faith—natural or supernatural—required of him under the covenant of works. Supernatural faith, according to Goodwin, enables humans to know revelation from God above the requirements of nature. Faith is infused for this reason, and most divines refer to faith as a supernatural gift. Not only did Adam have the “inbred light of nature,” he also “had another window and inlet of knowledge, even revelation from, and communication with, God.” For this reason, aware that some divines have affirmed that Adam had supernatural revelation from God, Goodwin aims to prove that Adam’s faith was natural—as opposed to the supernatural faith believers receive in the covenant of grace—which means that all Adam had under the covenant of works was natural theology.
The inspiration of Scripture
In view is the Word of God, which for Owen has a threefold meaning: “hypostatikos, endiathetos, and prophorikos.” The hypostatic (“personal”) Word has reference to the person of Christ. The latter two Greek terms speak of the “internal” or “inherent” (endiathetos) Word and the “spoken” (prophorikos) Word. The Bible, God’s supernatural revelation, is expressed in words and committed to writing. Faith arises from the authority and truth of God in the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth of God’s Word because the Spirit is truth. The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit infallibly assures believers that Scripture is God’s Word.
The truth of the Bible
Owen states that an internal, efficacious work of the Holy Spirit must illuminate the minds of believers so that they not only recognize the divine authority of Scripture, but also embrace the truths contained therein. The internal witness of the Spirit persuades believers that the Scriptures really are the very words of God. Thus Scripture, for Owen, is self-evidencing and has an innate efficacy because of its Author. Light and power constitute the self-evidencing nature of Scripture as the Word of God. Light, like God and Scripture, does not require proof of authenticity.
Christ the source of knowledge
Owen speaks of Christ as the “sacred repository” of all truth. Owen provides the ontological basis, in the glory of Christ’s person as the God-man, for revelation to be communicated from God to humanity; He is the Mediator not only in salvation, but also in all communication between God and fallen humanity. No one but the God-man has the ability to declare perfectly the revelation of God. So the “great end” of Christ’s coming was to reveal God (Matt. 13:35; John 1:18).
Covenantal context for the knowledge of God
God revealed Himself to Adam in the context of a covenant (the covenant of works). If this was true for Adam in the garden, how much more for the elect in the covenant of grace? Owen would argue that all true theology is based on a covenant, which means that supernatural theology is best understood covenantally. In the covenant of grace, God reveals His love and grace toward His people. But those truths are all proposed to God’s people in the various post-lapsarian covenants in and by Christ. Owen would demonstrate in his own writings, revelation was progressive along covenantal lines, but in the new covenant God speaks definitively and most gloriously in the person of Jesus Christ.
There are two ways according to the Puritans in which man finds acceptance with God one being works the other faith. The former was possible in the first covenant, (the covenant of works) but with the entrance of sin into the world, sinners must go outside of themselves and place their faith in the One who placed Himself under the covenant of works or be damned for failing to fulfill the terms of the covenant of works themselves. This is the covenant of grace; Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law for fallen humanity by saving a particular people for Himself (Galatians 4:4). The Puritans understood some similarities between the two covenants while forcefully insisting upon an absolute antithesis at the point of how a sinner may be justified before God (Ephesians 2:8).
For the Puritans, natural theology was linked to the creation of Adam in the image of God, and because of this, he was blessed in a natural theology (theolgia naturalis), or knowledge of God both innate and acquired from the handiwork of God around him. Some Puritans theologians debated among themselves whether all knowledge of God before the fall was natural or supernatural. Supernatural theology entails special revelation by God outside of his general revelation of nature. The Puritans agreed on the fact that Adam possessed a natural theology. There were some Puritans that disagreed whether or not Adam possessed a supernatural theology before the fall, Puritans such as John Owen limited supernatural theology not until after the fall because he maintains that originally revelation was partly supernatural and that this part was intended to increase daily. Thomas Goodwin believed that Adam’s end would have been continual life in the Garden of Eden, because only through Christ could he have acquired eternal life. John Owen seemed to suggest that both supernatural and natural theology coexisted before the fall, whereas Thomas Goodwin rejected this idea.
The Word of God for John Owen has a threefold meaning “hypostatikos, endiathetos, and prophorikos.” The “hypostatic” (personal) Word has reference to the person of Christ. The latter two Greek terms found commonly in patristic literature and used by Philo of Alexandria, speak of the (internal or inherent) “endiathetos” Word and the spoken “prophorikos” (spoken) Word. The logos prophorikos is the Bible, God’s supernatural revelation, expressed in words and commited to writing. Supernatural revelation provides objective ground for supernatural illumination, and John Owen constantly ties together the fact of divine revelation and the concept of approaching it.
John Owen argued that all true theology is based on covenant, which means supernatural theology is to best understood covenantally. Trueman described how the doctrine of the covenant “allows for the bridging of the ontological chasm that exists between an infinite self-existent Creator and a finite, dependent creation.” John Owen demonstrated in his writings, revelation was progressive along covenantal lines, but in the new covenant God speaks definitively and most gloriously in the person of Jesus Christ. John Owen’s writings describe two lines of thought on how Scripture as revelation relates to the doctrine of the covenant, first there is the vertical line of God’s gracious will to save. Second there is the horizontal line of the gradual revelation of God’s salvific will in history which starts in the Garden of Eden and climaxes in the birth, life and death of Christ.
John Owen described Christ as the “sacred repository” of all truth. Puritan Edward Reynolds (1599-1676) similarly acknowledges that Christ is the “sum and center of all divinely revealed truth.” Because He is God incarnate, Christ makes theology possible. Owen distinguishes between the theology of the God-man, Jesus Christ and the theology of everyone else. Christ theology is innate in Himself (Col.2:3) as so this theology far exceeds that of anyone whose knowledge of God must be acquired from without. Christ knowledge of God is something utterly beyond believers, He nevertheless provides the ontological basis, in the glory of His person as the God-man, for revelation to be communicated between God and humanity; He is the mediator not only in salvation, but also in all communication between God and fallen humanity.
What were the ten attributes of God that Puritan Stephen Charnock said could be understood by fallen man in light of nature?Posted: December 30, 2013
Stephen Charnock describes ten specific attributes that can be understood by the light of nature;
- One, the power of God in creating a world out of nothing (exnihillo).
- Two, the wisdom of God, in the order, variety and beauty of creation.
- Three, the goodness of God, in the provision God makes for His creatures.
- Four, the unchangeableness of God, for if He were mutable, He would lack the perfection of the sun and heavenly bodies, “wherein no change hath been observed.”
- Five, His eternity, for he must exist before what was made in time.
- Six, the omniscience of God, since as the Creator He must necessarily know everything He has made.
- Seven, the sovereignty of God, “in the obedience his creatures pay to him, in observing their several orders, and moving in the spheres wherein he set them”.
- Eight, the spirituality of God, insofar as God is not visible, “and the more spiritual any creature in the world is, the more pure it is.”
- Nine, the sufficiency of God, for He gave all creatures a beginning, and so their being was not necessary, which means God was in no need of them.
- Ten, His majesty, seen in the glory of the heavens.
Charnock concludes that all these attributes of God may be known by sinful man by observation of the natural world.
Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman talks to Russell Brand about voting, revolution and beards.
Thomas Brooks asserts that sanctification is simply a living out of one’s adoption and sonship (John 1:12; Rom. 8:17). He writes,
If thou art a holy person, then of a child of wrath thou art become a child of God, a child of love; and of an heir of hell thou art become an heir of heaven; and of a slave, thou art become a son.
The Puritans would resonate well with J.I. Packer’s assertion that sanctification is,
simply a consistent living out of our filial relationship with God, into which the gospel brings us. It is just a matter of the child of God being true to type, true to his Father, to his Saviour, and to himself. It is the expressing of one’s adoption in one’s life. It is a matter of being a good son, as distinct from a prodigal or black sheep in the royal family.
Through sanctification the believer is brought into a fuller experiential awareness of his adoption. He learns to grasp more fully what adoption is, and learns to live out of its wonders
- An earnest and heartie desire in all things to further the glorie of God.
- A care and readiness to resigne our selues in subjection to God, to bee ruled by his word and spirit, in thought, word, and deede.
- A sincere endeauor to do his will in all things with cheerfulnesse, making conscience of euerything we know to be euill.
- Vpright walking in a mans lawfull calling, and yet still by faith to relie vpon Gods prouidence, being well pleased with Gods sending whatsoeuer it is.
- Euery day to humble a mans selfe before God for his offences, seeking his fauour in Christ vnfainedly, and so daily renuing his faith & repentance.
- A continual combate between the flesh and the spirit, corruption haling and drawing one way, and grace resisting the same & drawing another way.
There is a Testimony of the Holy SPIRIT unto our Adoption, which comes as a Mighty Light, more Directly breaking in upon our Minds, to assure us, that we are indeed the Adopted of GOD. There is a Discursive Assurance of our Blessedness; which is drawn from the Marks and Signs of a Soul become an Habitation of God thro’ the Spirit. And then there is a more Intuitive Assurance of it; In which the Holy SPIRIT, more Immediately, and most Irresistibly, and with a Mighty Light, bears in upon the Mind of the Beleever a powerful perswasion of it, That he is a Child of GOD, and his GOD and Father will one day bring him to Inherit all things. The Soul of the Beleever is now wonderfully moved and melted and overpowered with such Thoughts as these; GOD is my Father, CHRIST is my Saviour, and I have an Inheritance in the Heavens reserved for me.
A worke whereby the Spirit doth that towards the clearing up unto a soule of its Adoption, that a witnes doth amongst men for the decision and determination of a matter dubious and uncertaine.
Thomas Manton gives four counsels to assist the weak in faith in being able to call God their Father.
First, “disclaim when you cannot apply.” If you cannot say “Father,” plead on your “fatherless” condition, using such texts as Hosea 14:3, “In thee the fatherless find mercy.”
Second, “own God in the humbling way.” Come to the Father like the prodigal son, confessing your unworthiness, or like Paul, as the chief of sinners. Come to Him as your Father-Creator if you cannot come to Him as your Father-Savior.
Third, “call him Father in wish.” If you cannot call Him Father with directness, do it with desire. “Let us pray ourselves into this relation, and groan after it, that we may have a clearer sense that God is our Father in Christ,” he counsels.
Fourth, make “use of Christ Jesus.” Since Christ’s name means so much in heaven, “if you cannot come to God as your Father, come to him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:14). Let Christ bring you into God’s presence. He is willing to change relations with us. Take him along with you in your arms. Go to God in Christ’s name: `Whatsoever you ask in my name, shall be given to you.’”
Some do more improve their privileges than others do. Now they cannot rationally expect the best and richest fruits of this gift, and to be enabled and enlarged by the Spirit, who do not give such ready entertainment and obedience to his motions, as the more serious and fruitful Christian doth.
- Thomas Manton
Some do more improve their privileges than others do; now they cannot rationally expect the best and richest fruits of this gift, and to be enabled and enlarged by the Spirit, who do not give such ready entertainment and obedience to his motions, as the more serious and fruitful Christian doth.
- Thomas Manton
Some professing members of the church are under “the Spirit of bondage,” that is, those who are under the Holy Spirit’s power to convict of sin, but do not as yet have liberty in Jesus Christ. Some Puritans—though by no means all—understand this to mean what is at times called “a preparatory work of grace.” Ezekiel Hopkins lays out the essence of this approach more succinctly. His key thoughts form an apt summary:
- The preparatory work of conversion is usually carried on in the soul by legal fears and terrors.
- This legal fear is slavish, and engenders bondage.
- This slavish fear is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, though it be slavish.
- When the soul is prepared for the work of grace by the work of conviction, when it is prepared for comfort by the work of humiliation, the same Spirit, that was before a Spirit of bondage, becomes now a Spirit of adoption.
- To whom the Spirit hath once been a Spirit of adoption, it never more becomes to them a Spirit of bondage and fear.
- A reverential, filial fear of God, may and ought to possess our souls, while the Spirit of God, who is a spirit of adoption, is, by the clearest evidences, actually witnessing our sonship to us.
Pastorally, the Puritans advised those who were under the Spirit of bondage of their danger, their invitation, and their encouragement. Their danger is that they will perish if they do not take refuge to Christ with penitent faith and come to know the Spirit of adoption. Their invitation is to come to Christ immediately, confessing their sins—also the sin of lacking childlike fear. They must ask the Holy Spirit to drive them out of their self-confidence and cause them to storm the mercy seat. Their encouragement is, according to Simon Ford,
That God will not keep His elect indefinitely in bondage for several reasons. Thus, religion would become uncomfortable and unappealing, people would faint under their burden of sin, and they would develop hard thoughts of God. God will lead those under bondage into liberty to show that it is not in vain to serve Him. He wants to wean His own from this world, and He wants to commune often with them.”