Kuyper, Common Grace 1.18 (The Nature of Original Righteousness)


, , , ,

In the 18th chapter, Kuyper analyzes the nature of Adam’s original righteousness. He first considers the Roman Catholic position: In Adam’s pre-Fall state, he consisted of body and spirit, horse and rider. The body, the horse, was possessed by original nature of concupiscence: desire was in man by God’s creation:

This tendency, called concupiscence, was not itself sin, but could easily become the occasion and fuel for sin. (But cf. Rom. 7:8; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:5, Auth. Ver.). Man, then, as he was originally constituted, was by nature without positive holiness, but also without sin, though burdened with a tendency which might easily result in sin.

L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 209. Thus, to keep man in order God gave the spirit as a rider for the horse. But since this would easily let men fail, God also bestowed a supernatural grace upon man of righteousness. As Charles Hodge explains:

According to their theory, God created man soul and body. These two constituents of his nature are naturally in conflict. To preserve the harmony between them, and the due subjection of the flesh to the spirit, God gave man the supernatural gift of original righteousness. It was this gift that man lost by his fall; so that since the apostasy he is in the state in which Adam was before he was invested with this supernatural endowment. 

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 103. Thus, freedom of choice remained in humanity after the Fall:

But the capacity to choose by one’s free will nevertheless continued in the sinful part of the human spirit, and today free will remains the starting point of moving toward spiritual perfection, if not in the Pelagian sense then at least in the manner of the semi-Pelagians.

Thus, the conflict within the human being is a conflict between desire and reason; and it was by the addition of a supernatural grace that Adam was in a state of original righteousness. 

The Reformed view differs at this point. Original righteousness was part of the original nature of humanity; it was not added by supernatural power. The fall of the Fall was not the loss of supernatural grace but rather corruption. He cites to Lord’s Day question 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism, “hence our nature is become so corrupt.” 

Kuyper insists that it was not the loss of essence but the corruption of nature, the two terms being distinguished:

Essence and nature, so they maintained, must be distinguished. The essence is the abiding, while nature is the changeable, such that sin did change the functioning of the nature of man, but the essence of man has remained what it was, and will remain so, even if it descends forever into the place of damnation. In Satan as well, the essence of the angel remains unchangeably the same; only his nature has, with regard to its function, changed completely into its opposite. The same is equally true of mankind.

As he works through the warrants for these positions, Kuyper first notes that the Roman view implies that man was defective in that he needed an additional to be holy. The second argument is that man in and of himself was defective in this respect then some of a different kind must be added to keep him in line; as if an angel were given to protect him. 

There is an interesting implication of this distinction: is a desire toward something in and of itself. In Roman Catholicism a desire without acquiescence of the will is not sinful – because the capacity for such desire is inherent in the human being. As the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

From the explanation given, it is plain that the opposition between appetite and reason is natural in man, and that, though it be an imperfection, it is not a corruption of human nature. Nor have the inordinate desires (actual concupiscence) or the proneness to them (habitual concupiscence) the nature of sin; for sin, being the free and deliberate transgression of the law of God, can be only in the rational will; though it be true that they are temptations to sin, becoming the stronger and the more frequent the oftener they have been indulged.  

Bavinck explains the development of this position in Scholatisticism:

Scholasticism, furthermore, began gradually to distinguish between primo-primi, secundo-primi, and plane deliberati desires, that is, those thoughts and desires that arise in us spontaneously before any consent of the will and are not at all sinful; those against which the will has offered resistance but by which it has been overpowered and which are venial sins; and those to which the will has consciously and fully consented and which are mortal sins. Added to this was the fact that the conception of original sin was becoming ever weaker and original sin itself viewed as wholly eradicated by baptism. What remained, concupiscence, was itself not sinful but only a “possible incentive to sin.” Rome, accordingly, decreed that the guilt and pollution of original sin was totally removed by baptism, that though concupiscence remained, it does not injure those who do not consent to it and can only be called sin “because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.”

Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 142–143. But in Reformed doctrine, the desire itself is sinful; such sinful desires are culpable before God:

The idea that original righteousness was supernaturally added to man’s natural constitution, and that its loss did not detract from human nature, is an un-Scriptural idea, as was pointed out in our discussion of the image of God in man. According to the Bible concupiscence is sin, real sin, and the root of many sinful actions. 

L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 236. This had an interesting playout in the Reformed world with the Revoice Conference. You can read about it here.

Christianity is an odd religion: rather than prescribe some certain set behaviors by which I personally reconcile myself to God or god. My faith is in myself. That is real difficulty of the Bible:

That which many call the difficulty of believing is the essence of self-righteousness. Yes; it is this that lies at the root of, or rather is the root of, this difficulty. Men cling to self as the lad clung to the rope;

Horatius Bonar, How Shall I Go to Good.

There is the difficulty. Christianity is premised upon the work of another man – a man whom I must trust in place of myself.

Deep down in man’s depraved being lies this awful evil, which only God can remove, this determination not to give up self. He deceives himself sadly in this matter, in order to cover his guilt and to cast the blame of his unbelief on God. He holds that he has some great thing to do: though God has declared a hundred times over that the great thing is done! He wants to do the great thing, and to get the credit of doing it; and because God has declared that the great thing is done, “once for all,” never to be done again, he retires into himself, and tries to get up another great thing within himself, by the right doing of which he will please God and satisfy his own conscience. Acceptance of the great thing done is what God presses on him as altogether and absolutely sufficient for his salvation and his peace. But this he shrinks from. He thinks he must wait, and work, and struggle, and weep before he is in a fit state for accepting; and therefore it is that he replies to all the messages from the “ambassadors of peace,” “I can’t.

Faith is a terrifying when it is understood properly. It is complete abandonment of self reliance upon a promise: that God will accept the work of the man Christ of Jesus.

And that is the blessing and wonder of faith. My efforts to reconcile God could never suffice. The nature of the fault between God and humanity is not such as we could resolve.

It was man’s guilt that rendered the cross necessary; for if that guilt remained unremoved, all else would be vain. To be under condemnation would be to be shut out of the kingdom for ever. To have the Judge of all against him in the great day would be certain doom. The cross has come to lift off that guilt from us, and to lay it upon another; upon Him who is able to bear it all; upon Him who is mighty to save. That which should have come upon the sinner has come upon Him, that the sinner might go free. The Judge is satisfied with the work done on Calvary, and asks no more: and when the sinner is brought by the Holy Spirit to be satisfied with that which has satisfied the Judge, the chains that bound the burden to his shoulders snap, and the burden falls, to disappear for ever—buried in the grave of the Substitute, from which it cannot rise.


Hannibal as the model soldier

Never was the same nature more adaptable to things the most diverse—obedience and command. And so one could not readily have told whether he were dearer to the general or the army.

When any bold or difficult deed was to be done, there was no one whom Hasdrubal liked better to entrust with it, nor did any other leader inspire his men with greater confidence or daring.

To reckless courage in incurring dangers he united the greatest judgment when in the midst of them. No toil could exhaust his body or overcome his spirit. Of heat and cold he was equally tolerant. His consumption of meat and drink was determined by natural desire, not by pleasure.

His times of waking and sleeping were not marked off by day or night: what time remained when his work was done he gave to sleep, which he did not court with a soft bed or stillness, but was seen repeatedly by many lying on the ground wrapped in a common soldier’s cloak amongst the sentinels and outguards. His dress was in no way superior to that of his fellows, but his arms and horses were conspicuous.

Livy, The History of Rome

If we make a god of government


God is not placated if we make a little room for him on the shelf beside our other gods. He demands exclusive sovereignty in our lives. He will not share his reign with idols, but ruthlessly casts them down and smites those who serve them.

On the national level, if we make a god of government, then God will send corrupt and incompetent leaders. If we make a god of the economy, God is able to make the stock market plummet. If we use science to violate his laws, then God will make our technology a curse to our lives.

God demands that all things—presidencies, corporate earnings, fighter planes, and microscopes—be submitted to his sovereign rule. “I am God, and there is no other,” he decrees; “I am God, and there is none like me” (Isa. 46:9). Likewise, on the personal level, God calls for us to submit all things to his service. He is not willing to share sovereignty in our hearts with false gods such as fame, pleasure, and wealth

Richard D. Phillips, 1 Samuel, ed. Philip Graham Ryken and Richard D. Phillips, Duguid Iain M., 1st ed., Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2012), 105.

He is well aware, after all, when is the time for what is causing us depression to be removed


, , ,

Let us not take this with a grain of salt; instead let us learn also from this the highest values, and when we fall foul of some disaster, even if we are suffering grief and pain, even if the trouble seems insupportable to us, let us not be anxious or beside ourselves but wait on God’s providence. He is well aware, after all, when is the time for what is causing us depression to be removed—which is what happened in her case as well.

It was not out of hatred, in fact, or of revulsion that he closed her womb, but to open to us the doors on the values the woman possessed and for us to espy the riches of her faith and realize that he rendered her more conspicuous on that account.… Extreme the pain, great the length of grief—not two or three days, not twenty or a hundred, not a thousand or twice as much; instead, “for a long time,” it says, for many years the woman was grieving and distressed, the meaning of “for a long time.”

Yet she showed no impatience, nor did the length of time undermine her values, nor the reproaches and abuse of her rival; instead, she was unremitting in prayer and supplication, and what was most remarkable of all, showing in particular her love for God, was the fact that she was not simply anxious to have this very child for herself but to dedicate the fruit of her womb to God, offer the first fruits of her own womb and receive the reward for this fine promise.

John Chrysostom Homilies on Hannah 1.

 John R. Franke, ed., Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 195.

Edward Taylor, 28th Meditation.5


, , , , , ,

Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?: The Samaritan Woman encounters Christ at the Well of ...
Paolo Veronese: Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well.

In this last stanza, Taylor shifts the metaphor slightly. Now rather than wine from a cask it is water in a spring. Just as he never directly uses the word “wine,” but rather makes the allusion, here he never uses the word “water.”

The concept of water is apparent from the words “font,” “sea,” “spring,” and to a lesser extent “flow.” The dispersion of the grace from God to Taylor is still one of great to small: a “sea” of grace which “drops” into a “vessel.” The vessel is still “earthen.” 

But here there is something new. The intake of the grace results in dispersion of the grace from Taylor, “Spring up O well. My cup with grace make flow.” The grace which comes to him is not stagnant, but flows out. 

Finally, there is one additional new movement: The reception of grace itself becomes praise: “They drops will on my vessel sing thy praise.” And finally, this will become the basis for Taylor’s praise, “I’ll sing this song, when these drops embrace.” This actually makes for an interesting move in Taylor’s poetry: As he works through a matter, we realize that the poem is not the recollection of some earlier event but is itself the working through the difficulty with God. The poem in the end is the praise which he is seeking to bring at the beginning. 

My earthen vessel make thy font also:

And let thy sea my spring of grace in’t raise

Spring up O well. My cup with grace make flow.

They drops will on my vessel sing thy praise.

I’ll sing this song, when these drops embrace.

My vessel now’s a vessel of thy grace.

In making this movement to the reception and then dispersal of grace under the image of water, Taylor is again mining the Gospel of John. There are two places in John which distinctly makes this move. The first is in John 4, where Jesus sits with the Samaritan woman at the well. He asks her for drink of water. She says the well is deep, and I have nothing to draw water. He then turns the question on her and says, she should ask him for living water:

11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 

John 4:11–15. This is precisely the position of Taylor: He wants that living water. He knows that if he has this water, the water will well up within him so that he becomes a spring of the water:

My earthen vessel make thy font also:

And let thy sea my spring of grace in’t raise

Spring up O well. My cup with grace make flow.

He wants to become a font of the grace: it flows into and then through him.

The next source for Taylor’s imagery is found in John 7:

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) 

John 7:37–39. Again, water flows in and then through. However, on this instance, the imagery is further complicated by introduction of the new element of the Spirit. 

Thus, in this accumulation and complication of imagery, Taylor is not operating in the “normal” vein of a poet who carefully develops a single image. But he is mining his source text for imagery concepts and is not operating in a manner contrary to John’s Gospel.

The final element in the poem comes from the final scene in John’s Gospel. When the Risen Christ appears to the Disciples, Thomas is not present and famously doubts. But when Thomas himself meets Jesus, Thomas praises, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28.

Edward Taylor, 28th Meditation.4


, , ,

Let thy choice cask, shed, Lord into my cue

A drop of juice pressed from thy noble vine.

My bowl is but an acorn cup, I sue

But for a drop: this will not empty thine.

Although I’m in an earthen vessel’s place

My vessel make a vessel, Lord, of grace.

Below, I will work through the theological and conceptual structure of this stanza. But first some work play: cask, cue, aCorn, cup – drop. DroP-Pressed-cuP.

There is the repetition of vessel, vessel, vessel. The repetition sounds and words helps to underscore emotional intensity of the situation.

There is an interesting concealment and reveal in these lines. The unsaid subject of the whole is the wine. Look at the images, “juice pressed” it comes from a “vine”, it comes from a “cask.” The wine is to be poured into an “acorn” cup, very small, wooden cup. There is also another contrast between Lord and the poet: one is of grace, one of earth.

The imagery of wine and the Christ goes back to Jacob’s blessing of Judah:

Genesis 49:10–12 (KJV 1900) 

10         The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, 

Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, 

Until Shiloh come; 

And unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

11         Binding his foal unto the vine, 

And his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; 

He washed his garments in wine, 

And his clothes in the blood of grapes: 

12         His eyes shall be red with wine, 

And his teeth white with milk. 

The image of wine is developed further. There are two ways in particular the image of wine and vine work into this stanza. First, the image of vine. This passage comes from the Gospel of John in a conversation of Jesus as he is walking with his disciples onto Mount of Olives where he will be betrayed. The Last Supper and the institution of communion (which will follow) has been made. 

This passage from John is particularly relevant to the theme of the poem. In the beginning of the Gospel, John states that Jesus is the source of all grace. In this passage at the end of Jesus’ life, as his life will be poured out in death, he will become the source of life:

John 15:1–5 (KJV 1900)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

And as Jesus said earlier in John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.” Earlier in the John 1, Jesus is light and life and grace. When the poet calls himself “earthen,” this also means that she is subject to death: “That which is born of flesh is flesh.” John 3:6. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul develops at  length the concept that the body is “perishable,” sown in weakness. In particular, 1 Corinthians 15:47, “The first man was from earth, a man of dust.” But there is a resurrection, “But thanks be to God who gives us victory through Jesus Christ.” 

So to be a vessel of grace is not merely a matter of some sort of psychological benefit. It is the question of “salvation;” which is a matter of life:

John 3:16 (KJV 1900)

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What is not exactly clear to me in this stanza is whether the “choice cask” has a particular reference.

One further wine reference is necessary. When Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, he gives them the cup (again a reference in the poem: the poet’s cup), “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:27-28.)

Thus, by asking for the cup, the poet is asking to partake of the “new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). He is calling for grace: which is life, which is salvation from all the effects of the Fall.

The State Cannot Give Lesser Protection to Religious Speech than it does to Political Speech


, , ,

Freedom of speech “is essential to our democratic form of government.” Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448, 2464 (2018). That freedom prohibits the government from “regulat[ing] speech based on its substantive content or the message it conveys.” Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 828 (1995). And as a corollary, it ensures that the government “may not favor one speaker over another.” Id.

Introduction to Amicus brief filed by 34 Senators in favor of the petition of Capital Hill Baptist Church.

Edward Taylor, 28th Meditation.3


, , , , , ,

Thou, thou my Lord, art full, top full of Grace,

The golden sea of grace whose springs thence come

And precious drills, boiling in every place.

Untap they cask and let my cup catch some

Although it is in an earthen vessel’s case

Let it no empty vessel be of grace.

This stanza begins with two stressed syllables separated by a pause: THOU — THOU my LORD…. The emphasis thus falls most heavily upon the addressee. This functions almost as a new invocation: he has asked to fill him, and here he repeats and makes even more emphatic the call for grace. 

In the second half of the line, Taylor does something similar where he repeats “full” with an emphasis falling on the second full (which is not merely full, but is “top full”). 

Although it is a “fault” with the line, it ends with an emphasized “grace”. The fault is that Taylor has put 6 stresses in a 5 stress line. Yet even though it is a technical fault, it helps underscore the desire of the poet. I truly need this. 

The second line smooths out with a fine alliteration of “g” from the end of the first line: grace … golden … grace.

The springs are rising up from the depth of the sea: the sea is so completely filled with grace, and grace wells-up continually so that the surface is “boiling” with rising streams of grace. And so matches the nature of the gospel of our grace: Our need is continual, but the grace of God in Jesus Christ is greater, inexhaustible. No matter the depth of our need, it cannot begin to exhaust the supply. 

A hymn has it

Grace, grace, God’s grace

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

The theology which underlies Taylor’s prayer in this poem: his own inability and need vs. Christ’s inexhaustive grace owes much to Luther’s statement in the Heidelberg Disputations no 18, “It is certain that one must utterly despair of oneself in order to be made fit to receive the grace of Christ.” Whether Taylor ever read the disputations, I do not know. But the theology set forth there was much developed by Lutheran and Reformed theologians and showed up theology which Taylor would have known.

He then uses the image of a cask filled with wine: He asks that the cask be tapped and that the grace flow into the empty, earthen vessel, until it is full:

Untap they cask and let my cup catch some

Although it is in an earthen vessel’s case

Let it no empty vessel be of grace.