“…for He is kind [Greek: “gracious”] unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
“O man… despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
“The Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”
Order of Contents
What is Common Grace?
1. In addition to the saving grace of God, shown only to those who are elected to eternal life, there is also a certain favor, or grace, of God shown to his creatures in general.
2. Since the fall, human life in society remains possible because God, through his Spirit, restrains the power of sin.
3. God, without renewing the heart, so influences human beings that, though incapable of doing any saving good, they are able to do civil good.
Where to Start?
Fentiman, Travis – Bible Verses on Common Grace and the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel, 2014, 35+ passages with commentary
Louis Berkhof and William Shedd, both reformed theologians, distinguish the difference very clearly.
Calvinism: Pure & Mixed (1893; rep. Banner of Truth, 1993), p. 105
“Is it inconsistent in God to do any kind and degree of good to a sinner, if He has decided not to do the highest kind and degree of good in his power? Shall God do nothing at all that is kind and gracious to a sinful man, unless He has decided to overcome all the opposition that He may make to his kindness and grace? Must God make no offer of mercy to a sinner, unless He has decided to make him accept it?
There never was an age of the world when men more needed than now to be reminded that they are resisting the common grace of God, and rejecting his universal offer of mercy [in the gospel], and this in so doing they run the great hazard of God’s preterition [passing them over].”
Collections of Historic Reformed Quotes
Webpages at RBO
Historic Reformed Quotes on the Common Operations of the Spirit, including the Spirit’s resistible influences in drawing people to Christ
Witsius, Charnock, Cunningham, and Dabney all affirm Limited Atonement. They also affirm the Biblical doctrine that Christ, in his Atonement, purchased and intended non-saving benefits to the reprobate. Cunningham and Dabney are particularly good.
Articles with quotes
Myers, Andrew – ‘The Three-fold Love of God’ (2011) 29 paragraphs, being a collection of 9 quotes from historic reformed writers
God has a three fold love: (1) for all his creatures, (2) for all people, and (3) a special love only for his elect. 9 historic reformed writers are quoted to this effect: Turretin, Leigh, Collinges, a Brakel, Jenkyn, Ussher, Gill, Hodge and Berkhof.
‘Do the Canons of Dort Preclude Common Grace?’ by Turretinfan, 6 paragraphs
No. The the third and fourth heads, article five, condemn the Arminian construction and use of common grace, but not the concept itself. Common grace is defined in the Canons as the “light of nature”, and is positively affirmed by the third and fourth heads, article four.
Durham, James – 3, ‘Concerning the Nature & Difference of Saving & Common Grace’ in A Commentary upon the Book of the Revelation... (Edinburgh, 1658), pp. 119-45
Turretin, Francis – at Calvin & Calvinism
This collection of quotes is significant as Turretin has a section in his Institutes on the love and grace of God, where he limits his language so as not to use grace of persons who are reprobates. Yet this collection shows the many places where Turretin does use that language of reprobates.
van Mastricht, Peter – section 10 in A Treatise on Regeneration… (New Haven, 1770), Doctrinal Part, pp. 21-22
This is an excellent summary of the numerous distinctions that reformed scholasticism made and affirmed on the subject; it gives the many uses and purposes of common grace as well.
De Moor, Bernard – Continuous Commentary, ch. 4
Systematic Theology (1950)
Berkhof shows from scripture all the beneficial operations of the Holy Spirit upon believer and ubeliever, elect and reprobate alike
‘The Goodness of God’ 15 paragraphs
Berkhof expounds God’s goodness, love, grace, mercy, and longsuffering to both believers and unbelievers alike, elect and reprobate
‘Common Grace’ 32 paragraphs
Berkhof unfolds this Biblical doctrine from Church history, examines the name and concept of it, posits its relation to the atonement and special grace, and delineates its means and fruits, as well as answers objections to it.
‘The Three Points in All Parts Reformed’ (1925) 21 paragraphs
This is all the collected quotes from Berkhof’s Dutch, De Drie Punten in Alle Deelen Gereformeerd, that have been translated into English, where he defends the three points of Common Grace asserted by the Christian Reformed Church just a year earlier.
Christian Reformed Church, ‘The Three Points of Common Grace’ (1924) 3 paragraphs
This is the historic classic, three-part definition of Common Grace
Van Til, Cornelius – ‘Common Grace’ (1941) 23 pp.
Sproul, R.C. – ‘A Loving Provision’ no date 9 paragraphs
Fentiman, Travis – ‘Jesus the Friend of Sinners’ (2014) 10 paragraphs
Is Jesus friendly to the unconverted? The Bible says Yes, as well as historic reformed theology.
Nally, Joseph – What is Common Grace HTML, no date, 21 paragraphs
A good introduction to what common grace is with numerous historic reformed quotes.
Helm, Paul – ch. 10, ‘Pure Nature & Common Grace’ Abstract in Calvin at the Centre (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Kuiper (1889-1963) was a minister in the Christian Reformed Church (C.R.C.) and a professor at Calvin Seminary. Kuiper studied under Louis Berkhof, A.A. Hodge, Geerhardus Vos and B.B. Warfield. This work of his was historically significant during the debates that followed the C.R.C.’s assertion of the 3 Points of Common Grace in 1924.
This is the most detailed, careful and definitive work (being an anthology of extended quotes with analysis) that demonstrates that Calvin explicitly, repeatedly and frequently taught throughout his Institutes and commentaries that:
(1) God gives common grace to all men,
(2) that God’s common grace in the Covenant extends to the reprobate, and
(3) that God desires all men to embrace the gospel and be saved.
Read Calvin for yourself and see what he says. The appendix to the book (p. 239) gives a survey of the doctrine of common grace in the theological writings (many of which remain in Latin or Dutch) of Peter van Mastricht, Johannes Marck, Wilhelmus a Brakel, Bernhardinus de Moor, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, Herman Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper and V. Hepp.
Kuiper’s work is very hard to come buy on the used market, if it is available at all, and is very pricey if one can find it at all.
Zuidema, S. U. – ‘Common Grace & Christian Action in Abraham Kuyper’ (no date) 50 pp. at Reformational Digital Library
Zuidema is sympathetic to Kuyper.
In the American Dutch Context
Masselink, William – General Revelation & Common Grace: A Defense of the Historic Reformed Faith over against the Theology & Philosophy of the so-called “Reconstructionist” Movement Ref Buy (Eerdmans, 1953) 407 pp.
Masselink was a professor at the Reformed Bible Institute in Grand Rapids. In the “Reconstructionist” movement Masselink includes Klaas Schilder, Herman Dooyeweerd and Cornelius Van Til. Masselink is in support of Kuyper and arrays quotes of Bavinck, Warfield, Hodge, Machen and Hepp against the “Reconstructionist” movement.
See a critique of Masselink by Adam Persenaire, ‘Review: General Revelation & Common Grace’ in The “Reconstructionists” Defended, vol. 2, issue 5 (1952).
“To Him which led his people [elect and reprobate] through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away…”