Toward a Covenantal Theology

Posted back in 2011 (I believe): It’s probably fair to say that most Calvinistic, Particular or “Reformed” Baptists feel peer pressure to pursue the study of paedobaptist covenantalism. I have been personally told on numerous occasions that I should move toward a “full” covenant theology and embrace the baptism of infants “into the covenant.” In an effort to deal with my Reformed brothers and sisters honestly I have taken the the time to understand the reasons for paedobaptism and still cannot agree with the practice. Over the years I have been blessed by more than a few titles that helped me move toward and define my Baptist covenant theology. In an effort to help others along I decided to create a list of books I consider essential reading on the subject, titles that I own, have read and will continue to re-read for years to come. This is not a definitive list of titles but a list to get you going in the right direction. Some of them I have mentioned before.

1divinecovenants) Most Particular Baptists have heard of A. W. Pink but not all Particular Baptists have heard or read his work on the covenants. The Divine Covenants can be read online for free which I how is read it the first time. I ordered a physical copy (so I could mark up and underline) from Pietan Publications via email for under $15 bucks. Solid deal.

believersbaptism

2) The second book on the Baptist shelf isn’t a slam dunk but it is important because the editor included choice articles that deal with patristics, the logic behind paedobaptism and the relationship one covenant has to another. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ is part of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology published by B&H Academic.

infantbaptism

3) Baptism in the Early Church by H. F. Stander & J. P. Louw is one of the most interesting I have read. Both Stander and Louw are Reformed and therefore baptize infants. They examine passages often sited as proof for infant baptism from the early church including art work. They arrive at a decidedly credobaptist position.baptism

4) Paedobaptist covenant theology finds its fullest expression in the pronouncements of the Westminster Standards. Dr. Gary Crampton moved From Padeobaptism to Credobaptism as the title of his short work suggests offering a critique of the Westminster Standards in relation to baptism.

coxe5) One of the most important works for Particular Baptists to have been reprinted is Covenant Theology: From Adam To Christ by Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen. Coxe explains the differences of the old and new covenant, the difference between promise and fulfillment, who receives baptism is a give in after all the theological dust settles. For years I had referred to my own understanding of covenant theology as “modified” covenantalism only to find, with great joy, Coxe and Owen expressed the same theology with an emphasis on republication of the covenant of works at Sinai. Awesome read.

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6) Last title on the list will add to your understanding of how covenant theology was expressed by Baptists and some Presbyterians during the 17th century. Many of our Particular Baptist fathers agreed with other non-conformists on the republican of the covenant at Sinai which was latter rejected by the Westminster Assembly. Dr. Beeke has a chapter in A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life titled The Minority Report in which he describes the idea of republication as being held by a minority of those in attendance at Westminster. Was it truly a minority view or the minority view held by those in attendance? Pascal Denault’s work titled The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology walks you through some important documents pertaining to covenant theology and the issues the church struggled with at the time. This work is key in tying up loose ends.

gillrebound3Honourable Mention: A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity by John Gill. No matter where I go in my theological study I just can’t shake Dr. Voluminous. He is the only man to write a COMPLETE verse-by-verse exposition of the ENTIRE Bible. Others have come close to matching this task but do in fact skip verses, bunch them together or died leaving the jgillwork for others to complete. Dr. John Gill’s work on the covenant differs in places from the work of Nehemiah Coxe and therefore the London Baptist Confession 1689, but you will benefit from reading his works, using his commentaries and taking time to ruminate on these deep truths. At one time Valley Gospel Mission Books in Canada offered the 3 volume paperback set listed for $37.

I pray this post was useful.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

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Was Gill a Hyper?

From 2010: We should keep in mind that it’s not a clear cut issue, “Gill’s relationship with hyper-Calvinism is a matter of academic debate.”

Quote: First, this view applied to Gill is an anachronism as the idea of saving faith being the known duty and within the natural ability of all men reached its fullest expression amongst the Baptists in 1785 with the publication of Andrew Fuller`s controversial book The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. Gill, however, died in 1771 thus obviously having nothing to do with the debate that tore the Baptist churches apart after the book was published.

The second reason is that during the earlier part of the 18th century the view of what came to be called ´duty-faith`, formerly propagated by Anglican Latitudinarians such as Tillotson , was gaining ground amongst the Independents but Gill, a staunch Baptist, maintained he did not take part in this debate . Even Andrew Fuller believed that Gill did not enter into the controversy and John Ryland Jnr, quoting Gill`s The Cause of God and Truth, argued that Gill never wrote on the subject of ´the Modern Question ` and exonerates him from taking the usual Hyper-Calvinist stand. John Rippon assumes that Gill did enter the debate in later life because of certain ´corrections` he made to his book The Cause of God and Truth. Rippon, however, does not state what these ´corrections`, are and how they might have applied to the debate in question .

When Gill denies man’s ability to repent he’s not saying that it’s not their duty to do so but that, “the power and liberty of the will of man to come to Christ , that they rather declare the perverseness and stubbornness of it; that man has no desire, inclination, or will, to go to Christ for life, but rather go anywhere else, than to him. Man is stout-hearted, and far from the righteousness of Christ, and submission to it; is not subject to the law of God, nor the Gospel of Christ; nor can he be, till God works in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure; or until he is made willing in the day of his power. No one can come to Christ, except the Father draw him; nor has he a will to it, unless it is wrought in him .” [quoted from the Ella article linked below]

The hyper Calvinist will conclude that since they can’t/won’t come to Christ they can’t be expected to do so.

The Confessions:

“This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all wellpleasing in all things. Zech. 12:10; Acts 11:18; Ezek. 36:31; 2 Cor. 7:11; Ps. 119:6, 128.” Tabular Comparison of 1646 WCF and 1689 LBCF

I think Gill’s views are high but within the Confessional realm of Reformed theology, the Confession does not deny duty faith but makes it clear that “saving repentance is an evangelical grace” using Gill’s term “sensible” to describe the work of the Spirit.

A few places to look:

Tom Nettles says of Gill, “He has doubtless been judged more harshly and even maliciously than any man of comparable repute in Baptist history.” Many have called John Gill a hyper-Calvinist who denied the need to preach the gospel to the lost. I will not seek to answer that question in this forum. Read Tom Nettles By His Grace and For His Glory, pages 73-107, for a thorough and balanced discussion of this issue

John Gill – The Baptist Page – Portraits

It’s not a settled issue:

“Gill’s relationship with hyper-Calvinism is a matter of academic debate.”

(John Gill (theologian – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

A little more:

Nettles finds one place where Gill “appears to hold the hyper-Calvinist view,” in that “Theoretically Gill held that the non-elect were not obligated to evangelical obedience, because the necessity of such obedience did not exist in unfallen humanity as deposited in Adam” (226). Nettles demonstrates, however, that this view did not work its way into Gill’s own practice (227). Gill disputed with Wesley, but he “did not differ in any essential theological category from the Grand Itinerant, George Whitefield” (241).

Some took hold of Gill’s “theoretical” answer, and as a result they did not call sinners to repentance. They reasoned like Grantham: sinners are not obligated to do what they are unable to do (247–48). Helped by Jonathan Edwards’ distinction between Natural Inability—what one is physically unable to do, and Moral Inability—what one is unable to do because one is unwilling to do it (the Gospel does not call people to do what they are physically incapable of doing but to what they volitionally refuse to do)—Andrew Fuller wrote The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, which argued for “the congruity between divine sovereignty and human responsibility” (250). Like their Baptist forefathers, Fuller joined with John Ryland Jr. and William Carey in the opinion that “the affirmative side of the Modern Question [the Gospel should be indiscriminately proclaimed and all called to believe it] was fully consistent with the strictest Calvinism” (290). These three men who held to “the strictest Calvinism” initiated the modern missions movement. Clearly “strict Calvinism” is not to be equated with “hyper-Calvinism,” which Fuller rejects as “false Calvinism” (245). There is an important point here. Hyper-Calvinism is a specific theological position. It seems today that some non-Calvinists are ready to label anyone who appears to be less evangelistic than they think themselves to be as hyper-Calvinistic. The rejection of manipulative methods and coercive techniques in favor of boldly proclaiming the pure Gospel and trusting the Spirit to quicken hearts is not less evangelistic but more so (compare Paul’s practice in 1 Cor 2:1–5).

The Baptists, vol. 1 of 3, by Tom Nettles « For His Renown

Another one:

A Hyper-Calvinist, Gill`s major critics say, does not believe that God calls indiscriminately all who hear about Christ to believe in Him. They say this, holding that man is obliged as a matter of duty to trust in Christ as a condition of salvation. It is odd that this opinion is often closely associated with Gill for several reasons. First, this view applied to Gill is an anachronism as the idea of saving faith being the known duty and within the natural ability of all men reached its fullest expression amongst the Baptists in 1785 with the publication of Andrew Fuller`s controversial book The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. Gill, however, died in 1771 thus obviously having nothing to do with the debate that tore the Baptist churches apart after the book was published. The second reason is that during the earlier part of the 18th century the view of what came to be called ´duty-faith`, formerly propagated by Anglican Latitudinarians such as Tillotson , was gaining ground amongst the Independents but Gill, a staunch Baptist, maintained he did not take part in this debate . Even Andrew Fuller believed that Gill did not enter into the controversy and John Ryland Jnr, quoting Gill`s The Cause of God and Truth, argued that Gill never wrote on the subject of ´the Modern Question ` and exonerates him from taking the usual Hyper-Calvinist stand . John Rippon assumes that Gill did enter the debate in later life because of certain ´corrections` he made to his book The Cause of God and Truth. Rippon, however, does not state what these ´corrections`, are and how they might have applied to the debate in question .

In The Cause of God Gill clearly stresses the Christian duty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to call and command sinners to repent . All men are naturally bound to repent, argues Gill, because they have naturally broken the law. Commanding them to repent is putting them under the curse of the law which they have broken in their natural state. To Gill, this is a law-ordained need for repentance in the legal sense. What man has broken, he has a duty to mend. This does not mean, however, that man can mend what he has broken and obtain legal righteousness, but he is still a debtor to the law for having broken it. The law forces its demands on every one because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. What Gill calls evangelical repentance, is for him another matter. He sees this as a turning form sin to receive pardon in Christ. This kind of turning from sin to Christ can only come about by a sovereign act of God`s goodness which leads to true repentance and Gospel righteousness.

Calvin taught likewise that there was an ´antithesis between Legal and Gospel (i.e. evangelical) righteousness`. Quoting Romans 10:5-9, he argues that there is a righteousness which is according to the Law described by Moses, “that the man who doeth those things shall live by them”. This is quite different to the righteousness of faith which says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

John_Gill_and_Hyper-Calvinism

Some have attributed to Gill to be the first systematizer of a Baptist Hyper-Calvinist theology. Others have argued that Gill was in fact not a Hyper-Calvinist. Regardless, it was during Gill’s time period when the Particular Baptist Churches began their decline into Hyper-Calvinism. Gill did believe in eternal justification (that the elect were justified in eternity past) and did not seem to appeal to all in the same way that further generations of Evangelical Calvinists did, but it seems difficult to say that Gill was undeniably in fact a Hyper-Calvinist. Instead, most likely, Hyper-Calvinists used Gill’s theology and went past him to solidify their own theology.

Brief Biography of John Gill (1697-1771) « Working out Salvation with Fear and Trembling

Nettles says that Daniel started with the assumption that Gill was a hyper-Calvinist, and then defined hyper-Calvinism from Gill. For ages, people have said that Gill was a hyper-Calvinist without offering any proof from the writings or sermons of Gill (or at least not in context), and people simply accept what they are told.

Another reason people mistakenly believe that Gill was a hyper-Calvinist is they do not read his supposed anti-free offer comments in the context in which they were written. Usually, in these cases, he was writing against universal salvation. He did not deny that ministers should urge sinners to believe. He simply said that this external call in and of itself can do nothing. There must also be the irresistable internal call of the Holy Spirit as well.

The Sane Asylum: Another John Gill Post

New Focus | That the purpose of God according to election might stand

New Focus Interview on Hyper-Calvinism

Reformed Historicism

faJust a heads up – you can join a Reformed Historicist study group on Facebook if you’re interested in Protestant eschatology.

“This is a group for sharing resources and discussing the Historicist interpretation of the book of Revelation. This group is not for those who adhere to premillennialism or are outside of confessional Reformed Protestantism.”

Maundy Thursday

“Today is Maundy Thursday…” no it’s not, stop it!

“I love it when you call me big Papa..” – Pope Francis

papa

“…the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”

( Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deuteronomy 12:32; Exodus 20:4-6 )

Public Prayer

by WILLIAM PERKINS (1558-1602)billyperkins

We have been considering the preaching of the Word. Now, finally, something should be said about leading in public prayer. This is the second aspect of prophesying. In it the minister is the voice of the people in calling upon God (1 Sam. 14:24; Luke 11:1).

In this connection we should note the following points:

1. The subject of public prayer should be, first, the deficiencies and sins of the people, and then the graces of God and the blessings they stand in need of (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Tertullian says, ‘We do all pray for all emperors, that they may obtain a long life, a quiet reign, a safe family, courageous armies, a faithful council, loyal subjects, a peaceable world, and whatsoever things are desired of a man and of Caesar.’ Again, ‘We pray for emperors for their ministers and powers, for the state of the time, for the quietness of their affairs, and for the delaying of their death.’ The Lord’s Prayer covers these areas under six headings: God’s glory, God’s kingdom, and our obedience, the preservation of life, the forgiveness of sins, and the strengthening of the spirit.

2. The form of prayer should be as follows: One voice, that of the minister alone, should lead in prayer, the congregation joining in silently but indicating their agreement at the end by saying, ‘Amen’ (Neh. 8:6; Acts 4:24; 1 Cor. 14:16). This was the practice in the early church, as Justin says: ‘When the president has finished his prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present cry out with a favourable approbation, saying, Amen.’

3. But the one voice which expresses the corporate prayers of the congregation needs to be understood (1 Cor. 14:15). It should not lead in prayer in a jagged and abrupt fashion, but with a steady flow of petitions, so that empty repetitions are avoided (Matt. 6:7).

4. There are three elements in praying: (i) Carefully thinking about the appropriate content for prayer; (ii) Setting the themes in an appropriate order; (iii) Expressing the prayer so that it is made in public in a way that is edifying for the congregation.

To the Triune God be the glory!

The Sabbath in Puritan New England, 1891

Interestingly biased history of Sabbath keeping in the New World. Hosted by The Reformed Reader.

The Vermont “Blue Book” contained equally sharp “Sunday laws.” Whoever was guilty of any rude, profane, or unlawful conduct on the Lord’s Day, in words or action, by clamorous discourses, shouting, hallooing, screaming, running, riding, dancing, jumping, was to be fined forty shillings and whipped upon the naked back not to exceed ten stripes. The New Haven code of laws, more severe still, ordered that “Profanation of the Lord’s Day shall be punished by fine, imprisonment, or corporeal punishment; and if proudly, and with a high hand against the authority of God–with death.”

by Alice Morse Earle, Seventh Edition, To the Memory of my Mother Mother
Contents.

I. The New England Meeting-House

II. The Church Militant

III. By Drum and Horn and Shell

IV. The Old-Fashioned Pews

V. Seating the Meeting

VI. The Tithingman and the Sleepers

VII. The Length of the Service

VIII. The Icy Temperature of the Meeting-House

IX. The Noon-House

X. The Deacon’s Office

XI. The Psalm-Book of the Pilgrims

XII. The Bay Psalm-Book

XIII. Sternhold and Hopkins’ Version of the Psalms

XIV. Other Old Psalm-Books

XV. The Church Music

XVI. The Interruptions of the Services

XVII. The Observance of the Day

XVIII. The Authority of the Church and the Ministers

XIX. The Ordination of the Minister

XX. The Ministers

XXI. The Ministers’ Pay

XXII. The Plain-Speaking Puritan Pulpit

XXIII. The Early Congregations

1689 Federalism compared to Westminster Federalism

“What is the nature of the federal union of an unregenerate person in the covenant of grace to Jesus Christ, and do they remain under Adam’s federal headship in spite of being in the covenant of grace (?) which is to say, can you be in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace at the same time? We would assert that you cannot.”

Why I’m Still a Baptist

As you know I am a Baptist, a Particular one at that. I’ve been attending a Presbyterian church with my family and struggling to fit in…but I’m still a convinced Baptist!

This morning I found a blog post that helps to sum up why I am still a Baptist.

Some of my best friends and my most admired heroes of the Christian faith believe in the practice of baptizing infants and bringing them into the membership of the church apart from any profession of faith. My love and respect for these dear brothers and venerable men of God has on more than one occasion inclined me to reconsider whether they’ve got it right and I’ve got it wrong.

But after “revisiting” the issue several times, I’m still a Baptist.

For the rest: http://drbobgonzales.com/2011/09/15/why-im-still-a-baptist/