April 30, 2012

Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) on the Free Offer as God's Common Love

I'm only including the following quote here for what he says about God's desire in connection with the free offer and for describing the free offer of grace as "common love." The rest will just leave the modern reader confused. Shepard writes:
Thesis 119.

The free-grace of God in Christ (not works) is the only sure foundation of justifying faith, or upon which faith is built, Rom. 3. 24, 25. 1 Pet. 2.4, 5, 6. Mat. 16.18. This free-grace therefore must first be revealed by the Spirit of God in the Ministry of the Gospel in order unto faith, Rom. 10.14, 15. Eph. 1.13. which general revelation of free-grace, some make to be the first evidence on which faith rests, and thus far it is true; but now this free grace is revealed two ways.

1. In the free offer of it to be our own by receiving it, Act. 10.43. Gal. 2.16.

2. In the free promise of it revealing it as our own already, having actually and effectually received it, Joh. 1.12. Rom. 5.1, 2. 1 John 5.12.

The free offer of grace (containing Gods call, commandment and beseechings to believe and be reconciled) gives us right to this possession of Christ or to come and take and so possess Christ Jesus by faith. Jerem. 3.22. 1 Cor. 1.9. Rom. 1.5, 6. The free promise of grace (containing revealed immutable purposes and actual assurances of present and future grace) gives us right to the fruition of Christ, or to enjoy Christ as a free gift when 'tis offered; the command and desire of the donor to receive it to be our own, gives us right and power to possess it: and when it is received, his promise to us assuring us that it is and shall continue our own, gives us right and priviledge to enjoy it and make use of it. For by two immutable things (the promise confirmed by oath) we have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to the hope before us, Heb. 6.17, 18, 19. The free offer is the first ground of our faith, why we receive Christ to be our own: but the free promise is the first ground of the assurance of faith, why we are assured and persuaded that he is our own already: for the Gospel containing three things, 1. The revelation of Christ: 2. The free offer of Christ, 3. The promise of Christ to all those that receive this offer; Hence faith (which runs parallel with the Gospel (the proper object of it) first sees Christ, secondly receives Christ, thirdly is assured of the love of Christ having received him.

The free offer of grace being made to the soul because it is poor and sinful, cursed and miserable, and that therefore it would receive Christ, hence it is that in this respect the soul is not bound first to see some good in it self and so to receive him, but rather is bound (at first breathings of God upon it) rather to see no good, nothing but sin and perdition, death and darkness, enmity and weakness, and therefore to receive him, Luk. 14.21. Revel. 3.17, 18. Gal. 3.22. Rom. 11. 32. Hos. 13.3. But the promise of free-grace, being actually given to the soul (and not declared only as it is in the free offer, because it hath received Christ already by which he is actually its own) hence it is that in this respect, the soul is bound to see some good or saving work of grace in it self first, and so embrace and receive the promise and Christ Jesus in it: So that although in receiving Christ to be our own, we are to see no good in our selves wherefore we should receive him or believe in him; yet in receiving him as our own already, we must first see some good (the work of free grace in us) or else we have no just ground thus to receive him: No man can challenge any promise belonging to him without having a part in Christ the foundation of them; no man can have Christ but by receiving of him or believing in him, Joh. 1.12. Hence therefore they that say that the first evidence of Gods love and free grace or actual favour, is to a sinner as a sinner, had need consider what they say; for is it to a sinner as possessed with Christ and receiving him, or as dispossesed of Christ nor having of him, but rather refusing and rejecting of him. If they say the first, they then speak the truth, but then they raise down their own pernicious principle, that Christ and Gods love belongs to them As sinners: If they affirm the latter, then they do injuriously destroy Gods free grace and the glory of Christ, who think to possess promises without possessing Christ, or to have promises of grace, without having Christ the foundation of them all. For though the common love of God (as the bare offer of grace is) may be manifested without having Christ, yet special actual love cannot be actually our own, without having and first receiving of him: And if the Spirit of God convince the world of sin (and consequently of condemnation) while they do not believe, Joh. 16.9. I wonder how it can then convince them of pardon of sin and reconciliation, before they do believe? unless we will imagine it to be a lying spirit, which is blasphemous. These things not considered of, have and do occasion much error at this day in the point of evidencing, and hath been an inlet of deep delusion, and open gaps have been made hereby to the loose ways and depths of Familism and gross Arminianism, and therefore being well considered of, are sufficient to clear up the ways of those faithful servants of the Lord (who dare not sow pillows, nor cry peace to the wicked, much less to sinners as sinners) both from the slanderous imputation of legal ministrations after an old Testament manner, as also of making works the ground of faith, or the causes of assurance of faith; the free offer being the ground of the one, and the free promise the cause and ground of the other: Briefly therefore.

1. The free offer of grace is the first evidence to a poor lost sinner that he may be beloved.

2. The receiving of this offer by faith (relatively considered in respect of Christs spotless righteousness) is the first evidence showing why he is beloved, or what hath moved God actually to love him.

3. The work of sanctification (which is the fruit of our receiving this offer) is the first evidence showing that he is beloved.

If therefore a condemned sinner be asked whether God may love him, and why he thinks so? he may answer, Because Jesus Christ is held forth and offered to such a one: If he be further asked, why or what he thinks should move God to love him? he may answer, Because I have received Christs righteousness offered, for which righteousness sake only I know I am beloved, now I have received it: If he be asked lastly, how he knows certainly that he is beloved; he may answer safely and confidently, Because I am sanctified: I am poor in spirit, therefore mine is the kingdom of heaven: I do mourn, and therefore I shall be satisfied, &c. We need in time of distress and temptation all these evidences, and therefore it is greatest wisdom to pray for that spirit, which may clear them all up unto us, rather then to contend which should be the first.

And thus we see that the whole moral law is our rule of life, and consequently the law of the Sabbath, which is a branch of this rule: We now proceed to show the first branch, of things generally and primarily moral.
Thomas Shepard, THESES SABBATICÆ, Or, The Doctrine of the Sabbath (London, Printed by T. R. and E. M. for John Rothwell [at the] Sun and Fountain in Pauls Church-yard, 1650), 222-224.


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