Johannes Wollebius on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

1586-1629

Wollebius was a significant continental professor of theology.

 

 

Introduction

John Beardslee describes the importance of Wollebius’ Abridgment of Christian Divinity in these words:

“…it cannot be denied that its extensive use during the seventeenth century, its brevity, clarity, and faithful positive expression of what Reformed theologians were saying in the decade of the Synod of Dort and would keep on saying, entitle it to consideration as an avenue to an over-all picture of the accepted “orthodox” understanding of the Reformed faith–the teaching commonly accepted in our churches, on which Voetius, Turretin and others set such store.”

 

from the Preface to Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), p. 11

 

 

The Abridgment of Christian Divinity, 1626

 

p. 90 of the 1626 Basel edition

as quoted in Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 1861, revised and edited by Ernst Bizer, English translation by G.T. Thompson, 1950, reprinted 2007 by Wipf and Stock, p. 515

The form of this calling consists partly in the offer of the benefit of redemption, partly in the injunction to accept it.”

 

 

p. 166-174

Chapter 20 – Of the Common Vocation [Calling] to the State of Grace

Hitherto of Christ the Redeemer, who is the efficient cause of the state of Grace: Now follows the Vocation [calling] to the same.

This is either common to the elect and reprobate, or proper only to the elect.

The common calling is, whereby all men are invited to the state of Grace, and participation of Christ the Mediator.

This is also called the election of the whole people wheresoever, Deut. 7:6, Thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God, he hath chosen thee.

 

The Rules:

I. As election, so vocation is either to an office, or to salvation: the latter is that which is here to be considered.

There is an example in Saul of Election and Vocation, to an office; 1 Sam. 19.24. Do you not see whom the Lord hath chosen?

II. The efficient cause of this vocation is commonly the whole blessed Trinity: but particularly Christ the Lord; who as in the days of his ministration here on earth did immediately call sinners, so he doth now by the means of his ministers.

Matt 22:2,3, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a King who made a marriage for his son, & sent his servants who should call those that were invited to the Wedding, etc.  Mark 1:14-15, Jesus came to Galilee preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; Repent and believe the Gospel. 2 Cor. 5:20, Therefore we are Ambassadors for Christ, etc.

III. The matter of this vocation are not all men, nor the elect only, but any of the race of mankind.

That all are not called, the whole History of the Old Testament witnesses; for God at all time passing by other Nations, called the people of Israel: but in the time of the New Testament, not all, nor everyone is called, seeing that many never heard of Christ: and that the elect only are not called, the parable of Christ doth sufficiently witness, in which good and bad are invited; many also are said to be called, but few chosen: Matt 20:10,14.  Now all sorts of men are called, of what state, condition, age, etc., they be.

IV. The form of this vocation consists partly in the proffer [to hold out, offer or propose something to someone for acceptance] of the benefit of Redemption, and partly in the precept of accepting it.

2 Cor. 5:20, Therefore we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you through us, we pray in Christ’s stead, that ye be reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

V. The end of this is God’s glory, and the salvation of the Elect: now the glory of Gods mercy is seen in the Elect obeying the vocation, and the glory of his justice in the reprobate disobeying.

VI. Common vocation is principally for the Elect, secondarily for the Reprobate.

VII. Yet both are called seriously, and without hypocrisy.

Of the Elect, there is no doubt; as for the reprobate, although they are not called with any purpose in God to save them, yet they are called seriously, and salvation is seriously promised to them on condition they will believe: neither are they mocked in that they are deprived of the grace of Faith; but because voluntarily they fell from the original grace, and with a malicious purpose they despise the means of salvation: God notwithstanding may justly claim Faith of them; and this right of claim which He has, He doth as justly use as any other creditor, that their mouths may be stopped, and they made inexcuseable, and Gods justice may be vindicated: therefore He does not call them, that He might mock them, but that He might declare and make manifest his justice upon them.

VIII. Therefore out of the common vocation [calling], we must not presently infer an election: both because it is common to the Elect and Reprobate, as also because it includes the condition of Faith.

Although a whole nation is said to be elected, yet all in that nation are not elected: as the Jewish people are called an elect people, and yet many of them were reprobate.

IX. Neither are all therefore elected, because they are commanded to believe that they are elected; for they are not absolutely commanded to believe that, but with trial of their Faith.

2 Cor. 13:5, Try your selves whether you be in the Faith or not; prove your selves: know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you except you be reprobates? but I trust, that you shall know, that we are not reprobates.

 

Chapter 21 – Of the Covenant of Grace

The fruit and benefit of Vocation [calling of the gospel], is the outward communion both of the covenant of Grace, as also of the Church.

The external communion of the Covenant of Grace is, whereby they who are called, are accounted to be in the Covenant, and Gods people; yet analogically, as some are truly Gods people, some only in outward profession.

In the Covenant of Grace we must consider both the offering of it, and the confirming or sealing of it: the offering of the Covenant of Grace, is that whereby God promises to the Elect to be their Father in Christ, if they perform filial obedience.

The Rules:

1. By the name of Covenant we understand not that general, which God made with all creatures; nor the Covenant of works made with our first Parents, but that which after the fall, God of his mere mercy hath made with us.

2. Therefore the Covenant of Grace is called a Testament or Disposition; because by this, God hath appointed to his sons a heavenly inheritance, to be obtained by the mediation of his own Son’s death.

Heb. 8:10, “Therefore this is the Covenant that I will make, etc., and 9:15-16, And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that through death which was for the redemption of the transgressions that were in the former Testament, they which were called might receive the Promise of eternal inheritance: for where a Testament is, there must needs be the death of him that made the testament.”

3.The efficient cause of this, is commonly the Holy Trinity: but particularly Christ, God and man, that Angel of the Covenant.

Mal. 3:1, “Behold I will send my Angel, (to wit, John Baptist) who shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord whom you shall seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple, even the Angel of the Covenant, whom you desire.”

4. The matter of the Covenant of Grace, are the things conditioned on both sides; to wit, of God and man: God promises that he will be our God in Christ; man promises the obedience of Faith and life.

5. The form consists in a mutual obligation; but so, that they are Relatives of an unequal nature; for the promise and obligation on God’s part is free, but on mans part it is a due debt.

6. The end of the Covenant is the same that is of the general vocation, Gods glory, and the salvation of the Elect.

7. The subject or object of this proffered [to hold out, offer or propose something to someone for acceptance] Covenant, are all that be called; but properly, the Elect only.

This Covenant is proffered to all that are called, but the Elect only enjoy the Promises of the Covenant.

8. Out of the adjuncts, we are to consider the administration of the Covenant of Grace.

9. The administration, in respect of time, is distinguished into the old and new league, or testament.

10. The Old Testament is the Covenant of Grace, administered in the time wherein Christ was to be exhibited.

11. The form of administering is threefold: 

1. from Adam to Abraham; 2. from Abraham to Moses; 3. From Moses to Christ.

12. Between the first and last form of administration, this difference is, 

1. That that was made by words of Promise, which were very short, and yet long enough; but this hath not only a Promise, but an express condition of Obedience also. 

2. That had only the ceremony of Sacrifices; but this also of Circumcision. 

3. That was proposed to all mankind; but this was tied only to Abraham’s posterity.

13. Between the administration of the form in the third, and two former, this is the difference; that the third is more perfect, and truly testamentary, because enlarged not only with the Passover, but also with many other types of Christ’s death.

14. The New Testament is the Covenant of Grace, which is administered, Christ being exhibited.

15. The New and Old Testament agree in substance: for in both Christ is the same Testator; in both is the same Promise of Grace in Christ; in both is required the same obedience of Faith and Life.

16. They are deceived then, who make parallel distinctions of the Old and New Testament; of the Covenant of Works, and of Grace; of the Law, and Gospel: for in both, the Testament or Covenant is the Covenant of Grace; in both, the Law and Gospel are urged.

17. But the administration of the Old and New Testament differs, 

1. In time; because the Old Testament was exhibited before Christ; but the New is administered, Christ being now exhibited; that was to continue only till Christ, this forever. 

2. In place, or amplitude; for that was proffered to the People of Israel only, this extends itself through all the world. 

3. In clearness; because the free promises of Christ are more clearly preached in the New Testament, and confirmed, the shadows of Types and Ceremonies being abolished.

4. In faculty; because the administration in the Old Testament was more laborious then in the New.

5. In sweetness; for in the Old Testament, the perfect obedience of the Law is oftener urged, yet not excluding the promises of the Gospel; yet to that end, that they might be compelled to seek Christ by that rigorous exaction of obedience, as is were by a School-master: but in the New Testament, the promises of the Gospel are more frequent, yet not excluding the Law, which drives us to new obedience, to be performed by the grace of Regeneration.

18. Hence then it is manifest, in what sense the new Covenant is opposed to the old, in Jeremiah.

31:31-32, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, in which I will make a new Covenant with the house of Israel,and the house of Judah; not according to the Covenant which I made with their Fathers, when I took, etc., and v. 33, But this shall be the Covenant, etc., I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, v. 34, And they shall teach no more everyone his neighbor, etc., they shall know me from the least to the greatest.  

In these words, regard is had to the third and fifth differences [immediately above]: to this, when mention is made of the law written in Tables of stone, and afterwards to be written in their hearts: but to that, when he promises a clearer knowledge.

 

 

From the same work of Wollebius, as translated by John Beardslee in Reformed Dogmatics, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977)

p. 48.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

Just as the edicts of a magistrate are called his will, so the designation of will may be given to precepts, prohibitions, promises, and even deeds and events. Thus the divine will is also called that which God wants done [voluntas signi], because it signifies what is acceptable to God; what he wants done by us.  It is called “consequent” because it follows that eternal antecedent; “conditional” because the commandments, prohibitions, warnings, and promises of God all have a condition of obedience or disobedience attached to them. Finally, it is called “revealed,” because it is always explained in the word of God. It must be observed that this sort of distinction does not postulate either really diverse, or contradictory, wills in God.”

 

p. 70-71, this quote was compiled by David Ponter.

IX. By original sin natural goods are corrupted, and the supernatural good completely [penitus] taken away.

X. There remain, therefore, the intellect, but it is beclouded; and the will, which has lost its rectitude; and the lower desires, which are totally corrupted.

XI. Therefore, even in natural and civil affairs unredeemed man can do good only by special grace.

XII. Without this special grace of God nothing significant was done by the pagans [gentiles].

XIII. Whatever they did accomplish was so mingled with multiform futility, that even their greatest virtues are merely magnificent sins [splendida peccata] before God.

XIV. Good works are not merely actions that are good in themselves, but actions that are performed from right motives. The phrase “good works” may be used either univocally or equivocally.  It is used univocally of actions that are good simply with respect to all circumstances, but equivocally of actions good in themselves but corrupted with respect to the object, or subject, or means, or purpose. If one examines the purpose of the actions of the pagans, it will be evident that they were concerned over their own glory rather than that of God 

 

p. 105-6, this quote was compiled by David Ponter

XXIII. While Christ’s passion is minimized by the foregoing errors, those who teach that he died for all human beings [pro omnibus et singulis] broaden the object of his passion more than is allowable.

Of course, if we take into consideration the magnitude and worthiness of the merit, we admit that it would suffice for the redemption of ten worlds; but if we take the plan of God and the intention of Christ into consideration, then it is false to say that Christ died for every person.  For this reason others say that his death was sufficient for all, but not effective for all; that is, the merit of Christ, because of his worthiness, is sufficient for all, but it is not effective for all in its application, because Christ did not die with the intention that his death be applied to all.  Why should He die for those for whom He would not pray?  But He told us that He did not pray for the world, John 17:9.  Those who oppose us argue from passages in which there is reference to the whole world, or to all men, Timothy 2:4 and 1 John 2:2, in which all men in general are named.  But in 1 John 2:2 the meaning of “the whole world” is, by metonymy, “the elect scattered throughout the whole world,” and in 1 Timothy 2:4 “all men” means men of every sort, whether gentiles or Jews, kings or private citizens, and so not individuals in a class, but classes of individuals, as the words that follow make plain.  The word “all” is used in the same sense in Genesis 6:19 and Joel 2:28.

 

 

 

Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer

1600’s Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel