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.


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