Archive for the ‘New Release’ Category

For Whom Did Christ Die?

January 20, 2010

The Extent of the Atonement

By John Murray

It was over 30 years ago that I first wrestled with the issue that is the subject of this booklet: The Extent of the Atonement of Christ. As a young seminary student, preparing to serve in the ministry of the church, I was confronted with this subject in a class on Systematic Theology. Yet my personal struggle had begun nearly two years earlier when a friend gave me a copy of John Murray’s book REDEMPTION—Accomplished and Applied. Having been raised in a church that taught that Christ died for every person in the world, past, present and future, to me the issue was settled. But my friend and the material in Murray’s book challenged me to look more closely at this vital subject.

It is a privilege for me to be able to reproduce material that transformed my understanding of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ so many years ago. No subject demands and deserves greater attention than that which addresses the person and work of our Lord, and no effort will be wasted which begins with an open heart and an open Bible.

John Murray (1898-1975) was a master theologian. Born in Scotland and trained at Princeton Seminary, Murray rose to become one of the most highly regarded theologians in the English speaking world. He was very reluctant to publish because of his genuine humility and high standards, but he finally submitted to the counsel of his friends and colleagues, and at the age of 57 he released the book from which this material is drawn. In his Preface he wrote the following:

“It is with some misgiving that I have ventured to offer for publication the following attempt to deal with an aspect of the divine revelation that has been explored to such an extent. This present study cannot pretend to be in the same class as many of the superb contributions of both the more remote and the more recent past. I can only claim that I am presenting what has passed through the crucible of my own reflection.”

Hundreds of thousands will be eternally grateful that Professor Murray overcame his “misgiving” and gave to the world the precious volume that has passed through numerous reprintings. My edition is a tattered one from 1975 which was already the 6th reprint. Later in his Preface we read the following paragraph:

“On so great a theme as Christ’s redemptive accomplishment I am profoundly conscious of the limitations that encompass our attempts at exposition. Thought and expression stagger in the presence of the spectacle that confronts us in the vicarious sin-bearing of the Lord of glory. Here we must realize that we are dealing with the mystery of godliness, and eternity will not reach the bottom of it nor exhaust its praise. Yet it is ours to proclaim it and continue to expound and defend its truth.”

The material contained in our upcoming booklet may confront you with a position you have never before considered. We must beware of the danger of prejudice concerning such matters. I fear that we often hold to convictions without having ever examined them with care. We become accustomed to certain expressions without taking the time to see if they stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. Let me encourage you to read these pages only after having spent time in prayer asking the Lord: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).

On May 24, 1955 John Murray concluded his original Preface with the following words:

“I can only hope that the reader will find these studies consonant with the witness of Holy Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and that by God’s grace what is accordant with Scripture will elicit the response of faith and conviction.”

Michael Gaydosh

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The DIVINE PURPOSE

December 1, 2009

   Displayed in the Works of Providence and Grace 

      One of the great privileges of my life is that of serving as an instrument to introduce people all over the world to books and authors who have been long forgotten. Over the past ten days the Lord used an upper respiratory infection to set me aside to discover the ministry of John Matthews (1772-1848), through his only two books. I would like to introduce you to the first book in this blog, and the other book in my next one.

The Divine Purpose by John Matthews

      Dr. Matthews wrote his first book in 1825 and entitled it The Divine Purpose, Displayed in the Works of Providence and Grace; in a Series of Twenty Letters, addressed to an Inquiring Friend. The book passed through three more editions, with the last one (in 1843) a Preface was added by Archibald Alexander of Princeton Theological Seminary. The only change that took place in the last edition was that the first and second letter were slightly altered (by the author) and combined into one letter, so that the total number of letters was reduced to nineteen.

      A friend of Dr. Matthews had written to ask him to clarify some issues he had been struggling with about two items: the decrees of God and the perseverance of the saints. The first 16 letters deal with the former subject, and the last three with the latter one. In the Preface by Dr. Alexander he says the following about the letters on Perseverance: “At the close of the volume there are letters replete with solid argument and ingenious illustration on ‘the perseverance of the saints.’ It will be here seen, that the representation commonly given of this comfortable doctrine, by its enemies, are exceedingly distorted, and altogether unjust. When rightly understood it is the very thing which the Christian needs, not only to comfort his heart, but to encourage his efforts. It ought surely to be a pleasing thought that no member of Christ’s mystical body shall be broken off; no sheep of his flock be finally lost; for ‘we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.’”

      Of all the books I have read on the doctrines of grace, and especially the divine decrees, I have never had a book speak to my heart the way this one has. I love the way Dr. Matthews lays out a case and seeks to take each case one step at a time. He uses illustrations from all walks of life to seek to explain things about the divine plan and the divine purpose. He uses several examples from the world of architecture which are very helpful in pointing out the folly of trying to say that God can be in control (sovereign) over the big matters, but not over the small matters that produce those big matters. His chapter on the way God raised up and prepared Cyrus to conquer Babylon the great, and to deliver exiled Israel back to Jerusalem is incredible.

      Dr. Archibald Alexander, who wrote the brief Preface to the 1843 edition, actually published a 25 page Review of The Divine Purpose in 1831 in the Biblical Repertory and Theological Review. He said the following about the author and his approach to this thorny subject: “In this little volume, very interesting and important subjects are brought into discussion: and it is one recommendation of this work, that a doctrine, most commonly handled in a forbidding and polemical style, is here treated with great calmness, and brought down to common apprehension, by means of familiar and appropriate illustrations. There is not a harsh or censorious word in the whole book. It may, therefore, be recommended as a specimen of mildness in the discussion of a subject, which commonly produces warmth and hard speeches…But this is not the only recommendation of this little volume. It contains much sound, and we may say, profound reasoning: or, to express ourselves more correctly, the result of profound reasoning; for there is no long or elaborate chain of ratiocination—here everything is simple, and remarkably adapted to the capacity of common readers; but no man could render such a subject familiar, and easily intelligible, who had not deeply and maturely pondered it, and viewed it in all its important aspects, and especially, in its practical bearings.”

      I was so encouraged to read these words of Dr. Alexander, a man who was considered one of the most brilliant of his day, after I had finished reading the book myself. His words fully confirmed my opinion about the man and his book. The only question that has troubled me since reading it is this: WHY HAS THIS BEEN UNAVAILABLE FOR OVER 160 YEARS? We need such books for our own souls and we need such books to give to those who struggle with these matters in our day.

      At a time when educated and respected ministers appear on nation-wide television and make statements like: “God had nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina,”  we must have books like this one to give to the common man in the street to explain that the God of the Bible is the One who “works all things after the counsel of His own will.” He is the God who is in control of the fall of a sparrow and the hairs of our head. This book by Dr. Matthews on The Divine Purpose needs to be in every Christian home in America, and throughout the world. May God help us to get the word out before it is too late!