James Ussher: “God is not tied to means.”

Joel R. Beeke gives this commendatory blurb of James Ussher at the Solid-Ground-Books website:

“Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) was a leader par excellence among the Irish Puritans. His colorful history is inseparable from that of Irish Christianity and from major events transpiring simultaneously in England and Scotland. Ussher’s range of achievements are outstanding, including ancient languages, patristics, ancient and Irish history, theology, and chronology. Though he is best known for his biblical chronology, I believe that his Body of Divinity is his most valuable legacy. This volume, long overdue to be reprinted, was once regarded as a classic in the field of Reformed systematic theology and deserves to be so regarded again. Here is pristine Irish Puritan theology, presented to us in a captivating question and answer format” (Joel R. Beeke).

Here is James Ussher from his A Body Of Divinity: Being the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion, answering whether or not people can be “saved without hearing of the Word?“:

“Yes. For first, children which are within the Covenant, have the Spirit of God, without the ordinary means of the Word and Sacraments (Matthew 2; Romans 8:9, 14). Secondly, some also of age in places where these means are not to be had. Thirdly, some also which live in places where such means are, yet have not capacity to understand them; as some natural fools, mad men, or deaf born, to show that God is not tied to means.”

Regarding Ussher’s “deaf born.” Obviously there are other ways of “hearing” than through the physical ears. If any unregenerate elect persons are deaf born, then God the Holy Spirit can cause them to “hear” the voice of the Son of God by reading the written or preached Word (John 5:24-25; Romans 10:14-17).

“How then may they call on One into whom they have not believed? And how may they believe One of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching? And how may they preach if they are not sent? Even as it has been written, How beautiful the feet of those preaching the gospel of peace, of those preaching the gospel of good things. But not all obeyed the gospel, for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our report? Then faith is of hearing, and hearing through the Word of God” (Romans 10:14-17).

The obvious answer to Paul’s list of questions is that: THEY CANNOT. But Ussher blatantly contradicts Scripture by saying: THEY CAN (in the extraordinary circumstances Ussher detailed above). Thus Ussher completely obliterates Paul’s argument by smashing the links in its logically rhetorical chain. Ussher contorts Paul’s beautifully sound conclusion into a grotesque non sequitur with this caveat: “Then faith is [ORDINARILY] of hearing, and hearing [IS ORDINARILY] through the Word of God.”

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