July 31, 2017

William Brenton Greene (1854–1928) on God’s Goodness

(3) His goodness, in all its forms, is boundless. It includes (a) benevolence, which has for its objects all sensitive creatures (Ps. CXLV:9); (b) love, which has rational beings for its objects (John II:16); (c) mercy, which has for its objects the miserable (Isa. LXIII:9); (d) grace, which has for its objects the undeserving (Rom. V:8). When any suffer, it is at least because this is right; it cannot be because of lack of power or of mercy in God. When sinners are lost it is at least because His justice so requires; it cannot be because God lacks either the power (Heb. VII:25) or the wish to save them (I Tim. II:4). Hence, “God is love” (I John IV:8). Though He is much else, love is that in which He delights. Moreover, as the expression of His love ever harmonizes with His justice, so His justice is always exercised in love. God never feels so much compassion as when He punishes most severely (Ezek. XXXIII:11).
W. Brenton Greene, Jr., Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1905), 15–16. On pages 32 and 36 he repeats his view that God wishes to save all. Compare this with J. Gresham Machen’s interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:4 and Ezek. 33:11. Machen also says, “He [God] wishes that all men shall be saved.”

PCA History

Upon Greene’s death in 1928, J. Gresham Machen wrote of him, “I loved Dr. Greene. He was absolutely true, when so many were not. He was always at Faculty and Presbytery, no matter how feeble he was. He was one of the best Christians I have ever known.”—Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954) 439.

July 30, 2017

Arthur W. Kuschke’s (1913–2010) Response to the Minority Report on the Free Offer of the Gospel

To give the reader some context, there was a dispute in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church over the ordination of Gordon H. Clark in the 1940’s. It is sometimes called the Clark/Van Til controversy, but there were many more people involved. This dispute included 1) a legal question on the OPC meeting in which Clark was ordained, 2) the issue of divine incomprehensibility, 3) matters of the intellect, will and emotions, both in God and in man, 4) divine sovereignty and human responsibility, as well as 5) the free offer of the gospel. These are brought up both in the Complaint and in the Answer. It is the last topic that is the focus of this post. In Kuschke’s response below, he mentions both the committee report and the minority report. These are both contained in the original journal article, if one wishes to read them for further context.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Salvation is to be received freely, and it is offered freely by Him who says, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22).

There is no dispute among us [in the Orthodox Presbyterian Chuch] about the facts of election and reprobation. From the foundation of the world God has chosen some unto salvation in Christ. Others He has passed by and ordained to eternal wrath. But since these things are so, how is it that God freely offers salvation to all, both elect and reprobate, and with the offer reveals a desire that all should be saved? Here lies the question at issue in our church [the OPC]. Some say that in His universal offer God does reveal Himself as truly desiring the salvation of all, although for His own wise and holy reasons He does not decree to bestow salvation upon all. Others have been reluctant to use the word “desire”; they say God commands all men to come, but they question whether He in any way wills or desires that all should come.

The Committee Report

The committee report says plainly, “The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all. Such grace is necessarily a manifestation  of love or loving kindness in the heart of God . . . The grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness. The love or loving kindness that lies back of that offer is . . . the will to that salvation.”

And does God in some sense will the salvation of those whose salvation He does not decree? This is the very truth revealed to us, for example, in Matthew 23:37, in our Lord’s lament over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which 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!” The report says that we have here “the most emphatic declaration on the part of Christ of His having yearned for the conversion and salvation of the people of Jerusalem.” Moreover His will to bless them is sent in contrast with their will: “I have willed—ye have not willed.” The will of Christ is opposed to that which actually occurred, and He “therefore willed (or wished) the occurrence of that which God had not secretly or decretively willed.”

Ezekiel 33:11, according to the report of the committee, does not reflect upon the hidden will of God’s decree, but upon His will as made known to us in the gospel: “As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no delight (or pleasure) in the death of the wicked, but rather in his turning from his way and that he live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, and why will ye die, O house of Israel?” It is an oath-supported declaration of God’s will toward sinners, that He takes pleasure in or desires their universal repentance and life. The Committee report decides after a full discussion, that the same expression of God’s benevolence and lovingkindness toward mankind as a whole, both elect and reprobate, is also taught in II Peter 3:9—“The Lord . . . is longsuffering on your account, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

The Minority Report

The minority report, though brief, takes up many points, and it does not seem needful to consider them all here. But two of the positions adopted call for serious attention: the view that “God has not a will that can be frustrated as well as one that cannot be,” and the view that, “the gospel offer . . . is conditional or hypothetical.”

The first assertion appears to do violence to the fact that there is a will in God which is grievously rejected by sinners. This is His revealed or preceptive will. And surely it is with this rather than His secret or decretive will that we are dealing in the doctrine of God’s universal offer of the gospel. The surprising failure to take note of this fact apparently accounts for a number of errors in the minority report. It condemns the idea that God has what it calls “frustrable desires,” as though God’s desires to save all were decretive. Samuel Rutherford’s admirable polemic, against the Arminian notion that it is God’s “intention or decree” to save all, is quoted; but such “intention” respects God’s decretive will, not His revealed will. That God desires the salvation of the reprobate is said to be “not . . . precedented by the language of Reformed theologians”; but Rutherford and Turretin, to mention only two, use this language when dealing with God’s preceptive or revealed will. The Complaint is alleged to say that “there is a logical conflict between the gospel and reprobation,” and to “assert or suggest that the Lord’s will is irrational” to us, but the Complaint does not take these positions and again, a failure in the minority report to discern between God’s decretive will and His revealed seems to account for such a misunderstanding. And yet the committee report makes the distinction plain in numerous places. In the exegesis of Isaiah 45:22, for example, the committee report says that it is surely God’s “pleasure that all repent and be saved. Obviously, however, it is not his decretive will that all repent and be saved. While, on the other hand, he has not decretively willed that all be saved, yet he declares unequivocally that it is his will, and, impliedly, his pleasure that all turn and be saved. We are again faced with the mystery and adorable richness of the divine will. It might seem to us that the one rules out the other. But it is not so. There is multiformity to the divine will that is consonant with the fullness and richness of his divine character, and it is no wonder that we are constrained to bow in humble yet exultant amazement before his ineffable greatness and unsearchable judgments. To deny the reality of the divine pleasure directed to the repentance and salvation of all is to fail to accept the witness borne by such a text as this to the manifoldness of God’s will and the riches of his grace.”

Is God’s Free Offer Conditional?

At the beginning of the minority report it is asserted that “God desires the salvation of sinners.” but later this expression is interpreted to mean that “God desires that if any sinner repent he be saved . . . The gospel offer, in other words, is conditional or hypothetical and as such it is universal.”

Here a serious confusion is obvious. To be sure there is a conditional element in the external call of the gospel: the promise of salvation is granted only on condition that the sinner repent and believe. God says, If you repent, I promise salvation. The promise on God’s part, and the enjoyment of salvation on the sinner’s part, do not hold good and do not go into effect without the conditions of repentance and faith. But is God’s command conditional? No, it holds good as a command regardless of the sinner’s obedience. The same is true with God’s offer; it is unilateral, its validity to sinful man does not depend upon reciprocal action on man’s part. God does not say, If you are in the position of accepting it, then I am in the position of offering you salvation. He says, I offer you this salvation: accept it. He says, Come to the waters, Take of the waters, look unto me and be saved.

The topic in view moreover is not just the offer, but the free offer, and the minority report in its title and at other places uses the word “the free offer.” To describe God’s offer as “free” is to follow the language of the Westminster Standards: “God freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ” (Confession, VII, 3) and “he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him” (Larger Catechism, Q. 32). The meaning of the word “free” as ascribed to God is given in Confession II, I, where in a list of God’s perfections He is said to be “most free,” and the Scripture proof is Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” God is independent of man. His gospel offer, as “free,” does not depend upon man and is not conditioned upon man’s acceptance. It is unilateral and unconditional. He makes the offer to all men in their sins before they think of accepting it. To describe His free offer as conditional or hypothetical, as does the minority report, is a contradiction in terms.

It is also a grave impoverishment of the gospel proclamation. The very fact that the divine offer is free and unconditional reveals that salvation must be entirely by God’s power and by God’s initiative. His free offer does not bestow salvation and does not promise efficacious grace. But it is a valid universal offer. And as free that offer is itself a lovingkindness upon all; and it opens our eyes to God’s desire, so plainly declared in His word, that all should be saved.


July 29, 2017

David Mark Rathel’s Critique of Tom Nettles on John Gill (1697–1771)

Baptist historian Thomas Nettles remains an influential exponent of the idea that Gill did not deny duty faith, and his work has influenced other Gill researchers.35 One can center Nettles’ research on Gill around two key publications. In By His Grace and For His Glory, a work that features his first significant published work on Gill, Nettles rightly acknowledges that Gill did not believe in the free offer of the Gospel.36 However, he claims that Gill ‘affirmed that it was the duty of all men to repent of sin and the duty of all who heard the Gospel to believe it.’37 He contends that this fact frees Gill from the charge of hyper-Calvinism.

In claiming that Gill did not deny duty faith, Nettles unfortunately does not sufficiently explore Gill’s soteriology. Though he surveys some aspects of Gill’s thought – Gill’s ordering of the divine decrees, his understanding of sanctification, and his pastoral ministry practices – he fails to probe Gill’s desire to frame salvation as an eternal act of God that requires minimal human participation. Most notably, he does not address the doctrine of eternal justification in a significant manner even though it was a key component of Gill’s theological project.

This neglect causes Nettles to misrepresent Gill on the matter of duty faith. For example, Nettles cites a passage from Gill’s Cause of God and Truth that he admits prima facie appears to deny duty faith. Gill wrote, ‘God does not require all men to believe in Christ; where he does it is according to the revelation he makes of them.’38 Nettles tries to soften the implications of this statement by arguing that Gill intended only ‘to highlight man’s responsibility for that which is available to him.’39 Per Nettles, Gill wrote merely about those who have no access to the Gospel. He argued that such people are responsible only for what they receive through general revelation.

Though Gill indeed addressed this topic in this passage, Nettles leaves unaddressed the next sentence in Gill’s work. There Gill wrote, ‘Those who only have the outward ministry of the word, unattended with the special illuminations of the Spirit of God, are obliged to believe no further than the external revelation they enjoy, reaches.’40 Put simply, Gill indeed stated that people only have a responsibility for the revelation that they receive; those who receive no access to the Gospel are accountable only for the general revelation that they have, but those who receive only the external call are obligated only to perform legal repentance and not trust in Christ for salvation. Gill makes this point even more explicit in the subsequent sentences in which he contrasts the mere legal obligations attending the external call with the salvific obligations attending the internal call. Nettles’ argument, then, takes Gill out of context. It does so because Nettles has not sufficiently explored Gill’s work on the external and internal callings as well as the soteriological convictions that undergird them.

In a subsequent publication, Nettles attempts to associate Gill with those who participated in the Evangelical Revival. A lack of adequate attention to Gill’s soteriology also appears here, however, when Nettles implies several times that Gill held to the traditional understanding of justification by faith rather than the more eccentric position of eternal justification. This fact is troubling given Gill’s repeated protestations against justification by faith.41

Most interesting is the fact that in this publication Nettles nuances his earlier defense of Gill. He admits, ‘There is a central point, however, in which he [Gill] appears to hold the Hyper-Calvinist view [regarding duty faith].’ He offers as evidence a quote from Gill’s sermon entitled Faith in God and His Word in which Gill claimed, ‘Man never had in his power to have or to exercise [faith in Christ], no, not even in the state of innocence.’ Nettles then admits, ‘Theoretically, Gill held that the non-elect were not obligated to evangelical obedience, because the necessity of such obedience did not exist in unfallen humanity as deposited in Adam.’42

Surprisingly, despite this admission, Nettles remains cautious about labeling Gill a hyper-Calvinist, and he does not retract his earlier claim that Gill affirmed duty faith. He even continues to praise Gill, arguing that Gill’s works exhibit ‘the central concerns and zeal of the Great Awakening.’43

Nettles does so because he claims that Gill was only theoretically a hyper-Calvinist. He argues that in Gill’s scheme ‘while many [people] exhibit…only a legal repentance and a historical faith, and the non-elect may not be theoretically obligated to the “faith of God’s elect,” ministers of the Gospel preach repentance and faith in a Gospel way.’44 Nettles’ argument reduces to the contention that, even though Gill denied all people have an obligation to respond to the Gospel, at the practical level he still preached the Gospel, and this fact means that his hyper-Calvinism was merely hypothetical.

I have the utmost respect for Nettles and his contribution to Baptist scholarship, but I find this argument is unpersuasive. As noted, Gill’s commentaries and sermons reveal that his soteriological convictions often caused him to interpret Scripture in such a way that he minimized universal calls to respond to the Gospel. Such an act displays that he held his principles at more than just a theoretical level; they regularly affected his preaching and exposition of Scripture.

The differences between Gill’s ministry and that of the evangelists of the Evangelical Revival, those to whom Nettles wishes to compare Gill, are therefore stark. Gill constructed a ministry philosophy that emphasized encouraging only sensible sinners to respond to the Gospel and often eschewed giving Gospel exhortations to all people. The evangelists of the Evangelical Revival did not.

With Nettles, then, readers find a contradictory portrayal of Gill. In one work, Nettles claims Gill did not deny that all people have an obligation to respond [to] the Gospel. In another, without retracting this claim, he admits that Gill likely held to the hyper-Calvinist tenet of denying duty faith but deems this point irrelevant because he does not believe it affected Gill’s ministry. Both claims are incorrect, and Nettles could have avoided these errors by more completely examining how deeply Gill’s soteriology shaped his thought and practice.
35. Nettles’ research has influenced two other defenses on Gill. These two works, coupled with those works already mentioned in this paper, constitute the entirety of contemporary defenses of Gill. See Jonathan Anthony White, ‘A Theological and Historical Examination of John Gill’s Soteriology in Relation to Eighteenth-Century Hyper-Calvinism’ (PhD diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010). White surveys Gill’s soteriology but relies on the work of Nettles, his supervising professor, when interpreting Gill. As I demonstrate here, Nettles does not interpret Gill correctly, and this fact hinders White’s argument. In addition, Timothy George offers a very cautious defense of Gill. He rejects Gill’s soteriology – especially eternal justification – but relies heavily on Nettles when assessing Gill’s ministry practice. The incorporation of the Nettles material, material that does not examine Gill in light of his soteriology, gives George’s argument an unbalanced feel. Readers are warned of the dangers of Gill’s soteriology but do not see how that soteriology shaped Gill’s understanding of Gospel offers or duty faith. This is an unfortunate occurrence in an otherwise excellent essay. See George, ‘John Gill,’ pp. 26–9.
36. Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, rev. ed. (Cape Coral: Founders, 2006), pp. 27–8, 47–8.
37. Ibid., p. 42.
38. Ibid. This quotation originally appears in The Cause of God and Truth, p. 307.
39. Nettles, By His Grace, pp. 42–3.
40. Surprisingly, Nettles quotes this sentence but does not address it. See Ibid., pp. 42–4.
41. See Tom J. Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening,’ in The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697–1771): A Tercentennial Appreciation, ed. by Michael A. G. Haykin (New York: Brill, 1997), pp. 136–7. Here Nettles praises Gill for defending the doctrine of justification by faith, but the form of justification Gill emphasized in the work which Nettles cites is eternal justification. See Collection of Sermons and Tracts, vol. I, pp. 200–16. Furthermore, when comparing Gill to John Wesley, Nettles associates Gill’s understanding of justification with that of George Whitefield. See Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening,’ 137n, 163. While Whitefield, like Gill, would have rejected some of Wesley’s convictions, Nettles makes no mention of the unconventional aspects of Gill’s theology of justification. Whitefield would have brokered no agreement with those. E.g. Gilbert Tennent, an occasional critic of Whitefield, once correctly noted Whitefield’s rejection of eternal justification. Thomas S. Kidd, George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Founder (New Haven: Yale, 2014), pp. 196–7.
42. Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awaking,’ p. 153. Italics added. Proponents of the no-offer position – men such as John Brine – denied that prelapsarian Adam had an ability to believe the Gospel. Gill’s position on this matter is rather complex, though there is no doubt that he did at times affirm Adamic inability. C.f. Cause of God and Truth, 307; Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, ed. by Joseph Belcher. (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), vol. II, p. 421.
43. Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awaking,’ p. 170.
44. Ibid., p. 154.

David Mark Rathel is presently a PhD candidate in systematic theology at the University of St Andrews under the supervision of the Rev. Dr. Stephen R. Holmes. He is the author of Baptists and the Emerging Church Movement: A Baptistic Assessment of Four Themes of Emerging Church Ecclesiology (Wipf & Stock, 2014).

July 19, 2017

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on God’s Will of Precept and Permissive Decree

Use 3. To conclude, a word to the Wicked, who march furiously against God and his People, let them know God’s Decree is Unchangeable, God will not alter it, nor can they break it, and while they resist God’s Will they fulfill it. There’s a twofold Will of God, Voluntas praecepti & decreti; The Will of God’s Precept, and of his Decree. While the Wicked resist the Will of God’s Precept, they fulfill the Will of his Permissive Decree. Judas betrays Christ, Pilate condemns him, the Soldiers crucify him; while they resisted the Will of God’s Precept, they fulfilled the Will of his Permissive Decree, Acts 4.28. Such as are wicked, God commands one thing, they do the quite contrary; to keep Sabbath, they profane it; while they disobey his Command they fulfill his Permissive Decree. If a Man set up two Nets, one of Silk, the other of Iron, the Silken Net may be broken, not the Iron: God’s Commands are the Silken Net; while Men break the Silken Net of God’s Command, they are taken in the Iron Net of his Decree; while they sit backward to God’s Precepts, they row forward to his Decree; his Decree to permit their Sin, and to punish them for their Sin permitted.
Thomas Watson, A Body of Practical Divinity Consisting of Above One Hundred Seventy Six Sermons on the Lesser Catechism Composed by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster (London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, 1692), 39. See also Augustine on God’s will not defeated.


Thomas Taylor (1576–1633) on God’s Offers of Peace and Christ’s Loving Invitation

3. In all thy care to believe and be saved, mark well what abundance of encouragements thou hast to come unto Christ: that the Father gave him, and he gave himself for the life of the World; and what is freer than gift? That our preaching of the word is the ministry of reconciliation, and God by us offers you conditions of peace. That Christ himself gave a most loving invitation to laboring Sinners to come unto him, with promise of ease for their Souls: and we are sent in his name to invite you to him in like manner. That ye have not only a word of promise, which were enough, especially seeing the promises of God in Christ are free, universal, everlasting, but bound with an Oath, I will not the death of a Sinner; and, Christ by an Oath was made our Priest in things pertaining to God: so to give a doubting Soul the stronger consolation, when they fly to him for refuge.
Thomas Taylor, “Commentarius in Commentariensem: Or, the Jaylors Conversion,” in The Works of that Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ (London: Printed by T. R., & E. M. for John Bartlet theelder and John Bartlet the younger, and are to be sold at the Golden Cup near Austins gate in the new Buildings, 1653), 187–188. This work contains a forward by Edmund Calamy, as well as endorsements by William Gouge, Arthur Jackson, Simeon Ash, Joseph Caryl, Thomas Manton, William Greenhill, William Strong, George Griffith, Thomas Brooks, Ralph Venning, and William Jemmat.


July 9, 2017

Richard Vines (c.1600–1656) on God’s Earnest Offers of Grace

Now having said this, concerning the grace put forth and exercised in the act of Conversation; and shown that Converting grace flowing from the purpose of God, is in the act of Conversion victorious over the resistance of the corrupt heart, and though it do not suddenly extirpate all the degrees of habitual perverseness and rebellion, yet it binds up the actual resistance at that time, as that it is imprevalent to divert the work of so powerful grace: I come to the point wherein the resistance offered to the grace of God doth lie; and that is, the grace that is promisciously offered unto man in the Ministry of the Gospel or other external means, though it be carried [on?] by great enlightenings, moral suasions, sweet invitations, loud pulsations, or knockings at the door of security: and though by these means there be wrought some common graces that are common in elect and reprobate, like the joy in the stony ground: I say though these be, yet both these offers of grace, which being received would make a man happy, are resisted and opposed: and these shallow graces are but like some winter [page 120 begins] fruit, that never ripen, and come to maturity, as the blade in the thorny and stony ground never came to ear well and so to harvest: so these graces may be finally choked, and from them a man may finally fall away: this is the point of resistance of this grace offered; which before I give the reasons of, I shall premise three things to be handled:

First, Concerning these offers of grace, I shall say three things.
Secondly, Show the entertainment of these offers is with opposition and recusancy.
Thirdly, The dangerous case that man falls into by this refusal;

As concerning the offers of grace that God makes you in the Gospel, know three things:

First, That the Gospel tenor or terms may be propounded to every creature; that’s the phrase of Christ, Mark 16:15. Go preach the Gospel to every creature; that is, in the dialect of Christ which was the received form of speech used at the time by the Jewish Rabbis, every man, every human creature, for it belongs not to the Angels that sinned, though they be sinful creatures; these Gospel proposals do not belong to them, but every human creature, which is expounded by Matthew, Go and Baptize, that is Disciple all Nations, Matt. 28. and what’s the meaning properly of all Nations and every creature? this, that whereas the Jewish Pale was but of one Nation, they were the Church of God impaled, and there was a wall of partition, and the several is made common; now go preach to every creature: that is, the Jews only are not the subjects of Gospel promises, but all and every [page 121 begins] man, to them it may be proposed: and what are those Gospel terms? he that believes and is baptized, shall be saved; he that believes not, shall be damned: but is this Gospel? he that believes not, shall be damned.

To this I answer, you must consider the meaning of it: under the Law there was a curse [that] went out against every man for every sin: there could not be an idle word or thought but the curse of the Law went out against: In Gal. 3:10 Cursed is everyone, &c. Now mark, though this curse may go forth against every sin by the sentence of the Law, yet it is dissolved and taken off from believers, and abides only because of unbelief, John 3, ult. Believing takes off every score; and that only.

About these offers of the Gospel consider two things, they are made with Invitations and with Encouragement.

First with Invitation of such as could not expect to be at the marriage feast of a King’s Son; Go out saith the King, to the high-ways and hedges, and invite the meanest and most remote creatures, Matt. 22:4. and they called in both good and bad, and furnished the feast with guests: all sorts may have these Gospel proposals made to them. And,

Secondly, It’s made with Encouragement, and that to the most crimson and scarlet sinners, Isa. 1:16–18. Wash you, make you clean, &c. None that came to Christ for cure were dismissed without healing, though they were Samaritans and not Israelites: therefore no man can say, that God by the tenor of the Gospel hath excluded him, or shut the door against him; for in Isa. 56:5, 6. the Prophet Isaiah gives in words of Encouragement; Let not the son of the stranger say I am cast out; nor the Eunuch, I am a dry tree (for both the son of the stranger, the Proselyte, and the Eunuch had a mark of disgrace upon them) for if they fear the Lord, they shall enjoy the privileges [page 122 begins] of children and favorites; his meaning is, there is no man so alien, so remote from God and his favor, that hath all the marks of disparagement upon him; but if he will come in and believe, the invitation is made to him: I confess we read in the Scripture, that the Spirit of God forbade the lantern-bearers of the Gospel to go into some Countries, and the providence of God at all times and at this time so regulates the sun of the Gospel, as that some people are as in night: but this I say, that no man is excluded by the Gospel tenor from the offer of grace that is propounded in the Gospel, by any national bar as in former time: And then,

Secondly, As the Gospel offer, and the proposals thereof may be made to every man without any other consideration than that he is a sinner. Art thou a sinner? for thee Christ is a Saviour: that as the brazen Serpent was set upon the pole for the wounded and bitten with fiery Serpents: So is grace offered in the Gospel, to them that are sinners without any other consideration for the offer of it: understand me right: but for the promise of the Gospel, that’s made to everyone that comes to Christ for the grace promised; and here is no condition of worthiness, but of fitness and meetness, whereby a man may be in a nearer capacity, but hath no more merit or worth, as I shall here show you: The Gospel makes the Proclamation of pardon to all men that are in actual rebellion: that as a Prince by his pardon charms the sword out of the hands of a Rebel: so if your iron hearts were softened to understand the grace of God, upon his Proclamation you might have the sword of rebellion charmed out of your hands, and be brought into submission unto Christ: but the Gospel makes the promise of pardon and grace to a believer in Christ, and to every believer without any respect to what he hath been in times past; [page 123 begins] whether he be a Barbarian or Scythian, bond or free; for the righteousness of God is upon all and unto all that believe; for there is no difference, Rom. 3:22. Mark and be invited I beseech you that have so long stood it out and resisted the grace of God: Oh! be you invited to come in; the promise is to every one that thirsteth, Isa. 55:1. All that are weary and heavy-laden with the burden of their sins and miseries, Matt. 11:28. And whosoever will (viz. is willing) let him come and take of the water of life freely, Rev. 22:17. Every one that believeth in Christ, shall not perish, but have eternal life, John 3:15, 16. So that you see the Proclamation is general, the invitation of the thirsty to water, wine & milk, of the loaden and weary unto rest, of the willing unto the water of life; and the Promise is general to all and every believer, and that of eternal life; and therefore you may conclude, there is an offer of grace made to sinful and wicked men by the Gospel; for thou (saith the Psalmist of Christ) hast received gifts for men; yea for the rebellious also that God may dwell amongst them, Psa. 69:18. And then,

Thirdly, Which binds all the rest, whomsoever God doth call to faith and Conversion by the invitations of his Word, and by the pulsations or knockings of his Spirit, he calls and invites them seriously and in good earnest: what think you? when Christ saith, how often would I have gathered you! and when God saith, Ezek. 14:13. I purged thee and thou wast not purged: are these things spoken in jest? we must not judge that grace is not offered in good earnest by the event that it hath in us, for it may be frustrate and without success, but judge by the nature of the benefit offered, by the excitements afforded, and the aids and motions supplied, and by the tendency of them what they mean, and in their nature drive at; even at the bringing of you to Christ Jesus: [page 124 begins] let no man think with himself that God Tantelizeth man with the offers of his grace, and that he is not really minded that they should be received; but let this principle be settled and thoroughly fixed in your hearts, that God is in good earnest and means seriously, when he wooes and invites you to repentence; for this principle is of great use; for that induces the acceptance, the reality of the offerer: no man will look on a bargain that is offered him in jest: look after a gift though never so rich that is holden forth in a pretense and simulation; this will not induce a man to look after grace, if he hath this persuasion that God Tantalizeth him with it: what man living under the Gospel can stand out and say? Lord, I would, but thou wouldest not; I put forth my hand and thou drewest back thine; let no man think this to excuse himself upon God; this was intended by a Parable, Luke 19:20. of him that had a talent given him who laid it up and did not use it, thinking to excuse himself on the temper, the austerity of the Master, so to put off all blame from himself, whereby our Savior signifies that men would put the fault upon God; saith he, Master, I knew you were a hard man, that reapest where thou didst not sow; therefore I laid up the talent that thou mightest have thy own; the Master speaks to him, calling him [an] evil servant, and retorts the objection upon himself, if I were a hard man, thou oughtest to have put forth thy talent rather: he is deceived that thinks to clear his neglect by fastening a reason for it upon God: for there are four things in the Scripture that seem to me to prove these offers of grace in the Gospel to  be serious; I know not how others may interpret them.

First, The pathetical form that is used of inviting sinners, so low sometimes that God doth beseech us to be reconciled; God and Christ doth beseech you by us that [page 125 begins] are his Ministers and Ambassadors, 2 Corinthians 5:20.

Secondly, By the frequent exhortations: and amongst the rest (for I should speak the whole Bible in a manner to name all) that 2 Cor. 6:1. we beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain (for its not offered to you in vain) for he saith there is a day of Salvation and that is now. And then,

Thirdly, By the expostulations with careless negligent men for not coming in, neglecting or abusing these offers; I wonder that you are so soon perverted and carried away to another Gospel, in Gal. 6:1. And then,

Fourthly, By the promises made and holden forth, Rev. 3:20. I stand at the door and knock, if any man will open to me, I will come and sup with him: and do not all these forms of dealing with man prove sufficiently the reality of the offers of grace to a sinner? yea verily, and that he doth not dally with men: For else,

First, God should seem hereby to deceive men, to offer them in the Name of his Son Christ, and never mean or intend that this grace should be by them received.

Secondly, The messengers whom God sends forth to be woers of chast virgins unto Christ, and to bespeak the espousals as the Word is, 2 Cor. 11:1, 2. they should be found false witnesses; for what would you take him to be that should speak to a man to bespeak a virgin for him, whom he never intends or means to have, if she would have him? And then,

Thirdly, The neglect of this grace might more excusably be made a great deal, and would have a greater color of excuse; for they would say, there was indeed grace holden forth to them in mockery, without any reality that they should receive it; but now God finds fault with men and blames them for not acknowledging [page 126 begins] or not considering that his goodness should lead them to repentance, and therefore do despise it as the phrase is, Rom. 2:4. And therefore it must be a plain case, that the drift and scope of that goodness is to lead men to repentance, and so the whole army of providential dispensations, the offers made in the Word, the excitements of the Spirit of God, as well as other goodness, do all speak and tend to the clearing of God of simulation or mere pretense: I would it were believed, that though you were never so remote and far from this grace, and seem to despair that you cannot have it, and think that God doth but dally when he makes the offer to you, or whatever your apprehensions be, settle it in your hearts, the offer is real, and God is serious and in good earnest when he offers Christ and grace in the Gospel. one great objection there is in this point.

Quest. How can these offers of grace be serious or in earnest, when so many thousands called by the Word are not absolutely converted? how doth God deal in good earnest in the offer of grace, when he doth not absolutely give it and work this Conversion? if God had a serious will, it would be absolute by power to work that he calls men unto; if God were in good earnest that I should be converted and believe in Christ, then God by his absolute and peremptory will would give me this grace and work it in me?

Answ. But we answer that the will of God may be serious, though it be not absolute and peremptory; God may by his serious will will that you repent, and yet by his absolute will work it not: The great instance in this point is: God had a serious will that Adam should stand, for God was not in jest in that business; but God had not an absolute will that he should stand, so as to work and confirm him in that estate; so as to cause Adam to stand [page 127 begins] in his integrity; so the will of God may be serious in commanding of a man to repent, and yet not absolute and peremptory to work it in that man if he refuse to obey the command; when God commands a man to make him a new heart, to circumcise his heart, or to obey his holy Laws, in all these God is serious and in good earnest, notwithstanding he doth not absolutely work these in all: In the Elect of God whom he hath chosen he doth indeed not only command, but works it: In all he doth not: And the reason is, because God is serious in his conditional promises or Covenant, when he speaks to man to believe, and thereupon promises pardon, he is in good earnest; for he would have men to believe, and it is their sin not to do it; and then if they do, the connection between faith and pardon is sure: a man earnestly persuades his servant or friend to be cut of the stone; they will not; the man takes his child and binds him, cuts and cures him; he goes further with his child then he did with his friend or servant; yet he did seriously persuade them, though he did not go so far with them, nor had he reason, but leaves them to themselves; not that a similitude should run on four feet, but take it in the general meaning; God doth persuade with men to break the stone, and to plough up the fallow ground of their hearts: but he takes them that belong to the Election of his grace, and whereas they refuse this grace as well as others, he takes away the heart of stone from them; I will take away the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh, and therefore when the Lord saith thus in Ezek. 18:31, 32. Cast away  your transgressions, make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die Oh house of Israel! I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, therefore turn yourselves and live: be assured God is in good earnest with you, this is his serious will, this God calls upon man [page 128 begins] for, notwithstanding he doth not work this new heart in all, but in some: for he saith in Ezek. 36:27. a new heart I will give you; he bids them to circumcise, and saith, I the Lord will circumcise, Deut. 30:6. man’s duty is made God’s act, that which God requires in man seriously, is made God’s act to perform in man graciously: in the mean time by his calling and offering of life, he hereby shows you what is his will or approbation, that is, what is the acceptable and perfect will of God, Rom. 12:3. there is an acceptable will and an effective will of God: the acceptable will of God is seen in this call and offer of grace: the effective will of God is that of his purpose which is effective of the work, works the work upon you: now God is serious when he speaks according to his acceptable will, though he doth not effect it absolutely and peremptorily.
Richard Vines, God’s Drawing and Man’s Coming to Christ (London: Printed for Abel Roper, at the Sun against St. Dunstans Church in Fleet-street, 1662), 119–128.


Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on God’s General Love in Sending a Savior, and His Alike Favor in the Free Offers of Grace

3. There are many considerations which are proper to our state, every one of us have cause enough to love God, if we have but hearts to love him. Not only as he created us out of nothing, but as he redeemed us by Christ: Cannot I bless God for Christ, without reflection on my own particular benefit? His general love in sending a Saviour for mankind, John 3.16. God so loved the World, that he sent his only begotten Son into the World, that whosoever believed in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. As they reasoned, Luke. 7.5. He loved our Nation, and hath built us a Synagogue. Few did enjoy the benefit of it, but ‘twas love to the Nation of the Jews. So his Philanthropy, his man-kindness should put that home upon us, that there is a sufficient foundation for the truth of this Proposition, that whosoever believeth shall be saved: That Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour, to deliver me from wrath, and to bring me to everlasting life, that such a doctrine is published in our borders, wherein God declareth his pleasure, that he is willing all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. 2.3 [4]. That the door is wide enough, if you will get in; and if you have no interest, you may have an interest: We must not think that general grace is no grace: The life of Christianity lyeth in the consideration of these things: In the free offers of grace, all have alike favour, and none have cause to murmur, but all to give thanks: All that God looketh for is a thankful acceptance of the grace, made for us in Christ; surely when we think of God’s goodness, and kind-heartedness to miserable, and unworthy sinners, and do often and seriously think what he is in himself, and what he is to you, what he hath done for you, and what he will more do for you, if you will but consent, and accept of his grace: Such serious thoughts cannot but warm your hearts, and through the Lord’s blessing, awaken in you a great love to God. In short the love of God shed abroad in the Gospel, is the great and powerful object, that must be meditated upon: And the love of God shed abroad in your hearts, the most effectual means, to keep these objects close to the heart. And then doubts will vanish.


Nathaniel Heywood (1633–1677) on Christ Knocking and Begging

3. Shake off sloth, ease and security; indulge not yourselves, love not your carnal ease, be not drunken with the pleasures of the flesh, nor forfeit with the profits of the world, nor intoxicated with pomp and honors; set not your affections on things below, let not down your watch, be not secure nor high-minded, Rom. 3:3. [In] Cant. 5:2–6.  you have there Christ knocking at the door of her heart, with importunity, and tender vehemency; for admission, and he moves and solicits, Open my sister, my spouse, &c. every word an argument, a talent weight of love; and does Christ, call and knock, and beg at the door of our souls to enter? O what vile ingratitude is it to shut him out! Doth he solicit and entreat so many ways by his Word and Ordinances, Rod, and admonitions, and motions of his Spirit, what inexcusable obstinate madness is it to drive him away! Is anything so worthy to be harbored there as he? and is it not incomparable honor that he should vouchsafe to come under our roof?
Nathaniel Heywood, Christ Displayed, as the Choicest Gift, and Best Master (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhust at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers-Chappel, 1679), 112.

Other men within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), John Oldfield (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Daniel Williams (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.


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.


Note: Joseph Alleine; Richard AlleineWilliam Attersoll (A Commentarie vpon the fourth booke of Moses, called Numbers […] [London: Printed by William Laggard, 1618], 92); alternatively titled: Pathway to Canaan; Continuation of the Exposition of the Booke of NumbersThomas Barnes (Sions Sweets [London: Printed by I. D. for Nathaniell Newbery, 1624], 10); Nathaniel HeywoodOliver HeywoodJames JanewayDaniel Rogers (Naaman the Syrian His Disease and Cure [London: Printed by Th. Harper for Philip Nevil, 1642], 580); John Rogers (The Doctrine of Faith [London: Printed by I. D. for Nathanael Newbery and Henry Overton, 1633], 93); Solomon Stoddard (The Efficacy of the Fear of Hell, to Restrain Men from Sin […] [Boston in New-England: Printed by Thomas Fleet, for Samuel Phillips, at the Three Bibles and Crown in King-Street, 1713], 125); George Swinnock; and Nathaniel Vincent also, when speaking to the lost, tell them they are “well-offered” in the gospel.