Wednesday, December 31, 2008

True vs. false ideas on spiritual disciplines and retreats

I recently had my personal spiritual retreat on Monday afternoon (December 29th): to seek God especially for His direction for the new year (2009). I have been clearing leave during this season so I have had the free time to slow down and take stock of this passing year, and Monday afternoon was the time I had set aside to seek God exclusively for an extended period of time. It has indeed been a very refreshing time, though also one in which the flesh rails against the spirit the most. But I digress.

Normally, I prefer not to reveal more personal stuff publicly on the Internet, focusing instead on more important stuff like doctrine and Christian issues. After all, I am nothing but dust but Christ is everything; Christ alone is eternal and worthy of praise, and that's why we should talk about Him and not ourselves, let alone me. Yet I will concede in this post so that my life experience in this particular episode may hopefully be used to instruct others — not that my life is that great, for I know my sins and weaknesses, but that Christ be magnified in the proclamation of His truth.

The idea for this post came about in the course of the retreat itself as I prayed over the terrible blight of spiritual poverty in the [Visible] Church. It must be admitted that modernist Evangelicalism, with all its positive thinking, 12-steps-to-this and 7-steps-to-that programs, is spiritually bankrupt and the thirst for true spiritual reality has swept many professing Evangelicals into the contemplative camp in search of spiritual satisfaction yet all they receive are counterfeit trinkets. Yet the Protestant Reformed tradition has the biblical answer to the heart's yearning for spiritual reality, and the tragedy is that so many overlook the truth, and even worse when they ignore it altogether. Instead of following God's way, they prefer their own methods; they have forsaken the fountains of living water for broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13). What utter folly! Yet like irrational animals (Jude 1:10), they refuse to listen to God and tumble into the pernicious error of Contemplative Spirituality, thinking that they can approach God under their own terms in their own manner (cf Lev. 10:1).

In this post therefore, I will share my own experience of how a biblical spiritual retreat is done which I am sure is reasonably biblical, and contrast it with the anti-Christian practice of Contemplative Spirituality. May this be edifying to the saints.

I started my retreat after lunch, which I had done outside somewhere in the Central district in the city. Finding a relatively quiet spot in the outdoors (ie no distraction except moderately soft background noise), I proceeded with the retreat proper. I don't have a particular liking of fixed schedule of things to do as it reminds me of Modernism (although fixed order/liturgies are not Modernism, yet Modernism does consist of them) and anyway this was a personal retreat, so the activities during the few hours of retreat was more or less done in a dynamic fashion "as the Spirit leads" so to speak. First of course was prayer to dedicate this portion of time to the Lord, then the remaining time was spent alternating between prayer, reading the Word, reading a good Christian book I had with me (A Heart for Reformation — review here) and worship. The retreat was finally closed with a closing prayer after all was done.

Prayer is a two-way conversation, although NOT in the way the Contemplative spiritualists have made it out to be. In prayer, the focus must be on God and on God's Will, NOT treating God as if he is a Santa Claus to be thrown a shopping/wish list at! That is not prayer. Unless one comes before God in humility and contrition of his sins, God will not hear. The focus is always on God (theocentric) not on fulfilling our own whims and fancies or even our yearnings for spiritual reality. In prayer especially when we desire sweet communion with our LORD, there must be preparation in terms of genuine repentance and we must live in obedience to Him. It is no coincidence that the first few propositions in the Lord's Prayer asks us to glorify God and calls for His will to be done. God speaks to us today through His Word as the Spirit illuminates it to our hearts, and therefore knowledge of the Word of God and doctrine is important as God uses His Word to speak to us. Isn't it any wonder therefore when few Evangelicals can hear God speaking to them, for they know not the Word of God nor biblical doctrine? How can anyone claims to love God and want to know Him, yet refuse to read and understand the primary love letter God has written to us in the Bible? Whose fault it is when Evangelicals complain that they cannot hear God and have communion with Him? If they refuse to learn the language of God's revelation and believe its truth, they have only themselves to blame; God does not reward disobedience!

Traditional Christian spirituality revolves around what are termed the "means of grace" to nurture our walk with God (progressive sanctification). In our personal walk, these includes prayer and the Word. (Corporate means of grace includes hearing the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments). Contemplative spirituality however guts both means of grace and replace them with counterfeits. In place of the Word of God, they offer mantras loosely based upon the Word of God (ie Lectio Divina). In place of biblical prayer, they offer contemplative prayer. In the former substitution, an easy method of repeating biblical words/phrases over and over again in counterfeit meditation is given. Such is Jeroboam all over again. Remember the reason given by King Jeroboam of the northern Kingdom as to why he made the two golden calves in the first place? It was because it was too hard to go up to Jerusalem to worship God (1 Kings 12:28 - NIV), so here was an easier alternative to be pious before God, or so it was claimed. The biblical method of reading and using your mind to understand God's truth is so hard (and we don't want to appear too doctrinaire, right? Why, that would be just like the Pharisees!) for many, and so substituting it with Scripture as mantra is just so much easier to do in order to purportedly get the same spiritual benefits.

Along with a counterfeit "Word" comes counterfeit prayer. Why should we spend so much time understanding God's Word, and then after that we are "forced" into contrition and repentance as the Word of God exposes our sins? No, no, no! That wouldn't do at all! Here's an easier method which requires little effort and promises the same benefits as the harder one PLUS, you do not need to feel uncomfortable as the Spirit pricks your conscience over your sins. Practicing Contemplative prayer and hearing God "speaking out of the silence" is much more alluring than having the Holy Spirit communicating God's truth to us while devastating our idols and pride. Why the necessity for pain when there is an easier alternative?

True biblical spiritual disciplines and retreats are done wholly dependent and in obedience to the Word of God, while false spiritual disciplines and retreats are practised according to the vain imaginations and philosophies of Man (Col. 2:8). Biblical spiritual disciplines center on the means of grace as spelled out in Scripture, and thus comprise thoughtful reading, understanding, systematizing, meditation on and application of the Word of God and its truths in the lives of Christians. Coupled with that is prayer which is done intelligently based upon a proper understanding of the Word of God and submission to His Will. A time of spiritual retreat is therefore a period of time set aside and devoted to God whereby all worldly and even ministry matters are placed to one side so that the believer can spend that period of time focused on reading God's Word, praying and worshipping God. The "silent retreat" promoted by the contemplative spiritualist mystics however voids the Word of its power and promotes spirituality without God and therefore leads people away from God. Such laziness in contemporary Evangelicalism is definitely not acceptable before God and will be punished by Him. As it is written

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied (Prov. 13:4)

It is very unfortunate that this doctrine of demons has entered the Evangelical Movement through the Trojan horse of Quaker Richard J. Foster and his organization Renovare. Through his best-selling book The Celebration of Discipline, Foster introduces undiscerning Evangelicals to the so-called Desert Fathers and the "Christian" tradition of contemplation, a tradition which developed during the Dark Ages as the Church then has sliden into apostasy. Just as we do not tolerate the doctrine of Arianism (that Jesus is not truly God) just because it was once embraced by some who call themselves Christians at one time or another in church history, it is simply stupid to argue that we should consider the "Contemplative tradition" as being a legitimate Christian tradition just because some who call themselves Christians once practiced it.

As we have seen, Contemplative Spirituality is un-biblical and anti-Christian in its outlook. We must remember that Contemplative Spirituality is not about being quiet as opposed to being pre-occupied by other matters (that is a straw-man), but about seeking intimacy and communion with God apart from the God-appointed means of doing so. By attempting to short-circuit the process of growth, Contemplative Spirituality pits itself against Christ and His Word, and is therefore not to be promoted or partaken of by Christians. Remember:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Prov. 14:12, 16:25)

With this, let me close with this exhortation to all believers. If you value your walk with God, I implore you to have nothing whatsoever to do with the blasphemous and anti-Christian methodologies of Contemplative Spirituality. Reject them like the plague that it is, and turn back to the simplicity of the Gospel and the pure spiritual milk therein (1 Peter 2:2). Otherwise

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ez. 18: 30-32)


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book review: Church on the Rise

Pastor Larry De Bruyn of Franklin Road Baptist Church has written an interesting book entitled Church on the Rise, not widely publicized though, on the Purpose Driven paradigm. I have read the book and here is my review of it.

You can get a copy of the book from VCY America here.

Book review: A Heart for Reformation

This book A Heart for Reformation by C. Matthew McMahon (which can be bought here) is indeed a very interesting book on the topic of Individual and Church Reformation. All of us are to strive towards growth and reformation in our individual lives, and in the life of the Church, and in this McMahon has written an excellent book in this regard.

As such, I have written a review of the book here, and here are some excerpts from the book itself:

No one wants to hear that they way they "do" religion is wrong, and people certainly believe that their individual experiences with God should be just that — an individual experience. However, individual experience does not and cannot determine the manner in which sinners should approach Him. Let the record be set straight — God determines the manner in which sinners are to approach Him, and the Bible was given to His people that they might know the truth on the matter. Only the truth will set men free to worship God rightly, and live before Him in integrity. It is not enough for people to simply hear what they want to hear, rather, they must conform to what God commands. (p. 48)

And a pertinent word for "Reformed Christians" so-called:

Second, with the neglect comes the sin, because Reformed Christians, who hold the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its purest expression, have this tendency to shout out, "I'm Reformed... so I am okay." Why is it that many people see the Reformed Christians as the frozen chosen? They have knowledge, but they do not seem to have a tendency to share it openly, or be as excited and evangelistic as the Arminian or Socinian or Liberal heretic who doesn't have the truth and yet ‘ holds to a zeal without knowledge. The greatest abuse of the means of grace are by those who know those means best — the Reformed Christian. It cannot be argued that the Gospel is most carelessly believed by those who know it the best. Reformation theology can cause Christians to become like the Jews of old. "I'm a Calvinist," and "I'm Reformed..." That is good, but that does not ensure a Christian's growth in Christ. It will not maintain or advance their growth in Christ. Sanctification is only effectual by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon them while partaking of the means of grace with a whole heart. Reformed Christians, then, arguably more than others, should be told to "Amend your ways and doings..."

Reformed Christians, all Christians, should be demonstrating a theology put into right practice empowered by the Spirit — walking in the Spirit. It is then that all will see true biblical reformation in the mind and hearts as individual Christians, and as a collective unified covenanted community. Mortification of sin and new life in the new man day by day is not won simply by knowledge. It must be knowledge that has been formed into practice and is ignited by the spiritual power of the Spirit of God. (p. 69-70)

All in all, this is a very good book. I highly recommend it to all those who desire reformation in their lives and in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

EPC on the Offer of the Gospel

Here is an official article by the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) of Australia on the topic of the Well-meant Offer. It is indeed interesting that the same Spirit which works in the hearts of believers show them the exact same truth about this irrational teaching as being that more in line with Amyraldism (or Amyraldianism) than historic orthodox Calvinism. I would not call the movement Moderate Calvinism however, any more than I will allow Norman Geisler (in his book Chosen but Free) to call his Modified Arminianism "Moderate Calvinism".

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In preparation for 2009

As Christmas is drawing near, I would be spending some personal time with God in a personal retreat. Therefore, besides a post nearing Christmas, I would not be blogging much until the new year. I have found my time being taken up petty stuff recently, and desperately need to spend time with God instead of spending my time doing all kinds of stuff.

In addition, I would be praying over the year 2009 and the Lord's direction for me as I contemplate going full time in the future. Next year is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birthday, so something should be planned then (Await further details in the next year). To my readers: Do pray that the Lord will show me His direction and that I will be refreshed as I seek Him.

So besides the few posts I have planned to write, I would be off for the rest of the year. God bless and may His richest blessings be with you this festive season.

Soli Deo Gloria, Daniel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some thoughts on Infant Baptism

I was recommended this book some time ago by Vincent as being one of the better books by a Credobaptist defending Credobaptism from the viewpoint of Covenantal Theology. There are many many books to be read, so I would always love to read the best on the subject so as to encounter the best arguments for or against whatever position they are arguing for. I have therefore recently gotten myself a copy of the book and have read the book. Here is a short review of the book (as for a comprehensive review I might as well just write a book on the topic, which I have no interest in as of now):

As a Pedobaptist, I must say that I am impressed with Dr. Jewett's work on this subject. Though his Baptist bias shines through the work at various places, and there are some of the typical Baptist errors in argumentation throughout (ie attempting to find evidence for infant baptism instead of looking at it correctly from the direction of Infant inclusion in the Covenant), the work as a whole attempts to analyze the subject of Infant Baptism in a holistic manner. I must say that if your view of Pedobaptism cannot pass the muster of Jewett's work in a consistent biblical manner, it is not worth holding onto.

I have read about both Schreiner's and Malone's works promoting and defending Credobaptism, which I will get in the future. Obviously, I have my own thinking on the subject, but I am open to any arguments from Scripture that does successfully disprove my view, but I haven't seen any yet, though Jewett's work does come close at certain points.

P.S.: Just in case you are wondering, my view is not one of the Reformed views critiqued by Jewett. My current opinion on this topic as it works out in the practical arena lies somewhat along the reasoning similar to the ones I have advanced against Neo-Amyraldism in terms of federal/corporate collective-ness versus individuality.

P.P.S.: For the reading comprehension-impaired, this post does not state anything with regards to pedobaptism or credobaptism, except my opinion of Jewett's book. Contrary to the view of my critics, not everything that I post is prophetic (as in forthtelling prophecy). Lighten up!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rob Gagnon responds to homofascist promoter Lisa Miller of Newsweek

Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon has posted a powerful rebuttal against the bigoted homofascist and homosexualist article by Lisa Miller of Newsweek magazine, here. With regards to the mainstream magazines, I agree with Gagnon:

The question must be asked: What is it with the “elite” newspapers and newsmagazines over the past decade? Are they so obsessed with promoting the homosexualist agenda that they have now given up even a pretense to objectivity, balanced research, and good sense? Do they care nothing for destroying their reputation, built up over many years, as credible sources for news and commentary? These news sources are more and more resembling a homosexualist Pravda—a different agenda but the same style of propaganda “news” reporting that would make the old Kremlin leadership proud.

... However, their support for a homosexualist ideology is so brazen and offensive in its blatant misinformation—obviously they are very angry about the passage of Proposition 8 in California—that subscribers to Newsweek should give serious consideration to canceling their subscription. For such homosexualist zealots as Miller and Meacham, reasoned argumentation is unlikely to have any major impact. They will understand the language of money, though. It is clear that, ultimately, Miller and Meacham have little desire to make responsible arguments about the merits of moral appeals to Scripture (their refusal to consider any major argument against their position is evidence enough of this).

I have not renewed my Newsweek magazine subscription some time back for the simple reason that I did not thought it was worth the monetary investment. But anyway, all Newsweek subscribers should cancel their subscription to communicate their displeasure in the only language the "elite" can understand — money.

P.S.: Do ignore Gagnon's off-hand remark that the Creation accounts "do not have to be taken too literally in all details". It is indeed relevant, since otherwise the authority of Scripture will be undermined.

Friday, December 12, 2008

James White's *final* reply to Byrne the Neo-Amyraldian

This is James White's hopefully final reply to Byrne's libel against him and Dr. Reymond as being "hyper-Calvinists":

I agree with White that "this is one of Byrne's biggest problem: that he doesn't allow for context for anybody — Robert Reymond, myself [James White] or anyone else for that matter".

[HT: The Crumbs which fall]

Also, please do check out the latest Dividing Line whereby Dr. White discusses this issue with TurretinFan.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some book reviews

Here are some book reviews that I have done on the books I have recently finished.

Called to the Ministry by Edmund P. Clowney (Review here)

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray (Review here)

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies (Review here)

All of these books are highly recommended. Although I have bones of contention with John Murray with regards to the promotion of Neo-Amyraldism, this particular book — Redemption Accomplished and Applied is excellent in its biblical presentation and defense of Reformed soteriology.

Books sold in New Creation bookstore

Yesterday Saturday, I was at Suntec Mall for lunch with my parents and their friends, after which I was to meet my friend at 3pm. We finished lunch earlier so I had some free time, during which I decided to visit New Creation's bookstore at The Rock. Here is what I have seen been sold in there (Sorry for the poor image quality; I was using my handphone camera)

Books by E.W. Kenyon:

Books by Kenneth Hagin:

Books by Kenneth Hagin Jr.:

Books by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland:

A book by Kathryn Kuhlman:

Books by Joyce Meyer:

Joel Osteen's latest book Becoming a Better You:

Don Miller's book Blue Like Jazz:

A book on the Roman Catholic practice of Breath Prayers:

With such books being sold by New Creation bookstore, I do not see how NCC can spin the fact that they are promoting the heresy of the Word-faith cult, even to the source writings of E.W. Kenyon and Kenneth Hagin, not to mention Joel Osteen's self help book. In my opinion, they can protest all they want that they are not a Word-faith church (if they do protest), but the selling of such books show that they ARE indeed Word-faith. It is also interesting to see Emergent writer Don Miller's book Blue like Jazz being sold there, plus one book (at least) promoting the unbiblical mystical practice of Breath Prayers.

Oh, and just btw, the CDs of Joseph Prince's teachings are really expensive — SGD30 for two DVDs or so! I wonder just how many hundred percentage points of profit does Prince make on the sale of just one DVD set.

Poll: Gender-neutral 'bible translations'

gender neutral bible versions

It has been some time since the last poll (and there wouldn't be a new one for some time). Anyway, the poll question was "What is your view on 'Gender neutral' or inclusivist Bibles ie the TNIV?" The response is indeed good and shows that at least most of the readership are not for such "versions" of the Bible, with 37/65 or 56% stating that it panders to the feminist agenda and anther 9/65 or 13% stating that such a translation is less literal. The 6 people that stated that such versions would be better translations entered the poll early and are probably the anything-goes group who are supporters of the theory of Dynamic Equivalence which I was interacting with then. All in all, a good poll.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mark on Ponter and Byrne's misquote of Ursinus

Mark aka Tartanarmy has done an excellent job here checking out the primary sources for Ponter's and Byrne's quotation of Ursinus, which I have interacted with a bit here quite sometime ago, showing some of the distortions of primary source texts by Ponter and Byrne in service to their hobby horse of Neo-Amyraldism.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

James White's response to the latest attack article by David Allen
PLUS Tony Byrne's sinful crusade

Here is a clip from Dr. White's latest Dividing Line broadcast, in which he refutes the false allegations made by David Allen about him being a hyper-Calvinist.

In other news, Neo-Amyraldian schismatic Tony Byrne continues his ill-founded and sinful crusade against Dr. White. His action in attempting to tell Phil R. Johnson what Phil actually meant in his own written article (check out the meta in the post by Phil here) has backfired on him and destroyed whatever credibility he has (If you cannot even allow a living author to interpret his own words, why should anyone believe you can interpret the words of departed saints in any meaningful fashion?). As it is, Byrne's actions in this entire fiasco in siding and aiding the militant Arminians has proven that he is no friend of Reformed theology, protestants notwithstanding. He can call himself a "Dordtian Calvinist" or whatever labels he fancies, but his behavior and Amyraldian beliefs show he is a crypto-Arminian; a Trojan horse for Arminian theology. It is written: You shall recognize them by their fruits (Mt. 7:20), so with such fruits by Byrne, can anyone continue to believe he truly is a Calvinist?

It is time to call a spade a spade. Byrne is bearing false witness against both Dr. James White and Dr. Robert Reymond, and is thus sinning against them and against God. Both Dr. White and Dr. Reymond are seminary professors and respected leaders in the Church, and should be respected at the very least. What makes it even more deplorable is that Byrne does not interact with the Word of God in this matter at all, attacking others based upon the writings and interpretations of theologians (or rather how he "understands" their writings acontextually). It is time to denounce Bryne as a schismatic and call him to repentance for his despicable behavior, failing which to treat him as the schismatic that he is.

Addenum: Timmy Brister has a timeline of the events that has been occuring in this latest controversy here. [HT: The Crumbs which fall]

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sermon: The Devastating Consequences of Modern Preaching

One of Dr. White's sessions at the Battle for the Truth conference in Durham, North Carolina, 21st Nov 20008.

Monday, December 01, 2008

John Calvin on Christ meriting salvation for His people

I have recently finished reading the book by Michael Horton entitled God of promise: Introducing Covenantal Theology, which I think is a good primer on Covenant Theology, being much more readable and biblical than O. Palmer Robertson's The Christ of the Covenants. In the process of reading the book, I came across an interesting paragraph quoting John Calvin on the Covenant of Works. Since I have Calvin's Institutes with me, albeit by a different translator and publishing, I can check the two cross-references for the quotes in context. What I have found has indeed confirmed Horton's points, and pours cold water on those who claim to be Reformed in the tradition of John Calvin yet deny the Covenant of Works in any form.

On pages 87-88, discussing the biblical proofs for the Covenant of Works,

With the covenant of redemption, in which the Son is made the mediator of the elect, and the covenant of creation (or works), under which terms the Son, acting as mediator and second Adam, won eternal life under the law, "earning eternal life has forever been taken out of his [man's] hands.... On this point, the entire Reformation, both Lutheran and Calvinist, took exception to Rome, which failed to appreciate this fundamental truth."[20] In other words, the covenant of redemption contrasts the salvation of the elect to Christ's meritorious fulfillment of personal obedience to God's law.

Although this view of things is hardly representative of a fully developed federal theology, Calvin does assert the main features of the covenant of creation.[21] In a number of places, Calvin refers to Christ's having "merited' salvation for his people by his obedience, once more emphasizing the satisfaction of law as a necessary prerequisite for everlasting life.[22]

Footnote 21 reads thus:

21. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1.15.8: "In this integrity man by free will had the power, if he so willed, to attain eternal life. Here it would be out of place to raise the question of God's secret predestination because our present subject is not what can happen or not, but what man's nature was like. Therefore Adam could have stood if he wished, seeing that he fell solely by his own will.... Yet his choice of good and evil was free, and not that alone, but the highest rectitude was in his mind and will, and all the organic parts were rightly composed to obedience, until in destroying himself he corrupted his own blessings. Hence the great obscurity faced by the philosophers, for they were seeking in a ruin for a building, and in scattered fragments for a well-knit structure. They held this principle, that man would not be a rational animal unless he possessed free choice of good and evil; also it entered their minds that the distinction between virtues and vices would be obliterated if man did not order his life by his own planning. Well reasoned so far — if there had been no change in man. But since this was hidden from them, it is no wonder they mix up heaven and earth!"

Here is the text from the same section in the translation by Henry Beveridge (Wm. B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1989)

... In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life. It were here unseasonable to introduce the question concerning the secret predestination of God, because we are not considering what might or might not happen, but what the nature of man truly was. Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; [but it was, because his will was pliable in either direction, and he has not received constancy to persevere, that he so easily fell.] Still he has a free choice of good and evil, and not merely so, but in the mind and will there was the highest rectitude, and all the organic parts were duly framed to obedience, until man corrupted its god properties, and destroyed himself. Hence the great darkness of philosophers who have looked for a complete building in a ruin, and fit arrangement in disorder. The principle they set out with was, that man could not be a rational animal unless he has a free choice of good and evil. They also imagined that the distinction between virtue and vice was destroyed, if man did not of his own free counsel arrange his life. So far well, had there been no change in man. This being unknown to them, it is not surprising that they throw everything into confusion.

(Text in square brackets comprise the section marked out by ellipses in the previous quote)

Footnote 22 reads thus:

22. Ibid. "By his obedience, however, Christ truly acquired and merited grace for us with his Father. Many passages of Scripture surely and firmly attest this. I take it commonplace that if Christ made satisfaction for sins, if he paid the penalty owed to us, if he appeased God by his own obedience ... then he acquired salvation for us by his righteousness, which is tantamount to deserving it... Hence it is absurd to set Christ's merit against God's mercy" (2.17.1,3, emphasis added).

And here is the Henry Beveridge's version of the quoted section:

That Christ by his obedience, truly purchased and merited grace for us with the Father, is accurately inferred from several passages of Scripture. I take it for granted, that if Christ satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due by us, if he appeased God by his obedience; [in fine, if he suffered the just for the unjust], salvation was obtained to us by his righteousness; which is just equivalent to meriting. ... Hence the merit of Christ is inconsiderately opposed to the mercy of God.

(Text in square brackets comprise the section marked out by ellipses in the previous quote)

As it can be seen, John Calvin teaches that prelapsarian man — Adam, by nature have a free will to choose good or evil. The focus is that it is such by nature, although in fact it is not independent of the environment and most definitely of God. But because of his nature, therefore in terms of volition, Man is neutral with regards to sin and temptation (ie able to sin and able not to sin), although he is ontologically righteous.

The second footnote show here completes the seed form of the Covenant of Works in Calvin's theology. Horton earlier has quoted Geehardus Vos on page 88 of his book as seeing a connection between the Covenant of redemption and the Covenant of Creation (Works), in that the active obedience of Christ has its foundation in Christ fulfilling that aspect of the Covenant of Works on our behalf as our second Adam. In this section of Calvin's Institutes which has its chapter titled "Christ rightly and properly said to have merited grace and salvation for us", Calvin shows why it is proper to use the word merit when it comes to Christ's active obedience towards God. Earlier on in the first section (2.17.1) which was not quoted by Horton, Calvin proved that there is nothing wrong with using the word "merit' even though it may seem to make God a debtor (which God can never be). As Calvin says,

1. ... I admit that were Christ opposed simply, and by himself, to the justice of God, there could be no room for merit, because there cannot be found in man a worth which could make God a debtor; nay, as Augustine says most truly, "The Savior, the man Christ Jesus, is himself the brightest illustration of predestination and grace: his character as such was not procured by any antecedent merit of works or faith in his human nature. Tell me, I pray, how that man, when assumed into unity of person by the Word, co-eternal with the Father, as the only begotten Son of God, could merit this." — "Let the fountain of grace, therefore, appear in our head, whence, according to the measure of each, it is diffused through all his members. Every man, from the commencement of his faith, becomes a Christian, by the same grace by which that man from his formation became Christ." Again, in another passage, "There is not a more striking example of predestination than the Mediator himself. He who made him (without any antecedent merit in his will) of the seed of David a righteous man never to be unrighteous, also converts those who are members of his head from unrighteous into righteous," and so forth. Therefore, when we treat of the merit of Christ, we do not place the beginning in him, but we ascend to the ordination of God as the primary cause, because of his mere good pleasure he appointed a Mediator to purchase salvation for us. Hence the merit of Christ is inconsiderately opposed to the mercy of God. It is a well-known rule, that principal and accessory are not incompatible, and therefore there is nothing to prevent the justification of man from being the gratuitous result of the mere mercy of God, and, at the same time, to prevent the merit of Christ from intervening in subordination to this mercy. ...

Therefore such merit is not achieved by getting "plus points" as it were from God which is impossible, but as an expression of covenantal fulfilment/blessings. Christ's active obedience therefore gives us the righteousness we need to stand before God. The type in Adam was therefore required to similarly "merit" active righteousness by choosing good (eating of the tree of life) over evil (eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

Note: Just in case anyone was wondering, this is NOT an attempt to prove the Covenant of Works or any other doctrine from the Scriptures. This is rather an exercise in historical theology.