Skip to content

Stephen Charnock, good presbyterian, bad theologian?

October 23, 2007

1.) There is no want on Christ’s part. There hath been by him satisfaction enough for the payment of our debts, and merit enough for our restoration to our happiness. He hath done all things necessary for the salvation of the world: he hath expiated sin, which plunged it into misery; he hath presented his death to God as a sacrifice of infinite value, sufficient for all the world, and by opening the throne of grace, hath given liberty to approach to God, and solicit him for the application of the benefit he hath purchased; he hath also purchased the Spirit, sent him into the world to renew his solicitations to men, who seriously calls them to the partaking of this salvation, and declares it to be a thing very agreeable to him, that men should come in to him. He came not intentionally to condemn any man: John iii. 18, ‘For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved;’ to proclaim the riches of the grace of God for the salvation of men [Tarnov, in loc p. 811]. But in regard of the event, indeed he is their judge, to which men provoke him by their obstinacy; whence it is said, John ix. 89, that he came ‘ to judge the world,’ i.e. in regard of the event. As the intention of a physician in prescribing sovereign medicines for the mastering the disease is to heal the patient; but if the patient neglects those restoratives, and swallows poison in their stead, this is not the physician’s fault.

The title of oar Lord Jesus in his first coming was Saviour, not Judge; he presented men with that which might warrant them from condemnation; but if they will not rejoice in their happiness, they exclude themselves him the benefit; and by not embracing the ransom God hath provided, they expose themselves to pay that satisfaction in their persons which the law exacts. The satisfaction of Christ they cannot plead, because the conditions of it are not embraced; they must therefore pay what the law demands, which would else be insignificant, and the honour of God’s justice would suffer in their safety. When, therefore, every offer of mercy shall accompany men to the tribunal of the judge, and this charge be heard from his month: I have redeemed you by my blood, end you have trod it under foot; I have invited you to faith and repentance, but you would rather wallow in the excrement of sin; I have called you by the motions of my Spirit, and you have proved rebellious; I have encouraged you by promises of great reward, but yon made no account of them; wherein have I been wanting? With what face can any man now lay the fault upon God? An when a king proclaims pardon to a rebellious city, upon the condition that they yield up themselves to his son; as it is equity that those that surrender themselves should have the promised benefit, so it is just that those that wilfully resist so easy and reasonable a condition, should fall under the threatened penalty; they have no reason to large their ruin upon any want of clemency in the king, since the proffer was made to all, but upon their own obstinacy, because they perish by them own folly.   Stephen Charnock, “The Misery of Unbelievers,” in Works 4:342-343.

Perhaps it is the case that Charnock was, in the final analysis, a bad presbyterian but a good theologian. :-) What is clear is that he is echoing some standard and classic expressions regarding the death of Christ. 

There is a lot here, explicit and implicit. Implicitly he rejects the fallacious double-jeopardy argument. He has the application of the satisfaction conditionally applied, and should a man not meet that condition, that man must pay for himself.  He has a sufficient payment for the world, which is not the same as the hypothetical sufficiency of the Protestant Scholastics, but an actual sufficient payment laid down for the sins of the world.

What do folk think of this? How could a die-hard hypercalvinist like those over there at PB land, who pride themselves of being the historic Presbyterians claim Charnock for themselves? How could they explain this one away? I would think the only honest thing they could do is to disown Charnock. But that, as I have mentioned, comes at a big cost.

For more on Charnock, see the post here.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2007 8:47 pm

    so i am guessing that the good historic presbyterian dismisses this as they would Calvin?

    Have you had any discussions with any Charnock fans on this quote?

  2. Flynn permalink
    October 24, 2007 9:37 am

    Hey Seth,

    I think they would have to. We have not had any credible interaction with folk on Charnock. The folk over there at PB land are just not credible in their affirmations and denial. I suspect the first reactions would something like, he didnt mean that, he didnt say that. I dont know how someone would try to deny what he says.

    So, yes, I suspect they would treat him much in the same way they treat Calvin on this.

    Take care,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: