Archive for the ‘Hodge’ Category

Response to Objections Regarding Merit and the Covenant of Works

August 9, 2008

In Paul’s epistles to the Romans and Galatians, Paul drives home a message of the futility of works to provide merit, and the need for grace. This message is an important aspect of the gospel, for those who seek salvation through works will perish:

Romans 9:31-33
31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

One of the Reformed criticisms of Catholicism is its emphasis on works, i.e. on legalism. On the other hand, Reformed apologists have had to address those erring in the other direction, the antinomians. The Antinomians acknowledge the futility of works, but then improperly conclude that consequently the law is to be ignored.

Less dramatic than either of those departures from orthodox theology is the Arminian position. One of the consistent Reformed criticisms of the Arminian position is that it converts faith into a work, and makes faith the meritorious cause of salvation. Thus, while Arminians would affirm the futility of works for salvation, they inconsistently undo that affirmation by converting faith into a work. It should be noted that some of the papists have done the same more boldly by substituting “faithfulness” (i.e. obedience) in place of faith.

The Arminian error in this regard seems to stem from a lack of appreciation of the relation both between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, as well as from a lack of appreciation of the difference in the way in which life is received in the two covenants. But it is not Arminians alone that seem to have this problem.

I recently came across comments from two pastors (both of whom signed the Federal Vision Joint Statement – and both of whom apparently are pastors at a PCA church – link) that exhibited something of the same misunderstanding. These men, of course, would not be considered Arminians, and I suspect would be gravely offended if someone were to call them such a name.

Here are their comments:

Jeff Meyers wrote:

If all you mean by “meritorious” is that an act or action fulfills the terms of a particular covenant, then faith is meritorious in the covenant of grace because it is required, according to the terms of the covenant, for attaining eternal life. If Adam’s obedience “would have been the meritorious cause of his obtaining life,” according to the terms of that pre-fall covenant, then our faith is the meritorious cause for obtaining life in the covenant of grace. After all, we’re not talking about “strict merit.” That is one of Mark’s major problems with all this merit talk.


Mark Horne likewise wrote:

Finally, whether or not the Westminster Standards ought to claim faith is a condition of the covenant of grace, the [sic] do so. This means that faith is pactum merit, and would allow us to say that faith is “improperly” meritorious.

(source – same combox)

The parallel these gentlemen are making (1) demonstrates a misunderstanding of the Westminster standards, and (2) undermines the law/grace distinction.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I’ll provide a quotation:

3. Nevertheless, the good works of sincere believers are, like their persons, in spite of their imperfections, accepted, because of their union with Christ Jesus, and rewarded for his sake. All our approaches to God are made through Christ. It is only through him that we have access to the Father by the Spirit. Eph. ii. 18. “Whatever we do, “in word or deed,” we are commanded to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Col. iii. 17.
As to the relation of good works to rewards, it may be observed —
1.) The word “merit,” in the strict sense of the term, means that common quality of all actions or services to which a reward is due, in strict justice, on account of their intrinsic value or worthiness. It is evident that, in this strict sense, no work of any creature can in itself merit any reward from God ; because — (a.) All the faculties he possesses were originally granted and are continuously sustained by God, so that he is already so far in debt to God that he can never bring God in debt to him. (b.) Nothing the creature can do can be a just equivalent for the incomparable favour of God and its consequences.
2.) There is another sense of the word, however, in which it may be affirmed that if Adam had in his original probation yielded the obedience required, he would have “merited” the reward conditioned upon it, not because of the intrinsic value of that obedience, but because of the terms of the covenant which God had graciously condescended to form with him. By nature, the creature owed the Creator obedience, while the Creator owed the creature nothing. But by covenant the Creator voluntarily bound himself to owe the creature eternal life, upon the condition of perfect obedience.
It is evident that in this life the works of God’s people can have no merit in either of the senses above noticed. They can have no merit intrinsically, because they are all imperfect, and therefore themselves worthy of punishment rather than of reward. They can have no merit by covenant concession on God’s part, because we are not now standing in God’s sight in the covenant of works, but of grace, and the righteousness of Christ, received by faith alone, constitutes the sole meritorious ground upon which our salvation, in all of its stages, rests. See chapter xi., on Justification.
In the dispensation of the gospel, the gracious work of the believer and the gracious reward he receives from God are branches from the same gracious root. The same covenant of grace provides at once for the infusion of grace in the heart, the exercise of grace in the life, and the reward of the grace so exercised. It is all of grace – a grace called a reward added to a grace called a work. The one grace is set opposite to the other grace as a reward, for these reasons: (a.) To act upon us as a suitable stimulus to duty. God promises to reward the Christian just as a father promises to reward his child for doing what is its duty, and what is for its own benefit alone. (b.) Because a certain gracious proportion has been established between the grace given in the reward and the grace given in the holy exercises of the heart and life; but both are alike given for Christ’s sake. This proportion has been established — the more grace of obedience, the more grace of reward — the more grace on earth, the more glory in heaven — because God so wills it, and because the grace given and exercised in obedience prepares the soul for the reception of the further grace given in the reward. Matt. xvi. 27; 1 Cor. iii. 8; 2 Cor. iv. 17.

(A.A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith, commentary on Sections IV-VI of Chapter XVI of the WCF, pp. 226-28, 1870 ed.)

What A.A. Hodge is explaining is that there is:

a) Strict merit (which man can never have); amd
b) Pactum merit (which Adam had).

Neither is applicable to a believer, because the covenant of grace is all of grace. Thus, it is written:

John 1:16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

And this is essential to the law/grace division, as John’s gospel continues:

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

But perhaps some more explanation would be helpful:

In entering upon the exposition of this section, it is proper to remark, that, at the period when our Confession was framed, it was generally held by the most eminent divines, that there are two covenants connected with the salvation of men, which they called the covenant of redemption, and the covenant of grace; the former made with Christ from everlasting, the latter made with sinners in time; the righteousness of Christ being the condition of the former, and faith the condition of the latter covenant. This distinction, we conceive, has no foundation in the Sacred Scriptures, and it has long since been abandoned by all evangelical divines. The first Adam is said to have been a figure of Christ, who is called the second Adam. Now, there was not one covenant made with Adam, the condition of which he was to perform, and another made with his posterity, the condition of which they were to fulfill; but one covenant included both him and them. It was made with him as their representative, and with them as represented in and by him. In like manner, one covenant includes Christ and his spiritual seed. The Scriptures, accordingly, everywhere speak of it as one covenant, and the blood of Christ is repeatedly called “the blood of the covenant,” not of the covenants, as we may presume it would have been called, if it had been the condition of a covenant of redemption and the foundation of a covenant of grace. — Heb. x. 29, xiii. 20. By the blood of the same covenant Christ made satisfaction, and we obtain deliverance. — Zech. ix. 11. We hold, therefore, that there is only one covenant for the salvation of fallen men, and that this covenant was made with Christ before the foundation of the world. The Scriptures, indeed, frequently speak of God making a covenant with believers, but this language admits of an easy explication, in consistency with the unity of the covenant. “The covenant of grace,” says a judicious writer [Wilson of London], “was made with Christ in a strict and proper sense, as he was the party-contractor in it, and undertook to fulfill the condition of it. It is made with believers in an improper sense, when they are taken into the bond of it, and come actually to enjoy the benefit of it. How it is made with them may be learned from the words of the apostle, — Acts xiii. 34 : ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David,’ which is a kind of paraphrase upon that passage, — Is. lv. 3 : ‘I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.’ God makes the covenant with them, not by requiring anything of them in order to entitle them or lay a foundation for their claim to the blessings of it, but by making these over to them as a free gift, and putting them in possession of them, as far as their present state will admit, by a faith of his own operation.”
The supposition of two covenants for the salvation of mankind sinners, is encumbered with various difficulties. One is obvious. In every proper covenant, there are two essential parts — a conditionary and a promissory. If, therefore, there be a covenant made with sinners, different from the covenant made with Christ, it must have a condition which they themselves must perform. But though our old divines called faith the condition of the covenant made with sinners, they did not assign any merit to faith, but simply precedence. “The truth is,” as Dr Dick has remarked,” that what these divines call the covenant of grace, is merely the administration of what they call the covenant of redemption, for the purpose of communicating its blessings to those for whom they were intended; and cannot be properly considered as a covenant, because it is not suspended upon a proper condition.” The “Westminster Assembly, in this section, appear to describe what was then usually designated the covenant of grace, as distinguished from the covenant of redemption. But, though they viewed the covenant under a twofold consideration, as made with the Surety from everlasting, and as made with sinners in time, they certainly regarded it as one and the same covenant. “The covenant of grace,” say they, “was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.” The doctrine of our standards on this deeply interesting subject, may be summed up in the following propositions: —
1. That a covenant was entered into between Jehovah the Father and his co-eternal Son, respecting the salvation of sinners of mankind. The reality of this federal transaction, appears from Ps. lxxxix. 3: “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant.” The speaker, in this passage, can be no other but the Lord, who is mentioned in the beginning of the Psalm; and it cannot reasonably be questioned, that the words spoken have their ultimate and principal fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and assert a covenant made with him, of which the covenant of royalty made with David, King of Israel, was typical. In other places of Scripture, though the word covenant does not occur, we have a plain intimation of all the essential parts of a proper covenant. In Is. liii. 10, we have the two great parts of the covenant — the conditionary and the promissory; and the two glorious contracting parties — the one undertaking for the performance of its arduous condition — the other engaging for the fulfillment of its precious promises: “If his soul shall make a propitiatory sacrifice, he shall see a seed which shall prolong their days; and the gracious purpose of Jehovah shall prosper in his hands.” — (Bishop Lowth’s Translation.)
2. That this covenant was made with Christ, as the head, or representative, of his spiritual seed. This is confirmed by the comparison between Christ and Adam, which is stated by the apostle, — Rom. v.; 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47; which clearly establishes the truth, that Adam and Christ severally sustained a public character, as the federal heads of their respective seeds. Christ and his spiritual seed are called by the same name (Isa. xlix. 3), — a plain evidence of God’s dealing with him as their representative in the covenant. Christ is likewise called the Surety of the covenant (Heb. vii. 22); and the promises of the covenant were primarily made to him — Gal. iii. 16; Tit. i. 2.
3. That this covenant originated in the free grace and sovereign will of God. The Scriptures uniformly ascribe this transaction to the good pleasure of Him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, and represent it as conducing to the praise of the glory of his grace. — Eph. i. 3-6. On this account this covenant is, with great propriety, called the covenant of grace, because it originated in the free grace of God, and conveys the blessings of salvation to sinners in a manner the most gratuitous.
4. That this covenant was established from eternity. The covenant of grace is called the second covenant, as distinguished from the covenant of works made with Adam; but though the second in respect of manifestation and execution, yet, with respect either to the period or the order in which it was made, it is the first covenant. The Head of this covenant is introduced (Prov. viii. 23), saying, “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was;” i.e., he was set apart to his mediatory office and work, covenant of grace from everlasting. The promise of eternal life is said to have been given us in Christ “before the world began” (Tit. i. 2); and the covenant is frequently styled an everlasting covenant. — Heb. xiii. 20.
5. In the administration of this covenant, God “freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved.” Though Christ, in this covenant, represented only a definite number of mankind, who were “chosen in him before the foundation of the world,” yet, in the administration of the covenant, a free offer of salvation by Jesus Christ is addressed to sinners of mankind indefinitely and universally. — John vi. 32; Is. lv. 1; Rev. xxii. 17. This offer is not restricted, as Baxterians allege, to sensible sinners, or those who are convinced of their sin, and their need of the Saviour; for it is addressed to persons sunk in total insensibility as to their own miseries and wants. — Rev. iii. 17, 18. This offer is made as really to those who eventually reject it, as it is to those who eventually receive it; for, if this were not the case, the former class of gospel-hearers could not be condemned for their unbelief. — John iii. 18, 19.
That God “requires of sinners faith in Christ that they may be saved,” admits of no dispute. The part assigned to faith, however, has been much controverted. Many excellent divines, in consequence of the distinction which they made between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, were led to speak of faith as the condition of the latter covenant. But the term, as used by them, signifies not a meritorious or procuring cause, but simply something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained. They consider faith merely as a condition of order or connection, as it has been styled, and as an instrument or means of obtaining an interest in the salvation offered in the gospel. This is very different from the meaning attached to the term by Arminians and Neonomians, who represent faith as a condition on the fulfillment of which the promise is suspended. The Westminster Assembly elsewhere affirm, that God requires of sinners faith in Christ, “as the condition to interest them in him.” But this is very different from affirming that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. That faith is indispensably necessary as the instrument by which we are savingly interested in Christ, and personally instated in the covenant, is a most important truth, and this is all that is intended by the Westminster divines. They seem to have used the term condition as synonymous with instrument; for, while in one place they speak of faith as the condition to interest sinners in the Mediator, in other places they affirm, that “faith is the alone instrument of justification,” and teach, that “faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.” As the word condition is ambiguous, apt to be misunderstood, and is frequently employed in an unsound and dangerous sense, it is now disused by evangelical divines.
6. That God promises his Holy Spirit to work in his elect that faith by which they come to have a special interest in the blessings of this covenant. This implies, that a certain definite number were ordained to eternal life, and that all these shall in due time be brought to believe in Christ. — Acts xiii. 48. It also implies, that they are in themselves unwilling and unable to believe (John vi. 44); but God promises to give them the Holy Spirit to make them willing and able. — Ezek. xxxvi. 26. Faith, therefore, instead of being the condition of the covenant of grace, belongs to the promissory part of the covenant. — Rom. xv. 12. It is the gift of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.— Eph. ii. 8; Phil. ii. 13.

(Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, pp. 88-92, Eighth ed. 1867, commentary on Chapter VII, Section III of the WCF)

I would draw the reader’s attention particularly to the following excerpt from the above discussion:

Many excellent divines … were led to speak of faith as the condition of the latter covenant. But the term, as used by them, signifies not a meritorious or procuring cause, but simply something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained. They consider faith merely as a condition of order or connection, as it has been styled, and as an instrument or means of obtaining an interest in the salvation offered in the gospel. This is very different from the meaning attached to the term by Arminians and Neonomians, who represent faith as a condition on the fulfillment of which the promise is suspended. The Westminster Assembly elsewhere affirm, that God requires of sinners faith in Christ, “as the condition to interest them in him.” But this is very different from affirming that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. That faith is indispensably necessary as the instrument by which we are savingly interested in Christ, and personally instated in the covenant, is a most important truth, and this is all that is intended by the Westminster divines.

Perhaps I should conclude this post with a last selection:

5. Lastly, The covenant of grace doth so exclude our boasting, as the covenant of works did not. This is clear from Rom. iii. 27. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” But if any deed or work of ours be the condition of the covenant of grace, in whole or in part, our beading is not excluded, but hath place therein, as in the covenant of works; the difference being at most but in point of degrees: for, according to the Scripture, it is working, or fulfilling the condition of a covenant, that gives the ground of boasting ; Forasmuch as “to him that worketh, the reward is reckoned of debt:” and life being of or by works in the covenant of works, though not in the way of proper merit, but in the way of paction or compact only, this gave men the ground of boasting in that covenant, according to the Scripture. Therefore, so far as life and salvation are of or by any work or deed of ours, as fulfilling the condition of the covenant of grace, our boasting is not excluded, but hath place therein as in the covenant of works. Wherefore, since the covenant of grace is so framed, as to leave no ground for our boasting, no work or deed of ours, but Christ fulfilling all righteousness, even that alone, is the condition of the covenant of grace: and our life and salvation are neither of works, nor by works, as fulfilling the condition of the covenant: Tit. iii. 5. Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. Eph. ii. 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast.

(Thomas Boston, A View of the Covenant of Grace from the Sacred Records, p. 74, 1797 ed.)



Edwards and the Other Hodge on Merit and the Covenant of Works

August 9, 2008

Here are two more folks’ thoughts on merit and covenant of works:

If this principle be correct, if the law demands entire conformity to the nature and will of God, it follows:

1. That there can be no perfection in this life. Every form of perfectionism which has ever prevailed in the Church is founded either on the assumption that the law does not demand entire freedom from moral evil, or upon the denial that anything is of the nature of sin, but acts of the will. But if the law is so extensive in its demands as to pronounce all defect in any duty, all coming short in the purity, ardor, or constancy of holy affections, sinful, then there is an end to the presumption that any mere man since the fall has ever attained perfection.

2. It follows also from this principle that there can never be any merit of good works attributable to men in this world. By merit, according to the Scriptural sense of that word, is meant the claim upon reward as a matter of justice, founded on the complete satisfaction of the demands of the law. But if those demands never have been perfectly fulfilled by any fallen man, no such man can either be justified for his works, or have, as the Apostle expresses it, any καύχημα [kauchema, boasting], any claim founded on merit in the sight of God. He must always depend on mercy and expect eternal life as a free gift of God.

3. Still more obviously does it follow from the principle in question that there can be no such thing as works of supererogation. If no man in this life can perfectly keep the commandments of God, it is very plain that no man can do more than the law demands. The Romanists regard the law as a series of specific enactments. Besides these commands which bind all men there are certain things which they call precepts, which are not thus universally binding, such as celibacy, poverty, and monastic obedience, and the like. These go beyond the law. By adding to the fulfillment of the commands of God, the observance of these precepts, a man may do more than is required of him, and thus acquire an amount of merit greater than he needs for himself, and which in virtue of the communion of saints, belongs to the Church, and may be dispensed, through the power of the keys, for the benefit of others. The whole foundation of this theory is of course removed, if the law demands absolute perfection, to which, even according to their doctrine, no man ever attains in this life. He always is burdened with venial sins, which God in mercy does not impute as real sins, but which nevertheless are imperfections.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, volume 2, pages 185-86 (1872 ed.)

3. It is in this doctrine that the most essential difference lies between the covenant of grace and the first covenant. The adverse scheme of justification supposes that we are justified by our works, in the very same sense wherein man was to have been justified by his works under the first covenant. By that covenant our first parents were not to have had eternal life given them for any proper merit in their obedience; because their perfect obedience was a debt that they owed God. Nor was it to be bestowed for any proportion between the dignity of their obedience, and the value of the reward; but only it was to be bestowed from a regard to a moral fitness in the virtue of their obedience, to the reward of God’s favor; and a title to eternal life was to be given them, as a testimony of God’s pleasedness with their works, or his regard to the inherent beauty of their virtue. And so it is the very same way that those in the adverse scheme suppose that we are received into God’s special favor now, and to those saving benefits that are the testimonies of it. I am sensible the divines of that side entirely disclaim the Popish doctrine of merit; and are free to speak of our utter unworthiness, and the great imperfection of all our services. But after all, it is our virtue, imperfect as it is, that recommends men to God, by which good men come to have a saving interest in Christ, and God’s favor, rather than others; and these things are bestowed in testimony of God’s respect to their goodness. So that whether they will allow the term merit or no, yet they hold, that we are accepted by our own merit, in the same sense, though not in the same degree, as under the first covenant.

(Works of President [Jonathan] Edwards, Volume 5 (of 10), pp. 447-48, 1829 ed.)


The Indispensible Nature of the Justice of God

July 27, 2008

“This avenging justice belongs to God as a judge, and he can no more dispense with it than he can cease to be a judge, or deny himself; though at the same time he exercises it freely. It does not consist in the exercise of a gratuitous power, like mercy, by which (whether it be exercised or not) injustice is done to no one. It is that attribute by which God gives to every one his due, and from the exercise of which, when proper objects are presented, he can no more abstain, than he can do what is unjust. This justice is the constant will of punishing sinners, which in God cannot be inefficient, as his majesty is supreme and his power infinite ” (Turretin’s Atonement, Translated by Wilson. New York, 1859).

“So long as he is holy he must be just; he must repel sin, which is the highest idea we can form of punishment” (Hodge’s Essays and Reviews, p. 137).

“For whatever else God may be, or may not be, he must be just. It is not optional with him to exercise this attribute, or not to exercise it, as it is in the instance of that class of attributes which are antithetic to it. We can say: “God may be merciful or not as he pleases,” but we cannot say: “God may be just or not, as he pleases.” It cannot be asserted that God is inexorably obligated to show pity; but it can be categorically affirmed that God is inexorably obligated to do justly” (Bib. Sacra, Vol. XVI., p. 738).

These quotations were brought to my attention by Pastor Daniel Fisk in his article “The Necessity of the Atonement,” in Biblia Sacra, from April 1861 (link).

Read Systematic Theologies

May 17, 2008

I noticed recently that Peter Beck at “Living to God” has encouraged folks to read Systematic Theologies (link). While I’d rather invert his list (placing items 4 and 5 at the top, followed by 3, and then by 1 and 2, it is valuable to read systematic theologies, particularly those that have withstood the test of time. Such systematic theologies include:

1. Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology
2. Benedict Pictet’s Christian Theology
3. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
4. Herman Witsius’ Economy of the Divine Covenants Between God and Man
5. Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology
6. W.G.T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology
7. William Ames’ Marrow of Sacred Divinity

Among the contemporary systematic theologies, I would rank in the first place Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (link to a bookstore that sells this book). At least the first six above are freely available on the internet, and Ames’ Marrow is back in print, I believe.


The Real Turretin on: The Church of Rome (in his day)

April 27, 2008

To the same effect Turrettin denies that the modern Church of Rome can, without qualification, be called a true Church of Christ; but to explain his position he says: “The Church of Rome may be viewed under a two-fold aspect, as Christian in reference to the profession of Christianity, and of the evangelical truths which it retains; and as it is papal, in reference to its subjection to the Pope, and to its corruptions, as well in manners as in doctrine, which it has mixed up with those truths and built upon them, contrary to the word of God. In the former aspect, we do not deny that there is some truth in that Church; but in the latter, under which she is contemplated when we deny her to be a true Church, we deny that she is Christian and apostolical, but affirm her to be antichristian and apostate. In this view, impropriè et secundum quid, we admit the Church of Rome to be a Christian Church in three respects. 1. In respect to the people of God, the elect, still remaining in it, who are commanded to come out. 2. In respect to the external form, in which we discover some of the elements of a Church, in respect as well to the word of God and its preaching, which though corrupted, still remain, and as to the administration of the sacraments, especially baptism, which, as to the substance, still remains entire. 3. As to Christian and evangelical doctrines, as concerning the Trinity, Christ as mediator, his incarnation, death and resurrection, and others by which she is distinguished from pagans and infidels.” vol. iii. p. 135.

(source – C. Hodge, The Church and Its Polity – p. 211)


The Real Turretin on: Validity of Baptisms by Heretics

April 27, 2008

Turrettin, vol. iii. p. 442. “Some heretics,” he says, “corrupt the very substance of baptism, as the ancient Arians, modern Socinians, rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity others, retaining the essentials of the ordinance and the true doctrine of the Trinity, err as to other doctrines, as formerly the Novatians and Donatists, and now the Papists and Arminians. The baptisms of the former class are to be rejected; those of the latter are retained, although they err as to many doctrines, and their baptisms, in circumstantials, are polluted by various ceremonies.” See also Pictet, La Theologie Chretienne, Lib. xv. c. 13.

(source – C. Hodge, The Church and Its Polity – p. 194)


The Real Turretin on: The Relation of Church and State

April 27, 2008

According to the Reformed Church of Geneva, Germany, France, Holland, and Scotland, the relation of the state and Church is taught in the following propositions as given and sustained by Turrettin. Lec. 28, Ques. 34.

1. Various rights belong to the Christian magistrate in reference to the Church.

This authority is confined within certain limits, and is essentially different from that of pastors. These limits are thus determined, a. The magistrate cannot introduce new articles of faith, or new rites or modes of worship. b. He cannot administer the word and sacraments. c. He does not possess the power of the keys. d. He cannot prescribe to pastors the form of preaching or administration of the sacraments. e. He cannot decide on ecclesiastical affairs, or on controversies of faith, without consulting the pastors.

On the other hand, a. He ought to establish the true religion, and when established, faithfully uphold it, and if corrupted, restore and reform it. b. He should, to the utmost, protect the Church by restraining heretics and disturbers of its peace, by propagating and defending the true religion, and hindering the confession of false religions, c. Provide proper ministers, and sustain them in the administration of the word and sacraments, according to the word of God, and found schools as well for the Church as the state, d. See that ministers do their duty faithfully according to the canons of the Church and the laws of the land. e. Cause that confessions of faith and ecclesiastical constitutions, agreeable to the Scriptures, be sanctioned, and when sanctioned adhered to. f. To call ordinary and extraordinary synods, to moderate in them, and to sanction their decisions with his authority.

The question, “whether the state can rightfully force its subjects to profess the faith,” is answered in the negative. The question, “whether heretics should be capitally punished,” is answered in the affirmative, provided their heresy is gross and dangerous to the Church and state, and provided they are contumacious and malignant in the defense and propagation of it.

(source – C. Hodge, The Church and Its Polity – p. 114)


The Real Turretin on: Imputation

April 27, 2008

Turrettin (Theol. Elench. Quaest. IX., p. 678) says, “Imputation is either of something foreign to us, or of something properly our own. Sometimes that is imputed to us which is personally ours; in which sense God imputes to sinners their transgressions. Some times that is imputed which is without us, and not performed by ourselves; thus the righteousness of Christ is said to be imputed to us, and our sins are imputed to him, although he has neither sin in himself, nor we righteousness. Here we speak of the latter kind of imputation, not of the former, because we are treating of a sin committed by Adam, not by us.” The ground of this imputation is the union between Adam and his posterity. This union is not a mysterious identity of person, but, 1. “Natural, as he is the father, and we are the children. 2. Political and forensic, as he was the representative head and chief of the whole human race. The foundation, therefore, of imputation is not only the natural connection which exists between us and Adam, since in that case all his sins might be imputed to us, but mainly the moral and federal, in virtue of which God entered into covenant with him as our head.” Again, “We are constituted sinners in Adam in the same way in which we are constituted righteous in Christ.”

Again, (Vol. II., p. 707,) to impute, he says, “is a forensic term, which is not to be understood physically of the infusion of righteousness, but judicially and relatively.” Imputation does not alter the moral character; hence the same individual
may, in different respects, be called both just and unjust: “For when reference is had to the inherent quality, he is called a sinner and ungodly; but when the external and forensic relation to Christ is regarded, he is pronounced just in Christ.” “When God justifies us on account of the righteousness of Christ, his judgment is still according to truth; because he does not pronounce us just in ourselves subjectively, which would be false, but in another putatively and relatively.”

(source, C. Hodge’s Commentary on Romans – pp. 280-281)


Misleading Information from "Calvin and Calvinism"

March 10, 2008

I was disappointed to see more misleading information appear over at “Calvin and Calvinism,” this time on Hodge.

Hodge was a firm believer in 5 point Calvinism. This web page (link – not recommended in any way, shape, or form) tries to present a slightly different view. The problem seems to be that the person posting the article is unable to grasp the relevant theological terminology, and is unwilling to accept correction of his ignorance from actual Calvinists.

For example, the page states:

With Hodge, there are essentially three questions to be asked with reference to the nature and extent of the death of Christ:
I) Q. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?A. The elect
II) Q. For whom did Christ die?A. For all men generally, but for the elect especially.
III) Q. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?A. Christ suffered and bore the punishment for the sins due to every man, that is all men, even the sins of the whole world.

This is – at best – misleading. I should note that the post author goes on in a comment to claim, “To me it would be true if I tried only to represent C Hodge as affirming unlimited sin-bearing. But I have not. I have included samples from the other side of the coin too.” (Interestingly, the post author claims to have done the same thing in his recent post of selections from Calvin.)

Nevertheless, what Hodge has to say about the matter has already been previously identified by this blog, and it is opposed to the post-author’s quasi-Amyraldian position (link to Hodge on Atonement).

Let’s look, though, at the questions:

1. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?

Here the author gives the correct answer: the elect.

2. For whom did Christ die?

Here the author gives the wrong answer, or – at least – a misleading answer. Hodge does sometimes speak about Christ’s death in a universal sense – but he does so as as to the nature and sufficiency of Christ’s death: enough for or sufficient for all mankind.

3. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?

Again, the author gives the wrong answer, or – at least – a misleading answer. Hodge does sometimes speak about Christ’s death in relation to sins generally: but he does so as to propriety. Christ’s suffering and death was an appropriate punishment for all the sins of mankind. Christ’s death was suitable universally.

These are really not an excusable mistakes, because the author, one David Ponter, has been previously placed on notice regarding Hodge’s plain teachings regarding the extent of Christ’s work. Hodge is unambiguous in affirming the normal Calvinistic position, that Christ died for the elect alone. There are certainly incidental benefits (if we may call them such) to the non-elect, but Christ did not atone for their sins. Had he done so, they would be saved.

There are certainly isolated quotations from Hodge that might sound to the contrary, and someone who has an “unlimited atonement” ax to grind can find those isolated quotations. The problem is, at the end of the day, that’s not what Hodge held, and that’s not – even more importantly – what Scripture teaches.

Hopefully, soon (which may mean several or many months), I will provide something from Turretin that will address these and other errors. As Ponter knows, Turretin was opposed to the Limited/Unlimited view (see here) and (compare here).

May the Savior of all men and especially the elect be praised,


The Deleterious Effect of Particularist/Universalist Propoganda

February 3, 2008

I stumbled across this shocking quotation: “Amazingly, Dabney, Charles Hodge, and William Shedd all distance themselves from theologians like Francis Turretin on the relationship between the decree of God and the cross of Christ, and even go so far as to explicitly reject key exegesis that underlies the “limited atonement” argument found in John Owen’s The Death of Death.” (source)

This is just not true.

I’ve commented on the harmony between TurretinFan’s views and the views of Dabney (link), Hodge (both A.A. and Charles), and Shedd (link) on the subject of the atonement.

If that were enough, we can see that each of the men in question rely on Turretin in their teaching on atonement:

Shedd (Dogmatic Theology, p. 481)

Dabney (Chapter 35 of his Systematic Theology)

Hodge (Systematic Theology, p. 474) (And of course, Hodge is famous for insisting that his students read Turretin (as recalled by his son))

I can guess where Ben got the idea: from one of several misinformation sites out there: “Calvin and Calvinism” “Theological Meditations” and the like, at which Amyraldian and Amyraldian-esque men pretend that Calvinism is something other than what it is, at the expense of the truth.

I hope Ben will consider actually getting a copy of Turretin’s Institutes and reading it, or of any of the systematic theologies of Shedd, Dabney, or Hodge. He seems to be a bright young man who has just grabbed a few wrong sources. I’ll be looking forward to watching him blossom.

Remember that there is a lot of false advertising (link1, link2) out there.

May God assist us in maintaining the truth!


UPDATE: Oddly, I’ve seen what seems to be the exact same article in several other places. Perhaps Ben is not the author after all. (link) (link2)

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