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.

baptism

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

The Difference Between John Gill’s Free Declaration of the Gospel to Sinners and the B of T’s ‘Free Offer’

Posted in 2011:

“What is the difference betwewarhol_gillen Gill’s ‘free declaration of peace and pardon, righteousness, life and salvation to poor sinners’ and the ‘free offer’ and ‘duty faith’ of those who deny outright that Gill appealed to all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel?” [Read more here.]

What’s a Hypo-Calvinist? [here]

A History of Hypo-Cavlinism [here]

Grace and Salvation

Amen, be encouraged, it is all of GRACE! john_gill

“That there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny; nay I deny that they are made to any; no not to God’s elect: grace and salvation are promised for them in the everlasting covenant, procured for them by Christ, published and revealed in the gospel, and applied by the Spirit.” John Gill, The Doctrine of Predestination Stated

A Romans 14 Christmas?

Posted in 2015

Does Romans 14 give us a defense for keeping Christmas? I’ve seen v.5 cited often as a general defense for the keeping of holy days.

It reads;

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Well folks, I don’t believe it applies to Christmas, just read the passage in context. The passage is speaking to the church at Rome made up of Jewish converts and Gentiles. Some wanted to keep old Mosaic holy days while other did not.

Gill explains this passage is;

“not to be understood of days appointed by the Christian churches for fasting, or abstinence from certain meats, either once a year, as the “Quadragesima”, or Lent; or twice a week, as Wednesdays and Fridays; for these are things of much later observation, and which had never been introduced into the church of Rome in the apostle’s time; nor were there any disputes about them: much less of days of Heathenish observation, as lucky or unlucky, or festivals in honour of their gods; for the apostle would never say, that a man who regarded such a day, regarded it to the Lord; nor would have advised to a coalition and Christian conversation with such a man, but rather to exclude him from all society and communion:”

If Paul isn’t defending Christian liberty to make up and keep holy days what is his point?

“it must be understood of Jewish days, or of such as were appointed to be observed by the Jews under the former dispensation, and which some thought were still to be regarded; wherefore they esteemed some days in the year above others, as the days of unleavened bread, or the passover; particularly the first night, which was a night to be observed throughout their generations; and in their service for it to this day”

Ahh, that makes sense. Gill continues;

“but let it be observed, that the man that did so was one that was weak in faith; the same man that ate herbs, because he would not be guilty of violating those laws, which ordered a distinction of meats to be observed, the same weak man esteemed one day above another, imagining the laws concerning the distinction of days were still obligatory, not rightly understanding the doctrine of Christian liberty, or freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law”

The context of Romans 14 doesn’t support the introduction of unbiblical holy days. It just doesn’t.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Gill on Christmas

gillPosted in 2013

It directs to the observation of several fasts and festivals, which are no where enjoined in the word of God, and for which it provides collects, gospels and epistles to be read: the fasts are, Quadragesima or Lent, in imitation of Christ’s forty days fast in the wilderness, Ember weeks, Rogatian days, and all the Fridays in the year; in which men are commanded to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving. The festivals, besides, the principal ones, Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, are the several saints days throughout the year; which are all of popish invention, and are either moveable or fixed, as the popish festivals be; and being the relics of popery makes us still more uneasy and dissatisfied with them.

Source: The Dissenter’s Reasons for Separating from the Church of England, Occasioned By A Letter wrote by a Welch Clergyman on the Duty of Catechizing Children. Intended chiefly for the Dissenters of the Baptist Denomination in Wales.

“…draw all men unto me.” John 7.32

(First posted on Feileadh Mor 5 years ago.)

“It is most evident, that all men, that is, every individual of human nature, every son and daughter of Adam, have not faith, are not drawn, or enabled to come to Christ, and believe in him. There were many of the Jews who would not, and did not come to Christ, that, they might have life; who, instead of being drawn to him in this sense, when lifted up on the cross, vilified and reproached him; nay, at this time, here was a world spoken of in the preceding verse, whose judgment, or condemnation, was now come; and besides, there was then a multitude of souls in hell, who could not nor never will be drawn to Christ; and a greater number still there will be at the last day, to whom, instead of drawing to him in this gracious way and manner, he will say, Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity (Matthew 7:23, and 25:41). Christ died, indeed, for all men who are drawn unto him; but this is not true of all men that are, were, or shall be in the world. Add to this that the men is not in the Greek text; it is only panta, all; and some copies read panta, all things; so Austen read it formerly, and so it was in an ancient copy of Beza’s.

But not to insist on this;

By all men, is meant some of all sorts, all the elect of God, the children of God, that were scattered abroad; and particularly the Gentiles as well as the Jews, as Chrysostom and Theophylact interpret the words; which interpretation is perfectly agreeable with ancient prophecy; that when Shiloh was come (Gen. 49:10; Isa.11:10), to him should the gathering of the people, or Gentiles, be; and with the context, an occasion of these words, which was this; certain Greeks that were come up to worshiper the feast, desired to see Jesus; of which when he was apprised by his disciples, he answered, that the hour was come in which he should be glorified, and that as a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, so should he: and though he tacitly intimates, that it was not proper to admit these Greeks into his presence now, yet when he was lifted up from the earth, or after his death, his Gospel should be preached to them as well as to the Jews; and that large numbers of them should be drawn unto him, and brought to believe in him; agreeable to which sense of the words is Dr. Hammond’s paraphrase of them: “And I being crucified, will by that means, bring a great part of the whole world to believe on me, Gentiles as well as Jews.” – John Gill, Cause of God and Truth

Gill on Revelation 9

First published in 2009:


Dr. Gill on Revelation 9:11 :

And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

Rev 9:11 – And they had a king over them,….

Which natural locusts have not, Pro_30:27; by whom is meant the false prophet Mahomet, who was at the head of the Saracens, and led them on to commit the outrages they did; and is believed in by the Turks to this day, as the great prophet of God, and by them preferred to all prophets, not only to Moses, but to Jesus Christ; he is the king of the eastern locusts, as the pope of Rome is the king of the western ones; for the Romish antichrist reigns, or at least has reigned, over the kings of the earth, Rev_17:17

which is the angel of the bottomless pit; to whom the key of it was given, Rev_9:1

whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon; both which signify a “destroyer”; and are very applicable both to Mahomet, who by his imposture has been the cause of the destruction of multitudes of souls, as well as by his wars, and those of the Saracens and Turks, of the lives of millions, and of the ruin of many kingdoms, countries, cities, and towns. Abulpharagius (w), an Arabic writer, relates, that in the times of the Chalif Al-walid, there was one Hejajus, who had caused to be slain, of the chief and illustrious men, an hundred and twenty thousand, besides others of the common people, and that fell in war; moreover, that there died in his prison fifty thousand men, and thirty thousand women: and the same writer reports (x), that the famous Abu Moslem put to death six hundred thousand men, who were known, besides those that were unknown, and whom he slew in wars and battles: both these instances are taken notice of by Mr. Daubuz, who justly observes, that surely nothing can come near this “Abaddon”, but the beast, the son of perdition, 2Th_2:3. And to him, the pope of Rome, may the name be truly applied, who has led thousands into perdition, and will go into it himself; and both he, and the false prophet, with the devil, will be east into the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, and will be tormented for ever and ever, 2Th_2:4. “Abaddon”, with the Jews, is one of the habitations or apartments of hell (y), because it destroys all; “Apollyon” is the same with “Apollo”, the god of the Heathens, who has his name from destroying (z).

(w) Hist. Dynast. p. 129. Dya. 9. (x) lb. p. 140. (y) T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 19. 1. Zohar in Gen. fol. 47. 2. & in Numb. fol. 74. 2. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 47. 3. & 93. 4. Raziel, fol. 14. 2. & 35. 2. (z) Phurnutus de Natura Deorum, p. 92. Macrob. Saturnal. l. 1. c. 17.

Mourning the Departed

Image result for wisdom of sirachMy son, let tears fall down over the dead, and begin to lament, as if thou hadst suffered great harm thyself; and then cover his body according to the custom, and neglect not his burial.

Weep bitterly, and make great moan, and use lamentation, as he is worthy, and that a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of: and then comfort thyself for thy heaviness.

For of heaviness cometh death, and the heaviness of the heart breaketh strength. In affliction also sorrow remaineth: and the life of the poor is the curse of the heart.

Take no heaviness to heart: drive it away, and member the last end. Forget it not, for there is no turning again: thou shalt not do him good, but hurt thyself. Remember my judgment: for thine also shall be so; yesterday for me, and to day for thee. When the dead is at rest, let his remembrance rest; and be comforted for him, when his Spirit is departed from him.” Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Sirach) Chapter 38.16-23 Authorized King James Version

From The Orthodox Study Bible, “Proper mourning for the dead is essential to the healing of our grief. An honorable burial for the departed was considered a great work of mercy in the ancient Church. Each parish had its volunteers who washed and dressed the body, making preparation for burial. We are warned not to allow our hearts to be grief-stricken (v.18) so grief overpowers us, for some have even died from grief. Thus, St. Paul says we grieve, but not as those “who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13) (END QUOTE)

John Gill on 1 Th. 4.13, “the apostle’s view is not to encourage and establish a stoical apathy, a stupid indolence, and a brutal insensibility, which are contrary to the make of human nature, to the practice of the saints, and even of Christ and his apostles, and our apostle himself; but to forbid excessive and immoderate sorrow, and all the extravagant forms of it the Gentiles ran into; who having no notion of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, had no hope of ever seeing their friends more,

but looked upon them as entirely lost,

as no longer in being,

and never more to be met with, seen, and enjoyed;

this drove them to extravagant actions, furious transports, and downright madness; as to throw off their clothes, pluck off their hair, tear their flesh, cut themselves, and make baldness between their eyes for the dead; see Deuteronomy 14:1 practices forbidden the Jews, and which very ill become Christians, that believe the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead:

the words are to be understood not of other Christians, who have no hope of the eternal welfare of their deceased friends; not but that the sorrow of those who have a good hope of the future Well being of their dear relatives, must and ought to be greatly different from that of others, who have no hope at all: it is observed by the Jews on those words in Genesis 23:2 and “Abraham came to mourn for Sarah”

“it is not said to weep for Sarah, but to mourn for her; “for such a woman as this, it is not fit to weep”, after her soul is joined in the bundle of life, but to mourn for her, and do her great honour at her funeral; though because it is not possible that a man should not weep for his dead, it is said at the end, “and to weep for her”:’

but here the words are to be understood of the other Gentiles that were in a state of nature and unregeneracy, who had no knowledge of the resurrection of the dead, or and hope of a future state, and of enjoying their friends in it: they are called οι λοιποι, “the rest”; and the Syriac version renders it, “other men”. (END QUOTE)

Grieve passionately for a time but keep in mind the hope we have in Christ.

Yours in the Lord,

jm