Monday, October 28, 2013

Watson on the Conditions of Salvation

As I wrote in my series "Conditional or Unconditional?" the Hardshells have greatly erred in denying that there are any conditions that sinners must do in order to be finally saved. (See chapters 119-122 here, here, here, and here) H. B. Taylor was a mighty opponent of Hardshellism and he wrote against the Hardshell idea that salvation was in every sense unconditional. I wrote an article on this titled "Taylor on Hardshellism" (see here) in which I cited these words of Taylor on this issue:

"Hardshells leave out, namely, their calling and their justification. They are called, Paul said, by the gospel and they are justified by faith or believing the gospel. So that the whole truth as to election is that all the elect will be called by the gospel and be justified by believing the gospel and be glorified by reason of the hope obtained through the gospel. Or take this passage in II Thes. 2:13-14: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ", Paul again tells the whole truth about election: There is eternal election, from the beginning; personal election, "you"; unconditional election, "God chose." But that is only half the truth. God's election was "unto salvation." This salvation was not unconditional, but was "through the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." This unconditional election was unto a conditional salvation to which the elect were called by the gospel. These unconditionally elected ones could only obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ through a conditional salvation to which they were called by the gospel. Since Hardshellism preaches no gospel, no one has been called unto salvation through it. Since being called unto salvation by the gospel is necessary to obtaining salvation and Hardshellism has no gospel for the unsaved, no one was ever saved by Hardshellism. Since God's elect are all called unto salvation by the Gospel and the Hardshell elect are all saved without the gospel, Hardshell elect are not God's elect. Since all God's elect are saved "thru sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" and Hardshells are saved without the belief of the truth. Hardshells are not saved or not God's elect and Hardshellism is not the truth. Since God's unconditional election is unto a conditional salvation and Hardshell unconditional election is unto an unconditional salvation; Hardshell election is not the truth but a perversion of the truth and is not unto a salvation at all but unto damnation. Remember that God's unconditional election is unto a conditional salvation and when Hardshellism teaches an unconditional salvation the election they preach is unto damnation instead of salvation. An election which does not include the preaching of the Gospel as a condition of salvation is not God's election at all; for "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21). God's election included both the men and the means."

Taylor hits the mark when he points out the error of the Hardshells believing that because election is unconditional therefore salvation also must be. Of course, as I showed in my series, there is a sense in which salvation is unconditional and a sense in which it is conditional and I cited our Old Baptist forefathers on this issue. In this posting I wish to cite from Hardshell founding father Elder (Dr.) John M. Watson on this point, who, as will be seen, correctly understood this matter, and it would be a good thing if today's Hardshells heeded his instruction on this point. Most of today's Hardshells fail his "test" for being an "old Baptist."

Watson wrote:

"This doctrine does not stop here, but includes all ordinances, conditions, means, and modes of divine "workmanship." None of these are accidental or fortuitous as we may suppose, Reader, "Is not the Lord gone out before thee" in all these?"

According to "Teth" (the blog writer for the Hardshell web page theearstohear), to believe that salvation is by sovereign grace logically excludes any and all conditions of salvation. But, Watson rejects that idea, and so "Teth" and today's Hardshells who follow Teth's thinking do not hold to Old Baptist doctrine and fails Dr. Watson's "Old Baptist Test" for being truly old Baptist. Watson says that the doctrine of sovereign grace and unconditional election "includes all ordinances, conditions, and modes."

Watson continued:

"According to our text, God had ordained the deliverance of Israel, and the means, by which that deliverance should be wrought, and one was not more certain than the other. God was as much in the means of that deliverance as He was in the ordination of it; and so in other things." (page 354)

This is Old Baptist doctrine and those Hardshells today who do not agree with Watson show that they have departed from the true Old Baptist faith. God not only ordained and predestined the end, or salvation, but the means to accomplish it, and Watson shows that the preaching of the Gospel is one of those God ordained means, and that faith, repentance, and perseverance are also the ordained means of salvation.

Watson wrote:

"Some suppose that as this doctrine includes conditions or means, the performance of, or compliance with, them determines the acts of the Lord, making His acts dependent on them of the creature; and as the subject is sometimes discussed in such a manner as to embarrass those who are otherwise sound in the faith, it may not be amiss to give scriptural exposition of conditions and means."

What Watson is opposing in these words is the Arminian or Pelagian idea of what it means for salvation to be conditional. He does not believe that salvation is conditional in the sense in which the conditions are done by a person's own free will and innate ability so as to make God's act of saving to be dependent on those conditions. But, he does not throw out the baby with the bathwater and deny that salvation is in any sense conditional.

He continues:

"The reader should be reminded that there is a difference between the conditions of the first covenant under the law, and those of the Gospel under the second, or new covenant, Heb. 8: 9, 19...The condition, do and live was performed by Christ, and the benefits of it are enjoyed by faith, and by our compliance with it; for by nature we are morally unable to do so." (page 355)

Notice how Watson, like the Old Baptists I cited in my series on this topic, believes that salvation is not conditional in the sense in which things were conditional under the law. But, he does not deny that there are nevertheless conditions of salvation under the new covenant. He does not deny that Christ performed the conditions of "do and live" and that it is upon this basis that salvation, and the conditions of it, are made certain for the elect. Watson says that "the benefits" of the salvation procured by Christ "are enjoyed by faith, and by our compliance with" the conditions of the new covenant. It is also interesting how Watson refers to man's natural inability as being "moral" as opposed to being physical, which I elaborated upon in my series "Hardshell Pelagianism."

Watson continued:

"Burroughs well says: "He doth not only command us and leave us to our created strength to obey the command; but He furnisheth us with His own spirit and grace to obey the command."

What Burroughs says, and what Watson endorses, is what the first Hardshells taught, as anyone who reads the Hardshell writings in the 1830s. They believed that the fact that faith and repentance were conditions of salvation did not make salvation to depend upon themselves, for they believed that the meeting of these conditions was certain due to the working of God. The Hardshells reason that to make salvation conditioned upon faith and repentance, and upon perseverance, is to make salvation to depend upon believers themselves, and in this way makes their salvation uncertain. But, this is illogical. What God commands, in the case of the elect, he insures compliance by the giving of a will and power to do. This is what Paul meant when he said "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2: 13)

Watson next cites these words from John Owen, the great Calvinist theologian:

"Owen also has a few sentences on the subject much in point, which I will quote: "It is as easy for a man by his own strength to fulfil the whole law as to repent and believe the promises of the Gospel. This then is one main difference of those two covenants, that the Lord did in the old require the conditions, now in the new He also affects it in all the federates, to whom the covenant is extended."

The Lord did not determine to save his elect apart from faith and repentance, but he did determine to give faith and repentance.

Next Watson cites Perkins:

"William Perkins writes equally as clear on this subject as follows: "In the covenant of grace, two things must be considered, the substance thereof, and the condition. The substance of the covenant is, that righteousness and life everlasting is given to God's people by Christ. The condition is, that we for our part are by faith to receive the aforesaid benefits; and this condition is by grace as well as the substance." And no less in point is the following: "He freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator and life and salvation by Him, and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in Him, nourisheth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect to work in them that faith with all other saving graces, and to enable them to all holy obedience of the truth of their faith."

What Perkins says is what is the Old Baptist position. It is what those who wrote the 1689 London Confession believed. It is what John Gill believed. It is what the first Particular Baptists in America believed. It is what the first Hardshells believed. These Old Baptists believed that there was a difference in the kind of conditions Christ met for our salvation and the kind of conditions we meet for our salvation. The conditions Christ fulfilled represent the substance, what is the grounds for meeting the covenant conditions by believers. When Hardshells today argue that the making of faith and repentance, and perseverance, into conditions of salvation undermine God's salvation or makes it to depend upon believers rather than upon Christ, they are simply arguing falsely. Their problem is in their illogical reasoning and not because the Scriptures are not plain. Where can they show us a verse that says that faith, repentance, and perseverance are not necessary for being saved? Rather than citing such verses of Scripture, do they not try to make arguments from reason?

Watson wrote:

"So that the subject of the conditions of the Gospel, which have been confounded by many with those of the law and have given rise to so many Arminian errors, admits of a very satisfactory exposition. The Lord did not under the first covenant, promise to give grace to the fallen sinner to enable him to keep the whole law, that being the condition of justification and life; but under the new covenant it was both promised and given." (page 356)

These comments are so clear that they need no further comment. Hardshells today need to read them, study them, and see that they are teaching something different than what their Old Baptists forefathers taught.

Watson wrote:

"Means admit of a similar exposition. The Lord has gone out before us also in them. He not only gave us His Gospel, but ordained means by which it would become savingly efficacious to all His chosen. Isa. 55: 11...So we may say of Gospel means, without the power of God they never prevail over the hearts of sinners; but means in His power, whether great or small, in our estimation, are always efficacious. He derives no strength or advantage from them as adjuncts to His work. He employs them because it is His will to do so. Eph. 1: 11." (page 357)

In reading these words by one of the great founding fathers of Hardshellism, one wonders how Elder Lemuel Potter could say, in his 1887 debate, that Watson did not believe in Gospel means salvation. In fact, why have today's Hardshells not come forward and shown how the views of Watson on this subject were not the views of the first generation of "Primitive Baptists"? In this blog I have cited from nearly all of the first generation leaders of the newly formed denomination and shown how they all agreed with Watson. When did the Hardshells change? Also, how can they claim to have existed unchanged in doctrine since the days of the Apostles? Further, if holding to the Gospel means position makes a church illegitimate, and the Hardshells of today have descended from churches that believed in Gospel means, then how can they claim to be legitimate today?

Watson wrote:

"Paul, however, does not affirm, like some of our modern innovators, that means or instrumentalities are not employed by the Lord in the divine plan of salvation; for he asks: "How shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom. 10: 14. Paul, it is true, preached the Gospel in word only, while the election of God was manifested in the power and assurance of the Holy Spirit imparted to his words; when received by the elect which apart from that power and assurance would have been received in word only, as it really was by others and embraced in the divine election. I Thess. 1: 4. After all it may be truthfully said, that Paul's preaching even in word only was of God, was according to His grace, calling and qualifying, but we may as truthfully say, that Paul was the instrument called, qualified, and sent. I Cor. 15: 10." (pages 399-400)

Again, how could men like Potter say that Watson denied means in the eternal salvation of the elect? What Watson is here teaching was not new, but was the historic doctrine of Watson's Baptist forefathers. Let the Hardshells of today come forward and show how the Baptists prior to Watson taught the no means view. Of course, the fact that they don't come forward with the evidence, after years of calling upon them to do so, is proof that their no means view is a new doctrine and that they cannot show a line of churches back to the Apostles who held to their no means hybrid doctrine. Notice that Watson calls those who were beginning to deny the means doctrine "modern innovators." Was he right or wrong? Would he not know? Why are today's Hardshells deluded on this point? Why do they think that their anti means position is the historic teaching of the Baptists?

Watson wrote:

"We are commanded to believe, and when and how did we comply? When the Lord gave faith, so that we believe according to the grace and mighty power of God." (page 414)

Let it be understood that Watson is talking about evangelical faith. Watson knew nothing about the modern definitions of faith that neo Hardshells have invented to deal with all those passages that affirm that faith is the means of salvation. He also knew nothing about the Hardshell apologetic argumentation that falls under the heading of "time salvation." No where in Watson's book does he ever argue for a time salvation as a way to handle all that passages that make hearing and believing the Gospel a means of salvation.

Watson wrote:

"Thus we plainly perceive in strong scriptural lights that we perform these great duties in the strength of divine grace, and that we are entirely dependent on God for ability to keep His commandments, and that He is entitled to all the praise and glory of our works; and that after all we are but unprofitable servants." (ibid)

Again, what Watson here states as truth, and as the Old Baptist view, is not what today's Hardshells teach. Were Watson here today he would be attacked, would be called an "Arminian," and would be accused of making salvation to depend upon believers rather than upon God. Further, Watson was no Pelagian. He did not believe that the commands to believe, repent, and to persevere implied existing ability to do those things, but that the doing of those things were a result of God's predestination and his power working in the hearts and lives of his people.

Watson wrote:

"According to these truths our good works are as much of God as is our conversion; other truths may be adduced in proof of this view of the subject. God calls the sinner with a holy calling, including life, repentance, and faith; He creates the inner man in righteousness and true holiness; He manifests Himself to believers as He does not unto the world; He communes with them over the mercy seat in prayer, in baptism, in the Lord's supper, in His word, in secret, and in the assembly of saints; He carries on the work of grace which He has begun; He keeps them by His power through faith; He makes Christ, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. The way, the truth, and the life to them...We may as truly say that we work because God first works in us both to will and to do, as to say we love him because He first love us. Well may Paul say in relating the great works which he performed: "Not I, but the grace of God which moved me, directed me, and sustained me."" (pages 414-15)

Today's Hardshells, in reading these words of Watson, would call him an "Absoluter." But, again, it must be recognized that Watson was stating the historic view of his Baptist forefathers and the view of his fellow first generation Hardshells.

Watson wrote:

"Nor alas! can we come to His word feelingly, understandingly and practically, without it were given unto us of the Father, who has sent the Holy Spirit not only to show us the things of Christ, but also to demonstrate Gospel truths in power and much assurance. I Cor. 2: 4; I Thess. 1: 4.

Nor will we profit by exhortations, admonitions, warnings, nor threatenings only as they are made effectual by the power of the Holy Spirit. They operate effectually only in the way of grace. When we consider what it cost to make them efficacious we may learn the doctrine of their efficiency. It took the sacrifice of Christ, His death, His resurrection and ascension to procure their efficiency through the Holy Spirit, otherwise they would have been only a savor of death unto death. No one would have heeded them."
(page 415)

These words answer the reasoning of men like "Teth" who wrote against perseverance, and whose argumentation we have rebutted. Teth would say that Watson, by making faith, repentance, and perseverance necessary conditions for salvation, was not making all to depend upon the atonement. But, Watson, just as I have done, answers by saying that it was the atonement that guaranteed that all the elect would be given all things necessary for their salvation. Christ died in order to give his chosen people life. The life they receive is a gift and guaranteed by the atonement. But, what is true of life is also true of faith, repentance, and perseverance. Oh that today's Hardshells would repent of their error and come back to the real Old Baptist faith.

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