Fenner:

Now then for answer, do you ask, “Why is a man invited by the Ministry to repent, and turn unto the Lord, when he has not God’s secret, but cannot?” because the reason why he does not repent is, because he will not, nor cannot.

Yea, but you will say, “Preachers cannot bid him,” as for example; “He cannot command Judas, or Cain, to believe that their sins may be forgiven them; because Christ never died for the Reprobate.” I answer, Mentiris[?] Cain, you lie Cain, Christ died for thy sins, and that in five ways.

Augustine.

1. By way of Proclamation; remission of sins is to be proclaimed to you, if you will believe; so says Paul, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through Christ is Preached unto you forgiveness of sins,” Act. 13:38; “yea, among all the Nations,” Luke 24:47; “For to whom give all the Prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believes in him shall receive forgiveness of sins,” Act. 10:43, so that God’s Ministers are bound to preach that your sins may be forgiven you, if you repent and believe the Gospel.

2. By way of Obligation; you are bound to believe that your sins may be forgiven you in Christ, remission of sins is one of the Articles of your creed, that you are commanded to believe, “Repent and believe the Gospel,” Mark. 1:15, and therefore it is called, the Law of Faith; lex á ligando, the Law binds, Rom. 7:2. All are bound to believe in Christ Jesus, to the remission of sins, even reprobate and all, they are bound as well as the Apostles themselves. For our Savior commands them, to command all creatures the very same things he commanded them, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Mat. 28:20, so that you are bound to believe that thy sins may be forgiven you.

3. By way of Obsignation; Remission of sins is so far forth offered unto you in Christ that God has sealed this serious offer in your own Conscience, your own Conscience tells you, or has told you, that it has in it for to tell you, that God does truly offer this grace of Christ unto your soul, and your heart can witness with you that it is your fault, if you do not repent, and believe to the remission of sins. Thus our Savior, “He that believes in him is not condemned, but he that has believed not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” Joh. 3:18…. The not believing itself accuses you, namely in your own Conscience, so that your own reins check you, for not believing your sins can be forgiven you.

4. By way of general Intention; for God intended his Son generally for mankind, to lay down a sufficient price to the remission of sins for the same, even for the reprobate men, and all comparatively, more than for the reprobate Angels generally; I say, in the respect of the condition, that if any man or woman; “they should not perish everlastingly,” John 3:16, although I do not say generally, in respect of absolute purpose. Thus says the Apostle, “Verily, he took not on him the nature of Angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham,” Heb. 2:16. And lest one should think, why then he took not on him all[?] mankind, therefore Moses says it larger, “the seed of the woman,” Gen. 3:16, in whose loins were all the world. This is no small thing, says the sweet father, ho gar aggelois toto echarisato, he did not vouchsafe this mercy to Angels. So then you are taxed with a sin over and over the sin of the devils in hell, if you do not repent, and believe to the remission of sins.

5. By way of special intention too, for all that you know, God means to work faith and repentance in you unto remission of ins. Peter calls upon Simon Magus the Sorcerer, “Not to despair, but to repent of this wickedness, and pray God if it be possible, the thought of his heart might be forgiven him,” Acts 8:22… says the same father. Peter did not say thus, as if he made any question (or would have him make any questioning doubt) of the possibility of forgiveness, if he repented, but only to show the grievous condition that he was in, that he might provoke him to faith and repentance; so that you sin against God’s unsearchable secrets and counsel, if you do not believe that God may in a special manner vouchsafe you forgiveness of sins. Excellently then says St. Hilary, Omnia Omnium, Christ has satisfied enough for all the sins of all men and women. When we may learn, that now its worse with the wicked man, if he will live in sin without amendment of life, than before, it this New Covenant had not been made, accidentally; for now his sins may be forgiven him; God has offered to condescend with him from the rigor of the first, wherein he may, First, absolutely be forgiven, in regard to Christ’s sufficiency, which is enough for all sin of mankind in the world; yea, as Eccius says, the Redemption of Christ’s blood is sufficient, so that if there were a hundred mundi, a hundred worlds, it might serve for all; yea more, were there as many worlds as the Epicureans held, murioi kosmoi, infinite worlds. Aquinas is bold to say, “That the blood of Christ is of a sufficient value to redeem them all, á toto. Secondly, mollifiedly á tanto, be forgiven on their own part assisted with Christ’s efficiency. I speak of Christ’s persuading, exciting, and to some general duties enabling grace, whereby though he do not give them Free-will, yet he truly proffers them to diminish the extreme bondage thereof, and without doubt does in some. And therefore if he be obstinate in his sins, he is accidentally I say in a more woeful condition than ever before, for now, “Cursed is he because he continues not in all things that are written in the book of the Law to do them,” [Gal. 3:10]. He devolves himself upon the old Covenant, and shall answer for the breach thereof. Now “Cursed is he too, because he believes not in the Son of God,” he shipwrecks himself against the New, and shall answer for the contempt thereof. God comes so graciously unto him in the power of the dispensation of the Gospel of Christ, that it might be better with him under the law of faith (although God do not go so far with him as with his Elect), but he makes himself guilty of the blood of the New Testament, and turns this “May be forgiven,” into a double “Never shall be forgiven,” yea and by the just judgment of God into a desperate “Never can be forgiven.”

But suppose Ministers may bid them believe, because God has commanded them so to preach, yet how can God himself bind Cain or Divers, or any other reprobate to believe, when Christ did not die for them? or how can God judge them for not believing in the Son of God, who never was incarnate for them? can they be tied to believe that to be so, which is not so.

I answer, 1. Put case that Christ did not die for them; the Preacher, or God in the Preacher does not command them to believe an untruth; for faith comes by the word Preached, and look whatsoever the word says, they are bound to believe: The word says, “That he died for those that believe,” “For those that hunger and thirst after righteousness,” “for those that repent.” The word says, “They are bound to repent,” &c. And if they do repent, if they do hunger and thirst after him, then the word assures it, “Christ died for them.” So that a man cannot be bound to believe that which is not so, because that were a lie. This is not true, when that which is not, by believing is made to be so. Ergo, it is false that a man is an Angel, it is false that a man is a spirit, yet if a man be an Angel, he is a spirit, that’s true. It is false that a fool is discrete,. It is false that a fool is wise, yet if a fool were discreet, he were wise, that’s true. So it is false that a reprobate hungers and thirsts after Christ. It is false Christ died for him in particular, yet if he do hunger and thirst after him, Christ died for him, is true. It is false that a reprobate does believe, and false that Christ died for the reprobate in particular, yet it is true, that if he do believe, Christ died for him.

Secondly, that which a man is bound to believe, is true: It is true, not only that he is bound to believe, but also even that thing which he is bound to believe, but no further then he is bound to believe. But a wicked man, ut sic, as yet a wicked man, going on in sin, is now here in Scripture bound to believe that Christ died for him; but he is bound to believe, and so mediante hoc statu, under the supposal of that state he is bound to believe. He that is bound to the antecedent, is bound to the consequent of that antecedent.

Thirdly, to believe that Jesus Christ died for him in particular, is not the faith that everyone is bound to, but the sequel of truth faith. Credere in Christum est fides, to believe in Christ is the faith itself, that is to go out of himself, and cast himself wholly upon Christ for his salvation.

Fourthly, Hod in his special mercy gave Christ to his elect, to work their salvation, and the application of the condition, for all is from him, our redemption; and the having thereof: Because they could not effect the former Covenant, he gives them an easier, and enables them to do it. Now God in his general mercy; or in his conditional mercy (special too in regard of the devils, to whom he vouchsafes it not, and in regard of their former stricter Covenant, which he ties them not to, so they do believe), having devised a sufficient means for all the world’s salvation, sets the wicked reprobate a rule to live by, namely, faith, repentance, new obedience, which he will not enable them to do, nor is he bound so to do, for a power of belief was included in their primæve [primeval] innocency, as minus in majori. Adam himself before the Fall, was to go out of himself, and cast himself upon another. Now man since the fall, is bound to nothing but the same. Here is the difference, before the Fall he cast himself wholly upon himself; ratione boni too, and to cast himself upon a new promise; that promise was the promise of bounty, this the promise of mercy; that promise was in his Son God, theos, and this promise in his Son, both God and man, theanthropo, so that this faith differs from the other, but only in the sundry modifications of subject and object.

Lastly, the reprobate are justly condemned, because they do not believe in Christum sufficientem servatorem, not to speak of efficacem, for though they know that Christ is a sufficient Savior, this is but a credere Deo, but a believing that God says true; who says that Christ is sufficient; they may believe that Christ is a sufficient Savior, but sure it is, that they do not believe in Christ a sufficient Savior.

William Fenner, “Hidden Manna: Or The Mystery of Saving Grace,” in The Works of W. Fenner. B. of Divinity, (Printed by E. Tyler for I. Stafford at the George neer Fleet-Bridge, 1658), 387-390. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized, some Greek text not included; italics original; marginal side-reference sited inline; square bracketed inserts mine; and underlining mine.]

[Note: For more information on Fenner’s important contribution to the development of English Federal Theology, see, Richard Muller, “Divine Covenants, Absolute and Conditional: John Cameron and the Early Orthodox Development of Reformed Covenant Theology,” Mid-America Theological Journal, 17 (2006) : 11-56.]

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Fenner in the Dictionary of National Biography

April 7th, 2010 at 8:08 am

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