July 14, 2009

David Gay on the Free Offer and Incipient Hyper-Calvinism

After quoting passages from Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd on the subject of God's compassionate desire for the salvation of all men, David Gay wrote:
This is getting close to our weak spot. We want the 'appearance of the divine power', do we not? We want the 'awakening' and 'convictions' of 'numbers of secure souls'. Do we preach with Brainerd's pressing urgency to sinners and emphasize the 'ability and willingness of Christ to save'? I confess that I have not yet begun to preach the gospel to sinners biblically. The simple stark fact is, I have not appreciated just what this free offer involves. And because of that I have failed to preach the gospel properly. I have thought too much in negative terms, lesser terms. I have tried to defend the gospel from the ravages of Arminianism and 'easy-believism'. I have not understood the freeness of the gospel. Do you feel the same? This is a large part of our problem, I am sure.

But now I come to the heart of it.

It is clear that God delights in the salvation of sinners. It is proper to say that God takes pleasure in their salvation. But to say that does not go far enough; it falls short of the scriptural teaching on the free offer. The point is: Does God actually desire the salvation of sinners? Does he want sinners to be saved? And further, Does God desire the salvation even of those who are reprobate?

This is the fundamental point at issue in the free offer. John Murray put it this way: 'It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men'.

I assert that this is the heart of the matter. Does God desire the salvation of all men? The answer is, Yes! Therefore we must, in our preaching, declare indiscriminately to all our hearers that God desires to see them saved. Further, we are preaching the gospel to sinners properly, only when we are convinced of the truth of such a desire in God and say so very clearly. We can only persuade sinners to be reconciled to God when we are persuaded that God not only delights in their salvation, but he actually desires it.
David Gay, "Preaching the Gospel to Sinners: 2," Banner of Truth 371–372 (August–September 1994): 44–45.

In the first part, Gay makes it clear that he is writing these things because he sees "a practical, or incipient, hyper-Calvinism and a paralysis creeping upon us." He says "there is a kind of incipient hyper-Calvinism abroad," and so he urges his Calvinistic brothers to freely offer Christ "with pressing urgency and vigor." He observes how "we retreat into hyper-Calvinism as a defense mechanism" in response to an Arminian background and free-willism. See David Gay, "Preaching the Gospel to Sinners," Banner of Truth 370 (July 1994): 23.


mark mcculley said...

If God had wanted to save non-elect sinners, then Christ would have died for the non-elect. The sins of the elect would have been imputed to Christ, and Christ would have satisfied justice for them

Tony Byrne said...

Hi Mark,

You said:
"If God had wanted to save non-elect sinners, then Christ would have died for the non-elect."

I think both are true, that 1) God, in the revealed will, expresses a sincere wish to save all sinners, and that 2) Christ bore the punishment that all men deserve, albeit with a special purpose in the case of the elect. David Gay agrees with #1 but not with #2, most likely. Nevertheless, I am glad that he strongly affirms #1, since it is quite biblical.

You said:
"The sins of the elect [sic]would have been imputed to Christ, and Christ would have satisfied justice for them"

Yes, the sins of the non-elect would be [and are] included in Christ's penal satisfaction, thus satisfying what the law demands for each and every sinner, which removes the necessity of their condemnation and opens a well of salvation for all men in the gospel offer. I primarily believe that because of the bible, but it was also taught by Calvin, the other early Reformers, and a number of eminent Puritan divines. Spend some time reading the primary sources on my blog, as that may be of assistance to you as you wrestle through these issues, historically and otherwise.

Grace to you,