August 17, 2009

Benjamin Grosvenor (1675–1758) on The Temper of Jesus and God's Offers of Grace

I have more significant quotes from this excellent sermon, but here is the first one:
IV. These great blessings of repentance and remission of sins are commanded to be offered in the first place, to some of the vilest of sinners, beginning at Jerusalem.

It is very affecting, that the first offers of grace should be made to those, who of all people in the world had done it the most despite! That the heavenly gift should be tendered to those first, who least deserved it! Not that any can deserve it at all, for then it were not grace; but they of all people had most deserved the contrary! That they who had abused Christ to a degree beyond the most pitiful description, should yet lie uppermost in his care, and stand foremost in his pity, and find so much mercy from one, to whom they showed none at all!

One would rather have expected the apostles should have received another kind of charge; and that Christ should have said, 'Let repentance and remission of sins be preached, but carry it not to Jerusalem, that wicked city, that has been the slaughter-house of my prophets, whom I have often sent. After them I sent John the baptist, a burning and a shining light, him they killed in prison. Last of all, I myself, the Son, came also: and me, with wicked hands, they have crucified and slain. They may do the same by you; the disciple is not like to be better (treated) than his Lord: let not the Gospel enter those gates, through which they led me, its author, to crucifixion.

'I have been preaching there myself this three years, I have mingled my tears with my sermons, I have supported my pretensions and character from the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets, I have confirmed them by divine miracles, and sealed all with my blood, yet they would not give ear! Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem! all that I have left for thee now is, what I have before dropt over thee, viz. a compassionate tear and wish, "That thou hadst known in this thy day the things that belonged to thy peace!" but now they are hid from thine eyes! and so let them remain, for I charge you, my apostles, to preach repentance and remission of sins to all other nations, but come not near that wicked city.'

But God's thoughts are not as ours, neither are his ways as our ways; but as far as the heavens are above the earth, so are his thoughts and ways above ours. Our way is, to make the chief offenders examples of justice; to avenge ourselves upon those who have done us personal injury and wrong; but Christ chooses out these, to make examples of mercy, and commands the first offer of eternal life to be made to them, and all the world are to wait till they have had the first refusal of the Gospel-salvation.

As if our Lord had said, 'It is true, my sufferings are an universal remedy, and I have given my life a ransom for many, that the Gentiles afar off might be brought nigh, and all the ends of the earth might see the salvation of God. And therefore go into all nations, and offer this salvation as you go; but, lest the poor house of Israel should think themselves abandoned to despair, the seed of Abraham, mine ancient friend, as cruel and unkind as they have been, go, make them the first offer of grace, let them have the first refusal of Gospel-mercy: let them that struck the rock drink first of its refreshing streams; and they that drew my blood be welcome to its healing virtue.

'Tell them, that as I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so, if they will be gathered, I will be their shepherd still. Though they despised my tears, which I shed over them, and imprecated my blood to be upon them, tell them it was for their sakes I shed both; that by my tears I might soften their hearts towards God; and by my blood I might reconcile God to them.

"Tell them I live; and because I am alive again, my death shall not be their damnation; nor is my murder an unpardonable sin, but that the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin, even the sin by which that blood was drawn.

'Tell them, you have seen the prints of the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wounds of the spear in my side; and that those marks of their cruelty are so far from giving me vindictive thoughts, if they will but repent, that every wound they have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads with the Father for remission of their sins, and enables me to bestow it; and by those sufferings which, they may be ready to think, have exasperated me against them, by those very wounds, court and persuade them to receive the salvation they have procured. Say, "Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, against the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord," Acts iii. 19.

'Nay, if you meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart, if he will repent, and look upon him whom he has pierced and will mourn. I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of my blood, than when he drew it forth. In short,

'Though they have gainsayed my doctrine, blasphemed my divinity, and abused and tormented my person; taken away my life, and what is next valuable to every honest man, endeavoured to murder my reputation too, by making me an impostor, and imputing my miracles to a combination with Belzebub: however, go to Jerusalem, and by beginning there, show them such a miracle of goodness and grace, that they themselves must confess too good for the devil to have any hand in, too God-like for him to be assisting to; that may convince them of their sin, and at the same time, that nothing can be greater than their sin except this mercy and grace of mine, which, where their sin has abounded does thus much more abound, beginning at Jerusalem.'
Benjamin Grosvenor, "The Temper of Jesus; or Grace to the Chief of Sinners," in Sermons by Benjamin Grosvenor (Isle of Wight: Printed for the Author by R. Tilling, Newport, 1808), 5–9.

This section of Grosvenor's sermon is cited by Samuel Davies in order to make similar points. See "The Wonderful Compassions of Christ to the Greatest Sinners," in Sermons on Important Subjects, by The Late Reverend and Pious Samuel Davies, 5th edition (New York: Printed for T. Allen, 1792), 3:70–72. It is also partially quoted in WM. Symington's Life and Character of Stephen Charnock in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 1:8–9.

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