This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Monday, August 24, 2009

Henry Melvill, Another Classic Reformed Expression Concerning Conditions of Salvation (cf. TRSBU)

Simon the Cyrenian
Matthew 27:32

Henry Melvill

There is no greater mistake than that which would represent it as an easy thing to attain eternal life. Just because Christianity is the revelation of a free pardon to transgressors, the announcement of a wondrous interposition of Deity on our behalf — an interposition through which there has been provided for the guilty, without money and without price, whatsoever is required to their full justification -therefore is it surmised that there is little, if any thing, for the guilty to do, and that salvation asks no effort, seeing that confessedly no effort could deserve it. But again and again must the protest be delivered against a theory so opposed to the Gospel, and so fatal to the soul. There are such things as conditions of salvation: it is not legalizing, it is not frustrating the grace of God, to assert and insist on conditions of salvation. Salvation is a free gift: let the tongue cleave to the roof of the mouth, rather than give utterance to a syllable which shall seem to impeach the freeness of the gift. But the gift is bestowed only upon those who "by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality." Since it is still a gift, it cannot be the "patient continuance" which procures it: for then it would be debt, and no longer gift. The "patient continuance" however is required of all who hope for the gift, required as a condition, a condition without which God does not please to bestow, but which, in no degree whatsoever, obliges Him to bestow, and which therefore, when most rigidly performed, takes not one tittle away from the unlimited freeness of the gift. And thus with all its gratuitousness, with all its assertion of human insufficiency, and all its proffers of forgiveness and righteousness, the Gospel lays an unceasing demand on every energy, requiring of us that we work out with fear and trembling," that salvation for ourselves, which we thankfully confess to have been wrought out for us by Christ [pp. 227-228; emphasis added].

Find a digital copy of the whole sermon here.


Bruce J. Russell, Sr. said...

Is there something broken in the modern mind that resists this understanding? Or is the human mind in general, ancient, medieval, modern, post-modern equally resistant that we must diligently seek the Lord.

To put it another way, is there something broken about the way the gospel is presented and understood today because of our intellectual predispositions?

Is it the case that those who are presenting the gospel accurately today are not given a hearing?

abcaneday said...

There are likely several factors that incite this resistance. One, however, stands out. A hyper anti-Roman Catholic hermeneutic operates in many evangelicals. I am keenly aware that evangelicals have historically been identified as Protestants and that "protestant" is a term that refers to a person who makes a declaration or avowal.

There is a difference between evangelicals who are non-Roman Catholic and evangelicals who are anti-Roman Catholic. Those who are anti-Roman Catholic are inclined to read the Bible through anti-Roman Catholic lenses. The result is that they purge the Bible of crucial expressions concerning the gospel's "conditions of salvation," in particular those elements that Tom Schreiner and I address in The Race Set Before Us, particularly in chapter 4 of the book. However, at the same time, these folks do not recognize that our formulations in The Race Set Before Us, particularly in chapter 4, have the ring of the gospel's call, including warning and admonition. The result is that while these folks clear the apostles of any accusation of being Roman Catholic, they accuse people such as Tom and me of being Roman Catholic concerning faith and justification. Likewise, anti-Catholics accuse people, such as Henry Melvill, of holding essentially, if not the same beliefs, as the Council of Trent on faith and justification.

Perhaps I will address these questions more in blog entries. It may take some time, however, since I'm very busy now that classes have started.