Reformed Baptist Fellowship

The Doctrine of the Atonement is the Central Doctrine of Special Revelation

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on March 8, 2010 at 7:38 am

The doctrine of the atonement is the central doctrine of special revelation. It is not only exclusively a doctrine of special revelation, but it is the central doctrine of that special revelation. The doctrine of atonement is the center of gravity of both the Old and the New Testaments.

The Old Testament is a book full of history, full of types, shadows, prophecies and wonderful promises of God’s intended mercy to needy sinners through the Seed of the woman. When we turn to that mass of history, types, prophecies and shadows, what is the grand focal point of all that? Well, according to the inspired interpretation of the Old Testament it is the doctrine of Christ crucified that is central in all the history, shadows, types, and prophecies.

Consider one text from the New Testament: 1 Peter 1:10 “Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angel desire to look into. “

Peter is saying that the salvation that is preached to these new testament believers, is the very same salvation prophesied by the OT prophets. Many times their actual prophecy extended far beyond their understanding. Under the impulses of the Spirit of God their minds were enlightened to see and perceive  things about the salvation of God in Jesus Christ and they wrote of Him, even though they could not put together the various pieces of what they wrote. But this much is clear: the focal point of what they wrote was the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow! We could multiply passages. Let me commend  the reader seriously to consider Luke 24:25-27, 45-47 and Acts 3:17-18. These passages make clear that the doctrine of the atonement is the central doctrine of special revelation

When we turn to the Letters of the New Covenant Scriptures, whatever aspect of Christian life and experience is addressed, we are ultimately taken back again and again to the cross, to the atonement and the work of Christ upon Calvary as the key to understanding both Christian privilege, Christian duty, Christian motivation and the entire perspective on life so that Paul could say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

When we turn to the Book of the Revelation and God pulls back the veil and gives us a sight into the realities of heaven now and heaven to come, the term by which the glorified Christ is most described is not Jesus, Christ or even Lord Jesus.  The grand distinguishing title that He has twenty-eight times is this: The Lamb! What is God saying? He is saying that even in the unending eons of the glorified state in New heavens and New earth, Christ crucified will be the focal point of all our worship all our adoration all of our praise all of our service!

Albert N. Martin

  1. Thank you for that reminder Pastor Martin. It is a sad reminder of our frailty that secondary doctrines, important enough in their own right, take our focus off of this central doctrine of the atonement.

  2. Well written.

    Forever timely.

    Thank you!

  3. Amen!
    “My heart is filled with a thousand songs proclaiming the glories of calvary; with every breath, Lord how I long to sing of Jesus who died for me!”

  4. ANM preached a series of sermons on this subject. The best sermons I think I have ever heard pastor Martin preach.

    Here is the first one:

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=18101137491

  5. I say a hearty Amen too! The doctrine of Atonement is at the heart of the Covenant of Grace. Without it, who can speak of salvation? How could the Gospel be called the good news without it?!

    But this is one of the reasons why I have no idea why folks would call Richard Baxter a reformer? In his confession, he explicitly denied the Atonement. This is no small denial … this is at the heart of the Gospel. To deny the Trinity is considered heresy, so wouldn’t denying the Atonement of Christ be also considered heresy? So why embrace Richard Baxter as reformer when there are doubts if he even understood the Gospel?

  6. Jade said: “But this is one of the reasons why I have no idea why folks would call Richard Baxter a reformer? In his confession, he explicitly denied the Atonement.”

    Where does Baxter deny the Atonement??

  7. Yes Baxter does. I’ve posted here before his quote last year, so I’ll post it again:

    Christ came not to possess God with any false opinion of us; nor is he such a Physician as to perform but a supposed or Reputative Cure: He came not to persuade his Father to judge Us to be Well, because He is Well, nor to leave us uncured, and to persuade God that we are Cured. It is We that were guilty and unholy; it is We that must be restored unto Righteousness. If Christ only were Righteous, Christ only would be reputed and judged Righteous, and Christ only would be Happy. The Judge of the world will not justify the unrighteous, merely because another is Righteous; Nor can the Holy God take Complacency in an unholy sinner, because another is Holy. Never did the blessed Son of God intend in his dying or merits, to change the holy Nature of his Father, and to Cause him to Love that which is not Lovely, or to Reconcile him to that which he Abhors, as he is God. We must bear his own Image, and be Holy as he is Holy, before he can Approve us, or Love us in Complacency.

    Richard Baxter, Rich: Baxter’s Confesssion [sic] of his Faith, Especially concerning the Interest of Repentance and sincere Obedience to Christ, in our Justification and Salvation (London: n.p., 1655), 4.

    I would say to Mr. Baxter that the only reason that we are pardoned by God the Father is solely by the works of His Son and not by any of our efforts less we boast of it! This is what Grace is about!

    I don’t know if you recall Tom Hicks’ talk on the Baxterians at that conference of the English Baptists of the 17th Century and the battle Keach had with the Baxterians? These were among the reasons that Keach had problems with Baxter … this touched on the issues of Justification. Keach had good reasons to be alarmed about what Baxter taught… and I don’t know why Pastors today speak of Baxter as a Reformer. He did not preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to me that’s not something that can be ignored, regardless of whatever else he might have taught.

  8. MP, an early issue of RBTR has an article on Baxter you may find helpful.

  9. Thanks bro 🙂 And yes, Jade, that’s one scary quote!

  10. Baxter was not orthodox on justification. He was neonomian.

  11. I understand that not all believers may have all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed when it comes to one’s theology … but this pertains to the Gospel! The doctrine of Atonement is so foundational to our faith. I hate to say it, but Baxter’s confession is damning! To deny the Atonement of Christ is to deny the Gospel. There are so many theological problems just in that short statement by Baxter. If Baxter is right then

    1) What purpose would Christ have in dying on the cross, if not to atone for our sins?

    2) Without the Great Exchange (Christ having paid for our sins), then how could we possibly approach the throne of grace in prayer to God, without fear of God striking us dead due to un-atoned sin? Without the Atonement of Christ, there is nothing that can open the way into the presence of God.

    3) How could we even begin to speak of being baptized in Christ, if Christ had not atone for our sins. There is no union with Christ as long as God continues to view us in our sins.

    4) If we can merely appease the justice of God and merit God’s favor by following God’s laws as Baxter implies, then why send his Son to the cross? And why bring an end to the Mosaic Covenant if it was sufficient to save (since apparently Baxter implies that we can earn God’s favor by merely following the law)?

    5) Even if at some point, we could ever master at being perfect before God (which we know in reality we never could because God said we couldn’t!), who would atone for our past sins? The penal requirements of the law still stands; it hasn’t be done away with. Justice is still required by God. Denying ourselves or self inflicting ourselves isn’t going to pay for it (as the Catholics would have us believe). The penal requirements of the law is still death.

    This is just to name a few as I brainstorm of what consequences follow when we pull the doctrine of Atonement out of the Gospel. Pastor Martin is right to remind us what is at stake (e.g. Christian privilege, Christian duty, Christian motivation) when the doctrine of Atonement is absent.

    It’s hard for me to understand what kind of Gospel Baxter believed in because he did appear to be well read of the Scriptures (after all he was trading letters with John Owen on this issue and one does not easily find an audience with John Owen unless one is well read! :D). And yet there are so many obvious quotes from Scriptures that comes into direct conflict with his theology that one has to wonder what was amiss in Baxter’s thoughts. He was appalled by the antinomianism that was prevalent in his days, which unfortunately drove him to the the other extreme, to the extent that he compromised the Gospel. I can only hope that prior to Baxter’s death he had recanted his statements in his written confession and realized how impossible it is for man to enter God’s kingdom without appeasing the Justice of God with the Atonement of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the only atonement that appeased God’s wrath, verified by the words of Christ when he stated, “It is finished” and signified by the torn curtains that covered the Most Holy Place of the temple.

  12. Since Baxter is getting a bad rap here, I am not here to defend him on Justification and the Atonement, a recent title did just that… http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Richard-Baxter-and-Conversion/Tim-Beougher/e/9781845503109

    I wish that those pastors that criticized that part of his theology would sit at his feet for their pastoral theology and we would have a far more powerful pulpit. Yesterday I was reading an article from the 1838 from the Literary and Theological Review from Andover Theological Seminary – A Review of John Owen on Indwelling Sin.

    At the end of the tremendous warnings in this review is this quote of Richard Baxter… I will quote the context so that you have a feel for it.

    On rising from the perusal of Owen’s work, we are confirmed in the belief, that a disproportionate share of effort is at present devoted to the correction of political wrongs and open vice. Thousands are running to and fro, hot in their zeal to rid the world of the ” grapes of gall,” by attacking the clusters themselves ; while few adopt the more certain method of aiming a mortal blow at the master root.

    This treatise also renders very manifest the folly of ” trusting in man and making flesh our arm,” for the support of the great interests of religion. Our most trusty leaders have not altogether quelled the motions of the flesh* The subtle poison of indwelling sin still lurks in the eloquent preacher and the accomplished divine.

    In the following mournful testimony of Baxter, too many living witnesses must concur.

    ‘* Truly the sad experiences of these times have much abased my confidence in man, and cause to have lower thoughts of the best than sometime I have had. I confess I look on man as such a distempered, slippery and inconstant thing, that as I shall never more call any man on earth my friend, but with the supposition that he may possibly become my enemy, so I shall never be so confident of any man’s fidelity to Christ, as not withal to suspect, that he may possibly forsake him. Nor shall I boast of any man’s service for the gospel, but with a jealousy that he may be drawn to do as much against it”

  13. Hi Thomas,
    You wrote, “I wish that those pastors that criticized that part of his theology would sit at his feet for their pastoral theology and we would have a far more powerful pulpit.”

    But here’s my challenge to you … how could Richard Baxter’s pastoral theology be of use if he has stripped the Christian of his/her privileges, duty and motivation that comes from the Atonement of Christ? How could he bid a Christian to approach the throne of Grace without the Atonement of Christ? How can his advice empower any Christian apart from the Atonement of Christ? I can’t begin to say how foundational the Atonement of Christ is … I personally think without it, I’m lost. All I would be faced with is the Law of God and death (because I know that it’s impossible for me to follow it perfectly as Christ did).

    I do not deny Richard Baxter’s upstanding devotion to the Lord and His people, but he was misguided in the essentials of the Faith. This is the Gospel we’re talking about. The Atonement is not some secondary or tertiary doctrine. Without the Atonement, the Gospel cease to exist. You might as well preach the gospel of good works because that is essentially what Baxter taught when he denied the Atonement of Christ. And it shouldn’t surprise us that he’s quite good about advising of the purging of sin and of his success at Kidderminster … because you’ve got to remember in his mind, unless a man is as perfect as Christ, (and because of the absence of Christ’s Atonement) he will not have God’s approval. This becomes the driving force of his minister, but this only brings about a form of godliness but denying its power.

    Would you take pastoral advice from someone who denies the Trinity? I would think not. So why would anyone take pastoral advice from someone who denies the Atonement of Christ? If a minister is not doctrinally sound especially in regard to the Gospel then no matter how diligent he is in other aspects of his ministry, his flock are drinking at a poisoned well. Without the Full Gospel, it’s simply false piety.

    I really don’t mean disrespect for Richard Baxter and I’m aware of the devotion Christians have for Baxter’s work, but as Christians, we ought to strongly guard the Gospel. As in the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians where he did address the doctrine of Justification and the Atonement of Christ:

    But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

    As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

    Some pretty strong words, don’t you think?

    If you want good examples of pastoral care, study the life and works of Benjamin Keach.

  14. One last thing in regard to attaining “a far more powerful pulpit”. What empowers the pulpit is the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. You can’t get that part of your theology right, then there is no power to the pulpit. The pulpit’s sole responsibility is to preach Christ and Him crucified for the souls of many.

  15. Thomas, have you read Beougher’s book? I plan to read it, as well as the article in the RBTR. I would be interested in seeing the context of the quote Jade cited as well, especially what he means by “complacency.” Is he talking about the person who is content in their sins and not growing in holiness? I ran across these quotes of his as well:

    “faith itself doth not merit our pardon or justification, nor justify us as a work, nor as faith”

    “no works of the regenerate, internal or external, are to join with Christ’s sufferings and merits, as any part of satisfaction to God’s justice for our sins ; no, not the least part for the least sin”

    “neither faith, love, repentance, nor any works of ours, are true, efficient causes of our remission or justification, either principal or instrumental”

    “in the article of the extent of redemption, wherein I am most suspected and accused, I do subscribe to the Synod of Dort, without any exception, limitation, w exposition, of any word, as doubtful and obscure”

  16. I will say this much about Baxter’s work:

    1) It will convict me of sin and drive me to Christ [though I’m not really sure for what if without the substitutionary atonement].

    2) It encourages you to keep the commandments faithfully — but this is based on fear, though as good as that is (after all we should all fear the Lord!), it has it’s limitation because it leaves us no differently than those who were under the Mosaic Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-8). We know that the Gospel doesn’t end with the Law of God and it is Christ’s atonement that enables us to walk godly lives (Hebrews 9:14). Baxter attempts to “merge” justification with sanctification — there in lies the problem.

    Reading Baxter’s original works is tricky. You need to take heed when he uses certain theological terms like “imputation”, “merit”, etc. — it is not as we understand it and cannot be taken at face value. What I try to do is try to look for where he elaborates on these terms to get a sense of what he means. Baxter’s Aphorisms of Justification is a good place to start. I’ll admit that reading Baxter’s theology is muddling (and often find his reasoning inconsistent) but it’s so hard to ignore quotes like the above! 😦

    There’s also some interesting commentaries here and also might want to look up Hot Pepper Corn by Hans Boersma — it was recommended to me but have not found the time to read it yet.

    You’ll get a sense of my comments above in reading Andrew Fuller’s letter to a “Mr. B.” 😀 :

    MY DEAR BROTHER, Jan. 22, 1803.

    MR. B. in his letter to you of Dec. 6, 1802, though he acquits me of Arminianism, yet “ventures to say that I appear to him to have adopted some of the leading peculiarities of Mr. Richard Baxter.” I wish he had named them; I would in that case have frankly owned whether I approved or disapproved. As it is, I have been constrained to do what I never did before, look over such polemical pieces of that writer as I could procure. I have found this, I confess, an irksome task. I endeavoured to procure his Aphorisms on Justification, but could not. All I could get of a polemical kind were his treatise on Universal Redemption, and Four Disputations on Justification. I have bestowed two days upon them, but cannot say that I have read them through. They are so circuitous, and full of artificial distinctions, and obscure terms, that I could not in many cases come at his meaning, nor could I have read them through without making myself ill.

    It is true, I have found several of my own sentiments maintained by Mr. Baxter. He speaks of salvation by a substitute as being a measure rather “above law” than according to it, and of satisfaction being made “to the Lawgiver rather than to the law.” If he means any thing more by this than what I have said in Lett.

    IV., I have no concern in it; and this for substance is allowed by Dr. Owen, in his answer to Middle, p.512. He pleads, also, that the faith by which we are justified includes a submission of heart to Christ, in all his offices, or a reconciliation to God; and, consequently, that a sinner when justified, though ungodly in the eye of the law, yet is not so in the eye of the gospel, or in our common acceptation of the term. In this I agree with him. It appears to me, however, that though it be essential to the genuineness of faith to receive Christ in every character he sustains, so far as it is understood, yet believing for justification has a special respect to Christ’s obedience unto death, with which God is well pleased, and of which our justification is the reward.

    Mr. Baxter pleads for “universal redemption;” I only contend for the sufficiency of the atonement, in itself considered, for the redemption and salvation of the whole world; and this affords a ground for a universal invitation to sinners to believe; which was maintained by Calvin, and all the old Calvinists. I consider redemption as inseparably connected with eternal life, and therefore as applicable to none but the elect, who are redeemed from among men.

    Mr. Baxter considered the gospel as a new law, taking place of the original law under which man was created; of which faith, repentance, and sincere obedience were the requirements; so, at least, I understand him. But these are not my sentiments: I believe, indeed, That the old law, as a covenant, is not so in force as that men are now required to obey it in order to life; on the contrary, all such attempts are sinful, and would have been so though no salvation had been provided. Yet the precept of it is immutably binding, and the curse for transgressing it remains on every unbeliever. I find but little satisfaction in Mr. Baxter’s disputations on justification. He says a great deal about it, distinguishing it into different stages, pleading for evangelical works as necessary to it, &c. &c. Sometimes he seems to confine the works which Paul excluded from justification to those of the common law, (“the burdensome works of the Mosaical law,” – these are his words,) and to plead for what is moral, or, as he would call it, “evangelical.” Yet he disavows all works as being the causes or grounds on account of which we are justified; and professes to plead for them only as “concomitants;” just as we say repentance is necessary to forgiveness, and faith to justification, though these are not considerations moving God to bestow those blessings. In short, I find it much easier to express my own judgment on justification, than to say wherein I agree or differ with Mr. Baxter. I consider justification to be God’s graciously pardoning our sins, and accepting us to favour, exempting us from the curse of the law, and entitling us to the promises of the gospel; not on account or in consideration of any holiness in us, ceremonial or moral, before, in, or after believing, but purely in reward of the vicarious obedience and death of Christ, which, on our believing in him, is imputed to us, or reckoned as if it were ours. Nor do I consider any holiness in us to be necessary as a concomitant to justification, except what is necessarily included in believing.

    Mr. Baxter writes as if the unconverted could do something towards their conversion, and as if grace were given to all, except those who forfeit it by wilful sin. But no such sentiment ever occupied my mind, or proceeded from my pen. Finally, Mr. Baxter considers Calvinists and Arminians as reconcilable, making the difference between them of but small amount. I have no such idea; and if, on account of what I have here and elsewhere avowed, I were disowned by my present connexions, I should rather choose to go through the world alone than be connected with them. Their scheme appears to me to undermine the doctrine of salvation by grace only, and to resolve the difference between one sinner and another into the will of man, which is directly opposite to all my views and experience. Nor could I feel a union of heart with those who are commonly considered in the present day as Baxterians, who hold with the gospel being a new remedial law, and represent sinners as contributing to their own conversion.

    The greatest, though not the only, instruction that I have received from human writings, on these subjects, has been from President Edwards’s Discourse on Justification. That which in me has been called “a strange or singular notion” of this doctrine is stated at large, and I think clearly proved, by him under the third head of that discourse, – pp. 86-95.

    Here, my dear brother, I lay down my pen. Reduced as I am to the awkward necessity (unless I wish to hold a controversy with a man deservedly respected, and who is just going into his grave) of making a private defense against what is become a public accusation, I can only leave it to Him who judgeth righteously to decide whether I have been treated fairly, openly, or in a manner becoming the regard which one Christian minister owes to another.

    If what I have written contain any thing injurious to the truth, may the Lord convince me of it. And if not, may He preserve me from being improperly moved by the frowns of men. I am, as you know, your affectionate brother.

    Andrew Full

    The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller pg. 814-816

  17. I was quite taken by “A Christian Directory” when it first appeared. At that time the only work I had read by Baxter was his very convicting treatise “The Reformed Pastor”. However, I probably haven’t opened the directory in five years. It is full of a lot of “advice” — and that advice often becomes legalism (IMHO). I had planned to buy all the volumes, but only have the one. Thank you Jade for the quotes above, and the work you have done on this Richard.

  18. And I must mention, thank you Brother Martin for the article and I hope we will see many more from your pen in the days and years to come. Greetings from your West Coast brother!

  19. Thanks Pastor Marquedant. I just want to share one more telling quote from Packer, who is a huge fan of Baxter (Baxter was his dissertation topic), but had to succumb to this conclusion:

    Thus Baxter, by the initial rationalism of his ‘political method’, which forced Scripture in to an a priori mould, actually sowed the seeds of moralism with regard to sin, Arianism with regard to Christ, legalism with regard to faith and salvation, and liberalism with regard to God. In his own teaching, steeped as it was in the older affectionate ‘practical’ Puritan tradition, these seeds lay largely dormant, but later Presbyterians, in both England and Scotland reaped the bitter crop. It is sadly fitting that the Richard Baxter Church in Kidderminster today should be Unitarian. What we see in Baxter is an early stage in the decline, not simply of the doctrine of justification among the Puritans, but of the Puritan insight into the nature of Christianity as a whole.

    You have to wonder the kind of success Baxter really had at Kidderminster — though by all appearances it seemed to have been a success, but might have been quite different in light of eternity. The root of theology matters, when considering applications. I do not believe you can be an effective pastor (at least for the Gospel!) if your soteriology is wrong.

  20. Marie P wrote, “It encourages you to keep the commandments faithfully — but this is based on fear, though as good as that is (after all we should all fear the Lord!), it has it’s limitation because it leaves us no differently than those who were under the Mosaic Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-8). We know that the Gospel doesn’t end with the Law of God and it is Christ’s atonement that enables us to walk godly lives (Hebrews 9:14). Baxter attempts to “merge” justification with sanctification — there in lies the problem.

    Actually, the mercenary motive in coming to Christ is a lot more prevalent than just what is produced in reading Richard Baxter. Jonathan Edwards understood this thoroughly. Look at what he wrote in “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.”

    “I cannot see how this can be, that I am not willing that Christ should be my Savior, when I would give all the world that he was my Savior: how is it possible that I should not be willing to have Christ for my Savior when this is what I am seeking after, and praying for, and striving for, as for my life?”

    Here therefore I would endeavor to convince you, that you are under a gross mistake in this matter. And, First, I would endeavor to show the grounds of your mistake. And Secondly, To demonstrate to you, that you have rejected, and do willfully reject, Jesus Christ.

    First, That you may see the weak grounds of your mistake, consider,

    1. There is a great deal of difference between a willingness not to be damned, and a being willing to receive Christ for your Savior. You have the former; there is no doubt of that: nobody supposes that you love misery so as to choose an eternity of it; and so doubtless you are willing to be saved from eternal misery. But that is a very different thing from being willing to come to Christ: persons very commonly mistake the one for the other, but they are quite two things. You may love the deliverance, but hate the deliverer. You tell of a willingness; but consider what is the object of that willingness. It does not respect Christ; the way of salvation by him is not at all the object of it; but it is wholly terminated on your escape from misery. The inclination of your will goes no further than self, it never reaches Christ. You are willing not to be miserable; that is, you love yourself, and there your will and choice terminate. And it is but a vain pretense and delusion to say or think, that you are willing to accept of Christ. (Jonathan Edwards)

    Pastor Steve wrote: “You have to wonder the kind of success Baxter really had at Kidderminster — though by all appearances it seemed to have been a success, but might have been quite different in light of eternity.”

    We could say this of any modern ministry as well. We suppose that Christ is preached more fully in our day and than our doctrine of justification is more scriptural than Richard Baxter’s, very well. But I would rather sit at the feet of the puritans and be sure that all of my tendency toward self-righteousness was crushed, than say I trusted in the free merits of Christ all the while I was secretly trusting my own righteousness. I believe this tendency is prevalent in our day.

    It is objected that the Puritans, not just Baxter, confused too much sanctification with justification. I think there is a misunderstanding here. The Puritans showed what the natural man was capable of by being influenced by the COMMON INFLUENCES of the Holy Spirit antecedently to regeneration. That is why Thomas Boston goes at such length in his work on the Fourfold State when he speaks of how the branches are cut off from the natural stock, the first Adam, and grafted into the true vine, the Lord Jesus Christ. Boston wrote, “Therefore, the sinner, beat off from so many holds, attempts to make a bargain with Christ, and to sell himself to the Son of God, if I may so speak, solemnly promising and vowing, that he will be a servant to Christ, as long as he lives, if he will save his soul. And here, the sinner often makes a personal covenant with Christ, resigning himself to him on these terms; yes, and takes the sacrament, to make the bargain sure. Hereupon the man’s great care is—how to obey Christ, keep his commandments, and so fulfill his bargain. In this the soul finds a false, unsound peace, for a while; until the Spirit of the Lord gives another stroke, to cut off the man from this refuge of lies likewise. And that happens in this manner: when he fails of the duties he engaged to perform, and falls again into the sin he covenanted against, it is powerfully carried home on his conscience, that his covenant is broken; so all his comfort goes, and terrors afresh seize on his soul, as one who has broken covenant with Christ. Commonly the man to help himself, renews his covenant—but breaks it again as before. And how is it possible it should be otherwise, seeing he is still upon the old stock? Thus the work of many, all their days, as to their souls, is nothing but a making and breaking such covenants, over and over again.”

  21. Thomas, just so you know, that was Jade and not me you quoted. I personally have no problem with the mercenary motive. Christ is a wonderful wooer of His people, is He not? He gives us reasons to come to Him and tells us what will become of us if we don’t. I think Hebrews would be a prime example of the use of both motives.

  22. Hi Thomas,
    it looks like you’re misquoting almost everyone that posted. You’ve taken my words and noted that MarieP or Pastor Steve M. stated those things. It’s wasn’t them but me.

    No one is denying that the Law of God serves to be a handmaid of the Gospel convicting sinners of sin and driving them to Christ and also serves to continuously sanctify the saints (those already justified by God through the works of Jesus Christ) for the rest of their lives. The puritans believed this and preached it, even those who opposed Baxter on his soteriology, like puritan theologians John Owen and Benjamin Keach. But by no means is it understood that Reformed theology suggests that anyone can earn God’s justification by following the Law of God. Do you see the difference when I say justification vs sanctification?

    Now having said that there remains the question: what are these sinners coming to Christ for? What did Christ accomplish at the cross? You have quoted Jonathan Edwards noting Christ as “Savior”. My challenge to you is, what did Christ do, to become our Savior?! Now as I quoted Baxter above, he clearly does not believe in the Substitutionary Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ and departs from reformed orthodoxy on the issues of the Atonement. What Baxter believed what the death of Christ accomplished, was that it brought on a “New Law” (a rescinded version of the Law of God), by which men can follow and earn God’s acceptance. This is why Baxter is labeled as “Neonomism”. He believed that the justification for the saint doesn’t occur at his/her conversion, but at the end of his/her life, after he/she successfully follows this “New Law”. Baxter denied that the verdict on the last day was based on Christ’s imputed righteousness, but taught that saints are justified by their own “non meritorious” good works, that is their own works constitute them righteous.

    Baxter’s soteriology is not orthodox Reformed teaching. Even Jonathan Edwards did not teach this (he argued against this “new law” and placed justification squarely upon the active and passive obedience of Christ alone, being regarded as belonging to the believer through faith alone, as clearly published in Edward’s work Justification by Faith Alone). Aside from the fact that the Reformed view does not agree with Baxter’s view of Ordo Salutis, it also does not teach that Christ’s death had brought about this “New Law” by which sinners can abide by to earn God’s justification. God’s Law and its penal requirements are unchanged; Christ himself testified to that (Matt 5:17-18).

    Now you have touched off that there are common influences of the Holy Spirit antecedent to regeneration (even influences that does not lead to salvation, e.g. King Saul) … but this is not what is being debated here. We are only speaking here in the context of when regeneration occurs and how Christ’s atoning work changes the spiritual standing of the newly converted person, before God. Now being that we are incapable seeing the spiritual realm and identify which God has regenerated (and when I speak of regeneration, I mean only of God’s spiritual work of salvation in an elect), we can only witness the fruits of regeneration — repentance, faith, belief and ongoing sanctification. The orthodox Reformed view taught that we are justified by works on the last day as evidence of our faith in Christ’s objective meritorious righteousness. But by NO means does the Reformed view teach that these very fruits of our regeneration by themselves are what satisfies God’s justice (or a modified justice in light of this “New Law”). Christ’s passive and active obedience ALONE can do that. Christ is fully our Savior in every sense of that word! The fruits of regeneration only serves as forensic evidence of the spiritual works of God’s regeneration and justification in the believer. Anyone who says he/she is a Christian and DOES NOT display evidence of repentance, faith and ongoing sanctification is either a liar or self deceived!

    I can sympathize with Baxter’s repulsion when he witnessed the antinomism that was rampant in the 17th century (the same could be said even in our own generation!). But in his response, Baxter became a moralist and a legalist and it should not surprise us considering his soteriology (there’s a good reason why Baxter’s Aphorismes of Justification remains un-republished while John Owen’s The Doctrine of Justification by Faith through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ Explained, Confirmed and Vindicated has been republished, because Baxter’s view on justification is considered heretical. In fact both of these works mentioned were a response to each another on this issue). Baxter’s soteriology fueled his ministry and emphasized the importance of righteous works because it rested on his/her justification, rather than his/her sanctification. But a pastor’s ministry should be based on truth — and the truth is that all of our righteous works are as filthy rags before God’s eyes (Isaiah 64:6) and that Christ’s works alone is what deems us righteous before God. This does not give us license to live licentious and godless lives, because the evidence of our ongoing sanctification is the only clue that we have concerning ourselves, that God has truly claimed us as His own! This is why Paul called us to “work out our salvation” — not so much as to earn God’s favor, but to assure us for ourselves that God has truly started that good work in us and of which He promised to bring to completion on the last day — that is our sanctification! And if there be any doubts or fears of one’s spiritual standings, then flee to Christ and abide to his command to repent (even such fears are evidence of God’s spiritual saving work)! As Christ stated that if we love him then we will follow his commandments, and we can only love God if God Himself regenerated us. As circular as that may sound, that’s what Scriptures teaches. We didn’t chose God; God chose us and enabled us to love Him! Let us encouraged each other based on truth, not undermining the Gospel and the Justice of God (let alone the works of Christ!), but based on truth. These truths are imperative to the life and walk of the believer (to walk that fine line between antinomism and neonomisim) and every Gospel preaching pastor ought to arm their flock with the full truth.

    Thomas, I would encourage you to seek out the letters exchanged between Richard Baxter and John Owen. They had extensive ongoing debates on this very issue and John Owen basically formulated the correct orthodox Reformed view of Justification and the Atonement of Christ. Finally, Pastor Martin, forgive me if I have “hijacked” your article on the Atonement of Christ. I thank you for this timely topic in light of the upcoming Resurrection Sunday. We should all ponder over the Atonement of Christ and give praise to God the Father for having justified us lost sinners through the works of His Son and all the privileges and blessings that accompanies that even so in this life as well as in the after life!

    Resting upon the Finished Works of Christ,
    Jade

  23. Hello Marie: We are getting way off of the point here. I would interact with your comments, but we are already off topic.

    By the way, Pastor Martin doesn’t read this blog. He has a lot of other important things to do. Today, 3-35. for example, he is in Jackson, MI at a pastors conference. He is presently writing two books, and is about to teach a theological module in N J. in April. He didn’t even write this article on the atonement, it was taken from his messages at the Midwest Reformed Baptist Conference in Ohio, preached in 1984 if my memory serves me correctly.

    I am aware of the exchange between John Owen and Richard Baxter, and John Owen and Samuel Rutherford on Rutherfords view of whether the atonement was necessary at all. Maybe we can toss Samuel Rutherford out as well?

    I have a pretty good library of Puritan literature. I think that this whole discussion should be under another topic.

    I would say this much. This is the first generation of self styled theologians that have so much time on their hands that they can take apart the orthodoxy of Richard Baxter. I have been looking through every issue I could download of the entire Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review – because I am putting them on a DVD – and have found numerous quotes from those writings of Baxter that are useful. Everything in its place. Baxter was not one of the Westminster Divines, and I don’t consult him on those issues.

    But I can’t imagine someone like Charles Hodge reading the following quote from Richard Baxter and then dismissing him because he does not like his orthodoxy.

    One of our most heinous and palpable sins is PRIDE. This is a sin that hath too much interest in the best of us, but which is more hateful and inexcusable in us than in other men. Yet is it so prevalent in some of us, that it inditeth our discourses, it chooseth our company, it formeth our countenances, it putteth the accent and emphasis upon our words. It fills some men’s minds with aspiring desires, and designs: it possesseth them with envious and bitter thoughts against those who stand in their light, or who by any means eclipse their glory, or hinder the progress of their reputation. Oh what a constant companion, what a tyrannical commander, what a sly and subtle insinuating enemy, is this sin of pride! It goes with men to the draper, the mercer, the tailor: ‘it chooseth them their cloth, their trimming, and their fashion. Fewer ministers would ruffle it out in the fashion in hair and habit, if it were not for the command of this tyrannous vice. And I would that this were all, or the worst. But, alas! how frequently doth it go with us to our study, and there sit with us and do our work! How oft doth it choose our subject, and, more frequently still, our words and ornaments!

  24. Hi Thomas,
    this isn’t about Pride, this is about the Gospel! Does that even matter to you? This isn’t just about some secondary or tertiary doctrine. Martin Luther was right when he dubbed the doctrine of Justification as “the article by which the church stands or falls“! Soteriological Doctrine matters … I can’t believe I’d even need to say that on a reformed baptist website. This should be a given. The root of theology (especially in matters of soteriology) matters when considering spiritual applications. I don’t care what status any man holds, whether he identifies himself to be a reformed (and many would argue with you if Baxter is even reformed!) divine or the Pope! Status or reputation should not hold water for any of us; the only thing that should matter is if the man preaches/teaches the Gospel. I don’t have any trouble learning from folks that I differ with on secondary or tertiary doctrine, but if he can’t get the Gospel right, if he doesn’t even preach the basics of the Gospel, then I don’t think I could trust his views on spiritual matters. I mean, how could he direct me on spiritual matters when he doesn’t even believe in the Gospel?!

    So if someone defends the Gospel, they are suddenly prideful?! Then I think you’d have a lot of trouble with the apostle, Paul. He was not at all flexible when it came to the Gospel. Have you read Galatians lately? Paul stated, “if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” He even felt the urgency to repeat that sentence again, lest someone missed it! This should grab our attention! Are we heeding those words?! When someone states this:

    Christ came not to possess God with any false opinion of us; nor is he such a Physician as to perform but a supposed or Reputative Cure: He came not to persuade his Father to judge Us to be Well, because He is Well, nor to leave us uncured, and to persuade God that we are Cured. It is We that were guilty and unholy; it is We that must be restored unto Righteousness. If Christ only were Righteous, Christ only would be reputed and judged Righteous, and Christ only would be Happy. The Judge of the world will not justify the unrighteous, merely because another is Righteous; Nor can the Holy God take Complacency in an unholy sinner, because another is Holy. Never did the blessed Son of God intend in his dying or merits, to change the holy Nature of his Father, and to Cause him to Love that which is not Lovely, or to Reconcile him to that which he Abhors, as he is God. We must bear his own Image, and be Holy as he is Holy, before he can Approve us, or Love us in Complacency.

    in his Confession of his Faith, Especially Concerning the Interest of Repentance and Sincere Obedience to Christ, in Our Justification and Salvation article, he does NOT preach the Gospel. He denies the Great Exchange! He denies the Penal Substitutionary Atonement of Christ! He denies the passive and active obedience of Christ imputed to the believer! He denies the very Covenant of Redemption made between the Godheads! He denies the Gospel. This is heresy. I can’t be any more clearer than that. I’m sorry but Baxter falls in line with the warnings Paul gave in Galatians. If you want to call it pride (or accuse me of whatever else) for pointing that out, so beit. I’m not sorry for it; the integrity of the Gospel is worth loosing my reputation and even friends. Churches can NOT afford to give an ear on spiritual matters (of all things!), to a man who clearly did not preach the Gospel. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour and get his foot at the door of the churches. He will surely be subtle about it, but his goal is to get to the Gospel and construe it because that is the power of God and it is what guards many souls for eternity.

    Now if Baxter repented his statements above on his deathbed, praise God and I look forward to seeing him in heaven. But I still would not distribute any of his prior works as it stands because it has roots in a false Gospel.

  25. “Baxter’s gospel presents Christ’s death as an act of universal redemption, penal and vicarious though not strictly substitutionary, in virtue of which God has made a new law offering amnesty to penitent breakers of the old law. As obedience to the new law, repentance and faith are one’s personal saving righteousness, which effectual calling induces and preserving grace sustains. Called ‘Neonomianism’, this scheme is substantially Amyraldian, with Arminian ‘new law’ teaching added. Its obvious legalistic tendency, unrecognized by Baxter, was much criticized in his own day. Baxter also argued the reasonableness of Christianity on the basis of its coherence with natural theology, a method that boomeranged by producing unitarianism among his English Presbyterian followers after his death.” JI Packer

    The Reformed Baptist writer Benjamin Keach assessment of Baxterianism (and Arminianism) was that it is a “mix of King’s wine with their muddy water, or mix their polluted works with God’s free grace” and called it “poisonous and abominable doctrine” and “Popery in a new dress”

    See Reformed Baptist Review vol. III no. 1 pages 3-27

    BTW I am not sure what was meant by ANM not reading this blog, but I know that he does in fact read the Blogs written by our contributors.

  26. I recommend RBTR III:1, 3-27 by Austin Walker and II:1, 111-134 by Jim Renihan.

  27. Rich, that reference to RBTR II:1 (111-134) by Jim Renihan … is that this review Jim Renihan wrote on JI Packer’s dissertation (The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter)? Just wondering ….

    Would also be curious to read Dr. Walker’s work on this (who I know is the known expert on Benjamin Keach).

  28. Jade, no. The Renihan article is entitled: REFORMING THE REFORMED PASTOR: Baptism and Justification as the Basis for Richard Baxter’s Pastoral Method

  29. Looks to me like you folks digressed into the paradigm of “my dog is better than your dog” when it’s really one dead dog chasing after the other.

    Yes the correct doctrine of what Jesus, by having been crucified atoned is centrally important, but are any of the doctrines of atonement you think are correct the doctrine of atonement he has perfected by being crucified? Nope. The crucifixion of Jesus is the sin of murder caused by bloodshed and is not a direct benefit for any sinner elected or otherwise. What the prophets and angles wanted to understand is what was to happened AFTER Jesus was crucified.

    “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there MUST also be a change of the law.”
    Therefore “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight but it is those who OBEY the law who will be declared righteous.” The crucifixion of Jesus atoned for amending the law by adding a word in regard to the sin of taking his life by bloodshed and the sin of his crucifixion has increased so that by the faith to obey Him by law we might become the righteousness of God. Confessing to God that you are sorry Jesus’ life was lost when he was crucified and be baptized into this Way in order to be forgiven of past sins by God relative to the bloodshed of the Lamb of God.

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