Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saving Knowledge - part two

Following on from a previous post on The Sum of Saving Knowledge.

Dickson's Friendship with Durham

Robert Wodrow records that David Dickson 'had a wonderful opinion of great and worthy Mr Durham … He said somewhat to this purpose of Mr Durham, that ‘He was like a great bottle full of excellent good wine that when it did go to come out it could not well come out… ‘ so Mr Durham had little expression [in preaching or writing] but much good and great matter. (Analecta, 3:10)

Defining the Gospel Offer

Thomas Boston refers to the teaching of the Sum of Saving Knowledge in relation to the universal offer of the gospel, specifically to the following section, 'Again, consider, that this general offer in substance is equivalent to a special offer made to every one in particular; as appeareth by the apostle’s making use of it, Acts 16:31. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The reason of which offer is given, John 3:16.'

The Sum of Saving Knowledge also helpfully teaches that it is a hearty and free offer on God's part, speaking of offers of grace, sweet invitations, loving requests etc. This use of offer serves to interpret what the Westminster Standards mean when they speak of Christ and life being freely offered in the gospel. It does not merely mean to "present" or "exhibit":
'The Lord…Maketh open offer of Christ and his grace, by proclamation of a free and gracious market of righteousness and salvation…He inviteth all sinners, that for any reason stand at a distance from God, to come and take from him riches of grace, running in Christ like a river, to wash away sin, and to slocken wrath: ‘Come ye to the waters,’ saith he,'. 'But I (may the weak believer say) upon the loving request of God and Christ, made to me by the mouth of his ministers, have embraced the offer of perpetual reconciliation through Christ, and do purpose, by God’s grace, as a reconciled person, to strive against sin….' 'That is any man shall not be taken with the sweet invitation of God nor with the humble and loving request of God, made to him to be reconciled…'

The Gospel is presented in a covenant framework in the Sum of Saving Knowledge. C.G. M’Crie showed an animosity to this covenant language of market and bargain and a complete misunderstanding of its import:

…Federalism, as developed in the Sum, is objectionable in form and application. Detailed descriptions of redemption as a bargain entered into between the First and Second persons of the Trinity, in which conditions were laid down, promises held out, and pledges given; the reducing of salvation to a mercantile arrangement between God and the sinner, in which the latter signifies contentment to enter into covenant and the former intimates agreement to entertain a relation of grace, so that ever after the contented, contracting party can say, ‘Lord, let it be a bargain,’--such presentation have obviously a tendency to reduce the gospel of the grace of God to the level of a legal compact entered into between two independent and, so far as right or status is concerned, two equal parties. This blessedness of the mercy seat is in danger of being lost sight of in the bargaining of the market-place; the simple story of salvation is thrown into the crucible of the logic of schools and it emerges in the form of a syllogism. (Confessions, p. 72, quoted by Bell, 106)

As Durham clarifies it in one of his sermons: 'The gospel doth not, as it were, so much offer to make with you a bargain, as it offers you the benefit of a bargain already made, viz. with Christ.' Samuel Rutherford in the Covenant of Life Opened writes 'Gods bargaining with us depends not upon the equality between thing and thing, the work and the wage; But upon his own free pleasure of disposing of his own: And it is the froathinesse of our nature to judge the penny of Glory, that we get by labouring to be our own, whereas after the promise, and after we have fulfilled the condition, it is not ours, but Gods, and he calls it his own, and it is to be disposed on by the Lords free-grace. Friend, may not I do with mine own, what I please? Mat. 20.15.' 'The whole Gospel is the word of Grace, Acts. 20.32. Col. 1.6. the Bargaine a paction of Grace'. Rutherford consistently speaks of the Eternal Covenant between the Father and the Son as a bargain. It is made clear in the Sum that we buy 'without money'. '"Come, buy without money," (saith he,) "come, eat:" that is, consent to have, and take unto you all saving graces; make the wares your own, possess them, and make use of all blessings in Christ; whatsoever maketh for your spiritual life and comfort, use and enjoy it freely, without paying any thing for it: "Come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price," saith he'.