December 16, 2007

William Bates (1625–1699) on God's Earnest Offer

1. God is very willing that men should be saved and partake of his glory. For this end, "he has brought life and immortality to light in the gospel." The Lord Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, has dispelled the darkness of the Gentiles, and the shadows of the Jews, and rendered the blessed and eternal state so clear and so visible, that every eye may see it. Our assurance of it is upon infallible principles. And though the excellent glory of it is inexpressible, yet it is represented under variety of fair and lovely types to invite our affections. Besides, God makes an earnest offer of life to us in his word; he commands, counsels, excites, urges, nay entreats and beseeches with infinite tenderness, that men will accept of it. Thus the apostle declares, "now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead be reconciled to God." Is it not evident then beyond the most jealous suspicion, God is desirous of our happiness? Can we imagine any design, any insincerity in his words? Why should heaven court a worm? It is his love to souls that expresses itself in that condescending compassionate manner, to melt and overcome the perverse and hardened in sin.

And as his words, so his works are a convincing argument of his will: his most gracious sustaining and supporting of sinful men, his innumerable benefits conferred upon them, in the provision of good, and preservation from evil, are for this end, that by the conduct of his merciful providence they may be led to repentance, and received into his favour. And the temporal judgments indicted on sinners, are medicinal in their nature, and in his design to bring them to a sight and abhorrence of sin, to prevent their final ruin: if they prove mortal to any, it is from their obstinate corruption. The time allowed to those who are obnoxious to his justice every hour, is not a mere reprieve from torment, but a space of repentance to sue out a pardon: they are spared in order to salvation. "The Lord is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Pet. 3. 9.

But, above all his other works, the giving of his Son to be a sacrifice for sin, is an incomparable demonstration how much he delights in the salvation of men. Since God has been at such cost to put them into a capacity of obtaining the kingdom of unchangeable glory, far transcending the earthly paradise that was forfeited by sin, we have the strongest assurance that he desires their felicity. And how guilty and miserable will those sinners be, that when Christ has opened heaven to us by his blood, refuse to enter into it? When Brutus, the most noble Roman, propounded to a philosopher his design to restore Rome to liberty, he replied, that the action would be glorious indeed, but that so many servile spirits that tamely stooped under tyranny, were not worthy that a man of virtue and courage should hazard himself to recover that for them, which they did so lightly esteem. The redemption of mankind is without controversy the master-piece of God's works, wherein his principal attributes appear in their excellent glory. But how astonishing is the unworthiness of men, who wretchedly neglect salvation, which the Son of God purchased by a life full of sorrows, and a death of infinite sufferings? Blessed Redeemer! May it be spoken with the humble, affectionate, and thankful sense of thy dying love, why didst thou give thyself a ransom for those who are charmed with their misery, and with the most foul ingratitude disvalue so precious a redemption? How justly shall they be for ever deprived of it? "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish."
William Bates, The Whole Works of the Rev. William Bates (London: Printed for James Black, 1815) 3:470–472.

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Biographical Information from Joel R. Beeke & Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2006), 56–58:
William Bates was once of the most popular and esteemed preachers among the Nonconformists...he represented the Presbyterians as a commissioner at the Savoy Conference, where one purpose was to review public liturgy, including the identification of weaknesses in The Book of Common Prayer...In 1662, Bates was one of 2,000 ministers ejected by the Act of Uniformity...Bates labored for the next ten years, often with men like Thomas Manton, Edmund Calamy, and Richard Baxter, for the inclusion of nonconformists within the Anglican church and for toleration of other churches...In 1672, he was licensed as a Presbyterian teacher and was appointed to lecture at Pinner's Hall (later called the Ancient Merchants lecture)...Bates remained a leading Puritan until the end of his life, often being invited to preach at the funerals of close Puritan friends, including Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton, Thomas Jacomb, and David Clarkson...Bates died in Hackney on July 21, 1699, survived by his second wife, Margaret. The sermon at Bates's funeral, preached by John Howe, a close friend of more than forty years, was a rich testimony to his godly life and diligent study.

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