September 30, 2014

Nathanael Ball (1623–1681) on Despising Christ's Offers and Messages of Love

But now when a man shall look upon all that Christ offers to him, as nothing, and set himself to despise and disgrace his invitations, as if Christ had done him no kindness in sending all his messages of love to him; and let Christ go where he will, and his salvation go where it will, for his part, he does not care for them. This is a great ground of fear, that such a person will never close with the Offers of Grace. See Matt. 22:3. Those who in the Parable were called to the Marriage-Supper, it's said, first they would not come: then ver. 4. being invited again, ver. 5. they fell a slighting of it, or, as in the Greek, they set it all at nought: and ver. 6. they dealt with his Servants, as if he that had sent them had been their Enemy. Why, see ver. 7. what becomes of these persons; they were destroyed, and their City burnt; and compare with it, Luke 14:24. for 'tis all to the same purpose: they were not to taste of the supper.
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 46–47.
2. You are guilty of unthankfulness. What! to make such a sad requital to Christ for all his kindness towards you, as to prepare such good things for you, and now to have none of them! Why, than he not deserved better at your hands then this? Was there no love, nor no mercy to your souls in what Christ hath done for poor sinners? Nay, did you ever hear of the like love, or the like mercy? Is it not beyond all comparison, and beyond all expression? Did you ever hear of a Saviour that delivered from so great danger? Did you ever hear of a Surety that undertook to pay such great Debts? Did you ever hear of a Physician that healed such great Diseases? What, and shall this be all the thanks he shall have now, to be rejected? If God will take it ill at your hands, to pass by those mercies that are but for the comfort of your bodies, without thankfulness; how much more will he be displeased with you, for passing by the offers of those mercies that are for the salvation of your Souls? Why, Sirs, you that refuse Christ, where is your sense of God's goodness? where is that acknowledgement that he should have from you? Hath he done you no courtesy in sending his Son? Is the very hopes and possibility of being recovered out of your lost condition, a thing not to be at all affected with? If a man doth but offer you his help in your need, you'll thank him, and you'll show that you are taken with his kindness, by accepting of it; and you'll tell him how much you are beholding to him, and that you shall own him for your Friend as long as you live. Why, where is your thankfulness to Christ then? why don't you own him for your Friend?
Ibid., 68–69. 


Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

Nicholas Clagett (c.1610–1663) on Abusing God's Condescension in the Offer of Grace

2. You abuse God's condescension in the offer of grace. Was there any need for God to stoop to offer you a Covenant of Salvation, wherein the whole Trinity doth humble themselves? The Father, so much as to have thoughts of grace to relieve and succour lost sinners; the Son that humbled himself to an obscuring incarnation, a life of sorrows, spotless obedience, a bloody death the price of Redemption. The Holy Ghost to come into vile sinners, to plead the acceptance, and improvement of the Father and Son's love. O inconsiderate sinners! of what a scarlet tincture is your unworthy slighting of the Trinity's kindness, your treading under foot the blessed God's acts of grace! might he not have left you as the fall of Adam made you to be, in a lost, polluted, helpless, and damnable estate? Doth he need your persons recovery, services, holiness, and happiness? Doth goodness in accepting Christ and his Gospel extend to him? Is it his profit if you accept? Is it his hurt if you despise him? Psa. 16:2. Job 22:3; 35:6, 8. Hath he humbled himself to enter into peace with you, when he might have proclaimed and maintained everlasting War? Will a king bear it, that his descending below himself to save obstinate Traitors, should be despised? Surely the blessed God will not always bear the insolent refusal of his merciful condescensions, who every minute could confound rebellious sinners.
Nicholas Claget, The Abuse of God's Grace (Oxford: Printed by A. Lichfield, for Thomas Robinson, and Samuel Pocock, 1659), 18. This work has a preface to the reader by Henry Wilkinson.


Nicholas Clagett (1610?–1663) on "Wasters of the Time of Grace"

Wasters of the time of Grace, out-sin the very Devils of Hell: They never had a year, day, or minutes time of repentance and pardon: The next moment of their Transgression, was a damning moment to endless and remediless punishment: In this respect the Devils will load carnal Gospellers, playing the wantons with the seasons of Grace, and rejoice in their society in destruction, with this kind of triumph, Glad we are in your fellowship of damnation: Is it just we are cast into Hell? your company with us in torments is most just: You have out-sinned us, we were never guilty of such an affront to the Grace of God, merits of Christ, seasons of Grace as you are: The Son of God assumed not our nature, undertook not our redemption, interceded not with his Father to give us scores of years space of repentance, ten years, a year, a day, a minute: He took your nature, died for you, pleads you may have the precious saving seasons of Grace, your abuse of the Gospel, mis-spending the space of repentance, is superlative guilt, of a deeper die then our transgression: How sad a thing is it that loose Gospellers, that fill up their time with secret or open wickedness, or both, should out-sin the very Devils: O friends! did Christ speak it with passionate tears, concerning self-undoing Jerusalem, Hadst thou known in this thy day the things belonging to thy peace, but now they are hidden from thee, Luke 19:42. How ought you to weep over your turning the time of Grace into wantonness? Ah foolish sinners, that waste your inestimable opportunities of getting Christ and Grace, walking exactly, dying to sin, that you may not eternally die in it, and for it; honoring God in your Generation, obtaining your souls Salvation, laying up treasure in Heaven, preparing for blessed Eternity; if you bewail not this in hearty Compunction, bitter tears; if the sense of being Spend-thrifts of most precious time, make you not ashamed before the Lord, know it, and believe, you shall in the next life look over your ungrateful neglects, with unutterable mournings, and eternal tears.
Nicholas Claget, The Abuse of God's Grace (Oxford: Printed by A. Lichfield, for Thomas Robinson, and Samuel Pocock, 1659), 14. This work has a preface to the reader by Henry Wilkinson.


Compare with Matthew Newcomen.

September 29, 2014

William Greenhill (1591–1671) on Man's Destruction Being of Himself

Thirdly, If the willing man shall have the waters of life, then here God is excused, and justifiable in the destruction of sinners: The Lord he holds out waters of life freely; he saith whosoever will, whosoever is willing let him take the waters of life, let him live and be blessed, whosoever is willing: now if men perish where is the fault, who is to be blamed, God hath provided Christ, he hath provided Gospel and ordinances, provided his Spirit, he holds out the promises, and saith whosoever will, whosoever is willing come, come without money, here's water of life freely for you: now if men perish, where's the fault; Rev. 3:20. Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man will open, I will come in: -- And what if you will not open the door, if Christ do beat down the house and the door, and destroy him that is in it, who is in the fault? the fault is yours, you are not willing that Christ should come in. In the 19 of Luke: 27. Those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me: Those mine enemies that would not have me reign over them, I come and tell them that I will cast out their enemies, and I will reign sweetly and lovingly in them, and I will do them good, I will save them, give them waters of life, cordial comforts, and they will not; what then? Bring those mine enemies and slay them before my face. In the 23 of Matt: How often would I have gathered thee, even as a hen doth her chickens and you would not: had ye been willing ye should have eaten the fat and drank the sweet; But ye would not; now is your house left desolate; Man's destruction is of himself, and God is to be justified and cleared, he makes such tenders of Grace and mercy, and that freely he comes and waits upon men and calls upon them, and yet they will not. You have a remarkable place, 2 Thess. 2:10-12. Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved; Mark, the truth was sent forth, the truth came, and the truth wooed them, but they would not receive the Love of the truth, But they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, for this Cause God shall send them strong Delusions that they should believe a lie; and this is made good in our days exceedingly, for the truth hath come, and knocked at the hearts of men and women, and it hath not been received with the love of it, Therefore God hath sent them strong Delusions that they should believe a lie, That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness: men and women have pleasure in unrighteousness, and therefore they will not receive the truths of God: And then God gives them over to strong Delusions that they might be damned, would they have received the truth, they should not have been damned, nor had strong Delusions; so that here God will be excusable and justifiable in the destruction of sinners at the last. John 3:19. This is the Condemnation that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil; This will  be their Condemnation, they will shut their eyes against the light, they will not let truth enter, and if they do, they withhold the truth in unrighteousness, and imprison the truth as Herod did John.
William Greenhill, Sermons of Christ (London: Printed by R. I. for Livewell Chapman at the Crown in Popes-head-Alley, 1656), 225–227.
These sermons offer some fine material on spiritual thirsting, the willingness of Christ to save sinners, and the free offer of the gospel.
Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 300.

Final Notes:
• Page 200 has another instance where Greenhill refers to Matt. 23:37.
• Page 204 refers to those that refuse the offer and that they "had good motions of the Spirit."
• Page 215 refers to sinners' "natural ability."
• Pages 217–218 and 220–221 speaks of the gospel enabling the sinner's will to come.
• Page 235 refers to "general promises."
• Page 237–238 has strong language on God's great condescension.


William Greenhill (1591–1671) on the Ingratitude of Rejecting Christ's Free Offer

Thirdly, Consider who it is [that] offers it, it is offered by Christ, by the Ministers of Christ it is offered unto you daily; but here in the Text it's offered by Christ. Now shall Christ who is the Son of God, the Prince of life, the heir of the world, who is worshipped by Angels, who is the great Commander of Heaven and Earth; shall he come and offer you water of life, and will you have none of it? shall he that loves sinners, and laid down his life for them, and would wash them in his blood, shall he come and tender the Gospel, and Grace to you, and will you have none thereof? your sin is great, exceeding great.

Fourthly, Consider, it is the greatest ingratitude that ever was in men and women, that Christ should bring water of life, and freely offer it unto you, and you have extreme need of it, and yet will have none of it: he doth it out of love, and aims at your good, and the saving of your souls, and yet you will have none of this water, what ingratitude is this? Christ may say, I brought water to your door, and such water as was water of life, it would have quickened you, maintained life in you, & brought you to Eternal life, and you would none of it; hear O Heavens, and hearken O Earth, was there ever such ingratitude!
William Greenhill, Sermons of Christ (London: Printed by R. I. for Livewell Chapman at the Crown in Popes-head-Alley, 1656), 201–202.
These sermons offer some fine material on spiritual thirsting, the willingness of Christ to save sinners, and the free offer of the gospel.
Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 300.


September 28, 2014

John Sheffield (1654?-1726) on Abused Grace

"1. The Abuse of Grace is of all Sins the most provoking to God, as we say, Corruptio optimi est pessima, the abuse of the best Things is of all other the worst, and doth most heighten and aggravate the Sin and Guilt of those that do so. If it be so heinous a Sin to abuse the Mercies of God's common Providence, such as his Benignity, Patience and Long-suffering; so as thereby to be more bold and fearless in sinning against him, when they should be led thereby to Repentance and and Thankfulness; as it is Rom. 2:4, 5. Then how much more heinous, and crimson-dyed a Sin must it needs be, to wrest and abuse his Grace that brings Salvation, that offers Salvation, that tends to Salvation, that aims at and designs our Salvation, that is the first moving and efficient Cause of Salvation to us: What can be imagined worse than for Men to be evil, and the more evil because God is good to them! It is a Sin to return evil for evil to Men; and what is it then to return evil to God for the greatest good of all? There is nothing so provoking to a Man, as to have his free Love and Kindness abused and turned against himself, or to an end quite contrary to what he designed it, and so it must needs be to God; to abuse his Grace seems to be a greater Sin than to distrust his Power, or to slight his Authority, or to trample upon his Laws; you only have I known of all the families of the Earth, therefore I will punish you for your Iniquities.

2. To abuse Grace is of all others the most pernicious and destructive to Mens Souls; for this closes up the Fountain of all our Blessings, this makes Grace itself a Man's Enemy; and then who or what shall Plead for him; and Justice will not fail to avenge the quarrel of abused Grace, nay Grace itself will complain of the Wrong, and solicit for Vengeance upon the Abusers of it. If the only thing that can recover the Sinner, be abused, so that he falls the lower thereby, that will be an irrecoverable fall indeed; If a Man make Mercy and Grace itself his Enemy, then who or what shall be his Friend?"
John Sheffield, Salvation by Grace (London: Printed by S. Bridge, for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside near Mercers-Chapel, 1698), 67-68.


September 26, 2014

William Greenhill (1598–1671) on 15 Arguments for Christ's Earnest Desire to Save Sinners

"Doct: 1. That the Lord Christ is very desirous that sinners, thirsty sinners should come to him for relief, that they should be saved, that they should have refreshing virtue from him, Grace, pardon, peace, and whatsoever will do their souls good. Let him that is athirst come.

Now because it lies in the hearts of all sinners to question the willingness of God and Christ to save them, and to do them good; Therefore I shall insist the more upon this and make it out fully to you.

You know the Leper in the Gospel said, Master if thou wilt thou canst make me clean: I know thou hast power, but if thou wilt, there lies the stick, and here lies that which sticks with sinners, to question the willingness of God and Christ: Now the Lord Christ is very willing that sinners should come unto him; and this I shall make out several ways.

First, from the Consideration of Christ's laying down his greatness, and his Glory which would dant and discourage sinners, when one appears in majesty; when a judge comes into the Country with his greatness, it makes your Delinquents and Malefactors afraid; But now Christ lays down his Majesty, and his greatness and Glory, and whatsoever is dreadful and terrible unto us. John 17:5. And now I Father, Glorify thou me, with thine own self, with the Glory which I had with thee before the world was; Christ had laid aside his Glory when he came down into the world, & he came in the form of a servant, in a mean and low condition: When a Prince shall lay aside his greatness, and come and converse with beggars and sinners, then they can the more freely come unto him, and speak to him: the Lord Jesus Christ hath laid aside his Glory and greatness, and came and conversed with sinners here in the world, which is a great Argument that he was willing to do sinners good, that they should come unto him and be saved by him.

Secondly, Consider how the Lord Christ hath fitted himself to receive sinners, Christ hath endured a great deal of hardship, suffered heavy things, he trod the wine-press of his Father's wrath alone. You know Corn that makes bread and drink, endures the heat & the cold, endures the stale[?], and the Mill to be Ground, and so the bread and the drink are made thereof.

The Lord Christ hath endured all that the Father required of him, that so he might be bread of life, and water of life to us, he hath suffered bitter things, and accursed death: in the 12th of Luke saith Christ, I have a Baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straightened till it be accomplished? I have a Baptism of Blood to be baptized with, and how am I straightened till it be accomplished? I thirst to lay down my blood that it may be drink for the world, as much as any in the world do thirst for my blood, and to drink of that; I and more then all the world. The Lord Jesus hath suffered Circumcision, he hath suffered whipping, crowning with Thorns, spitting upon, reproaches, revilings, cursing, suffered the displeasure of his Father, dissertions, temptations by Satan, suffered Death, and all that he might be fit, and fitted to save us, that he might be bread for us, and drink for us, relief for us; Is not Christ willing think you now, that you should eat of his flesh, and drink of his blood, that you should come to him, and have the benefit of his sufferings? I am straightened, saith he, till it be accomplished; I thirst, saith Christ upon the Cross, and now it's finished.

Thirdly, From the very end of Christ's coming, it is evident that Christ is very willing and desirous that sinners should come unto him, and be saved by him, and be refreshed by him: what was the ends of Christ's coming, Matt. 18:11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost: were not all lost in Adam, are not all sinners under the curse of the Law, are not all children of wrath by nature, are not all enemies of God through wicked works in their minds? The end now of Christ's coming was to save that which was lost: and in Luke 1:10 you have it more fully; For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost: It might have been said, It's true, Christ will save that which is lost, if it will come to him; I but Christ is come to seek out them, to seek and to save that which is lost; this is the good Shepherd that goes and seeks out the lost sheep, and takes it up upon his shoulders & brings it home: A Shepherd when his sheep are scattered, some in one lane, some upon one common, some in one field, some in another, he goes and seeks out the sheep and brings them home: so the Lord Christ came for that very end, to seek out, and to save that which was lost; art thou a poor thirsty, sinful soul, art thou lost in thine own apprehension, art thou at the gates of death and hell, the Lord Christ came to save thee, and seek out thee, he is willing, forward, ready to do it, he came for that very end.

Fourthly, Christ's willingness and readiness to this work will appear, if you consider the Cures that he wrought when he was here in the world; did not Christ heal all diseases, the blind, the lame, the sick, the dumb, the deaf, the possessed of Devils? did not Christ show compassion towards them all and heal them; Mark 4:23. And Jesus went about all Gallilee, teaching in their Synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of diseases among the people; And his fame went through all Syria, and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with Devils and those which were Lunatic, and those which had the Palsy, and he healed them. Is not Christ willing and ready to do good to sinners, he doth not forbid them to come to him, let the disease be what it will, and the party diseased be what he will:—And its conceived when Christ healed their bodies, he healed their souls too, Christ healed all diseases. In Matt. 8. you have two or three remarkable passages; there comes a Leper to Christ, and saith, Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean; he did not come believingly, but he came doubtingly to Christ; and what follows; Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will, be thou clean; why doest thou question my will, saith Christ I am more willing to heal thee then thou art desirous of it, I will, saith he, be thou clean; here Christ presently shows his willingness, and cures the man with a word; with a word and a touch he healed him.

Then afterwards in the Chapter, there comes a Centurion to him, and solicits him for his servant, and saith, Master speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed: saith Christ, I have not found so great Faith, no not in Israel, as in this Centurion: and v. 12. saith Christ, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it unto thee; here Christ heals one with a word.

And then thirdly, he comes to Peter's house, and there his wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and he touched her hand, and the fever left her. Christ did but touch her hand, and says nothing, and the fever left her: Christ is willing to cure sinners, and he can easily do it, with a word, or a word and a touch, or a touch only.

Christ is so forward, that before it is desired he does it: John 5:6. when Jesus saw the impotent man lie there, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, wilt thou be made whole? The man did not ask him the Question, Lord wilt thou heal me; But Christ comes and finds him out; and saith, Man wilt thou be made whole; O Sir, I have none to put me in, when the Angel stirs another steps in before me, saith Christ, Take up thy bed, and walk. Christ asks him the Question, prevents him, and heals him: Oh! Christ is willing to do sinners good, & to save sinners.

Fifthly, This appears from the Command of Christ, when a thing is commanded, those that command would fain have it done; now the Lord Christ commands men to come unto him, commands them to believe: John 14:1. Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. Believe in me, there's the ease, there's rest, there's refreshing, there's deliverance, there's salvation for you: Believe in me: and in the 1 John 3 latter end; This is his Commandment that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the Commandment of the Father that we should believe on the name of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; and this is the Commandment of the Son that we should believe in him. When the Father commanded his Son to go to the Vineyard and dig there; the Father was very willing the child should go and do it: And so when God the Father, and Christ the Son, commands us to believe, they are very willing we should. When Princes send out their Commands to the people to do such and such things, they are very desirous they should be done: So when God gives out his Commands in the Gospel, and Christ commands in the Gospel to come, saith Christ, Let him that is athirst come; I command you to believe; It's an argument there is a strong will in him for it.

Sixthly, Doth not Christ sweetly invite you, use sweet Invitations and allurements to draw sinners to him, can there be more sweet Invitations, then what you have from Christ upon this account: in the 11th of Matt: 28. Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest: oh! you poor sinners of the earth, you that travel under the burden of your sins, you that are heavy laden, you that are ready to sink into hell through fear of wrath, come unto me, come unto me, he doth not say why have you broken Moses' Law, why have you offended my Father, why have you lived so basely and vilely? no, come unto me you that are weary and heavy laden, you that are ready to sink and perish, and are hungry and thirsty, and know not which way to turn your selves now for relief, come unto me.

So in the 55 of Isaiah, see what a blessed Invitation there is, Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, come buy wine and milk without money, and without price: Wherefore do you lay out your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not; hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness: Is not here a sweet, a gracious, a blessed Invitation now to poor sinners, unto such as we are here this day: The Lord Christ is a speaking unto you this day, Ho every one, every one that thirsteth, young or old, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, of whatsoever condition you be, are you athirst, would you have mercy, peace, grace, the Spirit of Christ, would you have anything to do your souls good, come, come unto me, Come unto the waters.

I but I have no money; It matters not, come without money, come here's wine, here's milk, and here's bread, and marrow, and fatness, here's that will make your souls live, here's virtue in Christ to make your souls live forever. So in the 23 Prov: 26. My son give me thy heart; o my son, saith God, give me thy heart; Christ is the Everlasting Father, and he saith, my son, give me thy heart, come to me. One place more in the 3rd Revelation is worth your observing; Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me: Behold I stand at the door and knock; I came down from heaven into mine Ordinances, I knock at the door of your hearts and consciences, if any man will open now, if any many would have water of life from me, if any man would have bread of life from me, if any man would have communion with me, let him but open and receive me in, and I will sup with him and he with me: what sweet Invitations have we from Christ, how forward, how ready is the Lord Jesus to do poor sinners good.

Seventhly, This appears in that the Lord Christ hath instituted and appointed his Officers, his Messengers, his Ministers, and sent them to woo, entreat, beseech, and to draw men in unto him: The Lord hath set up in the Church Officers purposely to make known his forwardness and readiness to receive sinners, and to go forth in his Name, and to get them to come to Christ; 'Tis our work to beseech you Brethren, to entreat you to hearken to the Lord Christ, to come in to him, to come and taste of his dainties, to receive righteousness, grace, strength, salvation, to receive pardon; this is our work, to get men in to Christ, to fetch you in to the Fold. In the 14 of Luke 16. A certain man made a great Supper, and bade many; and sent his servants at Supper time to say unto them that were bidden, Come for all things are now ready: Christ is the great Man, and he makes a Supper in the time of the Gospel, and he sends out his servants, he sends out the Ministers to Invite, and call men, saying, Supper is ready, and all things are ready. Christ hath satisfied Divine Justice, Christ hath laid down his life, and shed his blood, he is risen from the dead, he hath overcome the world, overcome the Devil, hath opened heaven, all things are ready for you to feed upon, o come; But they all made excuse; Then the Master of the house being angry, said to his servants, go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the City, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, the halt, and the blind; and the servants said, Lord it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room: and the Lord said unto the servants, go out into the high ways, and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. Go ye (saith he) my Apostles, my Disciples, my Ministers, my Servants, go fetch in men and women from high ways and hedges, from lanes and streets, & from all parts; o bring them in to the Gospel, bring them into my house, bring them into the kingdom of heaven, tell them of the dainties there, tell them of their danger abroad. This is the great work now of the Ministry: which is a clear demonstration that the Lord Christ would have sinners saved, he would have his house filled, he stands not upon what they be, let them be blind, maimed, naked, poor, wounded, bring them in saith Christ, let them taste of the dainties of the Gospel, let them hear of mercy through me, of pardon and forgiveness through me:—So in the 9 Prov: Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out seven pillars, she hath killed her beasts, she hath mingled her wine, she hath also furnished her table, she hath sent forth her maidens, she cryeth upon the highest places of the city, who so is simple let him come in hither, as for him that lacketh understanding she saith to him, come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled: Forsake the foolish and live, and go in the way of understanding:—This is spoken of Christ, and the times of the Gospel, and the Ministers are said to be maidens, who are sent forth to allure and to draw poor souls in to Jesus Christ. So that the great work of the Ministry is to make known the willingness of Christ, and to bring sinners unto Christ, that they may have mercy from him:—In the 2 Cor. 5:19–20. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them: and hath committed unto us the word of Reconciliation; now then, we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray ye in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God: Saith Paul I am an Ambassador of God, and God doth beseech you by us, God doth beseech sinners, and therefore we beseech you saith he, we beseech ye for the Lord's sake be ye reconciled to God, do not stand out with God and Christ any longer, but come in to God, and come in to Christ, and so God will receive you, and Christ will receive you: God doth beseech you by Ministers, God doth entreat you. The Commission was, Go teach all Nations: he commands them for to teach all nations, to acquaint them with the riches of Grace by Christ, & the wonderful love and kindness of God in Christ, and what's to be had by Christ, that people might come to him, and have mercy and relief from him.

Eighthly, This willingness of Christ to do sinners good, will appear yet further, in that he doth accept of the least, and lowest degrees of Faith, and will not discourage the weakest soul that comes unto him: Matt. 12:20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth Judgement unto victory: Christ will be very tender of bruised reed, very tender of smoking flax, he will not break one, he will not quench the other, he will not deal harshly and roughly with them, but he will send forth Judgement unto victory: He will give them power over all their corruptions, over all their fears & doubts: he will make them to judge all their Enemies, and be victorious over their Enemies.—So in the 45 Isa: 22. Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth: Look unto me and be saved: If I have but a good look from you, saith Christ, I will entertain you: look unto me but with the weakest eye of Faith, though it be a dim eye, be but half an eye, look unto me and be saved:—In the 40 of Isa: 11. He shall feed his Flock like a Shepherd, he shall gather the Lambs with his Arms, and carry them in his bosom, and shall Gently lead those that are with young. See how tender the Lord Christ, the good Shepherd will be of those that are weak; He will gather the Lambs with his Arms, as a Shepherd when he goes abroad, and a Lamb is newly yeaned, and it's weak and feeble, and the weather is cold and frosty, he takes up the Lamb in his Arms, and carries it home, and gives it milk; So the Lord will deal by a poor weak feeble soul, he will carry it in the Arms of his providence, in the Arms of his Spirit, in those Everlasting Arms of his that never fail, he will carry the Lambs in his bosom, and Gently lead those that are with young: Thus will he deal with them: Hence he saith in the 14 Rom: Him that is weak in the Faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations: Receive him that is weak in the Faith, if there be never so little Faith receive him, if there be but one dram of Faith receive him.

Ninthly, The willingness of the Lord Christ to do sinners good appears in this, That he shuts not up this water of Life, though he knows but few will come unto him for it; and those of them that do come unto him, they do oft abase it, and abase him too: People do hasten more to the waters for their bodies, to the Bath, Epsum, Tunbridge, and to new drinks that they have now, they flock to have these for the body, and can magnify them, and speak wonderfully well of them, but few come to Christ, and when they do come, they will hardly drink, as I have told you before; they speak evil of those doctrines he gives them; these are hard sayings. Peter himself denies Christ his Master, denies him once, twice, thrice. Thus Christ is dealt withal by sinners, and notwithstanding all this, Christ doth not shut up the water, nor lock up the water, but the waters stand open for any to come, let whosoever will come, let him come and drink of the waters of life freely. If Christ had not had a mind we should have these waters, he would have taken a course to deprive us of them, he could soon dry up the waters, dry up the Gospel. But the waters are not dried up, they are not taken from us, there is freedom for any to come, notwithstanding they have abused the waters.

Tenthly, It is strong Evidence that the Lord Christ is willing to save sinners, and to do sinners good, In that he is grieved, troubled, and affected very much, that sinners will not come to him for these waters; o Jerusalem, Jerusalem, saith Christ, weeping over it, how oft would I have gathered thee as a hen doth her chickens, and ye would not: o Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that thou hadest known in this thy day the things that belong unto thy peace, but now they are hidden from thine eyes:Christ is grieved at the heart that men and women do not come to him, though they have no money, though they have nothing to buy the water with, yet that they will not come and fetch the water, Christ is grieved and troubled at the very heart to see it: O that these public places should be so empty upon a Lord's day, so empty upon a week day: there's water of life, and none will come and drink the water; how oft, how oft, may Christ say, would I have saved such a town, such a nation, such a people, and they would not; Christ weeps over souls and families, and cities.

Eleventhly, It's wonderful perspicuous and clear, that Christ would do sinners good, in that he doth press them with the strongest Arguments that can be, to partake of the good is to be had by himself: What promises doth he make, what evils doth he threaten? There are two great Arguments that do prevail with all the world, yet will not prevail here, he sets life and death before men, If you will come here's life for you, if you will not come you are dead men: people will not come within doors when these are the Arguments, my life is at the stake, and if I go I am a made man, if not I am a lost man, an undone man. Why will ye die o house of Israel? I am not willing ye should die, why will ye die, why will ye die, turn unto me and live, come unto me and live. In the 55 of Isa: Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your souls shall live, and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David; Is not here encouragement enough now to come to Christ, Incline your ear and come unto me and your souls shall live, you shall have everlasting mercies, and everlasting comforts. John 3:16. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: Here's life and death set before you, Come thou poor sinner and believe in the Lord Jesus, close with him, here's life for thee, everlasting life for thee; Refuse to do it, there's everlasting death for thee, thou shalt perish, how peremptory is the Lord here. In the 16 Mark: 15, 16. Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; how round is the Gospel, he that believeth, he that comes to Christ, that's the meaning, he that believeth shall be saved; saved from all his sin, saved from the power of death, saved from the wrath of God, saved from hell-fire, saved from the guilt of his own Conscience, he that believeth shall be saved over and over and over,—he that believeth not shall be damned,—how doth he press men now to come to him? If there be any weight in heaven or hell, it's laid all upon this, your coming to Christ, or refusing Christ; if you come to Christ, all heaven is yours, all the glory, all the joy, all the comfort, all the blessings, all the happiness there is yours: If you will not come to Christ, all the terrors of hell are yours, all the darkness, all the mournings, all the howlings, all the gnashing of teeth, all the misery there will be yours; therefore see how willing the Lord Jesus is, that sinners should come, and that they should be saved.

[12ly] Another evidence of Christ's willingness to save sinners that will come unto him is, The Lord doth venture and hazard the loosing many, by making known his free Grace and willingness to save sinners, for when sinners do hear that Christ is willing to save them, and very desirous also, any they abuse his free grace, this rich mercy, this willingness of Christ to do to their souls good: If Christ be so willing, say they, we will stay awhile, it will suffice hereafter. In the 4th of Jude, it's said, They turn Grace into wantonness, and thousands of scorners turn Grace into wantonness; when they hear Christ died and shed his blood for sinners, that he is willing sinners should come in, that he waits for them, that he entreats, and presses them to come to him; they take advantage from hence to sin more freely, to stay it out to the uttermost. And thus the Lord runs a hazard of loosing many, by making known the riches of his Grace, the freedom of his mercy and loving kindness, which shows there a very strong desire in Christ to save sinners.

Thirteenthly, It is evident that Christ is very desirous of sinners salvation, in that he takes sinners when they are at the worst of all, at the height of wickedness. If a Prince will take into his family those that are sick of the plague, of the Leprosy, and of the worst diseases, 'tis an argument he hath a mind to have them live in his family, and that he is desirous of their company: the Lord Jesus Christ he takes sinners when they are at the very worst; Saul he was at the height of his blasphemy, at the height of murder, at the height of persecution; and Christ saith, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me, thy blasphemies rage, and persecutions are come up to heaven; and Paul saith in the 1 Tim: 1. he was a persecutor, a blasphemer, and an injurious person, but I obtained mercy, even when I was so great and notorious a sinner, Christ came and took him in; it's an argument then that Christ is very desirous of the salvation of sinners, that he will take sinners when they are in the height of their wickedness. When the Prodigal had run out from his father's house, and had spent years in wicked practices, in whoredom, drunkenness, gaming, and running in the ways of the world, when he had spent all, and spent himself; now when he was in the height of wickedness, it pleases God and Christ to call him, to bring him home, and to receive him again: had not Christ been desirous of the salvation of sinners, he might have shut the door against the Prodigal, and said, you shall never come indoors again: had not the Father been desirous for the Son's sake to have saved sinners, he would not have entertained the Prodigal; there is not [only or merely?] a velleity but a strong efficacious desire in God and Christ to save sinners. The Jews when they were at the worst, when they had put that innocent one to death, when they had said, His blood be upon us and upon our Children, when they had mocked him, reviled him, and accused him, even after all this, Christ takes in many of them; three thousand of them converted at one Sermon by Peter; Him whom ye have crucified with bloody hands hath God raised; here is a clear evidence of the earnest desire of the Lord Jesus to save sinners; he takes them when they are at the worst, when they have done the uttermost mischief & spite they can against him, and against his ways.

Fourteenthly, It's an argument that the Lord Jesus is very desirous to save sinners, if you consider, that the Lord takes sinners at the last cast, at the end of their days, when they have no time left to serve him, he takes them at the very first entreaty and begging of mercy. The thief you know that had lived wickedly all his days, when he came to the last cast, and was upon the ladder, or nailed to the cross, and ready to breath out his last breath, saith he, Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom; Christ might have said, Remember thee, why should I remember thee, thou hast been a bloody wretch, a thief and a murderer all thy days, and thou deservest nothing now but death and damnation, and why should I remember thee; No, the Lord Christ saith not so, but he saith, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise: now when there was no time left for him to honor Christ, and to serve Christ, he only now entreats this favor of him, being on the cross, saith Christ, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. And doubtless though we have but this one instance, and so men should not presume to put off repentance till it be too late, yet I do believe, many a soul hath met with mercy, when they have been at the gates of death: I say, many a poor soul that hath been burdened with sin, afflicted in conscience, and ready to sink, in the gates of death they have looked up to Christ, and entreated him to remember them, & Christ hath shown them mercy, which shows the forwardness and willingness of Christ to save sinners: Yet let not any presume to do so, for likely late repentance is seldom true, a deathbed repentance usually is a dead repentance, when fear of hell shall drive men to look after heaven, they may thank hell for looking after God and Christ, but that by the way.

Fifteenthly and lastly, It is clearly evident that the Lord Christ hath a strong inclination to save sinners, by his giving out Scripture in that way and manner as he hath done; the Lord Christ hath given out Scripture so as to Answer all the cavils of their hearts, all the pleas of corruption, and of a guilty Conscience, and of the Devil himself: The Lord hath given out Scripture so as to Answer all that might hinder their coming in unto him. In the 12 of Matt: All manner of sins and Blasphemies shall be forgiven to the sons of men:—What hath a sinful heart here to say, what canst thou object against this? He tells thee, All manner of sins shall be forgiven, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven, Are thy sins beyond blasphemy, are they such as come not within the compass of all manner of sin? Let thy sins be slight or great, let them be old or new, let them be against Law, against Gospel, against promises, all manner of sins shall be forgiven:—Christ saith, The sin against the Holy-Ghost shall not be forgiven: But if thou have a heart to look to Christ for mercy, it's an argument thou art free from that sin, for where that is, there's impenitency, there's hardness of heart, no thinking of repentance nor coming to God: But all manner of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven: Is not here encouragement enough unto poor sinners:—So here in the next words, Whosoever will let him come and drink of the water of life freely: It's laid down so as to answer all your objections, and to take away all your pleas you have to stave off from Christ. So then you see clear evidences that Christ is willing to save sinners.

But why is Christ so willing to save sinners?

First, from his own experience and sense of what it is to be under the displeasure of God, he was once tempted, he was once forsaken, he cried out in that condition, and he knew what the wrath and displeasure of God meant: And now being full of compassion, he pities all those that are under the disfavor of God; he knows sinners have broken the Law, deserved the curse, the wrath of God, eternal death, and now his compassions being stirred within him, his bowels yearn, he desires that sinners may come to him; if any thirst let him come, let him come, he shall be freed from the wrath of God, from the curse of the Law, from guilt and condemnation, it's a sad condition, I am sensible of it; I was in the share and round of sinners, and I know what it is to be in such a condition.

Secondly, Christ is so desirous, that so he may see of the travail of his own soul, and that men may see the end of his coming to save sinners, was real for if Christ's end was to seek and to save that which was lost, unless he desire and use means to save them, you may say it was not real, therefore Christ to make out that it was really his end, and that he might see of the travail of his soul in suffering, he desires sinners may come in, he gives out the Gospel, he appoints Ministers, he invites them extraordinarily, and ordinarily, he calls upon them and would have sinners to come unto him to be saved.

Thirdly, and lastly, Christ doth this that so the freeness of God's grace, and of his love may appear and may be magnified, Christ is wonderful desirous that sinners should come in, and when they do come in, they will magnify the riches of Grace, then they will stand and wonder at the Love of God, and of Christ, and that he should wait upon the [and?] beseech, and entreat them to come and accept of mercy and favour."
William Greenhill, Sermons of Christ (London: Printed by R. I. for Livewell Chapman at the Crown in Popes-head-Alley, 1656), 149–170.
"These sermons offer some fine material on spiritual thirsting, the willingness of Christ to save sinners, and the free offer of the gospel."
Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 300.


September 22, 2014

William Pinke (c.1599–1629) on Christ's Fair Offers of Salvation

You have heard the first part of his burden, who in the light of the Gospel does not really love Christ Jesus, to wit, that he has no part in Christ & therefore all the curses of the law belong unto him. One would think there needed no more to be said to prove him accursed, who loves not Christ Jesus, seeing his having no part in him includes more horrors and terrors then it's possible for the brain of man to shape the ideas of. But I must tell you, that as heavy a doom as this is, yet is it but light in comparison of which I shall describe unto you in a second consideration, to wit, whosoever he be that is Catechized and brought up in the Christian profession, and yet doth not heartily and sincerely affect Christ Jesus, besides all the curses due unto his sins against the Law, he treasures up unto himself a far more complete vengeance for his disesteem and contempt of the Gospel. It were well, beloved, if when Christ Jesus comes unto man, and that man receives him not, if he left him in no worse case then he found him, though that were unconceivably miserable: But it's never so. For if he entertains not Christ as Saviour, he is sure to have him henceforth his accuser, and if he will not admit him ad salutem, he shall have him whether he will, or no, ad Testimonium. It's true which our Saviour told Nicodemus John 3:17. that God sent not his Son into the World to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Christ doth not knock at any man's heart with that intent that he may have the more advantage against him, if he let him not in, no he comes with purpose and desire to bring in salvation with him, but if he and his salvation be so little regarded that we entertain him only with a few cold compliments at [the] door, as I may say, and so dismiss him. O then he goes away in a rage, complains to his Father that for such ungrateful wretches he shed his dearest blood. And therefore though God sent his Son into the World [not] to condemn it, yet it follows in the next verse, he that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Condemned &c. he believeth not: Why? the Law had sufficiently condemned him before. True, but now God offers him a pardon by his Son to exempt him from condemnation, which seeing he scorns, or cares not to accept, God will now not only have the other condemnation to continue its force against him, but will load him with another more heavy, which shall never be reversed by any pardon. This is made more plain by the verse following, This is the condemnation, that light is come into the World, and men love darkness rather then light, that is; For this is that great and final condemnation, which can never be remitted, as that of the Law may, that Christ is come into the World, bringing redemption with him, and men are so little sensible of it, so dully affected with it, that they care not for making any use of him, but had rather continue Satan's prisoner still, then come forth into his marvelous light. So that the neglect of Christ Jesus and his Gospel, is that which makes a man completely Anathema Maranatha, because if we pass by him there remains henceforth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful expectation of Judgment, Heb. 10:26. Mistake me not beloved, when I say there remains no more sacrifice for sin to those who have passed by Christ Jesus, I mean such as have passed him by for good and all, such as are not entirely incorporated into him before they are snatched out of this life. For indeed we have a redeemer so sensible of our infirmities, that when he comes a wooing unto our souls, he will not be driven away at the first denial. Alas! if he should be so touchy, there would hardly ever any soul be espoused to him, seeing all of us naturally hang back, find excuses, and make many pauses, and demures, before we give our consent. But our Saviour is so patient towards our follies, that for all his repulse he will vouchsafe to come again and again, wait our leisure, take all opportunity, solicit the business by his Holy Spirit. But here is no ground for presumption. For whoever denies him so often, or so peremptorily, that he is forced as if it were to leave off his sute [suit?], during the life of the party; or whosoever dallies so long with him, that he is called out of this life (as who can promise himself an hour) before the match be made up: I say whosoever shall slight his Saviour, or neglect him after this manner, it had been a thousand times better for him, that Christ had never been born into the World, or at least that himself had been born in such an obscure corner of it, that he had never heard of him. For his outward profession of, and with all the prerogative of it, with which he contented himself without any hearty love unto him, the fair offers of salvation which he had, are made nothing of, shall press him more heavily at the day of Judgment, then all his sins against the law, though they were murders, when for these very reasons it shall be easier for Turks, Americans, and Virginians then for him.
William Pinke, The Trial of a Christian's Sincere Love Unto Christ, 5th edition (Oxford: Printed by W. Hall for John Forrest, 1659), 22–26.


September 21, 2014

The Bold Proclamation in William Greenhill (1598–1671)

I have not seen enough in Greenhill (a Westminster divine) to definitely classify him as a moderate Calvinist, but he does read like one in his sermons. I will tentatively say he was a moderate Calvinist. Here he is making the "bold proclamation" (or saying that Christ died and shed His blood for all of the lost listening to his sermon):
Secondly, Consider two things of Christ.

First, Consider the very end of Christ's Incarnation, the end of his coming, the end of his being here in the world:--why did Christ come, I will show you two or three places of Scripture; Matt. 18:10. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost: If any be a lost creature, Jesus Christ is come to save that which was lost; I hope then he is come to save me a lost creature, I am a lost sheep, a lost Son, I am a lost Goat: surely if Christ came to save that which was lost, he came to save Me:--So in the 19 of Luke 10. you have it a little more full; For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost; he is come to seek it out, he seeks out the Goat, seeks out the lost sheep, he seeks out a lost sinner, as he did the man at the pool of Bethesda, Wilt thou be made whole? O Lord I would fain be made whole, but I have none to help me; well, saith Christ, be thou whole; Now see what use Paul makes of it, 1 Tim. 1:15. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief: O Lord, doest thou come to save sinners, here's a good tyding indeed, Lord it's a faithful saying, and it's worthy of all acceptation, it's worthy  you old ones should receive it, you young ones should receive it, you afflicted ones should receive it, you that are conceited of your own righteousness, that you should receive it, Jesus Christ came to save sinners, what sinners soever they be, great sinners, old sinners, that have lived many years in a height of wickedness such as Paul was, persecutors, injurious persons, &c. If you seriously weigh this, it will make you willing to have these waters of life.

Secondly, Consider in Christ how sweetly he doth invite you to take these waters of life: If an enemy would give you water when you were thirsty, would you not take it, Give thine enemy to drink if he thirst; But if the dearest friend you have in all the world should say, O friend, you are athirst, come here's water, here's wine, here's milk, here's any thing you would drink, you would take this well which is offered willingly: Now have you a better friend in heaven and earth then Jesus Christ, who laid down his life, and shed his blood for you, saith Christ, who ever will let him come, take water, even water of life, poor soul, I have taken thy nature upon me, I have born the wrath of God, I have satisfied the Law, I have laid down my life, I come awooing to thee, and do entreat thee, do not damn thy self, do not throw thy self into hell, poor soul take hold of me, come I'll lead thee to the water of life, come I'll give thee pardon, I'll give thee peace, I'll give thee my Spirit, I'll give thee my blood; why doest thou drink puddle water, and poison water? why doest thou not follow me, but follow the Devil, the Beast, and thine own lusts? Thus the Lord Jesus Christ doth entreat us to take water of life in the 7th of John: Christ stood up after a great feast and makes a Proclamation, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; You have been drinking wine, water, and such things as do not quench the thirst of your souls; But if there be any one man among you that is athirst for the waters of life, let him come unto me, my arms are out, the waters are ready to give forth unto him, let him come and drink.
William Greenhill, Sermons of Christ (London: Printed by R. I. for Livewell Chapman at the Crown in Popes-head-Alley, 1656), 231–233. See also what seems to be Greenhill's unlimited use of John 3:16 on page 195. On page 202 he says Christ "loves sinners, and laid down his life for them, and would wash them in his blood." Greenhill always seems to use "sinners" in these sermons in an all-inclusive way, not just for the elect alone. Page 225 says "God hath provided Christ" for those that perish of themselves.
These sermons [by Greenhill] offer some fine material on spiritual thirsting, the willingness of Christ to save sinners, and the free offer of the gospel.
Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 300.


God's Will in His Commands and the Special Case of Abraham and Isaac

Mainstream Calvinists have rightly argued that if God commands all men to repent and believe, according to His revealed will in the gospel, then He desires all men to repent and believe, and thus to be saved. Some have tried to sever this connection between God's preceptive will and a desire in Him for compliance by bringing up the case of God's command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It came up in the debates at the Westminster Assembly. B. B. Warfield speaks highly of George Gillespie for distinguishing between voluntas decreti and voluntas mandati in his exchange with Edmund Calamy, and for arguing that, "The command doth not hold out God's intentions; otherwise God's command to Abraham concerning sacrificing of his son. . . ." (Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work [Edmonton, AB, Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, 1991 reprint of Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1959], 141–142.). 

Ken Stebbins argues that the case of God's command to Abraham to sacrifice is "an exceptional case of the will of God." Discussing the subject in John Owen, he says:
Again, Owen refers to God's command to Abraham to go and sacrifice Isaac (Works X p44). This example must be regarded as a special case of God's will, and an exception is no foundation on which to build a structure of theology. If any object that I have no right to single out this example as a special case let me point out that the linchpin of all true theology is the axiom that God's Word does not contradict itself. How then do you explain that in one part of Scripture God forbids child sacrifice (Deut. 12:31, Lev. 18:21, 20:1ff) while in this case He commands it? The only way to deal with Genesis 22 is to treat it as an exceptional case of the will of God when the Lord, for the particular purpose of testing the implicit faith of Abraham to the limit, commands him to do what His very nature militates against.

Nevertheless, so far as Abraham was concerned, he was 'bound to believe' that it was not only his bare duty, but also 'well pleasing unto God that he should accomplish what was enjoined', as Owen himself admits (Works X p44). He was bound to believe that God would 'love and approve this thing, whether ever it be done or no', even as he was also bound to believe that God would yet keep His promises concerning Isaac (Heb. 11:17-19). He did not try to reconcile his conflicting duties--but simply acknowledged a mystery and followed both duties in faith.
Ken Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered (Lithgow, Australia: Covenanter Press, 1996), 27.

In the special case of Abraham and Isaac, it is useful to note that it is not only a case of God commanding something that He did not will to come to pass, but that He is also commanding something that is clearly something He does not approve. That’s another significant difference between God’s general precepts (which he does approve) and this Abraham/Isaac scenario. Note what Vos says:
80. How are we to evaluate Abraham’s case where he was first commanded to sacrifice Isaac, and this command was later withdrawn?

Here God commands something that He does not will. The great problem, however, was just how God can decree something that He does not approve. In Abraham’s case, one could at most find a difficulty concerning God'’ truthfulness. How can God say to Abraham, “It is my will that you sacrifice your son,” while in reality it was not His will? One must so understand this that God did not really say to Abraham, “It is my positive will that it come to pass (will of decree), but it is my will of precept prescribed for you,” that is, “I demand of you that you should feel commanded to do it.”
Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., 4 vols. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2014), 1:25.

In contrast to those who want to appeal to the exceptional case of Abraham to negate the idea that God's commands elsewhere are not indicative of His desire for compliance in any sense., notice the strong connection that William Greenhill (1591–1671), a Westminster divine, makes between God's commands and His "strong will" for compliance in the gospel offer:
Fifthly, This appears from the Command of Christ, when a thing is commanded, those that command would fain have it done; now the Lord Christ commands men to come unto him, commands them to believe: John 14:1. Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. Believe in me, there's the ease, there's rest, there's refreshing, there's deliverance, there's salvation for you: Believe in me: and in the 1 John 3 latter end; This is his Commandment that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the Commandment of the Father that we should believe on the name of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; and this is the Commandment of the Son that we should believe in him. When the Father commanded his Son to go to the Vineyard and dig there; the Father was very willing the child should go and do it: And so when God the Father, and Christ the Son, commands us to believe, they are very willing we should. When Princes send out their Commands to the people to do such and such things, they are very desirous they should be done: So when God gives out his Commands in the Gospel, and Christ commands in the Gospel to come, saith Christ, Let him that is athrist come; I command you to believe; It's an argument there is a strong will in him for it.
William Greenhill, Sermons of Christ (London: Printed by R. I. for Livewell Chapman at the Crown in Popes-head-Alley, 1656), 154–155.

Elsewhere, Greenhill says:
Secondly, I infer from hence, the willingness of the Lord to have poor sinners receive the benefit that is to be had by Jesus Christ; because he commands them to believe; will not you of yourselves do it? then I command you, saith he, to believe; and what's the benefit? you may see in John 3:16. whosoever believes, should not perish: here's great benefit, to be kept out of Hell, to be kept from wrath to come, and to have everlasting life. Now can you have greater benefit then to be delivered from all evil, and enjoy all good? God commands us therefore to believe, that we might partake of these benefits. God commands men to repent, he would have them repent and be saved, 2 Pet. 3:4. so[?] here he commands them to believe, and he would have them come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, 1 Tim. 2:4. God commands you to believe in his Son Jesus Christ, that you might not perish but be saved; he is very willing, why will you die? why do you not come to my Son and believe in him? I have laid help upon him that is mighty; why do you not look for help from him? God is willing that poor sinners should have the benefit that is to be had from Christ.
William Greenhill, "Believing Lyeth Under Command, in The Sound-Hearted Christian: Or, A Treatise of Soundness of Heart (London: Printed for Nath. Crouch, at the Cross Keys in Bishopsgate-street, near Leaden-hall, 1671), 118–119.
...all the commands of God aim at no other end, tend to no other purpose, but that you may lay hold of eternal life...
Jeremiah Whitaker, The Christian's Great Design on Earth (London: Printed by G. Miller for John Bellamie at the Sign of the three golden Lions in Cornhill near the royal-Exchange, 1645), 33.

September 19, 2014

Nathanael Ball (1623–1681) on Christ's Real Offer

"1. That this Offer is real. Christ doth not deceive, or dissemble with sinners, but really he doth desire they should have Liberty. Men sometimes make offers of good things to one another, but they are not sincere in them. But it is not so with Christ; He is a real well-wisher to sinners souls. He hath expressed it all the ways that can be desired. Would you believe his reality, if he does woo sinners? Why, so he does, Luke 14:23. compel them to come in, viz. by importunate entreaty. Would you believe his reality, if he does wait for sinners? Why, so he does, Rev. 3:20. Behold I stand at the door, and knock, &c. Would you believe his reality if he does weep for sinners? Why, so he does, He wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:41, 42. Would you believe his reality if he does die for sinners? Why, so he did, Rom. 5:8. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Nay, would you believe his reality if he should be damned for sinners? Why, so he was, tho not in respect of the place, yet in respect of the pains of Hell: He was made a curse for us, Gal. 3:13. What would you have Christ to say or do more than he has said and done, to convince you, that he would have sinners to be partakers of this Freedom. Has he not said so in his word? Has he not sealed it with his blood? Has he not accepted and embraced from time to time, whoever came unto him? Does he not engage himself by his faithful promise, to do so still to the end of the World, That he will in no wise cast out such as come to him, John 6:37. And yet what a wonder is it, that the World is so unbelieving still? and so hard to be persuaded, that Christ has any loving thoughts or purposes towards them? Oh this cursed unbelief, and hardness of heart, that is in men and women, that makes them, that they will not come to Christ that they might have life!"
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom. Or, A Treatise Containing the Substance of Several Sermons Preached on that Subject from John VIII. 36. (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 36–38.


Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

September 18, 2014

Donald MacLean on the Term "Offer" in James Durham (1622–1658)

The Term “Offer”

From Carstairs’s quotation immediately above, it is already clear that Durham and his contemporaries were content with the terminology of “gospel offer.” There is little room for doubt or debate as to whether Reformed theology used the term “offer.”50 The area for examination, then, is not simply whether the Reformed used the term “offer,” but what they meant when they spoke of the “free offer of the gospel.”

In considering this, the first thing that needs to be defined is what exactly is being offered in the gospel? In summary, Durham stated that “Christ Jesus Himself, and His benefits” is what is offered.51 That is, all the Son had done to redeem sinners is offered in the gospel: “This good and gracious bargain that is made between the Father and the Son, which is wholly mercy, is brought to the market and exposed to sale on exceedingly easy and condescending terms, and that to bankrupt sinners.”52 To expand on this: “peace and pardon, grace and glory, even all good things [are] offered to you freely!”53 Or to phrase it differently, “Tell me, what is it that you would have? Is it remission of sins? ’Tis here. Would you have the covenant and promises? Here they are: Is it Christ Himself that you would have.… Here He is. Or would you have heaven and be eternally happy? ’Tis also here.”54 So Christ Jesus and all that He has done for the salvation of His people and the fruits of His death are offered in the gospel. The position outlined above is expressed by John Murray as follows: “It is Christ in all the glory of his person and in all the perfection of his finished work whom God offers in the gospel.”55

Having seen what is offered, namely Jesus Christ and His benefits, it is now important to define what Durham meant by “offer.” Is it true that, as has been claimed, we should understand “offer” simply in the sense of “present or set forth,”56 or does “offer” mean something more than simply a presentation of facts? Is it true that the Reformed in the seventeenth century used offero, and its cognates, simply to denote “present”? This is the assertion of Raymond Blacketer who posits that oblato should not be translated as “offer” but as “present” or “exhibit” and that this accords with sixteenth- and seventeeth-century Reformed usage.57 This assertion has been called into question by Scott Clark who argues that “the semantic range of ‘offero,’ as it is used by the orthodox, is closer to ‘invitation’ than ‘demand.’”58 What of Durham — how does he define the term? And does his definition support the historical definitions of Blacketer or Clark? It is certainly true that, for Durham, Christ is presented and set forth in the gospel, but it is evident from the images he used to explain and define “offer” that, for him, it is not simply equivalent to “present” or “set forth.”

One of the most common images Durham uses to define “offer” is that of wooing and beseeching. He explains that “[t]he offer of the gospel…is set down under the expression of wooing…and supposes a marriage, and a bridegroom, that is by his friends wooing and suiting in marriage.”59 So, in understanding what the gospel offer is, it is appropriate to think of a man trying to persuade the woman he loves to marry him. This image, of course, carries with it more than a simple presentation of facts. It would be an absurdity for a man to try and win the affections of a woman simply by presenting a few facts about himself. No, the image carries with it the idea of an attempt to win the girl by earnest persuasion. And so it is with the gospel where Christ “doth beseech and entreat, etc. that thereby hearts may be induced to submit cheerfully to Him.”60 We can “[c]onsider further how our Lord Jesus seeks and presses for this satisfaction from you; he sends forth his friends and ambassadors, to woo in his name, and to beseech you to be reconciled.… He pleads so much and so often, and entreats every one in particular when he is so very serious in beseeching and entreating, it should, no doubt, make us more willing to grant him what he seeks.”61 From this one image alone it is clear that to “offer” is, for Durham, more than a presentation of facts.

Another common image in Durham to explain what he means by “offer” is inviting. Durham comments that “[t]he offer of this gospel…is set out under the expression of inviting to a feast; and hearers of the gospel are called to come to Christ, as strangers or guests are called to come to a wedding.”62 He also states that “the gospel comes to invite men to the wedding.”63 Particularly significant in considering the dispute over the meaning of the word offer is Durham’s denial that the gospel is simply a proclamation. He states that the gospel “not only proclaims, but invites; and doubles the invitation to come. It not only invites, but puts the invitation so home that people must either make the price…and buy or refuse the bargain.… [It] cries, ‘Come, buy! Come and enter the covenant freely.’ And this it does by a frank offer, by earnest and persuasive inviting, and by the easy conditions that it proposes the bargain on.”64 So it appears that the contention that by “offer” Reformed theology simply meant proclamation or presentation is inadequate, for the gospel “not only proclaims but invites.”

Durham also frequently uses the image of selling to convey the meaning of “offer.” “The offer of the gospel is…set out often under the similitude or expression of a market where all the wares are laid forth on the stand.”65 Another example of this is Durham stating “that there is a good and excellent bargain to be had in the gospel, and on very good and easy terms. ’Tis a market day, and indeed it would be a pity that such wares should be brought to the market and that few or none should buy; that Christ should (so to speak) open his pack and sell no wares. Therefore let me…persuade you readily and presently to embrace the offer of this richest bargain.”66 Again, considering this image, it would be generally agreed that it would be a poor salesman who simply declared facts about what he was trying to sell. Indeed, the very image of selling contains the idea of a willingness to sell and great effort to ensure that there is a sale.

This, then, is Durham’s understanding of “offer”— not simply a presentation of facts, not simply a command but wooing, beseeching, inviting, and selling.67 Clark and Daniel presented the understanding which best accords with the theology of Durham.
50. Curt Daniel observes: “It cannot be debated that the word was employed with all regularity throughout the Puritan era.” Curt Daniel, “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” (Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, 1983), 398.
51. Durham, Revelation, 271.
52. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 144.
53. Ibid., 155.
54. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 333.
55. Murray, “Free Offer,” in Collected Writings, 4:132.
56. Hanko, History, 89.
57. Blacketer, “Three Points,” 44–45.
58. Clark, “Janus,” in VanDrunen, The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, 169. Curt Daniel rejects arguments, similar to Blacketer’s, put forward by Herman Hoeksema in reference to the definition of offer. See Daniel, “John Gill,” 398.
59. Durham, Christ Crucified, 80.
60. Durham, Revelation, 272.
61. Durham, Christ Crucified, 475–476.
62. Ibid., 80.
63. Ibid., 213.
64. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 151 (emphasis added).
65. Durham, Christ Crucified, 80.
66. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 152.
67. So David Silversides is correct to note that the “term ‘offer’ did not mean merely to ‘exhibit’ or ‘present’ in a manner bereft of the connotation of an overture addressed personally to the hearers for their acceptance” (Silversides, The Free Offer, 65).
Donald John MacLean, "James Durham (1622–1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel," Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1 (January 2010): 101–104. This paper is "is an amended version of a lecture given at the Inverness branch of the Scottish Reformation Society in November 2008" (ibid., 92n1). Dr. MacLean blogs at the James Durham Thesis. The subject of his doctoral thesis is, “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to  The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622–1658)”. Vandehoeck & Rupprecht will soon publish MacLean's dissertation under the title James Durham and the Gospel Offer in Its Seventeenth-Century Context.

James Durham bio:

September 17, 2014

Donald MacLean on the Sincerity of the Gospel Offer in James Durham (1622-1658)

Is the Gospel Offer Sincere?

Having considered so far that God earnestly invites all the hearers of the gospel to come to Christ, the question naturally arises as to the sincerity of the gospel offer. That is, does God want all hearers of the gospel offer to accept Christ, or to express it differently and starkly, does God desire the salvation of all hearers of the gospel? This is an important theological question and Professor John Murray states: “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.”106

What does Durham make of this question? Does he teach that God desires the salvation of all men? It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Durham would answer this question in the affirmative107 given his comments: “God the Father, and the King’s Son the Bridegroom, are not only content and willing, but very desirous to have sinners come to the marriage. They would fain (to speak with reverence) have poor souls espoused to Christ.”108 This teaching is not simply one isolated slip of the tongue in preaching, as Durham elsewhere notes, “As our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased this redemption and remission, so he is most willingly desirous, and pressing that sinners to whom it is offered should make use of his righteousness and of the purchase made thereby, to the end that they may have remission of sins and eternal life.… He is (to speak with reverence) passionately desirous that sinners should endeavour on ground to be sure of it in themselves. Therefore he…makes offer of it, and strongly confirms it to all who embrace it.”109 Again commenting on the verse, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37), Durham states:

“The word is doubled in the original: ‘I will not, not [cast him out]’”; to show the holy passion of our Lord’s desire and His exceeding great willingness to have sinners close with Him. In Isaiah 45, salvation is promised even to a look: “Look unto me, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”110 Indeed, he can go so far as to say that “I do not know a truth of the gospel that has more confirmations than this has, that Christ the Mediator is very willing and desirous that sinners close with him, and get the good of his purchase.”111

Durham is clear that to deny the serious and sincere nature of the gospel is not appropriate: “To have a gracious offer from God, and to fear at it, as if He were not in earnest, is very unbecoming the gospel. Whenever He pipes, it becomes us well to dance, and to believe and credit Him when He speaks fair and comfortably.”112

Allied to this, Durham speaks of the willingness of God to save sinners, as the following extract demonstrates:
Christ the Bridegroom and His Father are very willing to have the match made up and the marriage completed.… The evidences of His willingness are many…as, that He has made the feast…and prepared so for it, and given Himself to bring it about, and keeps up the offer and proclamation of marriage even after it is slighted…the Father and the Son are most heartily willing; therefore they expostulate when this marriage is refused, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you, but ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou, even thou, hadst known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace!” (Luke 19:42). All these sad complaints, that Israel would not hearken to His voice, and His people would have none of Him (Ps. 81:11), that He came to His own, and His own received Him not (John 1:11), and that they will not come to Him that they might have life (John 5:40), make out His willingness abundantly and undeniably.113
In noting Durham’s teaching on the desire of God that hearers would accept the gospel offer, it is not appropriate to understand him as simply using indefinite terms (such as “sinners”) and by these terms meaning “the elect.” Aside from the strange inconsistency this would create with Durham’s own definition of the gospel offer as a particular invitation to every individual hearer (how could a particular invitation be indefinite in its object?), Durham clearly affirms the willingness of God to save everyone who hears the gospel: “This word we now preach, nay, these stones shall bear witness against you that our Lord Jesus was willing to save you and every one of you.”114

To quote Professor John Murray again: “In other words, the gospel is not simply an offer or invitation but also implies that God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness.”115

Connected to this is Durham’s teaching that the gospel offer is an expression of God’s common grace: “(2 Cor. 6:1) We beseech you (he says) that ye receive not this grace in vain; which is not meant of saving grace, but of the gracious offer of grace and reconciliation through him.”116 And again, “Why will God have Christ in the offer of the gospel brought so near the hearers of it?… Because it serves to commend the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. When the invitation is so broad, that it is to all, it speaks of the royalty of the feast, upon which ground (2 Cor. 6:1) it is called grace, the offer is so large and wide.”117

However, having noted all this, it is important to clarify in what sense Durham spoke of God’s desire for the salvation of the hearers of the gospel and of His willingness to save all. Central to this is Durham’s distinction between the secret will and the revealed will of God.118 Basing his thoughts on John 6:39–40, he states that here we “have two wills to say so.”119 Verse 39 (“This is the Father’s will that sent me that of all that he hath given me I should lose nothing”) refers to “the secret paction [contract] of redemption” while verse 40 (“And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life”), refers to “the revealed will, pointing to our duty.”120 The secret will is not to be “searched into at the firsthand” but rather “his revealed will belongs to you, and that is to see that you believe.”121 This revealed will shows what is “pleasing and delightsome” to God — indeed, what God “commands, calls for and approves” cannot be conceived of, but as “pleasing to God.”122 It is only in the sense of this revealed will that we can speak of God’s will to save all gospel hearers. As Durham argues, “if the Lord’s willing of men (at least men that are under His ordinances) to be saved be thus understood, as including only the duty that God layeth upon men, and the connection that He hath made between it and Salvation in His word, it may be admitted: but if it be extended to any antecedent will in God Himself, distinct from that which is called His revealed will, this place and such like will give no ground for such an assertion [a universal saving will].”123 Durham rejected any “assertion of the Lord’s having a will and desire of the salvation of all men, besides His signifying of what is acceptable to Him as considered in itself by His Word.”124 This also shows that when Durham spoke of God’s desire to save all, he was relating this to the revealed will.125 Similarly, in discussing common grace, Durham draws a sharp distinction between saving and common grace, arguing that while common grace is indeed wrought by the Spirit, the difference between the two is “in kind” and not simply “in degree.”126

106. Murray, “Free Offer,” in Collected Writings, 4:113.
107. For the sense in which this is the case, see the further discussion below.
108. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 44.
109. Ibid., 313–314.
110. Ibid., 329.
111. Ibid., 325. So Durham would confirm Ken Stebbins’ belief that the language of God’s desire for the salvation of all hearers of the gospel has been “used by nearly all reformed theologians from Calvin down to the present day” (Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered, 20).
112. Ibid., 96.
113. Ibid., 55. Again, the similarity of the textual basis here with those used by John Murray in The Free Offer of the Gospel is evident.
114. Ibid., 333 [emphasis added].
115. Murray, “Free Offer” in Collected Writings, 4:114.
116. Durham, Christ Crucified, 79.
117. Ibid., 83.
118. Von Rohr called this distinction a “fundamental factor in Puritan theology itself” and described the difference as follows, “On the one hand there is God’s commanding and forbidding will.… It is the will of God as known in God’s word, the will that prescribes and promises.… It is thus the known will, the will of the conditional covenant, the revealed will of God.… On the other hand there is the will of God’s good pleasure.… This is the predestinating will, the will of God’s private purpose. It is the will of the absolute covenant.… It is the secret or the hidden will of God” (Von Rohr, The Covenant of Grace, 130).
119. Durham, Christ Crucified, 233. Durham also uses these verses to make the same point in Unsearchable Riches, 78.
120. Ibid., 233.
121. Ibid., 233–234.
122. Ibid., 427.
123. Durham, Revelation, 214. In the context here, Durham states he would rather speak of God’s revealed will that all men repent, rather than that all men be saved. However, this statement, occurring again in a polemic against those in the Reformed tradition who were positing universal aspects to Christ’s atonement and God’s saving will, does not seem to have been borne out in Durham’s own sermons.
124. Ibid., 268.
125. R.A. Finlayson’s words, although originally reflecting on the position of Calvin, capture this well: “It would seem clear that God wills with genuine desire what He does not will by executive purpose. This has led theologians to make use of the two terms, the decretive will and the preceptive will of God, or His secret and revealed will.… The position could thus be more clearly put as meaning that God desires all men to be righteous in character and life and to use the means He has appointed to that end. It is in harmony with the revealed will of God that without the use of means appointed by Him the end shall not be attained. As a holy God, the Creator commands all His moral creatures to be holy, and He cannot be conceived as in any way obstructing their pursuit of holiness by His decree” (R. A. Finlayson, “Calvin’s Doctrine of God” in Able Ministers of the New Testament [Papers read at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 1964], 16).
126. Durham, Revelation, 158.
Donald John MacLean, "James Durham (1622–1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel," Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1 (January 2010), 112-116. This paper is "is an amended version of a lecture given at the Inverness branch of the Scottish Reformation Society in November 2008." Ibid., 92n1. Dr. MacLean blogs at the James Durham Thesis. The subject of his doctoral thesis is, “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to  The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”. Vandehoeck & Rupprecht will soon publish MacLean's dissertation under the title James Durham and the Gospel Offer in Its Seventeenth-Century Context.

James Durham bio: