October 3, 2008

Ralph Venning (1621–1674) on God's Offers, Grace, Goodness, Patience and Mercy

(vi) They witness against the sinfulness of refusing the offers of the Gospel and of grace. There is a saying, Who but fools refuse gold when it is offered them? But there are such fools as refuse Christ and heaven and happiness when they are offered them, and will not be entreated to be reconciled that they may be saved. But they are set against the glory of God and their own salvation. Against these the stones of the street and the dust of the apostles' feet bear witness (Luke 19.40; 9.5; 10.10, 11). Indeed there is not a sin which the creation as a whole and in its various parts does not bear witness against. The very dullest and worst-natured creatures, the ox and ass have excelled man. Even Dives's dogs had more humanity than Dives himself, and were witnesses against his cruelty. In short, whatever duties the creatures teach they thus convince of and bear witness against the sins which are contrary to those duties, and whatever sins they convince of, they teach the duties contrary to them.
Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993), 142–143.
(1) The patience and long-suffering of God with sinners is wonderful

If sin is so exceedingly sinful, that is, contrary to and displeasing to God, then surely his patience is exceedingly great, his goodness exceedingly rich, and his long-suffering exceedingly marvelous, even such as to cause wonder! That God should entreat sinners, his enemies, to be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5.20), that God should stand at a sinner's door and knock (Revelation 3.20), that God should wait on sinners to be gracious to them (Isaiah 30.18) is not after the manner of man, but of God. Truly, it is a characteristic of the God of grace and patience, and to be admired for ever! It was a wonder that in the beginning God should think thoughts of good and not of evil, of peace and not of wrath, but visit man in the cool of the day. Yet when he had imparted and commended his heart's love to us through his Son (Romans 5.8) and both were rejected, that he should still continue to offer and call and wait is a miracle of miracles. What shall we say? It is God who is the God of grace and patience (Romans 15.5) and rich in both (Romans 2.4; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 1.13–16). He is as his Name is (Exodus 34.16; Numbers 14.18; Psalm 86.15), and as he was yesterday so he is today. We are all living monuments and examples of his goodness and patience. It is of the Lord's mercies that all of us are not altogether and utterly consumed, and that in Hell (Lamentations 3.22).

Sin is so sinful, contrary and displeasing to God, and has made man so much God's enemy, that it is a miracle that he should find his enemies and let them go away safely. God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity looks on the sin of men. His eyes so affect his heart as to grieve him. It tempts and provokes him to anger, wrath and hatred. And yet God keeps his anger, which is like burning coals in the bosom; he does not let out all his wrath and ease himself of his burden by avenging himself on his adversaries, but he woos and waits on sinners. Such is the power of his patience, the infiniteness of his mercy and compassion, and the riches of his unsearchable grace! God sees sin. He is not ignorant. God is sensible of it and concerned; for it grieves and vexes him. God is able to avenge himself when he pleases; yet he forbears and is patient. Wonder at it!
Ibid., 190–191.
But if you do not believe in Christ Jesus, though you repent of sin and live, as touching the law, a blameless life, as Saul of Tarsus did (Philippians 3), though you enjoy the reputation of a saint and may seem too good to go to Hell, yet without Christ and faith in him you will not be good enough to go to Heaven. Though there is a Christ to be believed in who has died for sinners, yet if you do not believe in him you may die and be damned notwithstanding that. Come then, come to and close with Christ, not with an idle and dead, but with an effectual and lively faith. Receive a whole Christ; not only Jesus, but Lord; not only Saviour but Prince (Colossians 2.6). Be as willing to die to sin as he was to die for sin, and as willing to live to him as he was to die for you. Be as willing to be his, to serve him, as that he should be yours to save you. Take him on his own terms, give up yourself wholly to him. Forget your father's house, depart from all iniquity, and become wholly and entirely his. Let your works declare and justify your faith, by purifying your heart (Acts 15.9), by sanctifying you (Acts 26.18), by overcoming the world, both the good and evil, the best and worst, the frowns and flatteries of it (1 John 1.4,1). This Moses and the rest did by faith (Hebrews 11). Thus come, and thus make good your coming to and believing in Christ.
Ibid., 221.
5. Obs. That God doth not strike without warning. God doth not surprise his creatures, nor fall upon them at unawares, but he gives them notice of his coming, before he comes; and he admonisheth before he threatens. Remember, (saith he) or else I will come. God doth not take advantage against poor sinners, nor deal with them according to their iniquities; for then, who could stand? but God, though he may use his Sword, will yet use his Word, and therefore gives them notice before-hand; and this is the very reason given by Peter, why God makes not haste to destroy the world, because (saith he) God is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; Repent, or else I will come, &c.
Ralph Venning, A Warning to Backsliders: Or, A Discovery for the Recovery of Fallen Ones (London: Printed by A. Maxey, for John Rothwel, at the Fountain and Bear in Goldsmiths Row, in Cheap-side, 1657), 5.


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