Thursday, June 02, 2022

Joseph Truman's Discourse

 In a life time of reading and collecting books, I have some favourites. One

 of these is A Discourse of Natural and  Moral Impotency a small book

 by Joseph Truman. ‘late Minister near Nottingham’. He was born  in

 1630 educated at Clare College Cambridge lived in  Mansfield as a

 minister there, then lost his position in the Ejection of Puritans in 1662

 following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, following not

 reading common prayer and criticizing of the prayer book.  He lived

 then at Mansfield where he nonetheless attended the parish church

 there. He died at 1671, about 40.


He published several books, one of which is republished The Great Propitiation, Or, Christ Satisfaction and Man’s Justification by it upon his Faith that is Belief and Obedience to the Gospel Endeavored to be made Easily Intelligible….In some Sermons, preached by Joseph Truman (London, 1672), with that date published after his death).It is i. facsimile in EEBO Editions in the “Early History of Religion”,


One interesting fact about him was that he was friendly with Richard Baxter when a nonconformist, and this might that he may followed Baxter’s view of to a view of justification that is abased not only by faith in the Saviour, but is based on an individual’s piety. (There is no evidence of this in Truman’s  sermons on Christ’s propitiation. But consistency was not a  virtue of Baxter’s theology.)


His book on Natural and Moral Impotency  shows an informal style which has a number of features, which may be due to the influence of the elder man on him. It had a conversational style, informal, and open, though he exhibits sometimes complication. Nevertheless, he is interesting. The book came into a second edition, with  further material from his own hand before his death.  He shows familiarity with scholastic terminology, as well as with Westminster confession sources, and with jurisprudence . It is not surprising that his nonconformity  ‘was pleaded with the Justices, so well that he got off , though thevJustices were no great friends to Nonconformists’.


So the book can be read as an essay in  late Puritan anthropology, ‘the common sentiments of men’, and especially the human will. Truman is saying that to speak of impotency only with study of it.


This distinction of is of natural and moral of such  importance  in Divinity, that they that shall speak of the  Controversies hereby endeavoured  to be cleared  without keeping clear Notions, about this distinction, shall (though otherwise  learned Fathers and Doctors) speak like children concerning them; and also that men of understandings, keeping to this distinction, may competently satisfy themselves and others, if willing to be satisfied  in such Controversies as have posed the greatest wits and ‘Shollers’ [scholars] that keep to it.


He puts up two verses ‘You will not come to me that you have Life (John 5.40) ‘No man can come to me except the Father, which sent me, draw him, (John 6.44) These are both cases of impotency, moral impotency. The first is an inability to come to `Christ, the second is a case of moral inability, of inability to come to me unless the Father on the last day will raise him up on the last day’.


These cases do not refer to broken legs or blindness, but inwards inability, the sort that Paul in I Corinthians 2.14, ‘the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, he is able to understand because they are spiritually discerned. ‘ Once again, a spirit that is impotency,

‘a natural person’ not a physical lack, but whose entire powers of human nature is lacking. Truman (3)says ‘that distinction well understood, which is much insisted on by the French Protestant Divines, would much conduce herein, namely, the distinction of Natural and  Moral Impotency.


Truman’s distinction between different inabilities and their natural and moral  kinds, involves questions of the law, which leads me to think that he was expert in it, and that it colors his discussion of the law in the matter of credit and debt, (10), and drunkenness (12-15) when drink may affect his reason, and a comparison to the wicked who do not. These legal discussions  etc. Truman adds a third text from John’s Gospel, this time John 8.43, Christ speaking ‘Why do you not understand what I say ? `It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do  your father’a desires..’ Truman goes on you are so wicked, you are of such Devilish qualities’. (20)


‘If they mean by these words, that the fault is, notwithstanding their Impotency, that they do not some other thing than that they some other thing than they have the have the Impotency to ;and so the meaning is. He hath as Impotency to something; but his fault is, that he doth not that which hath a power to do; and hath no Impotency at all to. First: This rather confirms what I am saying , yea overgoe’s me quite, as you will see. Secondly: This is no more to the purpose, than to say, A blind man is too blame for not hearing, because impotency is seeing, doth  not hinder his hearing; yet this is apparently the chief Part of the meaning of this saying, as it is applied by those that use it. (20-1)


This is Truman getting into his stride. It will be unfamiliar to those who are reading it for the first time. And I hope to reproduce  short passages from later on in the book. And if you come across  Truman’s Discourse, you will possess a little treasure.



















Sunday, May 01, 2022

John Owen, High Calvinist

John Owen, (1616-1683), the High Calvinist

Last time we extracted 2 sections of Dr Owen’s work on the Holy Spirit. The first was a statement of the stance before God of the unregenerate, which he used I Corinthians 2 to make clear the second of how those called to preach and others to the regenerate. It is this that attracted me first. Dr Owen is clearly a Calvinist, or Augustinian – the entirety of volume 3 makes this clear, but his opening of the section 2 (p.295) make clear his opposition to any form of hyper – Calvinism.)See 'John Owen , the Preacher'.

 The 2008 Articles of the Gospel Stand Strict and Particular Baptists

24 Gospel Invitations We believe that the invitations of the Gospel, being spirit and life*, are intended only for those who have been made by the blessed Spirit to feel their lost state as sinners and their need of Christ as their Saviour, and to repent of and forsake their sins. 

26 Duty Faith and Duty Repentance DeniedWe deny duty faith and duty repentance – these terms signifying that it is every man’s duty to spiritually and savingly repent and believe1. We deny also that there is any capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever. So that we reject the doctrine that men in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God2.


29 Indiscriminate Offers of Grace Denied

While we believe that the Gospel is to be preached in or proclaimed to all the world, as in Mark 16. 15, we deny offers of grace; that is to say, that the gospel is to be offered indiscriminately to all.


32  Preaching of the gospel.

We believe that it would be unsafe, from the brief records we have of the way in which the apostles, under the immediate direction of the Lord, addressed their hearers in certain special cases and circumstances, to derive absolute and universal rules for ministerial addresses in the present day under widely- different circumstances. And we further believe that an assumption that others have been inspired as the apostles were has led to the grossest errors amongst both Romanists and professed Protestants.

Such articles encourage passivity

Hyper-Calvinism developed in the latter part of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century, a time when  the Protestant Christians were granted freedom of worship in the 1689? The Calvinists were mainly either Presbyterians or Congregational and Baptist. There were ‘Calvinists’ within them all. They were resistant to whose ministry included were  invitations to. Christ. For ‘Calvinists’ such gospel invitations ‘upset’ their understanding of God’s eternal will. Not only election and predestination, added to the godhead itself and Christ’s eternal divinity particularly the work of Goodwin Using. Answer: Christ’s eternal will would keep this the divine eternal will  was intact. So the unconverted were  directed to one or other of this eternal will of God.

Peter Toon’s small book on Hyper -Calvinism (Olive Tree, 1967) surprisingly remains a worthwhile account of these developments, with accounts of individuals and their writings, particularly Chapter `VI with its accounts of Richard Davis, John Brine and John Gill, and the following chapter on God’s eternal decrees and covenants, supplementing by John Skepp and Joseph Hussey. These were days of  shiftings between views. The internal acts of God 108 his immutability and covenants. Early reference 74 & 76. Thomas Goodwin 76-77, who was prominent in discussion on eternal  justification

Toon has the following paragraphs

First,  we may note that after the Restoration in 1660 orthodox Calvinism became, as it were, a cause under siege.The majority  of Puritans  who were orthodox left the Church of England in 1662 to become conform Nonconformists. Thus the religious leadership of the nation was lodged in the hands of men who were either Arminian or moderately Calvinistic in theology. The ejected  ministers,  being Nonconformists,  were placed under  harsh and cruel restrictions until 1688 and this severely curtailed their influence  upon the religious thought  of the nation. As the older men  died their places were taken by younger men who had been educated under liberalising influences in Holland and so a Moderated Calvinism gradually became popular, especially amongst   the Presbyterian Dissenters.  As the years passed  by High Calvinism became more and more the sole preserve  of the Independents and the particular Baptists. The Antinomian  controversy of the 1690s served to widen the gap between High Calvinism and Moderated Calvinism, and as the eighteenth century passed by, High Calvinism became in the main, the faith of the poorly-educated Independents and Baptists.

These men who clung to the doctrine of High Calvinism saw themselves as a group preserved by God in an apostate age  to defend “the faith once delivered to the saints”. Their time was taken up by the defence of their faith and it was in this atmosphere of  course under siege  that Hyper-Calvinism was born and nurtured. (146-7)

This is a plausible picture, such as was being written by John Owen at that time, as that  the High Calvinism became ‘eternalised’, into Hyper-Calvinism, to protect the saints against Arminianism] Let Toon put it in more detail again: often made no distinction between  

It was a system of doctrines of God, of man and grace, which was framed to exalt the honour and glory of God and did so at the expense  of minimising the moral and spiritual responsibility of glory of sinners to  God. It placed excessive emphasis on the immanent acts of God,  - eternal justification,  eternal adoption and the eternal covenant of grace. (144)

In practice this  meant that “Christ and Him crucified”, the central message of the apostles, was obscured.

Let us finally get a closer statement of Hyper Calvinism.

 The hyper Calvinist Baptists.

Calvinist Baptists, Protestants,  confess justification but not justification by  faith. But in Romans 4 justification is by faith, believing God, see the verses in  Romans 4, verses 3, 5 (twice), 9,11,12, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24 which continues through chapter 5.

In Owen’s volume on justification (in volume V of his Works ed. W.H. Goold, written in 1677 the full title was ‘The Doctrine of Justification by Faith  through the Imputation of the Righteousness, of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated’. Despite its thoroughness of the treatment, the phrase of ‘eternal justification’ is utterly absent. Owen is a notable Protestant, showing to be a High Calvinist. Owen is cited when replied to `Mr Baxter, who charged him with holding eternal justification: I neither am, nor ever was of that judgment; though as it may be explained `I know better, wiser, and more learned men than myself…..’’(Gill. Bk.II Ch.V, 208)   It is difficult if we say that ‘internal and immanent acts’, that is, acts of the same eternality of God as his existence and essence, it becomes difficult to stop oneself being persuaded that God’s eternality embraces everything. God’s eternality is one thing, events in time another.

Nonetheless, Gill has a long discussion in support of eternal justification in his Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity. (published in 1769-1770) He claims that  ‘Faith is not the cause  but an effect of justification’. Calvin used the expression ‘instrumental cause by faith. faith’. In 200, To dominate discussion with internal and immanent acts of God taken up in the mind of God from eternity, and which abide in his will: in which they have their complete esse, or being as eternal election has,  being of the same kind and nature (Eph. 1 4-6).  Gill continues ‘It is an act that does not first take place in time, or as sat believing – 1. Faith is not the cause of it in any sense; it is the moving  cause, that is the free grace of God. But then how are we to understand growth in grace, and the adorning of  graces, as the product of the Spirit not in eternity, but in time.There is little of the mysteriousness of the eternal God and his moment-by-moment creation. Little of Paul' ''Oh! the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchaBle are hisjudgments and how inscrutable ways! (Rom.10.33. There is a touch of rationalism in John Gill, I'm afraid.

So,  eternal justification is the mark of Hyper-Calvinism.

 ( I was surprised to discover that Peter Toon, Hyper-Calvinism, Olive Tree, 1967, is still for sale via Amazon)







Friday, April 01, 2022

John Owen ,the Preacher,




John Owen spent a good deal of his writing and preaching in Restoration England as the pastor of….. .He laboured to write on the Holy Spirit, in several  books, the chief which was A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (1674) . In 1673, 47  years old, he was working his mammoth works on the Holy Spirit which are gathered in chapter 3 of the Goold edition of his works.  He died in 1683. For him the role of the Spirit is basically the renewal and regeneration of unregenerate, fallen, people, including the preaching of the Gospel  as the means Christ has made redemption  for the elect.



In the page 295 (he had said) ,  


Preachers of the gospel and others have sufficient warrant to press upon all men the duties of faith, repentance and  obedience, although they know that in themselves they have not a sufficiency of ability for their due performance, for______(1) It is the will and command  of God that so they should do, and that is the rule all our duties. They are not to consider what men can do or will do, what God  requires. To  make a judgment of man’s ability, and  to accommodate the commands of God unto them accordingly, is not committed unto any of the sons of men. (2) They have a double end in pressing on men the observance of duties, with a supposition of the state of impotency described : -----


[1] to prevent  them from such courses of sin as would harden them, and so render their conversion more difficult, if not desperate. [2] To exercise a means appointed  of God for their conversion, or the communication of saving grace  unto them. Such are God’s commands, and such are the duties required of them. In and by them God doth use to communicate of his grace unto the souls of men; not with respect them as their duties, but as they are ways appointed and sanctified by him unto such ends.


And hence it follows that even such duties as are vitiated in their performance, yet are of advantage unto them by whom that are performed; for -- 1st By attendance unto them they are preserved from many sins. 2d. In an especial manner from the great sin of despising God, which ends commonly in that which is unpardonable. 3d. They are hereby made useful unto others, and many ends of God’s glory in the world. 4th They are kept in God’s way, wherein they may gradually be brought over unto a real conversion unto him. (Owen Works III,  295)



which occurs in the book before the one just referred to,  is an account of the temperament of an unregenerate person. As follows:

 There is in the minds of unregenerate persons a moral impotency, which is reflected on them greatly  from the will and affections, whence the mind never  will receive spiritual things, - that is, it will always and unchangeably reject and refuse them, - and that because of various lusts corruptions, and prejudices invincibly fixed in them, causing them to look on them as foolishness.  Hence it will  come to pass that no man shall be judged and perish at the last day merely on account of his natural impotency. Every one to whom the gospel hath been preached, and by whom it is refused, shall be convinced of positive actings of their minds, rejecting the gospel from the love of self, sin, and the world. Thus our Saviour tells the Jews that “no man can come unto him, except the Father draw him John vi 44. Such is their natural  impotency that they cannot. Nor is it to be cured but by an immediate divine instruction or illumination; as it is written, ’They shall be all taught of God, verse45. But this is not t all he tells them elsewhere, “Ye will not come to me that  ye might have life’, (John 6. 44) chapter.III 267.

As is usual it is necessary to take  a deep breath before the reading and the thinking of Owen. But one is repaid by a richness, or condensation. So reading these passages should  be undertaken more than once. His passage was based on I Corinthians 2.Here Paul expounds what he calls 'the natural man'. He starts by his policy as a preacher, 'For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified....and my speech and my message were. not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of  men but in the power of God' I Cor 2.4, 'we impart a secret and and hidden wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2. 7)...we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit  who is from God...we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom  but taught by the Spirit. And the apex of Paul's argument:  'The natural does not accept the things of the Spirit of God he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned......(I Cor 2.14, ) Owen had absorbed this and it warranted him saying in his earlier passage that the unregenerate possess 'a moral impotency which is reflected on them greatly from the will and affections, whence the mind (of the unregenerate) never will receive spiritual  things...(III 267) 

The unregenerate suffer from a moral impotency, yet later Owen advocates that preachers of the gospel must press upon all men, the duties of faith, repentance and obedience.

Next time I hope to take the answer of what otherwise is a conjundrum. How can the blind see?  How can a person be born again?