WCF 5.6 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Jul 22, 2018 by admin

5.6  As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them He not only withholdeth His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts;1 but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had,2 and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin;3 and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,4 whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.5

1 Rom 1:24, 26, 28; 11:7–8; 2 Dt 29:4;  3 Mt 13:12; 25:29;  4 Dt 2:30; 2 Kgs 8:12–13;  5 Ps 81:11–12; 2 Th 2:10–12;  5 Ex 7:3; 8:15, 32; 2 Cor 2:15–16; Isa 8:14; 1 Pet 2:7–8; Isa 6:9–10; Acts 28:26–27.

God has a special providence for man; but there is a vast difference between His attitude and dealings with the elect and with the reprobate. In the case of His elect, for the ultimate purpose of magnifying His own grace, He allows them to fall into sin. In the case of the reprobate or the “wicked and ungodly”, for the ultimate purpose of displaying His righteous justice, He blinds and hardens that they not only sin, but continue in sin. This is clearly taught in the Scripture. The apostle Paul, for example, speaks of how God “gave… up to uncleanness” those who hold down the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:24). Likewise, he insists that unbelieving Jews “were blinded… unto this day” (Rom 11:7-8).

How does God blind and harden the reprobate? He does not do so by infusing any wickedness into their heart or by any positive and direct manipulation of their soul to render them obstinate. Rather, as we are given to confess, He does so in several indirect ways in which they remain responsible for their sin.

Firstly, He does so by withholding “His grace” that is necessary for them to apprehend the sinfulness of their sins. Moses alludes to the necessity of such grace when He reveals that Israel could not appreciate the spiritual implication of all that God was doing because He had not yet given them “an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear” (Dt 29:4).

Secondly, He withdraws “the gifts which they had”, which gifts may include opportunities of hearing and understanding the Gospel. The Lord Jesus alludes to such a withdrawal by saying: “whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Mt 13:12).

Thirdly, He also deals with them by exposing them to “such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin.” Thus God is said to harden the heart of Sihon king of Heshbon by directing the children of Israel to pass through his land-knowing that he would fight them (cf. Dt 2:30, 24).

Fourthly, God also gives the reprobate “over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan” (cf. Ps 81:12; 2 Th 2:11–12). Indeed, the wicked harden themselves, “even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.” Thus, Pharaoh hardened his heart even though the plagues would have had an opposite effect on others. But since this hardening was God’s original purpose in sending the plagues, God is said to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 7:3; 8:15, 32; Rom 9:17). Thus preachers and the preaching of God’s Word is “a sweet savour of Christ” of life unto life for the elect, but a savour of death unto death for the reprobate (2 Cor 2:15–16). Thus Christ is a precious corner stone for those who believe but a stone of stumbling for those who reject Him (Isa 8:14; 1 Pet 2:7).

Take heed, therefore, brethren and children! How you respond to God’s Word and providence says a lot about your spiritual state. But it is not too late yet to repent and truly believe in Christ if you detect hardness and blindness in your heart.

Extracted and translated from:
Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
© 2018 by Pilgrim Covenant Church
Translation and posted with permission
Chinese version Copyright © 2018 Gratia Dei Sola Media