July 6, 2017

Nathaniel Heywood (1633–1677) on God’s Offer of His Son

If thou knewest the gift of God, and what it is that is offered thee, thou wouldest scorn the highest honors, the sweetest pleasures, the greatest riches, yea trample upon all the Crowns and Kingdoms of this world for it. It’s en inestimable privilege that thou art a creature capable of so vast a happiness; it’s the astonishing wonder of Heaven and Earth, that God would give a Son, such a Son to be thy Saviour! what could he give more or better? and it’s a special favour that the Gospel hath been sent to thee, to reveal this great mystery, to offer this excellent gift to thee; and now when it is tendered, wilt thou refuse it? Wilt thou neglect and undervalue Christ?
Nathaniel Heywood, Christ Displayed as the Choicest Gift, and Best Master (London: printed for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers-Chappel, 1679), 41.
4. Consider how God offers this gift to thee; his manner of dealing with thee in this is wonderful; he offers Christ most really, means what he speaks, and most tenderly and affectionately: He not only offers Christ to thee, but invites thee to him; what canst thou desire more in a gift or benefit, than to have it heartily offered, and be invited to take it? He offers Christ without grudging, falsehood, or equivocation; with an open heart, that he may show how willing and cordial he is to part with this gift. He invites us to take him, Rev. 22:17, Let him that is a thirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely: Nay, he shouts and calls aloud, Isa. 55:1, Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea come buy wine and milk, without money, and without price. Had he once tendered Christ, it had been infinite mercy; but to entreat us to accept him, to persuade and move us, as one that would not be denied, that’s admirable. 2 Cor. 5:20, We are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. And he commands us to receive Christ his Son, and makes this the chief, and (as it were) the only thing he requires of us, 1 John 3:23; and enforceth his just command with most severe threatenings, Heb. 12:25, See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven. Sometimes he expostulateth with men, Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not bread? Isa. 55:2, and adds protestations of his loathness that any soul should perish, Why will you die? anger is not in me: why should the flame consume the stubble? what could I do more? what iniquity have ye found in me, &c? He complains and laments most sadly, when men neglect and slight this offered gift, Why will ye not come to me, that ye may have life? He came to his own and they received him not, John 1:11. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Matt. 23:37. Yea, with very vehement passions he bewails and weeps over them that pity not themselves, Luke 19:42, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace, &c. Those tears and mournings over Jerusalem for her hard heart and contempt, have been, and are still over thee. He upbraids men with nothing so much as this, and threatens no such woes in all the Scripture, as against such as refuse Christ, Matt. 11:20, Woe unto thee Chorazin, woe unto thee Bethsaida, &c. Jer. 13:17, Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? He is never so angry with any, as with them that despise this love, and refuse this offer, Luke 14:21. Matt. 22:7. He was very wroth when the invited guests would not come. So Mat. 21:40, with those Husbandmen that took his Son and killed him; and those Citizens (Luke 19:27.) that would not have him reign over them, are destroyed as enemies. And when all this will do no good, men will not be persuaded nor allured, but hang off and keep at a distance; he goes away (as it were troubled) and wishing it had been better. He swears and pawns his life on it, that he would not have them perish, has no pleasure in their destruction, Ezek. 33.11. O that they had hearkened to my commandments, then had their peace been as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea. Isa. 48:18 Psalm 81:11. But my people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would none of me. O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways, I would soon have subdued their enemies, I would have fed them with the finest of the wheat, with honey out of the rock would I have satisfied them. O the compassionate pangs of God’s bowels of infinite mercy towards poor sinners! O quam stupenda pieatas! quam mira Dei dignatio! quem regare debuimus, ut nos recipere dignaretur: ab ipso rogamur, ut ad eum venire dignemur.

It were (one would think) enough to prevail with us to accept this gift with joy and thankfulness to consider how incomparably excellent the gift itself is.—But God adds unspeakable benefits with him to draw us to this acceptance; as life and favour with God, Prov. 8:35. Whoso findeth me, findeth life, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. Recovery of God’s image, freedom from bondage, communion with God, liberty of will, pardon of sin, power against sin, deliverance from Satan, peace and joy, adoption of Sons, John 1:12. acceptance of persons and services, audience of prayers, a sanctified use of comforts and crosses, victory over death, assurance of heaven, the fair inheritance of all things, fullness of joy and happiness, pleasures for evermore.

5. Consider, why God offereth Christ unto thee; for what end is he thus solicitous about thine acceptance of this gift; do not mistake me, nor deceive thy self by thinking that because God out of his infinite pity to his miserable creatures, is instant and urgent with them to accept of Christ, therefore he hath any need of thee, or seeketh his own happiness therein. I tell thee, if thou hadst no more need of Christ than he hath of thee, thou mayest let him alone. No, it’s purely for thy good, for thy real and eternal good that he offers his Son to thee. He needs thy service no more than he doth the service of the Damned, or of the Devils; and he knows how to make use of thee for his own glory as he doth of them, if thou foolishly reject this offer of his Son to save thee. Had he a work to do, he needs not thy help; he might have made nobler creatures than the present race of mankind to glorify his Grace, and execute his will, and have left thee and all Adam’s posterity to glorify his Justice. Thy righteousness will not help him, Job 22:2, 3. Nor thy wickedness hurt him, Job 35:2. He expects no gain by thee, looks for no requital; he offers this gift to thee, not that he may be blessed by thee, but that he may be bountiful to thee; it’s thy good, not his own that he looks at: The felicity of accepting is thine own, and the misery of neglecting is thine own. Prov 9:12, If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thy self; but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it. Men call Customers to them, and press them with many arguments and entreaties to buy, that they may enrich themselves by their Customers; but God calls men to buy of him, not to enrich himself (he is as rich, and perfect, and happy as he can be) but to enrich themselves. I counsel thee (saith Christ to his lukewarm Church) Rev. 3:18, to buy of me gold tried in the fire (Why? that he might get something by him and enrich himslf? No) that thou mayest be rich, that thou, not I may be rich. Now Brethren ponder it seriously, it is wholly for your own good, that you may escape wrath and death, that you may attain Heaven and life, that God is pleased once more to offer Christ to you. He gives his Son to this end, that you may be saved, to bring you into the state of Sons, and into a right to Heaven and Glory. Had he given Christ only to rule over you with his Scepter of righteousness, it would have been an excellent gift, and no small privilege to be Subjects to such a Prince, especially for such as were bondslaves of Satan by nature; but he gives Christ to save and redeem us. Something, yea very much of God is in the Creation, much of God in his common providence; but most of all, yea whole God in the redemption of man. If a Physician should come to us who would heal us of all our diseases (suppose we were an Hospital of unsound persons) would he not be most acceptable to us? What more acceptable to a poor man than wealth? or a naked man than clothes? or to an hungry man than bread? a slave than freedom? all this and infinitely more is Christ to us. Now all that is required of us in order to the obtaining of all these benefits, is to believe in Christ; and what is believing, but receiving Christ, as he is offered to us in the Gospel? John 1:12. What is thy mind now about this offer? what dost thou resolve on? wilt thou have Christ this Gift of God, or not? Is there any thing unreasonable in his demands? any thing defective in this offer, or in the gift? is not Christ fair, or good enough? is he not rich and honourable enough? is there any want of love or loveliness in Christ for thee? What hath been said of him, will silence all these and the like objections. What canst thou say? is it an indifferent matter whether thou take this or not? doth not thy eternal felicity depend on thine acceptance of him? what sayest thou? shall Christ be thy Lord, or the Devil? One of these will reign over thee. Consider what thou dost, thy Soul is immortal, and must either take God, and Christ, and Heaven to be thy portion for ever; or Hell, and Death, and Wrath, and Devils for thy portion for ever: one of these two is the portion of all the Sons and Daughters of Adam. If thou wilt still prefer the world before Christ, and love the creature above Christ, and please thy flesh more than Christ, thou goest without him; and however thou mayest shift in this world, yet when once thou appearest in another world, God will rain fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest, and this will be the portion of thy cup, Psalm 11:6. But if now thou acceptest of this gift of God, Jesus Christ, when all thy friends shall leave thee, and dearest relations forsake thee, yea, when thy flesh and thy heart shall fail thee, Christ will be the strength of thy heart, and thy portion for ever. Well, consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding, that thou mayest know when thou art well offered, and be wise on this side the other world.

I know not what other answer you can rationally make to all that hath been said, to persuade your acceptance of this gift of God, but that either you have it already, or desire to know how you may make it your own; I shall therefore, to prevent mistakes in the one, and to give assistance to the other, first direct you to try your selves, whether Christ be yours or not, and then how to attain propriety in this excellent gift, whereby you may be happy to all eternity.
Ibid., 50–58.
I shall add a word of admonition and serious warning, to them who have not yet, nor are now resolved to accept this incomparable gift of God; and that in the words of the Apostle, See that ye refuse not him that speaks from heaven, Heb. 12:25, yea that came down from Heaven to seek and save your lost souls. Now that Christ is freely offered to you by the Gospel, if you set at naught his counsel, and make light of his invitations, and receive the Grace of God in vain, it had been better for you, that you had never been born, or never heard the Gospel. Now that God hath proclaimed terms of peace, and showed himself so unwilling that ye should perish, that he gave his only begotten Son for you, and to you, and exacted nothing from you but acceptance, that ye might have in him eternal life: If you still refuse this gift, and reject this counsel, remaining under unbelief, it doth exeedingly aggravate your sin and judgment, it makes your sin above measure sinful; your sin inexcusable, your condemnation unavoidable; and your punishment will be intolerable. Consider what you do, and be wise before it be too late; you exceedingly dishonour God, undervalue Christ, gratify Satan, Sin most inexcusable, and undo yourselves utterly.

1. If you do not receive and improve this gift when offered in the Gospel, you do exceedingly dishonour God; What greater reproach is there amongst men, than to refuse a gift offered freely out of love, without any ground, motive, or occasion, from the party that is to have it? or deny to accept of an invitation to a great feast, or fair estate, if entreated and solicited to take it? ‘Tis a sour unmannerliness, and saucy proud presumption, to prescribe on what terms they will have, or when they will not be beholding to their superiors. ‘Tis a great dishonour to God, that vile sinful dust and ashes, will not accept of his gracious offer of his Son. If a King should come to a Prisoner condemned by the Law to death, and lying in Chains, and offer to set him free, or put his Son in his stead, &c. but he so loves his bondage, and hugs his chains that he will not be delivered. You cast dishonour upon all the glorious Attributes of God, His Truth; He that receives Christ, gives as much glory to the Truth of God as possibly he can; he sets to his seal that God is true, John 3:33. But he that receives not this gift, believes that God, and so makes him (who is truth itself) a liar, because he believes not the record which God gave of his Son, 1 John 5:10. O what horrid indignity is this to the most faithful God!
Ibid., 78–79.
4. If you refuse Jesus Christ offered in the Gospel, you are guilty of the greatest sin and folly that can be. Though for most part, men think not so of it, and accordingly lay it not to heart, yet it is the greatest sin, the sin of sins, and in some sort the only sin of the world. Men commonly think murder, adultery, theft, drunkenness to be very heinous sins, and so indeed they be, but unbelief far worse; for it is the mother of these, and all other evils. Take all the sins that ever were committed against any of God’s just laws, and none is like to this, no greater sin can be laid to one’s charge than to refuse willfully, and trample under foot the Son of God. Christ promises to send his Spirit, the Comforter into the world, and he shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not on him, John 16:9. he means this sin alone (saith Austin) as if not believing in the Son of God were the only sin: Indeed it is the main and master-sin. O beloved, little do you think, who daily sit under the Ministry, unwrought on by the Word of God, what a grievous and fearful sin you commit, and dreadful guilt you carry home with you, in neglecting from day to day so great Salvation, in forsaking your own mercy, and in judging yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, when Jesus Christ this most precious gift is offered to you, by choosing rather to cleave to a lust, than to Christ blessed forever; and rather to wallow in the mire and mud of earthly riches and swinish pleasures, than to receive this most pleasant and excellent gift; rather to cast away your time in idleness, pride, worldliness and sensuality, than in seeking after this transcendent favor; rather make choice of a life made up of drunkennesss, whoredoms, railing at godliness.
Ibid., 88–89. On page 90, Heywood adds that it is “a sin against light and much knowledge, a sin against love and special mercies.”
The time will come, when you shall remember what the Minister said, O how fain would he have had me to escape these torments, how earnestly did he entreat me! With what love and tender compassion did he beseech me! how did his bowels yearn over me! yet I did but make a jest of it, and hardened my heart against all! how glad would he have been after all his studies, prayers, and pains, if he could have persuaded me cordially to accept Christ, he would have thought himself well recompensed for all his labours, he would have laid his hands under my feet, and have fallen down on his knees to beg of me obedience to his message; and all the entreaties of Ministers are the entreatings of God. O how long did he wait! how freely did he offer! how lovingly did he invite! how importunately did he solicit! how long did Christ stand knocking at my door, crying, open to me, sinner: why sinner, are thy lusts and pleasures better than me? is earth better than heaven? why then dost thou delay or deny? wilt thou not be made clean, when shall it once be? O that thou wouldest hearken to my voice, and obey my Gospel! O that they were wise! As one that is loath to take a denial, would not be repulsed. O how would he have gathered thee, and thou wouldest not! shall the God of heaven and earth follow thee in vain from one place to another? Turn ye, turn ye, why willl ye die? I would not have you perish. If you go on with your refusal of Christ, you may expect that the hellish gnawing of conscience for this one sin, will hold scales with all the united horror of all the rest; you will then cry out, O fools and idiots that we were, when we refused so excellent a gift, so blessed a Saviour! we could then see no beauty in him; nor comeliness wherefore we should desire him; but now how fair and glorious is he, whom we see upon the white Throne! how desirable is his Sacred Majesty! O how amiable is his countenance! how doth he shine with incomparable splendor, above the brightness of ten thousand Suns! What wrong have we done our souls, that we have deprived of so beautiful and delightful an object, as this most sweet and glorious Savior! If now we had time and leave to make our choice, we would prefer the enjoyment of him, (whom we once contemned) before ten thousand worlds. But alas we cannot, the term of mercy is expired, and the time of justice, wrath, and vengeance, so much spoken of by our faithful Pastors, is now come, and now we must be judged to the easeless, endless, and remediless torments of the infernal pit. And all our pleasure and delights are gone; O that we had never been born; O that we had been so happy as our horses or swine, which die but once, and feel no more pain forever; whereas we must be ever dying, and never free from pain and misery. Woe, woe, woe unto us, that ever we were born to see this day, and to die this death, and to live this life, which will be a never dying death. We that accounted such an one a precise fool, for his care to receive and improve this gift of God, shall groan out this sad complaint, in the anguish or our spirits: This was he whom we had sometimes in derision, and a Proverb of reproach; we fools counted his life madness, and his end to be without honour: now he is numbered among the Children of God, and his lot is among the Saints. Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined upon us; and as for the way of the Lord we have not known it. What hath pride profited us? or what good have riches with our vanity brought us? all these things are passed by as a shadow, and as a Post that hafts away. O with what infinite horror and restless anguish, will this conceit rent the heart in pieces, and gnaw up the conscience, when he considers in hell, that he hath lost heaven for a lust, and Christ for a mere shadow! whereas he might at every Sermon, had even the Son of God his own for the very taking, and with him for ever unspeakable joy and glory, yet then neglecting so great Salvation, must now be crying out therefore against himself, as the most raging Bedlam that ever breathed, lie down in unquenchable flames, without remedy, ease or end.
Ibid., 93–95.
3. Thus Christ himself invites us to apply and improve him: Come eat of my bread, and drink of my wine which I have mingled, Prov. 9:5. Come partake of those good things my Father would have me to communicate unto you. Isa. 55:1. Ho everyone that thirsteth come ye to the waters, &c. John 7:37. If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. Matt. 11:28. Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. By these and such like passages in Scripture, you see what warrant you have to apply Christ, and persuade yourselves, that if you make use of him, he will do for you that which shall be for your good. Christ’s call gives you a warrant to go to him, that you may possess these privileges in Christ without intrusion or usurpation, this is that you have to show to Conscience, you do not presume: Why dost thou, vile wretch, go to Christ for such a blessing? how durst thou that art a sinner look him in the face? lay hold on Christ? make use of Christ? why? I was invited and called. If it should be asked of the guests that came in a wedding garment, Friends, how durst ye come hither and approach the Presence-chamber of the King’s Son? they might answer, We were bidden to the Wedding, Matt. 22:10, 12. The Scripture doth not call us by name, thou John and Thomas, though the offer be propounded generally, yet when God by his messenger speaks directly to my case, and I am included, here’s a dish for my hungry soul, intended for me.
Ibid., 127.
Take heed how you refuse him that speaks from heaven; do not (as you want Christ) despise this loving invitation, and make light of this gracious offer, lest his wrath be kindled in his breast, and you perish. He that hath so long held forth his Scepter of Grace, yet stands waiting for your return, yet stretcheth forth his arms to embrace you, yet opens his very heart to entertain you: Hark, he bids you come and lodge your souls in his warm bosom; yet he calls by his Word, yet he strives by his Spirit; and follows you with checks of conscience, and renews his mercies on you every morning; would fain draw you with cords of love, if it would be. But it will not be always thus, his patience will not always wait, his Spirit shall not always strive with man; the door of mercy shall not always stand open; When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; then ‘tis too late, Luke 13:25. O come to Christ now or never, do it this day, or you may never be invited again: Hear now Christ bespeaks and woos thee, sinner; Cast down thy weapons of rebellion, surrender thy soul to me; give me thy heart, submit to my government; I will pass by all thy former resistance, and put up all the wrongs thou hast done me, I will remember thy iniquities no more, but pass an act of everlasting oblivion upon them; O look unto me and be ye saved.
Ibid., 230–231.
4. Surrender yourselves to this great Lord, for he desires you; yea, that you would be his, as he hath been yours, is all he desires; you cannot bestow a better gift upon him than yourselves; others may give him their goods, their estates, &c. but he that gives Christ himself, can give no more, no better. He desires you, not that he hath any need of you, or make advantage of you; but that he may restore you better to yourselves than he receives you: He will put his grace into your hearts, repair his image in your minds, and make you wise unto salvation.
Ibid., 236.

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