Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Free Offer- Quotes from Historic Calvinists

Jim Bublitz over at the Old Truth blog has compiled a wonderful list of what historic Calvinists have said pertaining to the Free Offer of the Gospel. Here are some highlights to whet your appetite:

"We believe that God 'unfeignedly,' that is, sincerely or in good faith, calls all those who are living under the gospel to believe, and offers them salvation in the way of faith and repentance…The offer of salvation in the way of faith and repentance does not pretend to be a revelation of the secret counsel of God, more specifically, of His design in giving Christ as an atonement for sin. It is simply the promise of salvation of all those who accept Christ by faith. This offer, in so far as it is universal, is always conditioned by faith and conversion. Moreover it is contingent on a faith and repentance such as can only be wrought in the heart of man by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The universal offer of salvation does not consist in the declaration that Christ made atonement for every man that hears the gospel, and that God really intends to save each one… It is not the duty of the preacher to harmonise the secret counsel of God respecting the redemption of sinners with His declarative will as expressed in the universal offer of salvation. He is simply an official ambassador, whose duty it is to carry out the will of the Lord in preaching the gospel to all men indiscriminately." (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology BOT p.397-398)


"Yet we honestly subscribe the Westminster Confession. We believe in Christ's redemption of His chosen Church; in the efficacy of His blood and the perfection of His righteousness. We believe in human impotence, in the bondage of the human will, in the enmity of the human heart to God. We believe in the sovereignty of Jehovah, and His eternal purpose. We believe in the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit's work, alike before and after conversion. At the same time we preach a free and world-wide gospel; we proclaim a free and world-wide invitation to sinners; we present to every sinner a gracious welcome to Christ, without any preliminary qualification whatsoever. We bid no man wait till he has ascertained his own election, or can produce evidence of regeneration, or sufficient repentance, or deep conviction. We tell every man, as he is, to go to the Savior this moment, assured that he will not be cast out or sent away." (Horatio Bonar, The Old Gospel booklet, reproduced in: Evangelism: A Reformed Debate reprinted by the James Begg Society p.56)


"Of every man who reads or hears the Gospel, it may be affirmed that there is nothing betwixt him and salvation, except his own unwillingness to be saved. 'Ye are not willing to come to me, that ye might have life,' - that is the Savior's charge and complaint. 'Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,' - that is the Savior's call and invitation. The warrant of every sinner to believe in Christ to the saving of the soul is clear, it is written as with a sunbeam in Scripture: it lies wholly in the Word, which is the Spirit's message and not at all in the Spirit's witness in the heart. The warrant of the Word is ample; but if any feels that, even with this warrant in his hand, there is something within which keeps him back - a depraved heart, a rebellious will, a reluctant spirit - oh! let him acknowledge his own helplessness, and cast himself, with the simplicity of a little child, on the grace of the Spirit of God!" (James Buchanan, The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit BOT p.45)


"Seeing therefore that it is so evident, that you refuse to accept of Christ as your Savior, why is Christ to be blamed that he does not save you? Christ has offered himself to be your Savior in time past, and he continues offering himself still, and you continue to reject him, and yet complain that he does not save you. - So strangely unreasonable, and inconsistent with themselves are gospel sinners!...That so glorious a person should be thus treated, and that when he comes on so gracious an errand! That he should stand so long offering himself and calling and inviting. As he has done to many of you, and all to no purpose, but all the while be set at nought. Surely you might be justly cast into hell without one more offer of a Savior! yea and thrust down into the lowest hell! Herein you have exceeded the very devils; for they never rejected the offers of such glorious mercy; no, nor of any mercy at all." (Jonathan Edwards, Sermon on The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners. Works, Vol 1 BOT p.676/677)


"Question: How does this doctrine [Predestination] consist with the general gospel offer?

Answer: In the general offers of the gospel God exhibits a salvation sufficient for and exactly adapted to all, and sincerely offered to every one without exception, and he enfolds all the motives of duty, hope, fear etc., which ought to induce every one to accept it, solemnly promising that whosoever comes in no wise shall be cast out. Nothing but a sinful unwillingness can prevent any one who hears the gospel from receiving and enjoying it.

The gospel is for all, election is a special grace in addition to that offer. The non-elect may come if they will. The elect will come. The decree of election puts no barrier before men preventing them from accepting the gospel offer. Any man, elect or non elect, will be saved if he accepts. The non-elect are left to act as they are freely determined by their own hearts.

There is just as great an apparent difficulty in reconciling God's certain foreknowledge of the final impenitence of the great majority of those to whom he offers and upon whom he presses, by every argument, his love with the fact of that offer: especially when we reflect that he foresees that his offers will certainly increase their guilt and misery." (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology p.229 Banner of Truth)


"According to the Calvinistic scheme the non-elect have all the advantages and opportunities of securing their salvation, that, according to any other scheme, are granted to mankind indiscriminately. Calvinism teaches that a plan of salvation adapted to all men and adequate for the salvation of all, is freely offered to the acceptance of all, although in the secret purpose of God He intended that it should have precisely the effect which in experience it is found to have. He deigned in its adoption to save His own people, but consistently offers its benefits to all who are willing to receive them. More than this no anti-Calvinist can demand. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 644)


"The free offers of the Gospel. The Lord invites all men to himself. He freely invites them to come to him as they are and not because of anything good or righteous they may find in themselves. The sinner does not look to see if he has worthiness, or if there are preliminary signs of grace in him. We should be free, flexible and fervent in our preaching of the free offers of the Gospel. In other words we must not in any way be stiff or starched or hampered. If the doctrines of grace hamper the preacher in any way it indicates that he has not grasped their implications. The Puritans can help us a very great deal here. They were marvelously free, They had the doctrines of grace; they held to particular redemption absolutely, but this never hampered them in their preaching of the free offers of the Gospel. There is great joy in offering the Gospel, because the Holy Spirit often favors Scripture passages containing Gospel invitations and applies them with power to sinners." (Errol Hulse, http://www.the-highway.com/Evangelism_Hulse)


"The propounding of this condition, 'If any man thirst,' is not to be understood as if we must first beget sense of need in ourselves and then come to Christ; nor doth it warrant any souls who would be at Christ to seclude themselves because they think they are not thirsty; for albeit it do point out what is our duty, yet it is his work to beget it who sends his work before him, that he ma bring his reward with him, (Isaiah 40:10) and who by offering of grace as a mean doth ofttimes beget it; but the scope is rather to invite men to come upon this ground, that if they come indeed, they do, by their coming, prove they have thirst, whatever they think of themselves, and that any who are come this length, that they would come if they had thirst, they may come with what they have, and get more thirst by coming to him; therefore are all these conditional offers summed up in this. 'Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely,' Rev. 22:17. It is Christ's will that thirsty souls should not only come to him by humble dependence, but that should enlarge themselves and partake of their privileges and his refreshments, that so they may be satisfied and acquiesce in him, may confirm themselves in their choice of him, and for sake other delights, and may refute their own tentations and unbelief by tasting how good he is; for it is his will they come to him and drink, or partake largely of his refreshments." (See Song of Solomon 5:1 ; Psalm 81:10)" (George Hutcheson, Commentary on John 7:37 BOT p.151)


"It shows also that every man and woman, that rejects the offers of grace (though not such that were elected) shall be left without excuse at the day of judgment, they shall all be speechless; and it shall be manifested unto their own consciences, that it was for their own horrid wickedness, and refusing to accept of Christ, that they shall be cast and condemned at that day…But ministers are to do what they can. They are to invite them, press them, intreat and persuade them to come...Another shall say, Lord, I was not elected, as these were, let me be excused. No, this will be no plea or excuse in the great day? Then will they see and know that the cause of their damnation will be just and righteous, it being the only procurement of their own evil doings, and for making light of the gospel and offers of grace." (Benjamin Keach, Comments on Parable of the Great Supper Kregal p.100/102/104)


"No one ever came to Christ because they knew themselves to be of the elect. It is quite true that God has of his mere good pleasure elected some to everlasting life, but they never knew it until they came to Christ. Christ nowhere invites the elect to come to Him. The question for you is not, Am I one of the elect? But, Am I one of the human race?" (Robert Murray M'Cheyne, Sermon on Proverbs 8:4: "Unto you O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man" Remains of McCheyne BOT edition p.369)


"Perhaps some will say it is in this, that if Christ did not die for all to whom the word is preached, then how can they that preach it offer Christ to all? ...Answer…What do the preachers of the gospel offer to them to whom the word is preached? Is it not life and salvation through Christ, upon the condition of faith and repentance? And doth not the truth of this offer consist in this, that every one that believeth shall be saved? And doth not that truth stand firm and inviolable, so long as there is an all-sufficiency in Christ to save all that come unto him? Hath God intrusted the ministers of the gospel with his intentions, purpose, and counsels, or with his commands and promises? Is it a lie, to tell men that he that believeth shall be saved, though Christ did not die for some of them?" (John Owen, The Atonement)


"Remember that Christ's atonement is for sinners. Whatever else may not be for sinners, Christ's death is for none but sinners, and it is offered freely to you as freely as to any other person in the world. No person in the world ever had any better offer of Christ than you have. There is nothing freer to you upon the earth than the death of Christ. It is as free to you as the rain from heaven. You have no right in yourself to Christ's death, but he offers it to you, beseeching you to accept it, and to give Him the credit and pleasure of saving you. If He did not offer it to you, you would have no right to take it; but when He offers it, it is no presumption to take it. Nay, it is the height of presumption not to take it - a great sin, and as a great folly as well." (John Patton, Pardon and Assurance. Chapter Entitled: Christ's work finished and free to all. p.142)


[Answering the sinner's objection: I fear I am not elected:] "What you have to discover is, not that you are an elect saint, but that you are a lost sinner. When you have discovered this, and have been enabled by divine grace to take Christ as your Savior, and thus make your calling sure, your election will be sure also...Your rule of duty is not what is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, but what is written in God's Holy Word. The Bible tells us you that the mercy of God is infinite, and that the merits of Christ are infinite, and that the Holy Ghost saith - Today. Take God at His word and trust your soul on the merits of Christ; and you need not fear election. It is a false inference from the doctrine with which Satan is troubling you. If you neglect salvation from a decree which you do not understand, then sin lies on your own head - you are lost because of your unbelief. Why should you think that you are not one of the elect? No human being out of hell can ever know that he is not. You have as good a right to believe yourself one of the elect as any unconverted sinner that ever lived." (John Patton, Pardon and Assurance p.158)


"Concerning the character and contents of the Gospel the utmost confusion prevails today. The Gospel is not an 'offer' to be bandied around by evangelical peddlers. The Gospel is no mere invitation but a proclamation, a proclamation concerning Christ; true whether men believe it or not. No man is asked to believe that Christ died for him in particular. The Gospel, in brief, is this: Christ died for sinners, you are a sinner, believe in Christ, and you shall be saved. In the Gospel God simply announces the terms upon which men may be saved (namely, repentance and faith) and, indiscriminately, all are commanded to fulfill them." (A. W. Pink, 1929 edition of the Sovereignty of God)


"Why not believe in him for yourself? Why not trust his precious blood for yourself, and why not tonight? Why not tonight, my friend? God is ready, God is ready to save you now if you believe on him. The blood has been shed, the sacrifice has been offered, the atonement has been made, the feast has been spread. The call goes out to you tonight. 'Come, for all things are now ready.'" (A. W. Pink, Studies in the Scriptures 1927)


"The gospel is as free as the air, and I Timothy 1:15 gives us full warrant to tell a murderer in the condemned cell that there is a Savior for him if he will receive him…The ground on which any sinner is invited and commanded to believe is neither God's election, not Christ's substitution, but his particular need of responding to the free offer of the gospel. The gospel is that Christ died for sinners (not 'elect sinners') and is addressed to their responsibility." (A. W. Pink, Letter to William Naismith 1949 Quoted by Iain Murray in the Life of Arthur Pink BOT p.195)


"A yet further charge against us is, that we dare not preach the gospel to the unregenerate, that, in fact, our theology is so narrow and cramped that we cannot preach to sinners. Gentlemen, if you dare to say this, I would take you to any library in the world where the old Puritan fathers are stored up, and I would let you take down any one volume and tell me if you ever rend more telling exhortations and addresses to sinners in any of your own books. Did not Bunyan plead with sinners, and whoever classed him with any but the Calvinists? Did not Charnock, Goodwin, and how we agonize for souls, and what were they but Calvinists? Did not Jonathan Edwards preach to sinners, and who more clear and explicit on these doctrinal matters. The works of our innumerable divines teem with passionate appeals to the unconverted. Oh, sirs, if I should begin the list, time should fail me. It is an indisputable fact that we have labored more than they all for the winning of souls. Was George Whitfield any the less seraphic? Did his eyes weep the fewer tears or his bowels move with the less compassion because he believed in God’s electing love and preached the sovereignty of the Most High? It is an unfounded calumny. Our souls are not stony; our bowels are not withdrawn from the compassion which we ought to feel for our fellow-men; we can hold all our views firmly, and yet can weep as Christ did over a Jerusalem which was certainly to be destroyed. Again, I must say, I am not defending certain brethren who have exaggerated Calvinism. I speak of Calvinism proper, not that which has run to seed, and outgrown its beauty and verdure. I speak of it as I find it in Calvin’s Institutes, and especially in his Expositions. I have read them carefully. I take not my views of Calvinism from common repute but from his books. Nor do I, in thus speaking, even vindicate Calvinism as if I cared for the name, but I mean that glorious system which teaches that salvation is of grace from first to last. And again, then, I say it is an utterly unfounded charge that we dare not preach to sinners." (C. H. Spurgeon, Opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle - a series of sermons on the doctrines of grace)

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