Thursday, February 28, 2013

Portsmouth Baptist Association Circular Letter

What did the “Old” Baptists believe prior to the early 1800s? The following excerpt from the Portsmouth Baptist Association Circular Letter of 1793 proves their adherence to doctrines which today are at the center of controversy among those who presumptuously take this title unto themselves (emphasis mine – KF).

“Before we leave the subject (election – KF), it may not be amiss to treat a little of the Time this Business was transacted by God the Father, as revealed to us in the Holy Scripture. And here you may note, it was not when Adam was in the Garden of Eden, nor after he was expelled, nor at the Time, or after a Soul believes in Jesus Christ; nor we make light of Faith, Repentance, Holiness, &c. But consider those blessed Graces highly necessary in their Places; and look upon them as precious Fruits and effects of our election in Christ Jesus; but by no means the causes thereof, either in whole, or in part:for this Choice was made before the Foundation of the World, and consequently our existence, from which it is evident there could be no good Qualification in Men to influence his Choice.”

Things are expressed correctly here. Faith, repentance, and holiness are highly necessary yet at the same time are not to be considered efficient causes.

They write further:

Now if all Things were known of God as they invariably come to pass, through all Eternity, the Result is; They could not be so foreknown of him, if they could, might, or may, otherwise come to pass. So that upon the whole; if his complete Foreknowledge of all Things is confessed; it ought with the same parity of Reasoning also to be owned, that he is able, and of consequence can, predetermine all Things, with as much justice and equity as he foreknows all Things, as they invariably come to pass, through all eternity. However, We hope we shall not be so understood, as to exclude the use of Means in any case whatever; nor on the other Hand, to idolize Means; for God is at Liberty to work by them, without them, above them, or against them at his divine Pleasure; though in common has seen fit to honor the timely, prudent, and humble use of them with a Blessing: - but by the way, it ought to be remembered, that he has not only prescribed in his written word, what Means he approves of, but by his Providence, &c. excites to such a use of them as may lead to an accomplishment of all good Ends; so that when happiness of any kind is enjoyed, all the Praise is his: when Evil is felt, the blame is justly on Angels, and Men as Creatures unprovokedly abusing primitive Liberty.”

This is also an important statement as it takes a correct stand on the issue of foreknowledge as it relates to predestination. It understands that if God foreknows all things, that such foreknowledge must be sure. And what makes it sure is God’s decree! Thus, predestination is absolute. This is a lesson greatly needed to be learned by the Conditionalist faction of the Primitive Baptists, who create a disconnect between foreknowledge and predestination, claiming that God foreknows all but did not decree all.

We also see they were “Means” Baptists and did not let their belief in predestination deny such by abusing it with a fatalistic approach.

1793 Portsmouth Circular Letter

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When I Saw Pelagianism in Hardshellism

I have appreciated Brother Stephen’s current series on Pelagianism so much. It has reminded me of when I first began to see for myself that this was being indirectly taught by my former acquaintances; though like me, probably totally oblivious to the fact that they were doing so. I came to see that the reason why gospel exhortations were not to be seen as directed to the unregenerate because they were not able to respond. Sadly, there was a time when I would concur.  I now know, thankfully, that though man lost all ability of will due to the fall, God did not lose his right to hold man accountable. Here’s a thought of mine I penned down a few years ago when the Lord saw fit to rescue me from the doctrine of do-nothing:

“Moreover, to reason that ‘command implies ability’ is an error in and of itself. It is the exact line of thought pursued by the 4th century British Monk Pelagius. Having noticed that the scriptures command men to repent and believe, he deduced from it that man must be able to comply with the terms. This led him to deny the Augustinian view of man’s depravity and consent to FREE WILL! Many in our day are guilty of the same reasoning as Pelagius! They see the commands of repentance and faith in scripture and feel that they must necessarily imply ability on the part of the recipient. Instead of renouncing depravity, however, they have flown to what they feel is the only other alternative; that being, to claim that the commands of repentance and faith are addressed exclusively to those who are already alive, because they alone are able! This demonstrates much ignorance upon the fact that the commands of scripture (e.g. Look unto me and be ye saved – Is. 45:22) are not meant to suggest ability on the part of the hearer, but to EXPOSE THEIR INABILITY! It is “that he may know his sin, not (emphasis mine - KF) that he may believe that he has any strength (Luther, The Bondage of the Will). In other words, it is okay for the commands of faith and repentance to be addressed to the lost, for if the Lord chooses to grant the increase, they can be the means by which the man is made to see his sinfulness, and that he can’t comply with the demands. To assert that the commands of faith and repentance must be addressed only to those who are ‘already saved’ because they alone are able to comply is to regurgitate Pelagianism! Failure to recognize this, though, is a major reason why evangelism among much of the Primitives is absolutely dead.”

The result of this Pelagian tenet is to shift the evangelical appeals to audiences "already regenerated", thus opening up the door for conditional time salvation.

One error leads to another.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Does Discipleship Follow Sonship?

One of the ways in which heresies can gain an amount of credibility in minds is by dressing them up in theological garb.  It is much easier to accept a novel interpretation of scripture if they can be placed in neat little cubbyholes over which hangs a pretty soteriological sign.  Among those who, relatively speaking, are more learned in the time salvation paradigm, the current language used to describe the manner in which it partitions the Bible is to say that some scriptures treat of sonship while others speak of discipleship.  Of course, there would not be such a determined effort to so divide up the Bible if both were deemed necessary for salvation.  It would be no different than if I were to say that one piece of wood belongs on the roof and another to the floor while building a house, when both are required for its construction.  It is therefore understood that when such a distinction is made by the inventors of this grid that the former is seen as necessary for salvation, and the other is not.
I see through this somewhat fanciful language as nothing more than a cloak, under which lies the rotten heresy that a man can be saved without being a follower or disciple of Christ.  It is simply a more modern, academic way of saying what has been said since the inception of this paradigm in the late 1800s:  a sinner can be regenerated but not converted.  There are some, however, who attempt to navigate between Scylla and Charbydis by imbibing the idea of a “non-evangelical conversion” common to the elect. They would say that the elect do follow Christ after regeneration, with the understanding that they were converted through the direct preaching of Jesus to the soul.  Thus, two camps exist.
One can proclaim to "rightly divide the word of truth" by separating the passages into sonship and discipleship all that he wants.   I will but ever and always reply with the very pointed question:
Does discipleship follow sonship? Is following Christ an absolute effect of the new birth?
As one delivered from this pre-conceived grid, I reply that the scriptures so abundantly affirm that it does, that I marvel how professed Bible-believers, especially elders of the gospel, can deny it and still have a clear conscience.  All that needs to be done is refer to passages which show that following Christ is a definite fruit in those regenerated.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
The interesting thing about this passage is that it is an oft-quoted text among the Conditionalists, yet is no friend to their teachings.  Does following Christ belong to sonship or discipleship?  If it’s true that Christ knows all his children, and all hear his voice, then is it not true that all follow Him?  If they all follow, then does discipleship follow regeneration?  If so, then the gird which we’re discussing is overthrown.  Of course some would say, as we mentioned above, that they all do follow Him, having been converted by the literal voice of Jesus.  What now? Are there "two kinds" of discipleship?
This is confusion. 
Any verse of scripture which shows elements of conversion as part of the course of the regenerate life annihilates this idea of certain sonship but optional discipleship.  Anything which is said to be a definite fruit of regeneration logically becomes a definite part of salvation because none will go to heaven without them.  If God's elect thus attain to final salvation having exhibited these fruits in their lives, then it is evident that they passed through both stages of sonship and discipleship.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ez. 36:27)
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” (John 10:4)
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18)
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom. 6:22)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1)
“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom. 8:4)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14)

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:2)

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb. 10:39)
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

“These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 14:4)

It is the effect of regeneration to follow Christ, exhibit holiness, walk after the Spirit, be obedient, be servants of righteousness, servants of God, walk in His statutes, and believe to final salvation. In Hardshell language, this would mean that discipleship is produced when they become sons.  As we heard another analyze correctly, to say that it is not a definite effect of regeneration portrays a God who sort of taps His people on the shoulder in regeneration and says "I'll see you on the day of the resurrection!", leaving their present life to be determined by Pelagian free-will.

An utterly destructive passage on this novel grid is Jesus's statement in Luke 8:19-21:

"Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press.  And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.  And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it."

Here our Lord announces the spiritual family is the same as those who hear the word of God and do it.  He weds together spiritual relationship with being hearers and doers of the word, or in other terms, sonship with discipleship.  His "mother" and "brethren" are gospel converts!

And again in Matthew 12:50:
"For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."

And of course any verse which says there is no salvation outside of Christianity utterly razes such an idea to the ground:

"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.  He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."(2 John 9)

My hope is that those who overlay the scriptures with this grid will come to see it as an error, and come to see that regeneration produces discipleship.  To be a son is to be a follower of Christ.

Wilson Thompson's Heresies

Elder Wilson Thompson is viewed by Hardshells as one of their greatest founding fathers and yet he held to views that are heretical.  If Thompson were alive today and preached those heresies, he would not be in fellowship with the Hardshells.  The Hardshells simply overlook these errors of Thompson.  One of the errors of Thompson was his belief that the human soul of Christ was created before the world began.  Another error was that he taught, along with Beebe and Parker, that the children of God preexisted with Christ before the world began, being in vital union with Christ before they had an earthly existence.  Another error is that he denied the Trinity, denying that there are three distinct persons in the Godhead, and advocating that the Son and the Father were the same person.  He was a Sabellian or Modalist.

Elder Sylvester Hassell, in his Hardshell history, though singing the praises of Wilson Thompson, nevertheless wrote this about him:

"Considering 'person' to mean a distinct and separate individual, he objected to the saying that there were three persons in the Godhead; though he maintained the unity of God, and, at the same time, the divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit."  (pg. 633)

What Hassell says of the view of Thompson on the Trinity is what may be said in regard to anyone who holds to the heresy of Sabellius.  Hassell shows that he was unwilling to call such a view heresy!

Here is what Thompson wrote on the subject of the Trinity (emphasis mine).

"My next business will be to prove that Christ taught, and the apostles believed, that He was God to the exclusion of all distinct equal persons. That the apostles believed as they were taught by Christ, that He was exclusive God, and rejected the idea of any other equal person, that was distinct from Him, we call your attention to the New Testament, where their faith, and Christ’s lessons of instruction are plainly stated, in the following manner...Now can there be any distinct person from the Lord God of the holy prophets, and equal with Him? Is not the tri-personal plan false, according to these texts?"

However, in saying such things Thompson denies what is taught clearly in the London and Philadelphia Confessions of faith, and sets him against what the churches believed.  This view of Thompson got him into hot water with the Old Baptists in the area where Thompson labored.

Thompson continued:

"Compare I Cor. 8:6, with John 20:28. In the first of these places, Paul says, “To us there is but one God the Father.” In the other, Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Then Jesus and the Father could not be two distinct Persons, for while Paul owned no God but the Father; Thomas said Jesus was his Lord and his God. Then Jesus is all the God that the apostles acknowledged, as a God to them."

This is nothing but pure Sabellianism or Modalism!  For a refutation of these views, see my postings in the Baptist Gadfly blog.  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

Thompson wrote:

" the God in Christ, or Christ as God, was the only Lord God of the apostles, to the exclusion of all persons distinct from Him." "Some may try to evade the force of all these plain, and pointed Scriptures; by acknowledging that Christ is God, in common with the Father and Spirit; but yet a distinct person, from them both. To destroy this futile and illogical refuge, I will adduce a few pointed texts, which will be like fire among thorns, to this cobweb refuge."

"Now, if the Godhead consists of three equal, and distinct persons, and Christ be only the second one of these, how woefully the apostle missed it, and how improper the caution in the text; but if the apostle be correct, and the whole fullness of the Godhead, to the exclusion of all distinct persons, be in Christ bodily, how woefully the tri-personal scheme misses it, and how well timed the warning given by the apostle to the church, to beware lest any man spoil them through philosophy, etc."

"...neither is there one text that says anything about three persons in the Godhead." In a small Book which I published in 1821 entitled “Simple Truth;” I said something against the notion of three distinct persons in the Godhead; as being a defect in the Trinitarian plan of reasoning. On this account, some men, not very well disposed toward me, have seized this one reference as a good opportunity to poison the minds of their friends against me, by falsely saying, both, in print and verbally, that I had treated the doctrine of the Trinity with the utmost contempt. This is a false allegation, but I hold nothing against any man on this account; to his own master he stands, or falls. By the word Trinity; I understand three in one. By the divine Trinity; I understand the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; being one. But I never thought, nor do I yet think, that these three must necessarily be distinct, divine, and equal persons of one indivisible essence, and each of these persons, separately considered, truly and properly God, and yet all of them but one God, in order to the existence of a trinity; nor did I believe, that the three must necessarily be persons at all, in order to the existence of a trinity; nor do I yet believe it."

This is classic Sabellianism!  Of course Sabellians believe in some kind of a "Trinity"!  But, what they believe is that the "three" are simply three modes in which the one person God manifests himself.  They believe in what is called an "economic Trinity." 

In defining Sabellianism, Hassell wrote the following about Sabellius:

"He maintained that the distinction of Father, Son and Holy Spirit were only external, successive and transitory manifestations of God to His creatures, and not internal, simultaneous and everlasting subsistencies of the Divine Being--that there is a trinity of offices, but not a trinity of persons in the Godhead.  See foot-note on pages 23 and 24."  (pg. 378)

Another heresy of Thompson was his upholding the view that the elect had an existence and vital union with Christ before the world began.  (I have written about this in my book on the Hardshell Baptist cult - see here)

Thompson wrote:

"...we are lost when we go to hunt the antiquity of this union. We can only say it is as old as God, for God is love; but love must have an object or it ceases to be, for I cannot love and love nothing; love is that endearing or uniting perfection of God, which could only exist, so long as the object beloved existed; nor could God be love before the object was beloved, neither can love be controlled, for it brings forth, produces, or sets up its own object, that is, must necessarily have an object, in order to have its own existence; and as God is self-existent and independent, His existence as love, brought forth its object, which was the soul of Christ with all His people in it, and the very existence of God as king could only be because He had subjects: for a king without a kingdom, is no king at all; so love without an object is no love at all. So we see that in order to our speaking of God as being love, or His existing as love, there must be an object beloved, and in order to His being a king there must be subjects, and thus the pre-existent soul of Christ, was the object of the love of God and His people in it were the subjects of His kingdom, and Christ was the medium of operation through whom God exercises His authority in the government of His kingdom; for in the pre-existing soul of Christ, the subjects of this kingdom were chosen, before the world, when we speak or read of a choice being made in Christ before the world, we are not to understand, that God was looking through Adams posterity, and picking out one here, and another there, and writing their names in the book of life, and refusing the rest, for they were chosen in Christ before the world and not in Adam; for He did not exist before creation; and the choice was not an act that took place, or was planned some time after the existence of God, either before the world or since, but was a consequence of and inseparable from the existence of God as king, and this kingdom was organized in the pre-existent soul of Christ..."  (DISCOURSE #5 On the Atonement, and Man's Justification by it. in "Simple Truth")

It was this view that the human "soul" of Christ was created by God before the world began, or before the Incarnation, that led some, like Elder James Osbourn, to call the followers of Thompson Arians.  Thompson not only believed that the soul of Christ pre-existed the creation of the world, but so did the people of God.  Thompson does not believe that the children of God merely "existed" in the mind of God, but that they actually existed.  This was one of the errors of Daniel Parker, one of the founding fathers of the Hardshell denomination.  It was also the view of Elder Gilbert Beebe, another leader of the Hardshell denomination.  It is also held to by Hardshell "Absoluters" today, such as Elder James Poole.  These Hardshells believe that the "union" that existed in eternity past was not virtual but real and thus both the man Christ and his people all had a pre-existence before their actual physical existence in the world.

Elder Sylvester Hassell wrote against the heresy of "eternal vital union" in his paper "The Gospel Messenger" in 1894 - see here)

Now, will the Hardshells continue to ignore all this about Elder Wilson Thompson and still claim him as being one of their greatest leaders?

Hardshell Heresies

My wife has a Facebook account and has several Hardshell elders as her "friends."  I do not have an account with Facebook and do not plan on doing so.  Recently a Hardshell elder posted a message which was only available to his "friends."  When my wife read his message she called me in to read it.  Of course, she saw the errors in it as I also did.  I copied his message and want to review what he wrote.  It is an example of today's Hardshell heresies.

The Hardshell elder wrote (emphasis mine):

"Ten to fifteen years ago, there began to be some unrest among the Old Baptists with regard to what we commonly refer to as "Time Salvation". Some began to imply that our "Time Salvation" was a necessary part of our "Eternal Salvation". In other words, those who were eternally saved would also have a measurable level of obedience. We certainly do not believe that every wicked person is just a disobedient child of God. The doctrine of election implies that there is a hell which will be populated with wicked men who were never loved of God. However, we do believe that any child of God has the potential to live a life of rebellion against God and die in this miserable condition. While we can only identify God's children as they bear spiritual fruit, I'm thankful to know that God has perfect knowledge of the state of every man's soul: "..the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his." (2 Tim. 2:19)"

Such a view of things is contrary to the Scriptures and to the traditional view of the Old Baptists, who taught the doctrine of the perseverence of the saints, and that those who have been born again will not live a life of sin.  Hardshells today generally deny this truth and yet they continue to claim to be old, primitive, or original Baptists.  They think that if they can point to saved people like David who committed sin then they have disproven the doctrine of the saint's perseverence.  But, the doctrine does not affirm that the saints never commit transgression, but that their lives are generally characterized by obedience to God.  Notice these verses:

"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"  (Rom. 6: 2)

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."  (Rom. 8: 1)

"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."  (vs. 13)

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."  (Eph. 2: 1-3)

"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure...He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."  (I John 3: 3, 8-9)

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."  (I John 5: 18)

The elder continued:

"Primitive Baptists strongly emphasize that our eternal salvation was completely accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ. Heaven is our home as a result of what Jesus did alone. Nothing we do or fail to do will deprive us of what Jesus secured for us by His death, burial, and resurrection. He offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for our sins and God accepted the offering. We are eternally secure in Him. Therefore, as Paul described it, we have been blessed "...with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:" (Eph. 1:3)"

What a perversion of Scripture!  If a man fails to believe in Jesus he will be saved anyway!  Christ died for many who live a life in sin and unbelief and who will go to heaven anyway! 

The elder continued:

"However, we believe many blessings in this life will be lost if we live in a way that is not pleasing to God. Willful sin often brings upon us the chastening rod of God. While living in disobedience to God, we sacrifice that which Paul described as "...righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Rom. 14:17). Furthermore, we may lose many material blessings as well, "...he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes." (Haggai 1:6)"

"While rejoicing that we have an inheritance that is "..incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away..." (1 Peter 1:4), let us also heed the admonition to the newly baptized members of the early church, " yourselves from this untoward generation." (Acts 2:40)"

No wonder Hardshellism has been associated with Antinomianism and Universalism!  A man can live in disobedience and sacrifice righteousness and still be saved!  Yet, the Scripture says that Jesus came to save "all them who obey him" (Heb. 5: 9) and that Christ will reture "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." (II Thess. 1: 8-9)


Gill on Regeneration By The Gospel

"Though after all it seems plain, that the ministry of the word is the vehicle in which the Spirit of God conveys himself and his grace into the hearts of men; which is done when the word comes not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost; and works effectually, and is the power of God unto salvation; then faith comes by hearing, and ministers are instruments by whom, at least, men are encouraged to believe: "received ye the Spirit", says the apostle, "by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith": (Gal. 3:2), that is, by the preaching of the law, or by the preaching of the gospel? by the latter, no doubt."  ("Regeneration" in Body of Divinity)

This is found in Gill's Body of Divinity which many Hardshells, beginning with Elder John R. Daily, affirmed taught against the Gospel means position.  Many Hardshells argue that Gill changed his mind on this subject.  They admit that Gill taught the use of means in regeneration throughout his commentary on the Scriptures but say that he denied it in his Body of Divinity, and represented a change of views from his earlier work.  However, the above citation shows this not to be the case.  In fact, the above citation is from that section on "Regeneration" where Hardshells say that Gill denied the use of means.  But, anyone without a bias can plainly see that Gill taught that "the ministry of the word is the vehicle in which the Spirit of God conveys himself and his grace into the hearts of men." 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hardshell Pelagianism III

Chapter 140

In the "Princeton Review" for 1830, I will be citing from a lengthy article titled "Regeneration, and the Manner of its Occurrence.  Sermon from John v. 24. Preached at the Opening of the Synod of New York, in the Rutgers street Church, on Tuesday Evening, Oct. 20, 1829. By Samuel H. Cox, D.D. Pastor of the Laight Street Presbyterian Church. New York. 1829. Pp. 42."  It is published under this heading: BIBLICAL REPERTORY AND THEOLOGIGAL' REYIEW. EDITED BY AN ASSOCIATION OF GENTLEMEN IN PRINCETON AND ITS VICINITY.  In this article the editors take issue with the statements of Dr. Cox in which he misrepresents the views of older Calvinists on the nature of the inability of sinners and on the nature of regeneration.  The editors say (emphasis mine):

"It is not probable that Dr Cox, in writing these paragraphs, had any one class of theologians exclusively in his eye; because some of “these dogmas” are inconsistent with each other. We have no doubt however that most of what is here stated, was intended as an exhibition of the doctrines of the old Calvinists (sit venia verbo). Our reason for thinking so is, that we are accustomed to see such, and even still more gross misrepresentations of these doctrines, though we acknowledge not often, from such men as Dr Cox. It is however notorious that this class of theologians are constantly represented as maintaining that “man has no ability, even if he had the inclination, to believe the Gospel and be saved,”—that man’s depravity “is a physical defect”—that regeneration is “a physical change,” &c."

 As was intimated in the previous chapters in this series, the error that makes man's depravity a physical defect, or what is more than moral defect, also leads to the error that makes man's regeneration a physical change rather than a strictly moral change.  The question is, can a man believe if he will? 

The Princeton Review editors continue:

"Belonging as we do to the class, which for the sake of convenience and distinction, we have called old Calvinists, we feel ourselves aggrieved by such representations, and called upon to show that no such doctrines can be fairly imputed to the elder Calvinists. It will not be expected that in a single article we should go over the formidable list presented by Dr Cox. We shall, for the present at least, confine ourselves to the doctrine of this sermon, and show that the old standard Calvinistic authors expressly disclaim the opinions here imputed to them, and that they are not fairly deducible from any of the principles which they avow. Should we entirely fail as to the second point, it would still be very unjust to charge men with holding doctrines, which they constantly disclaim, because we consider them as flowing from their principles. Our object is to show that Dr Cox has misrepresented the views of his brethren on this subject; that they hold to no change in the substance of the soul nor in any of its essential properties, but uniformly teach that the change is a moral one, and takes place in a manner perfectly congruous to the nature of a rational and active being. We appeal to the language and doctrines of all the old Calvinistic divines, in support of this assertion. Charnock, in his discourse on regeneration, contained in Vol. II. of the folio edition of his works, proposes in the first place to state in reference to the nature of this change, what it is not. On page 72, he says,

It is not a removal or taking away of the old substance or faculties of the soul. Some thought that the substance of Adam’s soul was corrupted when he sinned, therefore suppose the substance of his soul to be altered when he is renewed. Sin took not away the essence but the rectitude; the new creation therefore gives not a new faculty but a new quality.”

As we shall see, the errors that both man's depravity and his regeneration involve changes in the soul's essence or substance are prevalent, though thankfully not universal, among Hardshells. 

The editors continue:

"Who the "some” were, to whom Charnock refers, as holding that the substance of Adam’s soul was corrupted by the fall, we know not; all we know is that such is not the doctrine of any respectable body of Calvinists, nor of any standard writer on the subject. On the 73d page, Charnock says expressly,

the essence and faculties remain the same.” “The passions and affections are the same as to the substance and nature of the acts; but the difference lies in the objects.” “When a man loves God, or fears God,'or loves man, or fears man, it is the same act of love and the same act of fear; there are the same motions of the soul, the same substantial acts simply considered,” doc. “This new creation is not a destruction of the substance of the soul, but there is the same physical being, and the same faculties in all, and nothing is changed in its substance as it respects the nature of man.” P. 85.

There is perhaps no primitive Calvinistic writer who was more correct on the subject of regeneration than the great Stephen Charnock (pronounced as Harnock).  Charnock says "nothing is changed in its substance as it respects the nature of man."  It is true that the Scriptures speak of regeneration as changing the "nature" of a man, but it is his moral nature, not the constitutional nature of the soul.

The editors continue:

"We have here a most explicit disavowal of the doctrine of physical regeneration in the sense in which Dr Cox represents the old Calvinists as holding it. As to the manner in which this work is effected, he (Charnock) remarks, in the first place, that

“it is a secret work, and therefore difficult to explain.” “Yet, secondly, this is evident, that it is rational, that is, congruous to the essential nature of man. God does not deal with us as beasts, or as creatures destitute of sense, but as creatures of an intelligent order. Who is there that believes in Christ, as heavy things fall to the earth, or as beasts run at the heck of their sensual appetites without rule or reason!” P. 217.  "God that requires of us a reasonable service, would work upon us by a reasonable operation. God therefore works by the way of a spiritual illumination of the understanding, in propounding the creature’s happiness by arguments and reasons; and in the way of a spiritual impression on the will, moving it sweetly to embrace that happiness, and the means to it which he doth propose; and indeed without this work preceding, the motion of the will could never be regular.” P. 218.

The instrumentality of the truth in regeneration is strongly asserted by all old Calvinists. Charnock says,

“that to make an alteration in us according to our nature of understanding, will and affections, it is necessary there should be some declaration of things under those considerations of true, good and delightful, in the highest manner, to make a choice change in every faculty of the soul; and without this a man cannot be changed as a rational creature,” &.c. P. 233. “The word operates, first, objectively, as it is a declaration of the will of God, and presenting the objects of all holy acts; and secondly, it has an active force. It is operative in the hand of God for sanctification.” “The spirit doth so edge the word that it cuts to the quick, discerns the very thoughts, insinuates into the depths of the heart,” &.c. P. 235. “To conclude, the promise in the word breeds principles in the heart suitable to itself; it shows God a father and raises up principles of love and reverence; it shows Christ a Mediator, and raises up faith and desire. Christ in the word conceives Christ in the heart, Christ in the word the beginning of grace conceives Christ in the heart the hope of glory.” P. 236.

Charnock was by no means singular in the views here expressed. Living as he did in the days of the Puritan ascendancy in England, the companion of Owen, Goodwin, Burgess, Bates, and many others of the same class, he was united with them in opinion as well as in labours. Owen, in his work on the Spirit, when speaking of regeneration, lays down the following proposition, (p. 270 of the folio edition).

“In whom or towards whomsoever the Holy Spirit puts forth his power, or the acts of his grace for their regeneration, it removes all obstacles, overcomes all opposition, and infallibly produces the effect intended.”

But how is this done? Is it by changing the substance of the soul or violating any of the laws of its being? The words which immediately follow, and which are intended to explain this general proposition contain the answer.

The power which the Holy Spirit puts forth in our regeneration, is such in its actings or exercise, as our minds, wills and affections are suited to be wrought upon, and to be affected by, according to their natures and natural operations. He doth neither act in them any otherwise than they themselves are meet to be moved and to move, to be acted and to act, according to their own nature, power and ability. He draws us with the cords of a man, and the work itself is expressed by a persuading; ‘God persuade Japhet; I will allure her into the wilderness and speak comfortably:’ for, as it is certainly effectual, so it carries no more repugnancy to our faculties than a prevalent persuasion doth.”

It is interesting to note the date of this article by the Princeton Review - 1830.  It was about this time that the most heated debates were occurring among Baptists, Reformers (Campbellites), and Presbyterians regarding the nature and means of regeneration.  This debate gave rise to three views on the subject.  One view affirmed that regeneration was by the Spirit alone, apart from any medium of truth.  This view was espoused by some in the new "anti mission movement" and who became known as "Old School" or "Primitive" Baptists.  Another view affirmed that regeneration was by the word alone, that there was no separate work or power other than the word needed to effect regeneration.  This view was espoused by the followers of Alexander Campbell.  The third view was the traditional view, especially of the Baptists, and the one expressed in their articles and confessions of faith, that it was by both the Spirit and the word that regeneration was effected.  If one reads the writings of Campbell in his papers "The Christian Baptist" and "The Millenial Harbinger" he will see how Campbell attacked the Spirit alone view and the view that makes regeneration a physical or metaphysical change to the substance of the soul.  In this debate was the question of what part, if any, did moral persuasion via Gospel preaching play.

Not by moral persuasion only

Many of the old Calvinist writers were careful to say that it was not by moral persuasion alone that regeneration was effected.  In saying this, however, they were not denying the necessity of moral suasion, but simply stating that something more was needed.  They believed that the power of the Holy Spirit, separate from the word, was necessary to effect regeneration.  The power of the most high must attend the preaching to make it effectual.  When they denied that moral suasion alone could regenerate they were denying that the word alone was sufficient.  They believed that both were necessary to effect regeneration, just as the old London Confession had affirmed - "by his Word and Spirit."  Still, if regeneration is a moral work, rather than a physical work, it is necessary that there be a moral instrument, and this is what the truth is.

The editors continue:

"One can hardly imagine how men who use such language can be charged with holding a “physical regeneration,” by which, “the connatural diseases of the texture of soul” are cured. Owen proceeds to say, secondly, that the Holy Spirit

“doth not in our regeneration possess the mind with any cnthusiastical impressions; but he works on the minds of men in and by their own natural actings, through an immediate influence and impression of his power. ‘Create in me a clean heart, 0 God.’ He worketh to will and to do. Thirdly, he therefore offers no violence or compulsion to the will. This that faculty is not naturally capable to give admission unto. If it be compelled it is destroyed.”

And again on the next page,

“the Holy Spirit who in his power and operation is more intimate, as it were, unto the principles of our souls than they are to themselves, doth, with the preservation and in the exercise of the liberty of our wills, effectually work our regeneration and conversion unto God. ‘This is the substance of what we have to plead for in this cause, and which declares the nature of this work of regeneration, as it is an inward spiritual work.” (251-260)

We hope however that our labour will not be regarded as altogether unnecessary; because when an imputation comes from a source in every way so respectable, and in fact so highly respected, the inference will be, that in sober truth old Calvinists do hold, that the texture of the soul is diseased; that its substance is changed in regeneration; that some unknown violence to its faculties is suffered under the Spirit’s influence. It is proper, therefore, that it should be shown, that the direct reverse of all this is distinctly declared by them to be their opinion; that they profess to believe regeneration to be a moral and not a physical change; and that it takes place without any violence being done to the soul or any of its laws."

In operating upon the mind or understanding in regeneration, God is doing a moral work, not a physical work.  It is the nature of the truth to effect such a work through the power of the Spirit.  So Paul taught in many places.  For instance he says that believers were "chosen to salvation through" a "belief of the truth."  (II Thess. 2: 13)

The editors continue:

"We are perfectly willing to admit, that old Calvinists, when treating on the subject of regeneration, often speak of a direct and physical influence of the Spirit on the soul. But in what sense? In the sense in which Dr Cox represents them as holding physical regeneration? Far from it. He says that physical regeneration and physical depravity stand together. He thus uses the word as qualifying the effect produced. They use it to qualify the influence exerted in producing the effect.. But what do they mean when they speak of a physical influence being exerted on the soul in regeneration? They mean precisely what we suppose Dr Cox means; when he speaks of "the agency of the Spirit, apart from the power of the truth, which is his instrument.” P. 27. They mean to assert that regeneration is not effected by mere moral suasion; that there is something more than the simple presentation of truth and urging of motives. The idea of Calvinists uniformly was, that the truth, however clearly presented or forcibly urged, would never produce its full effect without a special influence of the Holy Spirit. This influence they maintained was supernatural, that is, above the mere moral power of the truth, and such as infallibly to secure the result, and yet, to use their own illustration, did the soul no more violence than demonstration does the intellect, or persuasion the heart." (261-265) (The New Princeton Review, Volume 2, 1830, see here)

"Physical regeneration and physical depravity stand together"!  How true!  The error in the latter leads to the error of the former.  Notice how the reviewing editors say that "mere moral suasion" is not enough, yet it is necessary in conjunction with the special influence of the Spirit. 

It seems that some of the older Hardshell writers of the 19th century understood these things, but, as we shall see, later Hardshells became, almost universally, advocates for a physical regeneration.

Elder J. H. Oliphant, in his book "Thoughts on the Will," wrote:

"And I think too, that if the inability of men to obey God is physical, it would furnish a perfect excuse for disobedience. But let us consider the nature of the inability of men to serve God, or let us again consider the nature of moral inability.

A disinclination to obey, or an inclination to do the reverse would constitute a moral inability to obey. Or both, an inclination to do wrong, and an aversion to doing right, both taken together may constitute a moral inability to do right. If one has an inclination to do wrong, and no inclination to do right, he is morally unable to do right. The fact that this inclination to do wrong, springs from the natural corruption of the heart is no apology for it...let it be remembered that a preponderance of inclination to sin constitutes an inability to do right."  (Chapter 14, see here)

Again he writes, under a different heading:

"3rd. The will (being determined and decided by the mind and affections) is perverted, and on this part of the subject I desire that the writer and reader should take great pains. In order that men serve God and come to him as a Savior, there are three things necessary: 1st. They must have physical power, sufficient strength and natural ability, and this, I presume, all living men have; but little strength of this kind is needed to come to Jesus, it requires no long journey to reach him, no gold nor silver, nor yet the consent or aid of our fellow creatures; all men have a sufficient amount of natural power to come to him. 2nd. A sufficient amount of mental power, and, fortunately, the "foolish" of this world have a sufficient amount of mental power to come to Christ. Often men of weak and ordinary minds have a saving knowledge of Christ, while some that are extremely wise know nothing of his love and are utter strangers to his gospel. 3rd. They must have a will to come, they will not be brought against their will, and, if they have no will to come, though they may have the necessary natural power and the mental ability, they can not come. God has given all men sufficient natural power and sufficient mental power, but all men have not the will to come to him. All men know that they should forsake their sins, and that God has a just claim upon their affections, yet they "will not come to him." Jesus says, John 6:65: "no man can come unto me except it were given him of my father." One reason why he "can not" is not for lack of mental power nor natural power, for all have that, but for want of will. There is a "great difference between natural and moral inability;" the sinner's inability to come is not natural but moral. If a man be commanded to look without eyes he is not responsible for not looking, because of his natural inability to look, but if he is commanded to compute the distance to the stars, he is not responsible for not obeying because of his mental inability; but if he have mental and natural ability and disobeys on account of his own unwillingness to obey, he is culpable. Now here is the ground upon which I rest the finally impenitent. God has made them able naturally and mentally to obey him; they have natural power to repent of their sins, to obey God's requirements, and they are sensible that they should, but they "will not.""

Oliphant wrote his book, from which these citations are taken, after having read the writings of Jonathan Edwards on the subject and he endorses the views of Edwards on the nature of depravity and regeneration, although Oliphant does not accept that the truth is a means in effecting man's moral regeneration.  In this he was less consistent than later Hardshells, for he did not believe that the truth was a moral means to effect moral regeneration.  Later Hardshells who would insist that regeneration was a physical change of the soul substance would argue that no moral means could effect a phsical regeneration.  They would virtually deny that regeneration was a moral change. 

Oliphant continued:

"Porter in his Compendium of Methodism, page 238, says: "There is nothing in God, nothing in his election and reprobation, nothing in the sinner's infirmities of intellect, heart or will, to make it impossible for him to come to Christ and be saved." He adds, "No, nothing."

I grant that there is nothing in God, or election, or reprobation, that prevents, but I deny that there "is nothing in his will." "He will not come," and as long as he is unwilling to come just that long he can not come. The same writer, on page 239, argues that "God has made all men able to come to Christ; that there is a certain amount of grace given to every man which makes him able, and this supposed ability to come makes it just and right in God to condemn those who do not come." There is no criminality in not doing what we have no natural or mental power to do, but the sinner's inability is moral, and to cure this inability he must be made WILLING, and if all men are cured of their unwillingness what hinders the salvation of all? The courts of our land do not punish persons for not doing those things they have no power to do, naturally or mentally, neither do we suppose the Lord does, but a lack of will is no apology for sin among men. Nor do we believe that God owes it to his creature, man, to cure this species of inability. Did the prisoner at the bar ever plead that he should have been made willing to obey the laws, or would such an excuse be considered good ? Certainly not."

Oliphant agrees that man's "will not" is his "cannot."  He also seems to affirm that regeneration is the changing of man's moral will.  What is inconsistent in his views is that he rejects the idea that the truth can be a means of effecting this change of will.  Oliphant says "the sinner's inability is moral" and "to cure this inability he must be made WILLING."  So, the question is - "does the Spirit use the word as a means in effecting this change of will, this change of mind and understanding?" 

Oliphant continued:

"And so we say that men in nature are unwilling to come to Christ, to have him reign over them, and their inability to do these things lies principally in their unwillingness to do them. "If they were willing the things would be done." Nor is God under obligation to make them willing."  (Principals and Practices of the Regular Baptists: Chapter III, see here)

Do today's Hardshells generally agree with Oliphant?  In the next chapter, we shall see that many do not, but have embraced the old heresy that says that both depravity and regeneration are defects in the essence or substance of the soul.  They will deny that any change is made to the will or mind or understanding of the sinner in his regeneration. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Old Study Note

As can be expected, during my approximate 2-year journey in which I wrestled with critical issues involved in the means/anti-means controversy, I became a bit of a writer.  Not all of which I wrote then I would now totally agree with though.  I did lots of brainstorming over deep theological issues during this time so this is to be expected.  Just last night however I ran across an old note of mine from my personal study which serves as an example of what the Lord was leading me to see, in which I think things are stated correctly:

“We must not hastily discard the use of means.  He who is familiar with the Word of God should know very well that God has often used means for the fulfillment of His purposes.  To the oft-stated one-liner “God doesn’t need the gospel to save His people!”, and like statements, we might well rebut that Jesus didn’t need to spit on the ground to heal the blind man of His sight either…but He did.  We might say that God didn’t have to use the Jordan River to heal leprous Namaan, but it was His pleasure to do so.  The statement, therefore, that God doesn’t have to use His Word to regenerate or convert His people is quite beside the point.  The real issue is not whether God HAS to use His word or not in saving His children, but whether he has CHOSEN OR NOT CHOSEN to do so.  To avoid it by boldly declaring that the power of God doesn’t have to use the gospel to reveal himself to His people, while it sounds pleasant to those with extreme views of God’s sovereignty, reflects much ignorance to the fact that God has often chosen to channel that power through secondary means simply because it pleased Him to do so.”

Little did I know at the time that I was returning back to what my forefathers taught.  A good while after I wrote these words, when I began to dig into history, I read for the first time Elder William Fristoe’s History of the Ketocton Association in which I found words very similar to that of my own:

"THO' a Sovereign God, may work above, beyond, and without means, according to His own good pleasure, yet as He hath been pleased to ordain means, and accompanied them by the displays of His power for the conversion and salvation of multitudes of poor sinners…”

I’m so thankful that the Lord blessed me to see this truth a few years ago.  I often heard the one-liner stated from the pulpit that God was all sovereign and therefore didn’t NEED to use the gospel.  I even met with some, in whom the balance of sovereignty and responsibility was practically non-existent, who felt that God needed us not to even invite people to church.  Correct, He doesn’t!  But we might as well reply that God doesn’t have to use the sun to give light to His creation, make use of Moses to bring Israel from Egypt, Joshua to achieve the conquest of Canaan, ravens to feed Elijah, etc.  But guess what?

Discarding the idea of instrumentality because God doesn’t need it is therefore not the issue.  The question is what has He chosen to do.

For one who has been brought to see this truth, hindsight has indeed become a most precious thing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hardshell Pelagianism II

Chapter 139

"To call on dead sinners to repent and believe the gospel implies ability in them to do so." These were the words of Elder Beebe as cited in the previous chapter.  It is also repeated by other leaders in the "Primitive Baptist Church."  It is also a leading premise of Pelagianism.  But, we must ask - does the fact that all men are commanded to keep the commandments of the Lord imply that they have ability to do so?  Did not Solomon say - "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  (Eccl. 12: 13)  "Man," all men, are commanded to "fear God."  Does this imply that "man" has ability to do this?  Pelagians would say yes.  Hardshells, such as Beebe and the men cited in the previous chapter, also would have to say yes.  Yet, even though they deny that all men are commanded to repent and believe the Gospel, yet they do not deny that all men are commanded to fear God and keep his law.  If Hardshells can believe that the command to fear God and keep his commandments do not imply ability in man to do so, then why do they argue that the command to repent and believe imply an ability to do so? 

Elder John Clark, editor of Zion's Advocate, and leader of the "Primitive Baptist" church in the middle 19th century, and an oft opponent of some of the views of Beebe, wrote:

"But some object and say, Why preach repentance to dead sinners? They can neither hear, see nor understand. That is true; that they hear not, see not, understand not, so far as the preacher is concerned or is able to effect them; but why did the prophet call upon the dry bones to hear the word of the Lord? He answered, “And I prophesied as I was commanded.” That was authority then for all who feared God, and it is still the authority for all such. This objection, however, will lie against all the exhortations and admonitions to the saints as it does against addresses to the ungodly, for the Christian has no more power than the unbeliever. The difference between them is not in the power, but in the will; as it written: "To will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not.”"

The theory that we must preach to men according to the power they possess to obey is sublimated Arminianism, and yet; the advocates of it are very fraid of being called Arminians. Christians know, however, by the word of his grace, and by the revelation of that word in their hearts, when it comes in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, that Christ’s word is true which says, “Without me you can do nothing.” The Spirit takes the word of Christ and shows it to his people, and thus it is verified in the experience.

To preach to men upon the ground that they have power to do what is commanded, or to refuse to preach to them because they have not the power, shows that the confidence is in the flesh and not in God; that they depend upon the will of the flesh and not upon the power God, and that is the very essence, double refined, of Arminianism.

The minister of Christ does not preach to any class of men upon the consideration of their ability or inability. He has the sentence of death in himself, and therefore cannot trust in himself; and he has no confidence in the flesh of any other, but his confidence, his faith and hope, is in God, from whence alone are his expectations."

("What To Preach and How To Preach" Written by John Clark in Zion's Advocate--August 1875)

Elder John Clark understood the error of his fellow Hardshells who argued that Gospel commands implied ability in those addressed and therefore opted to believe that there are no Gospel commands to any other than those who are already saved.  Interesting is the fact that Elder Clark was one of the few remaining believers in the Gospel being a means in regeneration or new birth in the late 19th century.  It would be well if today's Hardshells would understand and accept the insightful words of Elder Clark.  What Clark calls "sublimated Arminianism," "double refined" Arminianism, is really "Pelagianism."  It is the view expressed by Elder Beebe. who said that Gospel commands imply an ability in those commanded, and therefore could not be addressed to the unregenerate.  Clark saw through this and called it for what it is, "sublimated Arminianism" or "Pelagianism."  It is because of these Pelagian errors that Hardshells have been labeled as "Antimomian" as well as "Hyper Calvinist." 

Moral versus Physical or Natural Inability

It is clear that the Hardshells do not understand the nature of the inability of fallen man.  And, because of this, they likewise do not understand the nature of regeneration.  They do not understand that man's inability is moral, not physical (or natural).  They do not understand that regeneration is not physical, does not change the essence of the soul or impart new faculties to it, but is a moral transformation. 

A. W. Pink, a favorite author to read for many Hardshells, wrote (emphasis mine):

"Second, fallen man’s inability is moral, not physical or constitutional. Unless this is clearly perceived we shall be inclined to turn our impotence into an excuse or ground of self-extenuation. Man will be ready to say, "Even though I possess the requisite faculties for the discharge of my duty, if I am powerless I cannot be blamed for not doing it." A person who is paralyzed possesses all the members of his body, but he lacks the physical power to use them; and no one condemns him for his helplessness. It needs to be made plain that when the sinner is said to be morally and spiritually "without strength," his case is entirely different from that of one who is paralyzed physically. The normal or ordinary natural man is not without either mental or physical strength to use his talents. What he lacks is a good heart, a disposition to love and serve God, a desire to please Him; and for that lack he is justly blamable."


"For the sake of those who desire additional insight on the relation of man’s inability to his responsibility, we feel we must further consider this difficult but important (perhaps to some, abstruse and dry) aspect of our subject. Light on it has come to us "here a little, there a little"; but it is our duty to share with others the measure of understanding vouchsafed us. We have sought to show that the problem we are wrestling with appears much less formidable when once the precise nature of man’s impotence is properly defined. It is due neither to the absence of requisite faculties for the performance of duty nor to any force from without which compels him to act contrary to his nature and inclinations. Instead, his bondage to sin is voluntary; he freely chooses the evil. Second, it is a moral inability, and not physical or constitutional."  ("The Doctrine of Man’s Impotence," Chapter 9-Affirmation, see here)

Jonathan Edwards, in his book "Freedom of the Will," SECTION IV., under the heading "Command and Obligation to Obedience, consistent with moral Inability to obey," wrote:

"What has been said of natural and moral Necessity, may serve to explain what is intended by natural and moral Inability. We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing, when we cannot do it if we will, because what is most commonly called nature does not allow of it, or because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the will, either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects. Moral Inability consists not in any of these things; but either in the want of inclination, or the strength of a contrary inclination, or the want of sufficient motives in view, to induce and excite the act of the will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary. Or both these may be resolved into one; and it may be said in one word, that moral Inability consists in the opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives, or prevalence of contrary motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination. or the prevalence of a contrary inclination, in such circumstances, and under the influence of such views."

It must be noted how Edwards uses the term "natural" in the above words.  He does not deny that the lack of inclination and disposition to obey God is "natural" in the sense that it is inbred in the soul, but he uses the term in the sense of what is "physical" or "constitutional." 

Edwards continues:

"It cannot be truly said, according to the ordinary use of language, that a malicious man, let him be ever so malicious, cannot hold his hand from striking, or that he is not able to show his neighbor kindness; or that a drunkard, let his appetite be ever so strong, cannot keep the cup from his mouth. In the strictest propriety of speech, a man has a thing in his power, if he has it in his choice, or at his election: and a man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions which are dependent on the act of the will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the will were present . And if it be improperly said, that he cannot perform those external voluntary actions, which depend on the will, it is in some respect more improperly said, that he is unable to exert the acts of the will themselves; because it is more evidently false, with respect to these, that he cannot if he will: for to say so, is a downright contradiction: it is to say, he cannot will, if he does will. And in this case, not only is it true, that it is easy for a man to do the thing if he will, but the very willing is the doing; when once he has willed, the thing is performed; and nothing else remains to be done. Therefore, in these things to ascribe a non-performance to the want of power or ability, is not just; because the thing wanting is not a being able, but a being willing. There are faculties of mind, and capacity of nature, and every thing else sufficient, but a disposition: nothing is wanting but a will."   (see here)

Basically, Edwards argues that man's "cannot" lies strictly in his "will not." 

Edwards continues:

"Dr. Whitby's notions of liberty, obligation, virtue, sin, &c., led him into another great inconsistence. He abundantly insists, that necessity is inconsistent with the nature of sin or fault. He says in the forementioned treatise, p. 14, "Who can blame a person for doing what he could not help?" And p. 15, "It being sensibly unjust, to punish any man for doing that which was never in his power to avoid." And in p. 341, to confirm his opinion, he quotes one of the Fathers, saying, " Why doth God command, if man hath not free Will and power to obey 1" And again in the same and the next page, " Who will not cry out, that it is folly to command him, that hath not liberty to do what is commanded; and that it is unjust to condemn him, that has it not in his power to do what is required 1" And in p. 373, he cites another saying: "A law is given to him that can turn to both parts, i. e. obey or transgress it: but no law can be against him who is bound by nature." And yet the same Dr. Whitby asserts, that fallen man is not able to perform perfect obedience. In p. 165, he has these words: "The nature of Adam had power to continue innocent, and without sin; whereas it is certain our nature never had."—But if we have not power to continue innocent and without sin, then sin is inconsistent with Necessity, and we may be sinful in that which we have not power to avoid; and these things cannot be true which he asserts elsewhere, namely, "That if we be necessitated, neither sins of omission nor commission, would deserve that name," (p. 348.) If we have it not in our power to be innocent, then we have it not in our power to to be blameless: and if so, we are under a necessity of being blameworthy.—And how does this consist with what he so often asserts, that necessity is inconsistent with blame or praise"? If we have it not in our power to perform perfect obedience, to all the commands of God, then we are under a necessity of breaking some commands, in some degree; having no power to perform so much as is commanded. And if so, why does he cry out of the unreasonableness and folly of commanding beyond what men have power to do?" 

Edwards continues:

"And Arminians in general are very inconsistent with themselves in what they say of the inability of fallen Man in this respect. They strenuously maintain, that it would be unjust in God, to require any thing of us beyond our present power and ability to perform; and also hold, that we are now unable to perform perfect obedience, and that Christ died to satisfy for the imperfections of our obedience, and has made way, that our imperfect obedience might be accepted instead of perfect: wherein they seem insensibly to run themselves into the grossest inconsistence. For (as I have observed elsewhere),"they hold, that God. in mercy to mankind, has abolished that rigorous constitution or law, that they were under originally; and instead of it, has introduced a more mild constitution, and put as under a new law, which requires no more than imperfect sincere obedience, in compliance with our poor, infirm, impotent circumstances since the fall."  (Section II 94-98)

Not only are Arminians "very inconsistent with themselves in what they say of the inability of fallen Man," but so are the Hardshells. 

A. A. Hodge, in his "Outlines of Theology," wrote:

"16. What distinction is intended by the theological terms, natural and moral ability?

By natural ability was intended the possession, on the part of every responsible moral agent, whether holy or unholy, of all the natural faculties, as reason, conscience, free will, requisite to enable him to obey God s law. If any of these were absent, the agent would not be responsible. By moral ability was intended that inherent moral condition of these faculties, that righteous disposition of heart, requisite to the performance of duty. Although these terms have been often used by orthodox writers in a sense which to them expressed the truth, yet they have often been abused, and are not desirable. It is evidently an abuse of the word to say that sinners are naturally able, but morally unable, to obey the law; for that can be no ability which leaves the sinner, as the Scriptures declare, utterly unable either to think, feel, or act aright. Besides, the word “natural,” in the phrase “natural ability,” is used in an unusual sense, as opposite to moral; while in the usual sense of that word it is declared in Scripture that man is by nature, i.e., naturally, a child of wrath."  (A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, page 272, as cited in, see here)

Hodge explains how Edwards and other Calvinist writers use the term "natural" in opposition to the term "moral" in explaining both man's inability and his regeneration. 

W. G. T. Shedd wrote:

"1) In the Westminster statement, the disability or inability is connected with the disposition and inclination of the will. Man is “indisposed to all spiritual good, and inclined to all [spiritual] evil.” It follows from this, that the cause and seat of the inability in question is in the action and state of the voluntary faculty. It is moral or willing inability.

Nam servit voluntas peccato, non nolens sed volens. Etenim voluntas non noluntas dicitur. Second Helvetic Confession, IX.

In denominating it “moral” inability, it is not meant that it arises merely from habit, or that it is not “natural” in any sense of the word nature. A man is sometimes said to be morally unable to do a thing, when it is very difficult for him to do it by reason of an acquired habit, but not really impossible. This is not the sense of the word “moral” when applied to the sinner’s inability to holiness. He is really and in the full sense of the word impotent. And the cause of this impotence is not a habit of doing evil which he has formed in his individual life, but a natural disposition which he has inherited from Adam. The term “moral,” therefore, when applied to human inability denotes that it is voluntary, in distinction from created. Man’s impotence to good does not arise from the agency of God in creation, but from the agency of man in apostasy.

Whether, therefore, it can ever be called “natural” inability, will depend upon the meaning given to the term “nature.”

(a) If “nature” means that which is created by God, there is no natural inability to good in fallen man. But if “nature” means “natural disposition,” or “natural inclination,” there is a “natural” inability to good in fallen man."  (ibid)

In the writings of Hardshells on the inability of the natural man to obey the law or the Gospel, they conceive of the inability as being natural or physical, as if it results from some lack of a faculty of soul rather than strictly from a lack of moral strength.  This has led them to view regeneration as involving the giving of faculties to the soul which it did not previously have rather than of a strictly moral transformation.  On this we will have more to say later in this series.  What do the Hardshells mean when they insist that God gives the sinner an inner power or ability in regeneration?  Do they mean that God gives it faculties which it did not have before?  Yes, they do, and this results from the fact that they do not understand the nature of the inability that the unregenerate sinner possesses.  If the sinner has a natural or physical inability, then truly he would not be accountable. 

In the next chapter we will continue to show that the Scriptures and the leading Calvinistic authors teach a moral rather than a natural or physical inability and then show how such a view affects one's view on the nature of the change effected in regeneration.