Archive for the ‘John Knox’ Category

John Knox on Free Will (Old Spellings)

October 8, 2009

Before I answer to the absurdities which of our doctrine ye collect, I must, in few wordes, put you in minde, that very foolishely ye joyn the free will of Adame with the free will of Christe Jesus, and with the libertie of God. For Adam’s will was never so free but that it might (as that it did) come to thraldom; which weaknes you be never able to prove at any tyme to have bene in Christes will. Further, the will of Adam was alwaies under the impire and threatning of a law; to which subjection I think ye will not bring God. But now to your absurdities.

“If (say you) I shall grante that all thinges of mere Necessitio must come to passe, according to the prescience and foreknowledge of God, then had Adam afore his transgression no Free will.” Your illation or consequence is fals, for the foreknowledge and prescience of God did neither take away free will from Adam, neither yet did compell it by any violence, but did use it as an ordinarie mean, by the which His eternall counsell and purpose should take effect. But for the better understanding hereof, we must adverte and note that which before we have touched, and promised after more largely to entreat the same; to witt, That God’s prescience and foreknowledge is not to be seperated from his Will and decree. For none otherwise doeth God foresee things to come to passe, but according as He himself hath in his eternall counsell decreed the same. For as it apperteineth to His wisdom to foreknow and foresee all things that are to come, so doeth it appertein to his power to moderate and reule all things according to his own will. Neither yet therefor doeth it folow that His foreknowledge, prescience, will, or power, doeth take away the free will of his creatures. but in all wisdom and justice (however the contrarie appere to our corrupted judgements,) he useth them as best it pleaseth his wisdom to bring to passe in time that which before all tyme he had decreed. To the which purpose and end, they (I mean the creatures and their willes), whatsoever they purpose to the contrarie, or how ignorantly that ever they worke it, nevertheles do voluntarely, and as it were of a naturall motion, incline and bow to that end to the which they are created.

To make the mater more plain, let us take the creation and fall of Adam, with the creatures that served in the same, for example. For what cheif end did God create all things (of Salomon and Paule we have before declared), to witt, for his own glorie to be shewed; the glorie, I say, of the riches of his mercie towardes the vessels of mercie, and the glorie of his justice and most just judgements towards the vessels of wrath. And that this eternall counsell of God should take effect, as he had purposed, man was created righteous, wise, just, and good, having free will; neither subject to the thraldom of sinne nor of Sathan, at the first creation. But sodanly cometh Sathan, ennemie to God and to man his good creature, and first poured in vennom into the heart of the woman, which afterward she poured into the heart of Adam; to the which bothe the one and the other, without all violence used of God’s part, dothe willingly consent; and so conspiring with the serpent, do accuse God of a lie; do fully consent to vendicat or challenge to themselves the power of the Godhead, of minde and purpose (so far as in them lay) to thrust downe and depose Him from his eternall throne. Here we see how the creatures and their willes, without compulsion, do serve God’s purpose and counsell. For Sathan was neither sent nor commanded of God to tempt man, but of malice and hatred did most willingly and gredely runne to the same: The will of man being free before, was not by God violently compelled to obey Sathan; but man of free will did consent to Sathan, and conspire against God. And yet was the fall of man not only foresene and foreknowen of God, but also before decreed, for the manifestation of his glorie.

Let us yet take an other exemple, that the mater may be more evident. The death of Christ Jesus for man’s redemption, was decreed in the eternall counsell of God before the foundations of the world were laid, as we were elected in him, and as he was the Lamb killed from the beginning; which death also was decreed in the same counsell of God to be in a certein time appointed; and that so certenly, that neither could the malice of any creature prevent the houre appointed of God thereto, neither yet could any policie or chance impede or transferre the same to any other tyme. For how oft Christ was afore assaulted, the Evangclistes do witnes; but alwaies his answere was, “My houre is not yet come.” And what impedimentes did oucure immediatly before his death, is also evident. The feast of Easter was instant, the fame of Christ was great, the favor of the people with publick voices was declared, and the counsels of the Hie Priestes and Seniors had decreed, that, to avoid sedition, his death should be delayed till after that feast. But all these were shortly overthrowen, and Christ did suffer in the verey tyme appointed, as he before had forespoken.

But now to the instrumentes which serve in this mater, and whether they were compelled by God or not. Judas, we know, was not one of the least; and what moved him the Holie Ghost doeth witnes, to witt, his avariciousnes. The Scribes, Pharisies, Priestes anil Seniors, and people, led, some of malice and envie, some to gratifie their rulers, and altogether of set purpose to crucifie Christ, do consent with Judas. Pilate, albeit he long refused, and by divers nieancs studied to delyver Christ, yet in the end, for fear of displeasure, aswell of the priestes and people, as of the Emperor, he willingly, without all compulsion of God’s part, pronounced an unjust sentence of deathe against Christ Jesus; which his soldiours also most willingly did execute. Thus, I say, we see that the creatures and their willes, without all compulsion, do serve God’s counsell and purpose.

Here I know, that ye think that either I write against myself, or els that I conclude a great absurditic: For, if I say that God did nothing but foresee these thinges, and so permitted them (as after you speak) to folow their own train; that he worketh no more but as a simple beholder of a tragedie; then do I agree with you. And if I do say (as in verey dede I do understand and afiirme,) that the eternall counsell and purpose of God did so reule in all these thinges, that rather they did serve to God’s purpose and most just will, then fulfill their most wicked willes; then will you cry, Blasphemie, and say that I deliver the Devill, Adam, and all the wicked, frome sinne, of the which I make God to be author. To the first I have answered before, that as I seperate not God’s foreknowledge from his counsell, so do I affirme that He worketh all in all thinges, according to the purpose of the same his good will; and yet that he useth no violence, neither in compelling his creatures, neither constreining their willes by any externall force, neither yet taking their willes from them, but in all wisdom and justice using them as he knoweth most expedient for the manifestation of his glorie, without any violence, I say, done to their willes. For violence is done to the will of a creature, when it willoth one thing, and yet by force, by tyranny, or by a greater power, it is compelled to do the thinges which it wold not; as if a pudique and honest matron, or chaste virgine, should be deprehended alono by a wicked and filthie man, who with violence and force (thoghe the will of the woman did plainely repine) did deflowre and corrupte her. This is violence done to the will, and she of necessitie was compelled to suffer that ignominie and shame, which nevertheles she most abhorred.

Do we say that God did (or doeth) any such violence to his creatures? Did he compell Sathan to tempt the woman, when his will was contrarie thereto? Did the will of Adame resist the temptation of the woman, and did he so hate and abhorre to eate of that fruite, that it behoved God to compell his will repugning thereto to eat of it, and so to break his commandements? or, did he not rather willingly hear and obey the voice of his wyfe? Consider, I beseech you, how plainely we put a difference betwixt vidlence, which you call mere Necessitie, and God’s secrete counsell and eternall purpose. But yet ye crie, “Wherein then did man offend? Who can resist the will of God ? Why doth he complein, seing that his counsell and purpose, by such meanes, is broght to passe?” Do ye not understand that these were the furious cries of those to whom Saint Paul imposeth silence, with this sentence, ” 0 man, what art thou that darest reason against God ?” &c.

But lest that ye complein (as your common custom is) of our obscuritie and darke speaking, I will even in one or two wordes declare, Why the creatures offend even when they serve most effectually to God’s purpose; to witt, becaus that they neither have the glorie of God in their actions before their eies, neither yet mynd they to serve nor obey God’s purpose and will. Sathan, in tempting man, studied nothing to promote God’s glorie; man, in obeying the temptation, looked not to the counsell of God; Judas, Ananias, Pilate, the soldiours, and the rest, had nothing less in mind then mannes redemption to be performed by their counsells and wicked workes. And therefor, of God’s justice, were they everio one reputed sinners; yea, and some of them reprobated for ever. If these reasons do not satisfic you, yet shall they be a testimonie what is our doctrine; and, as I trust, shall also be a reasonable contentation to the godlie and simple reader. More would I have spoken in the same matter, and so to have put end unto it at once; but becaus that after, by the reason of your most unjust accusations, I wilbe compelled to have to do with you againe, I abyde opportunitie.

Now to your reasons: Mannes will, I say, in the self remained free, notwithstanding that God in his eternall counsell had decreed his fall; and that becaus no violence, as before is declared, was done unto it. The will of our Master and Saviour Christ Jesus, notwithstanding the immutable decree of his death, appointed to be at a certein time, was so free, that albeit the power of nature might have given unto him mo yeares of life; and also that the humaine nature did abhorre the crueil and ignominious death; yet did he subject bothe his will and the power of nature unto the will of his heavenlie Father; as he doeth witnes, saying, “Not that I will, Father, but let that be done which thou willest.”

Wonder it is, that ye can not see how God’s will can remaine in hbertie, except that he abyde m suspence or dowte, and so daily and hourely change his purpose and counsell, as occasion is offered unto him by men and by their actions. If this be to make God bounde, and to take frome him libertie, to affirme that lie is infinite in wisdom, infinite in goodnes, infinite in justice, and infinite in power, so doeth he most constantly, most freely, most justlie, and most wisely, bring that to passe which in his eternall counsell he hath determined; if this, I say, be to take from God freedom, wisdome, and libortie, as ye do rayle, I must confess myself a transgressor. But if your cogitations and foolishe conclusions of his eternal Godhead, be, as, alas! too manifestly ye declare yourselves, so prophane, so carnal, and so wicked, that long, you abiding in the same, can not escaip God’s just vengeance; repent, before that in his anger he arrest, and declare that your justice, wherof so much ye bragge, is manifest blasphemie against his dear Sonne Christ Jesus! God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve his small flock from your vennom and most dangerous heresies, and stoppe your blasphemous mouthes, that thus dare jeast upon God, as if he were one of your companions, saying, ” Then is he a goodly wvse God; Then is God bounde himself,” &c.

(John Knox, “On Predestination,” 19th Section, as presented in the Works of John Knox, Volume 5 (1856), pp. 140-46) (I’ve presented here the old spellings which ought to be readable to the average reader. God willing, I will provide a modernized version at a later date.)(The work is a response, written in 1560, to an response to an Anabaptist.)

Knox on the Idolatry of the Mass

March 20, 2009

One occasionally hears from us, Reformed apologists, reference to the fact that the mass is idolatry. Perhaps this seems like pure polemic, unsupported by argument. Frankly, often it is simply thrown out there without supporting argument. So, I’d like to provide for your consideration, an explanation of the issue provided by John Knox (link).

Here’s how it begins, to whet your appetite:

This day I do appear in your presence, honourable audience, to give a reason why so constantly I do affirm the Mass to be, and at all times to have been, idolatry and abomination before God. And because men of great erudition in your audience affirmed the contrary, most gladly would I that they were present here, either in person, or else by their learned men, to ponder and weigh the causes moving me thereto. For unless I evidently prove my intent by God’s holy scriptures, I will recant it as wicked doctrine, and confess myself most worthy of grievous punishment.

Knox goes on to substantiate his claims, all the while carefully adhering to the standard of the Holy Scriptures.


Unlimited Atonement Clarification

September 13, 2008

I want to add a piece of clarification regarding yesterday’s Unlimited Atonement rebuttal post. The clarification is this:

1) I realize that there are people who say that they hold to Unlimited Atonement who do not hold to Universal Redemption. How that is supposed to be a possible distinction is a fascinating study, but not the point of yesterday’s post.

2) There is no reasonable argument that Universal Redemption is an acceptable view under any of the major Reformed confessions, but see (1). Incidentally, if Ponter or any of his gang disagree about (2), I’d be surprised, but interested to see how they think that position defensible.

3) Before the rise of Arminianism, there was much less need for Reformed writers to be careful to clearly distinguish their position from that as-yet-nonexistent position. So, it’s not surprising that we don’t see the early Reformers specifically distinguishing their position from the Arminian and Amyraldian positions (as we see with the next generation of Reformers, such as Turretin).

4) Among the many quotations alleged by Ponter and his gang as being relevant to the issue are statements by the Reformers that would seem to state Universal Redemption, if the other statements relied upon would state Universal Expiation, Universal Satisfaction, or Universal Propitiation (or the like). We leave aside, for the moment, whether the Sacrifice of Christ permits of severing of Expiation from Redemption in intended scope of effect.

5) Consequently, Ponter’s attempts to wedge words of “Unlimited Atonement” into the mouths of the early Reformers by interpreting their words anachronistically in light of the later Arminian and Amyraldian controversies falls flat. Ponter cannot fairly take the seemingly universalistic interpretation only in those cases where the writer is not speaking of redemption, and – in fact – Ponter seems to rely (in the case of Bullinger) especially on such quotations.

6) A simpler explanation is simply that the Reformers, understanding the general (non-exhaustive) sense of the word “world” sometimes used it at one end of the semantic range and sometimes at another end of the semantic range, without feeling the need to clarify. After all, their biggest opposition was from folks who, through penance, indulgences, purgatory, and the mass sought to diminish the work of Christ – not those folks who sought to extend Christ’s work to the reprobate.

7) I suppose there is an alternative thesis that states that the doctrine of the Atonement was simply poorly understood before the Synod of Dordt among the Reformers. But then John Knox (1510-1572) must stand as a beacon of Pre-Dordt (Dordt was held 1618-19) Reformation light, for he plainly declares:

The third thing to be noted is, That the love of God towards his Elect, given to Christ, is immutable. For Christ puts it in equal balance with the love by the which his Father loved him. Not that I wold any man should so understand me, as that I placed any man in equal dignity and glory with Christ Jesus touching his office. No, that must be reserved wholy and only to himself; that he is the only Beloved, in whom all the rest are beloved; that he is the Head, that only gives life to the body; and that he is the sovereign Prince, before whom all knees shall bow. But I mean, that as the love of God the Father was ever constant towards his dear Son, so is it also towards the members of his body; yea, even when they are ignorant and enemies unto him, as the Apostle witnesses, saying, “God specially commends his love towards us, that when we were yet sinners Christ died for us; much more being justified now by his blood, we shall be saved by him from wrath. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, we, being reconciled, shall be saved by his life.”
To some these words may appear contrary to our purpose, for they make mention of a reconciliation, which is not made but where there is enmity and dissension. But if they be righteously considered, they shall most evidently prove that which we affirm, which is, that God loved the members of Christ’s body even when they are ignorant, when they by themselves are unworthy and enemies. For this is his first proposition, That we being justified by Faith, have peace with God by our Lord Jesus Christ. Where he makes mention of peace, he puts us in mind of the dissension and war which was betwixt God’s justice and our sins. “This enmity (says he) is taken away, and we have obtained peace.” And lest that this comfort should suddenly vanish, or else that men should not deeply weigh it, he brings us to the eternal love of God, affirming that God loved us when we were weak. Where we must observe, that the Apostle speaks not universally of all men, but of such as were and should be justified by Faith, and had the love of God poured into their heartes by the Holy Ghost which was given unto them. To such, says he, If God did love us when we were weak, and his enemies, much more must he love us when we are reconciled, and begin, in Faith, to call him Father. The Apostle affirms, that our reconciliation proceeded from God’s love, which thing Saint John more plainly does witness in these words: “In this appears the love of God towards us, that God has sent forth his only Son into the world, that we should live by him. In this, I say, is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and hath sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.” So that both those Apostles in plain words do speak that which before I have affirmed, to wit, that God loved the members of Christ Jesus even when they were enemies, as well touching their knowledge and apprehension, as also touching the corruption of their nature; which was not regenerate. And so I conclude as before, that the love of God towards his Elect is stable and immutable, as it which begins not in time, neither depends upon our worthiness or dignity; which truth is contrary to that which I perceive you hold and affirm.

(The Works of John Knox, vol. 5, pp.52-53, Spelling modernized by TurretinFan)

And furthermore, Knox identifies this interesting comment from an adversary of the Reformation (speaking of Knox): “Now, as touching the other sort whom you call Reprobates, you say they can by no means be saved, yea, and that Christ died not for them: then was Christ’s death altogether in vain, for his death, you say, belongs not to the Reprobate, and the Elect have no need of it.” (Id. at 248)

And when Knox replies, he simply reaffirms the traditional “sufficient for all” formulation, saying: “We do not deny but that Christ’s death is sufficient for to redeem the sins of the whole world; but because all do not receive it with faith, which is the free gift of God, given to the chosen children, therefore abide the unfaithful in just condemnation.” (Id. at 250) Thus, Knox does not deny the charge, but instead explains it (and, frankly, explains it much the way we have seen in other Reformed writers).

As brother Bridges pointed out in his own post (link) it would be a good time for those who have been making these mistaken historical claims to move on.


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