July 3, 2009

Thomas Gouge (1605–1681) on God's Willingness to Save

1. God's willingness to save the worst of sinners, appeareth from his many gracious promises, to receive them upon their repentance, Isa. 55:7. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." And, saith the Prophet Ezekiel, Ezek. 18:21, 22. "If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die: All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him, in his righteousness that he hath done, he shall live." These, and such like gracious promises of God in his word, for the encouragement of poor sinners, to turn from their sins unto him, cannot but strongly argue his willingness to save them saved.

2. As if this were not enough to set God's willingness; to his promises, he hath added his oath, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from his way, and live. Ezek. 33:11. Here the Lord sweareth by himself, there being no greater to swear by; as if he had said, As sure as I am the true and living God, so certainly I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he should turn from his wicked ways, and embrace my mercy in Jesus Christ. Because wicked men are so hardly persuaded of God's willingness to save them, therefore to convince them thereof, and encourage them to turn from their sins unto him, he takes his oath on it, that he is infinitely more willing that wicked men should repent, and be saved, than that they should perish in their sins, and be damned.

3. God's willingness appeareth from his free offer and tender of Christ to all who will receive him by the hand of faith; as none are named, so none are excluded. The angel that brought from heaven the tidings of Christ's birth, saith, that it was for all people: Behold, saith he, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people: there being no state or condition of men which God hath excluded from salvation by Christ, which doth clearly evidence his willingness to save poor sinners.

Oh sinner! seeing God doth freely offer Christ to all, without exception of any, do not thou except thyself, limit not where God hath not limited; say not I am unworthy, or my sins are many and heinous, cloathed with many aggravating circumstances: but stir up thyself to adventure thy soul on Christ, upon the general offer of him in the Gospel. The first work of faith in many hath been to adventure their souls on Christ upon the free offer of him to all indefinitely. Do thou in like manner adventure to cast thyself upon the free grace of God in Christ, with resolution to abandon thy lusts for the time to come, and to take Christ for thy Lord and Husband, as well as for thy Priest and Saviour. This is that which God requireth; and if he hath persuaded thine heart to this, it is a good sign that mercy is intended for thee.

4. His willingness further appeareth by his sending ministers as his ambassadors unto poor sinners, upon terms of peace and reconciliation, as the Apostle expresseth, 2 Cor. 5:20. We are ambassadors to beseech you to be reconciled to God. As if he had, We are commanded by the Lord our Master, to offer you terms of peace and reconciliation, to proffer you peace and pardon, if you will heartily turn from your sins unto God: We are sent as ambassadors to acquaint you what Christ hath done, and suffered for your redemption, how he hath fulfilled the Law for you, and offered up his life as a sacrifice and satisfaction to God's justice for your sins; and how you may be happy for ever, if you will rest upon Christ's perfect righteousness, and all-sufficient sacrifice for life and salvation, and give up yourselves unto him, to serve and obey his laws and commandments. I do here therefore as God's ambassador, in his name, proclaim to the worst of you, to the greatest and oldest sinner, that you may have mercy and salvation, if you will abandon your lusts and close with Jesus Christ, upon the terms of the gospel, receiving him for your King, Priest, and Prophet.

Oh how can we but stand amazed at the riches of God's mercy and goodness, that when we, upon the knees of our souls, should have sought unto him for peace and reconciliation, yet that he, being the great Lord of heaven, and of earth, should condescend so far, as to send ambassadors unto us, sinful dust and ashes, to entreat us to be reconciled to him, to accept his grace and favor! Oh how doth this evidence his great willingness that poor sinners should not perish, but have everlasting life. Certainly if God had taken more pleasure in your damnation than in your salvation, he would never have sent his ministers as ambassadors to show you the way and means of salvation, by receiving Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and giving up yourselves unto him: he would never have persuaded you by so many arguments and beseeched you to turn from your sins, unto him, that your souls might live in glory to all eternity.
Thomas Gouge, "A Word to Sinners, and a Word to Saints," in The Works of the Late Reverend and Pious Mr. Thomas Gouge (Albany: Published by George Linday, 1815), 53–55.


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