29 August, 2016

Proverbs 1:24—“… I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded”



Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded (Prov. 1:24).



FREE OFFER/WELL-MEANT OFFER ARGUMENT:
“Is not Proverbs 1:24 teaching a well-meant offer of salvation on the part of God towards those who finally perish in hell? Does it not say that God stretches out His hand even to those who do not regard it? Does not one stretch out his hand as an indication of pleading? of earnest longing? as an expression of deep desire? And if God stretches out His hand to those who do not regard it, does not this indicate that God earnestly desires the salvation of the wicked reprobate who seem to be referred to here?”



(I)

Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Covenant Reformed News, vol. 3, no. 8]

A few words about the context are first in order. The text is talking about Wisdom; and Wisdom is our Lord Jesus Christ (See Proverbs 8, especially verses 14-21). “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her voice.”

The following context speaks further of the sin of rejecting Wisdom and the judgment that comes upon those who do: “But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” (vv. 25-27).

We do indeed deny the well-meant offer of the gospel; i.e., we deny that Scripture teaches that God desires and longs for the salvation of all men. This is contrary to God’s eternal will to save the elect and damn the reprobate in the way of their sin.

We do not teach, as hyper-Calvinists do, that the gospel must be preached to the elect only. We do believe that the gospel must be preached to all men and that all men must, through the gospel, be confronted with the command to repent of sin and believe in Christ. The Canons of Dordt read: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel” (II, 5).

Proverbs 1:24 has to do with that gospel as it goes out to all men with the command to repent and believe. The text emphatically teaches that God commands all who hear the gospel to repent.

But it teaches us a few other things concerning this command to repent and believe which confronts all men.

It teaches, in the first place, that Christ is serious when He commands all men to repent and believe. The Canons talk about this too: “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly declared in his Word, what will be acceptable to him; namely, that all who are called, should come to him” (III & IV, 8). God is not playing games when He calls. He means what He says. Those who do not obey the command of the gospel go to hell.

The text teaches something else about that call of the gospel, though. It teaches, too, that when God commands the sinner to repent of sin and believe in Christ, He does this in such a way that He shows His goodness. Let us be sure that we clearly understand this.

He does not present Himself in the call of the gospel as a monster or horrible tyrant who calls men to him only to use them as slaves to serve his whims and then crush them. He does not present Himself as one who calls only to destroy them the moment they appear in his presence.

He presents Himself as a good God. It is not to men’s disadvantage to come to Christ. It is not a fearful thing to obey the command. It is the only way to good and to happiness. God is good. He promises eternal life to all who come. God presents the command in such a way that everyone who hears it can clearly understand that it is the most desirable thing in the world to obey. It is the only way to happiness and true joy. It is the most foolish thing in the world to reject the command.

Scripture often presents the command of the gospel in this way. “Hear, for I will speak of excellent things” (Prov. 8:6).  “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” (Isa. 5:4). “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21).

God commands in such a way that He shows Himself to be a good God, in order that the awful sin of rejecting the command may be shown for what it really is. There is no reason for rejecting God’s command: “It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word, refuse to come, and be converted; the fault lies in themselves” (Canons III & IV, 9).

Only unbelievingly wicked men who deserve to be punished with hell would commit such a terrible sin.


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(II)

John Owen (1616-1683)


(a)

[Source: “God’s Expostulations,” in The Works of John Owen (Great Britain: Banner, 1967), vol. 10, pp. 400-401, emphasis added.]

[The Arminians argue thus] God’s earnest expostulations, contendings, charges, and protestations, even to such as whereof many perished, Romans 9:27; Isaiah 10:22. As, to instance:—‘O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me,’ etc., ‘that it might be well with them!’ Deuteronomy 5:29. ‘What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?’ etc., Isaiah 5:4, 5. ‘What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me?’ Jeremiah 2:5. ‘Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?’ verse 31. ‘O my people, what have I done unto thee? wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me,’ Micah 6:3. ‘How often would I have gathered,’ etc., ‘and ye would not!’ Matthew 23:37. ‘O that my people had hearkened unto me!’ etc., ‘I should soon have subdued their enemies,’ etc., Psalm 81:13, 14. ‘Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded,’ etc., Proverbs 1:24-31. ‘Because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God,’ etc., Romans 1:21, 28. ‘Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man,’ etc., ‘Thou, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath,’ etc., Romans 2:1, 5. The Christian, I hope, will reply against God, and say, Thou never meantest us good; there was no ransom given for us, no atonement made for us, no good done us, no mercy shown us,—nothing, in truth, whereby we might have been saved, nothing but an empty show, a bare pretense.’ But if any should reason so evilly, yet shall not such answers stand.

Ans. To this collection of expostulations I shall very briefly answer with some few observations, manifesting of how little use it is to the business in hand ... Not that I deny that there is sufficient matter of expostulation with sinners about the blood of Christ and the ransom paid thereby, that so the elect may be drawn and wrought upon to faith and repentance, and believers more and more endeared to forsake all ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live unto him who died for them, and that others may be left more inexcusable; only for the present there are no such expostulations here expressed, nor can any be found holding out the purpose and intention of God in Christ towards them that perish ... Fourthly, It is confessed, I hope by all, that there are none of those things for the want whereof God expostulateth with the sons of men, but that he could, if it so seemed good before him, effectually work them in their hearts, at least, by the exceeding greatness of his power: so that these things cannot be declarative of his purpose, which he might, if he pleased, fulfill; “for who hath resisted his will,” Romans 9:19. Fifthly, That desires and wishings should properly be ascribed unto God is exceedingly opposite to his all-sufficiency and the perfection of his nature; they are no more in him than he hath eyes, ears, and hands. These things are to be understood [in a way befitting to God]. Sixthly, It is evident that all these are nothing but pathetical declarations of our duty in the enjoyment of the means of grace, strong convictions of the stubborn and disobedient, with a full justification of the excellency of God’s ways to draw us to the performance of our duties.


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(b)

[Source: “Of the Attribution of ‘Passions’ and ‘Affections’ Unto God,” in The Works of John Owen (Great Britain: Banner, 1967), vol. 12, pp. 108-110, 114-115, emphasis added.]

Question. Are there not, according to the perpetual tenor of the Scriptures, affections and passions in God, as anger, fury, zeal, wrath, love, hatred, mercy, grace, jealousy, repentance, grief, joy, fear?

Concerning which he [i.e., Mr. Biddle, the Socinian] labours to make the Scriptures determine in the affirmative.

1. The main of Mr. Biddle’s design, in his questions about the nature of God, being to deprive the Deity of its distinct persons, its omnipresence, prescience, and therein all other infinite perfections, he endeavours to make him some recompense for all that loss by ascribing to him in the foregoing query a human visible shape, and in this, human, turbulent affections and passions. Commonly, where men will not ascribe to the Lord that which is his due, he gives them up to assign that unto him which he doth abhor, Jeremiah 44:15-17. Neither is it easily determinable whether be the greater abomination. By the first, the dependence of men upon the true God is taken off; by the latter, their hope is fixed on a false. This, on both sides, at present is Mr. B.’s sad employment. The Lord lay it not to his charge, but deliver him from the snare of Satan, wherein he is “taken alive at his pleasure”! 2 Timothy 2:26.

2. The things here assigned to God are ill associated, if to be understood after the same manner. Mercy and grace we acknowledge to be attributes of God; the rest mentioned are by none of Mr. B.’s companions esteemed any other than acts of his will, and those metaphorically assigned to him.

3. To the whole I ask, whether these things are in the Scriptures ascribed properly unto God, denoting such affections and passions in him as those in us are which are so termed? or whether they are assigned to him and spoken of him metaphorically only, in reference to his outward works and dispensations, correspondent and answering to the actings of men in whom such affections are, and under the power whereof they are in those actings?

If the latter be affirmed, then as such an attribution of them unto God is eminently consistent with all his infinite perfections and blessedness, so there can be no difference about this question and the answers given thereunto, all men readily acknowledging that in this sense the Scripture doth ascribe all the affections mentioned unto God ...

But this, I fear, will not serve Mr. B.’s turn. The very phrase and manner of expression used in this question, the plain intimation that is in the forehead thereof of its author’s going off from the common received interpretation of these attributions unto God, do abundantly manifest that it is their proper significancy which he contends to fasten on God, and that the affections mentioned are really and properly in him as they are in us.

This being evident to be his mind and intendment, as we think his anthropopathism in this query not to come short in folly and madness of his anthropomorphitism in that foregoing, so I shall proceed to the removal of this insinuation in the way and method formerly insisted on.

Mr. B.’s masters tell us “That these affections are vehement commotions of the will of God, whereby he is carried out earnestly to the object of his desires, or earnestly declines and abhors what falls not out gratefully or acceptably to him.” I shall first speak of them in general, and then to the particulars (some or all) mentioned by Mr. B.: —

First, In general, that God is perfect and perfectly blessed, I suppose will not be denied; it cannot be but by denying that he is God (Deuteronomy 32:4; Job 37:16; Romans 1:25; 9:5; 1 Timothy 1:11, 6:16). He that is not perfect in himself and perfectly blessed is not God. To that which is perfect in any kind nothing is wanting in that kind. To that which is absolutely perfect nothing is wanting at all. He who is blessed is perfectly satisfied and filled, and hath no farther desire for supply. He who is blessed in himself is all-sufficient for himself. If God want or desire any thing for himself, he is neither perfect nor blessed. To ascribe, then, affections to God properly (such as before mentioned), is to deprive him of his perfection and blessedness. The consideration of the nature of these and the like affections will make this evident.

1. Affections, considered in themselves, have always an incomplete, imperfect act of the will or volition joined with them. They are something that lies between the firm purpose of the soul and the execution of that purpose. The proper actings of affections lie between these two; that is, in an incomplete, tumultuary volition. That God is not obnoxious to such volitions and incomplete actings of the will, besides the general consideration of his perfections and blessedness premised, is evident from that manner of procedure which is ascribed to him. His purposes and his works comprise all his actings. As the Lord hath purposed, so hath he done. “He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” “Who hath known his mind? or who hath been his counsellor? Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Isaiah 14:24; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 40:13-14).

2. They have their dependence on that wherewith he in whom they are is affected; that is, they owe their rise and continuance to something without [external or outside of] him in whom they are. A man’s fear ariseth from that or them of whom he is afraid; by them it is occasioned, on them it depends. Whatever affects any man (that is, the stirring of a suitable affection), in all that frame of mind and soul, in all the volitions and commotions of will which so arise from thence, he depends on something without [external or outside of] him. Yea, our being affected with something without [external or outside of] lies at the bottom of most of our purposes and resolves. Is it thus with God, with him who is I AM? Exodus 3:14. Is he in dependence upon any thing without [external or outside of] him? Is it not a most eminent contradiction to speak of God in dependence on any other thing? Must not that thing either be God or be reduced to some other without [external to or outside of him] and besides him, who is God, as the causes of all our affections are? “God is in one mind, and who can turn him? what his soul desireth, that he doeth,” Job 23:13.

3. Affections are necessarily accompanied with change and mutability; yea, he who is affected properly is really changed; yea, there is no more unworthy change or alteration than that which is accompanied with passion, as is the change that is wrought by the affections ascribed to God. A sedate, quiet, considerate alteration is far less inglorious and unworthy than that which is done in and with passion. Hitherto we have taken God upon his testimony, that he is the “LORD, and he changeth not,” Malachi 3:6; that “with him there is neither change nor shadow of turning;”—it seems, like the worms of the earth, he varieth every day.

4. Many of the affections here ascribed to God do eminently denote impotence; which, indeed, on this account, both by Socinians and Arminians, is directly ascribed to the Almighty. They make him affectionately and with commotion of will to desire many things in their own nature not impossible, which yet he cannot accomplish or bring about (of which I have elsewhere spoken); yea, it will appear that the most of the affections ascribed to God by Mr B., taken in a proper sense, are such as are actually ineffectual, or commotions through disappointments, upon the account of impotency or defect of power.

Corol. To ascribe affections properly to God is to make him weak, imperfect, dependent, changeable, and impotent ...

(1.) Where no cause of stirring up affections or passions can have place or be admitted, there no affections are to be admitted; for to what end should we suppose that whereof there can be no use to eternity? If it be impossible any affection in God should be stirred up or acted, is it not impossible any such should be in him? The causes stirring up all affections are the access of some good desired, whence joy, hope, desire, etc, have their spring; or the approach of some evil to be avoided, which occasions fear, sorrow, anger, repentance, and the like. Now, if no good can be added to God, whence should joy and desire be stirred up in him? if no evil can befall him, in himself or any of his concernments, whence should he have fear, sorrow, or repentance? Our goodness extends not to him; he hath no need of us or our sacrifices, Psalm 16:2, 50:8-10; Job 35:6-8. “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable to himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?” chap. 22:2, 3.

(2.) The apostle tells us that God is “Blessed for ever,” Romans 9:5; “He is the blessed and only Potentate,” 1 Timothy 6:15; “God all-sufficient,” Genesis 17:1. That which is inconsistent with absolute blessedness and all-sufficiency is not to be ascribed to God; to do so casts him down from his excellency. But can he be blessed, is he all-sufficient, who is tossed up and down with hope, joy, fear, sorrow, repentance, anger, and the like? Doth not fear take off from absolute blessedness? Grant that God’s fear doth not long abide, yet whilst it doth so, he is less blessed than he was before and than he is after his fear ceaseth. When he hopes, is he not short in happiness of that condition which he attains in the enjoyment of what he hoped for? and is he not lower when he is disappointed and falls short of his expectation? Did ever the heathens speak with more contempt of what they worshipped? Formerly the pride of some men heightened them to fancy themselves to be like God, without passions or affections, Psalm 50:21; being not able to abide in their attempt against their own sense and experience, it is now endeavored to make God like to us, in having such passions and affections. My aim is brevity, having many heads to speak unto. Those who have written on the attributes of God,—his self-sufficiency and blessedness, simplicity, immutability, etc.,—are ready to tender farther satisfaction to them who shall desire it.


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(III)

William Young (1918-2015)

[Source: “Confusions Regarding God,” in A Critical Analysis of the Free Offer of the Gospel]

Objection is raised against the confusions noted below that have repeatedly led to the compromising and denial of the sovereign grace of God.

1. The above remark suggests that the ascription of such a desire to God is often not simply a way of expressing the will of command, but is supposed to be something behind the command, a will in-between the command and the decree, a weak though ardent wish that can be frustrated and is frustrated in the case of many. Surely, no Calvinist can desire to ascribe such a desire to the Most High, although the devotees of free will have invented an antecedent will in God distinct from the consequent will of the final decree. If one cares, like John Howe, to speak of a complacential will, and means only that God is pleased whenever His precepts are obeyed, no objection need be raised as long as there is not confusion with the supposed antecedent will under the cover of the word “desire.”

2. A second source of confusion is the failure to recognize the use of anthropopathic language in Scripture passages that represent God’s actions as if they expressed passions like our own. No Christian holding the Bible to be free of contradiction can suppose that the Lord literally repents or regrets His own work of creation (Genesis 6:6-7). The same way of speaking after the manner of men applies to God’s desire as expressed in Psalm 81:14. It is a gross abuse of language when, not as homiletical hyperbole, but as a dogmatic formulation, human passions, often called emotions, are ascribed to God. Such a view is in conflict with the Confession of Faith, which declares God to be “a most pure Spirit ... without body, parts, or passions,” based on Acts 14:11, 15. The error is intensified when a questionable threefold faculty psychology is misapplied further, by representing God in the image of man, with emotions as well as intellect and will, and then arguing as if an emotional desire caused the will which is revealed in the free offer. Such prying into the secret things along with the obscuring of what has been revealed ought to be eschewed by all who reverently tremble at the Word of God.

3. That the desire is not simply meant as an anthropomorphic mode of emphasizing the revealed will becomes evident when the assertion is made that it is an instance of a deep paradox or antinomy not resolvable by logic. In the fact that God has decreed to save only some, but has commanded the gospel to be proclaimed indiscriminately to all, there is no contradiction, but simply the difference between God’s decree and His preceptive will. Why such a command is given may well be beyond our powers to fathom at least in this life, but there need not be an apparent, much less a real contradiction to those who are well instructed by the Word and Spirit of God. But to search behind the revealed will in the gospel offer for a divine inclination to save those who have been foreordained to everlasting wrath, can only appear to be ascribing a real contradiction in the will of God. The common evasion that this is only an apparent contradiction to us but not a real contradiction to God is nothing other than Kierkegaard’s own thesis as to the absolute paradox. It is not the historic position of Reformed theology.


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(IV)

Rev. Martyn McGeown

Click on the link below to listen to an audio-sermon on this passage (Proverbs 1:20-33) in which the idea that Proverbs 1:24 teaches a general free offer of grace and salvation to all that hear the gospel is discussed and critiqued:

Sermon title: “Wisdom’s Cry”
Date: 21/05/2017


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(V)

More to come! (DV)







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