K: JNWTS 30/2 (September 2015): 16

George Downame: The Affirmation of Merit in Sinners is Blasphemy[1]

We therefore being no way able to render what is due to God, but on the contrary by our sins making ourselves debtors to him, owing unto him deserved punishment; is it any less, than antichristian insolency, or rather blasphemy, for sinful men to profess themselves able to merit any good thing at the hands of God, and to make him their debtor? Neither can I sufficiently wonder, how men, whose conscience (if it be not cauterized), tells them that they sin daily against God, and by sin provoke his judgments, can speak or think of meriting anything in justice at the hand of God but punishment. For as Augustine says . . . , "If God would deal according to merits, he should find none but whom he should condemn."[2]

[1] Born ca. 1565, Downame was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge (the nursery of Calvinistic Puritanism during the tenure of William Perkins, Laurence Chaderton, et al) earning the MA degree in 1588. He was appointed Professor of Logic there in 1590 and advanced the systematic method of Ramism (from Peter Ramus, †1572). He signed the protest against the infamous 1595 Cambridge lectures of ‘Arminian’ Peter Baro (†1599) in opposition to unconditional election. This attack engendered the predestinarian reaction of Perkins and others in defense of the Calvinistic and Biblical doctrine, including the Lambeth Articles of 1595 (cf. the introduction in James T. Dennison, Jr., The Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (2012) 3:745). Though he was an advocate of jure divino episcopacy, Downame was not exclusively so, noting the salient arguments of his Presbyterian brothers. In 1604, he preached a sermon on John 8:36 which was reprinted in 1631 under the title The Covenant of Grace. The previous year (1603), he had released his defense of the then contemporary evangelical conviction that the Pope was the Antichrist (A Treatise Concerning Antichrist). The quotation above is from A Treatise of Justification (1633) 553 (spelling and punctuation have been modernized). Downame died in 1634 in Ireland where he had been made Bishop of Derry in 1616.

[2] The Latin text of Augustine’s statement reads: si Deus vellet pro meritis agere, non inveniret nisi quos damnaret. It is found "In Psalmum XCIV Ennaratio" in Migne, Patrologia Latina 37:1219.