June 24, 2017

John Calvin (1509–1564) on the Gospel Invitation and Offer, Universal Promises, and the Gift of Faith

For nothing is more certain than that the Gospel is addressed to all promiscuously, but that the Spirit of faith is bestowed on the elect alone, by peculiar privilege. The promises are universal. How does it happen, therefore, that their efficacy is not equally felt by all? For this reason, because God does not reveal His arm to all. Indeed, among men but moderately skilled in Scripture, this subject needs not to be discussed, seeing that the promises of the Gospel make offer of the grace of Christ equally to all; and God, by the external call, invites all who are willing to accept of salvation. Faith, also, is a special gift.
John Calvin, “CCCIV.—To Melanchthon, (28th November 1552),” in Letters of John Calvin, ed. Jules Bonnet (Edinburgh: Thomas Constable, 1857) 2:364–65. Also in “CCCV.—To Melanchthon (28th November 1552),” in Letters of John Calvin, ed. Jules Bonnet (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1858), 2:379–80. Credit to Donald John MacLean for the find. See “John Calvin and the Gospel Offer,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 34.1 (Spring 2016): 53–69. The above quote is on page 53.

Nihil enim magis notum est quam verbi praedictionem omnibus promiscue esse communem, sed fidei spiritum solis electis sinculari privilegio donari. Universae sunt promissiones. Qui fit igitur ut non peraeque apud omnes vigeat earum efficacia? Nempe quia non omnibus brachium suum Deus patefacit. Nec vero apud homines mediocriter in scriptura versatos ea res disputatione indiget: quum pariter omnibus Christi gratiam offerant promissiones, et externa voce invitet Deus quoslibet in salutem: peculiare esse fidei donum.
Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia. (W. Baum et al. (ed.); 59 vols.; Braunschweig, 1863–1900), 14:417 (CO 14, col. 417).


John Mayer (1583–1664) on Ezekiel 18:23, 30–32

Have I any pleasure at all, that the wicked should die, but that he should turn from his ways and live? The case of a wicked man turning and living, notwithstanding his former wickedness being laid open in the premises, now he infers upon this ground that the Lord wills not, neither delights in any mans death, but in his conversion and salvation, that none, how far soever they have gone in sin, might despair, but by hope in his mercy be drawn to turn unto him, that is so gracious.

But against this it is objected both that he has fore-appointed some to damnation, and that it is not in man to will, but he works to will and to do of his own good pleasure: if then he take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, why does he not turn him?

Sol[ution]. He offers him grace and pardon for all that is past to turn him, yea he counsels him to turn, and entreats him, by his benefits seeks to lead him to repentance [Rom. 2:4], and which is more than all this, he knocks at the door of his heart by his Spirit [Rev. 3:20], and who can say then, but that it is true, which is here said, he delights not in his dying?

Obj[ection]. But all this is nothing, if either he has fore-appointed him to death, or works not effectually with the means, whereby he may be converted.

Sol[ution]. He fore-ordains none to damnation, but such as he foresees will be impenitent, when he has used all the means of reclaiming them, that may be, and therefore Christ speaking of the cursed going into hell fire, says not prepared for you, but for the devil and his angels, whereas contrariwise to the blessed he says, come into the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning, so that impenitent sinners come into condemnation by their preferring of the pleasures of sin before the joy of salvation; for his effectual working upon his will, he works so by his word and Spirit, that he may, if there be not an aversion in his will, turn himself being thus holpen, as it is said here v. 32. Turn yourselves and live, for if God, who bids us thus to do, stood not ready to help and enable us, this were but a delusion. But doing all that can be expected to be done on his part, yea that he could do, as he says, Isa. 5 the impenitent sinner is unreasonable in charging him, as the cause of his non-conversion, when as indeed he is solely the cause thereof to himself and consequently of damnation, as a man in the water held up by the chin, that thrusts away his hand that holds him up that he might swim out, if he sinks and be drowned, is the sole cause of his own death. And the rather is the sinner the cause of his own damnation, because he is not only held up as it were, but exhorted over and over to turn and live, v. 30, 31, 32. so that unless God would save him against his will, or take and carry him to heaven as a block or dead thing, he never putting on to do any thing tending to salvation, and so do more for him, then for any that are saved, he can never attain life, but must die and perish everlastingly. God indeed as August[ine] has it, made thee without thee, but thou must not expect, that he should save thee without thee.
John Mayer, A Commentary Upon All the Prophets Both Great and Small (London: Printed by Abraham Miller and Ellen Cotes, 1652), 421–422. Some spelling modernized.


June 20, 2017

John Calvin (1509–1564) on God’s Love and Goodness

True it is that God giveth oftentimes some sign of his love too all men in general: but yet is all Adam’s offspring cut off from him, till we be grafted in again by Jesus Christ. Therefore there is one kind of love which God beareth towards all men, for that he hath created them after his own image, in which respect he maketh the Sun to shine upon all men, nourishing them and having a care of their life. But all this is nothing, in respect of the special goodness which he keepeth in store for his chosen, and for those that are of his flock: howbeit not for any worthiness which he findeth in them, but for because it pleaseth him too accept them for his own.
John Calvin, Sermons of M. John Calvin upon the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Galatians (Imprinted at London: By [Henrie Bynneman, for] Lucas Harison and George Bishop, 1574), 9–10.


Thomas Anyan (c.1580–1632) on the Will of God and Reprobation

For the will of God toward, mankind is (if I may so speak) Orbicular, environing universal man, with Mercies and Judgements, with Salvation, and Damnation: if with repentance and works of righteousness we turn to the right hand, we shall find a Merciful Father, and be accepted of him; but if we remain obdurate in our sin, and turn to the left hand, we shall see an Angry Judge and rue the punishments of his wrath. Which change and alteration is in us, not in God; God doth not bow to man, but man doth come to God; nor doth God leave any man of any nation, but man doth revolt from his Creator. Not only the Schools, but Expositors both Orthodox & Romish, stand at this day much distracted, with a diversity, or at least a divers conceit of the Will of God; of his Antecendent, and Consequent, Hidden and Revealed will, of his Absolute, and Conditional Will: whereas to speak properly, God’s Will is one and the same, nor can he be said to have two Wills, no more than to have two Wisdoms, two Mercies, two Goodnesses, or a diversity of other [of] his Essential Attributes. But as the Wisdom of God (to instance in that Attribute) is by St. Paul termed πολυποίκιλος, Eph. 3.10. which some render Multiformis, others Multis modis varia, and our English Manifold; which is yet but one: so the Will of God being one and the same in itself, may yet in respect of us, and the diverse effects thereof, be termed πολυποίκιλος, Manifold, and Divers. The ground of all these Distinctions is taken out of Damascene [i.e. John of Damascus, De Fide Orthodoxa, ii. 29], and by Damascene out of Chrysostome, Hom. 1. in Epist. ad Eph. [or here; see also his Homily 18 on Hebrews], There is in God (saith he) a two-fold Will, θέλημα - οιον, θέλημα πρῶτον, το μη απολεσθαι ημαρτηχότας. There is in God a two-fold Will, a First and a Second; the first and principal will of God doth immediately proceed from God himself, whereby he desireth to do good unto all, τὸ μη απολεθαι ἡμαρτηχότας, & it is Voluntas simplicis complacentiæ, and may be termed Voluntas benefactiendi. His secondary will doth proceed from contingent causes without God, and is occasioned by us, and it may be termed Voluntas iustitiæ, which doth arise from our sins, which God cannot but put in execution without prejudice to his Justice. The first is the Will of God, wherein he taketh delight and pleasure, and is by the same Father termed Θέλημα προηγουμενον, the principal will of God. That which hath been spoken I thus bring home to my text. That it is the Will of God to leave many of most nations in the corrupt mass of perdition, I well know: but that it is his principal Will, his εύδοχια, or Voluntas simplicis complacentiæ, to decree the absolute reprobatio of any man of any nation, I utterly deny. Deus non est prius ultor, quam homo est peccator, saith Aug. ep. 105 [Letter 105]. Man deserves his punishment, before he hath it, & God makes no man a reprobate without just cause. The word Reprobation or Reprobate is in Scripture seldom used to this purpose, & the Greek word Αδοκιμος will hardly carry it, signifying as well Improbus, or Reprehensione dignus, as a Reprobate, and therefore should be used more sparingly, and not so absolutely determined of. In the Fathers the opposite to Predestination to life eternal is Predestination to a second death; and to Election to grace, they oppose Dereliction in the Mass of perdition, seldom Reprobation. In those parts of St. Austin, which I have read, I never met with the word Reprobus as opposite to Elect, but once; & whosoever hath spent most hours in reading the works of that Judicious Father, did never in that sense read it twice.

June 19, 2017

Samuel Spring (1746–1819) on Natural and Moral Ability

5. Does the total depravity of man consist in the destitution of any faculties or abilities which are necessary to constitute a moral agent. For, if men were not moral agents, or were destitute of natural ability to keep the divine commands, they would be incapable of moral action. It is not possible for men to be disobedient, except they have natural ability to be obedient. For the commands of God never exceed the natural ability of man. God does not require the improvement of more talents than he has given. “For to whom much is given much shall be required.” The depravity of man, therefore, does not consist in the destitution of natural ability to obey the divine command; but in those volitions or exercises which are opposed to it. It is the will or heart of man which is depraved. Accordingly Christ does not condemn sinners because they are destitute of natural ability to come to him; but because they refuse: therefore he says, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” Sinners are able to do their duty, but not willing. For God requires no natural impossibilities.


Richard Baxter’s (1615–1691) Notes on 1 Timothy 2:5–6

5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6. Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

5, 6. For it must move us to pray for all, in compliance with this Will of God, that would have all Men saved; because there is One God who is good to all, and One Mediator between God and Mankind, who took on him the Common Nature of all Men, and gave himself a Ransom for all, revealed in the Season appointed of God, (or to be preached to all in due time, as God pleaseth.)

Note, The Controversie about Universal Redemption, too hotly agitated by Beza, Piscater, and others, on one side, and by many on the other, I have fully handled in my Catholick Theologie, and Methodus Theologiae; and it needs no more than as aforesaid: 1. Whoever is damned, it is not because no Ransom was made for him, or because it was not sufficient for him. 2. By Gods Will to save all, is meant the Effects of his Will that have a tendency to their Salvation. 3. It is notorious, that God hath made an Universal Act of Grace or Oblivion, giving Pardon of all Sin, and Right to Life in Christ, to all Men, without exception, on Condition of Believing-acceptance; and hath commissioned his Ministers to offer this Gift to all Men, to the utmost of their power, and entreat them to accept it; and doth by many Mercies intimate to them, that he useth them not according to the mere violated Law of Innocency, but on Terms of Grace. 4. Few Christians have the face to affirm, that this Universal Conditional Pardon and Gift (or Law of Grace) is no Fruit of the Death of Christ. 5. If therefore this Act of Pardon was purchased by Christ, and given to all, no modest Face can deny, that he so far died for all, as to purchase for them all that he actually giveth them. 6. It is usual to say that we give a Man a Benefit, (e. g. Life to a condemned Malefactor) if it be given him on the fair Condition of his Acceptance, and brought to his own Will, and he entreated to receive it. 7. If any Wrangler say, that this is unfit Language, (to say, He is willing that Men shall be saved, who offereth them Salvation freely, unless he also make them willing:) Let him confess, that it is but the Name that he denieth, and none of the Gifts in question. 8. And be it known, that Unwillingness cometh not from a Physical Impossibility, through the want of Natural Faculties, (as it is with Brutes) but from a voluntary Pravity, which aggravateth the Sin. 9. And the mutable Will of Man is to be changed by Reason: And God giveth Men Reasons in their kind sufficient to persuade them to accept of Christ and Life. 10. And lastly, No Man can say, that Adam when he fell had not Grace enough to make him Able to have stood, which he might have used, and should have done, to his actual standing: Nor, that God never giveth such a power to believe (or at least to come nearer the State of a true Believer) to many that might bring it into Act, and do not. This much is enough to end this Controversie with modest Wits.
Richard Baxter, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in A Paraphrase on the New Testament (London: Printed for B. Simmons, at the Three Cocks in Ludgate-street, 1685), xxx3v.


B. B. Warfield (1851–1921) on the Westminster Confession, the Love of God, and the Universal Sincere Offer of Salvation in Christ

The Confession Based on the Love of God.

2. It is frequently objected again that the Confession makes too little relatively of the love of God and too much relatively of His sovereignty, and thus reverses the emphasis of the Bible. The framers of the Confession are not responsible, however, for this separation of God’s love and sovereignty; to them His sovereignty seemed a loving sovereignty, and His love a sovereign love, and in founding the whole fabric of their Confession on the idea of God’s undeserved favor to lost sinners, they understood themselves to be glorifying His love to sinners. It is perfectly true that they seldom make use of the term “love”; but this is due to the exactness of their phraseology, by which they prefer to speak of God’s “goodness” and “grace”—by the one of which terms they designate His general love and by the other His special love for His people. When this is understood, so far as they from neglecting to emphasize the love of God, that it is rather within the truth to say that there is no other one subject so repeatedly and emphatically and lovingly dwelt upon. The “goodness” of God is one of His essential attributes (II., i.) and is infinite (V., iv.); nay, all “goodness” is in and of Him (II., ii.). It was in order to manifest His “goodness” that He created the world (IV., i.); and hence it is manifested by the light of nature (I., i.)—even that He is good and doeth good to all (XXI., i.); as also by the course of providence (I., i.; V., iv.), which is so administered as to redound to the praise of His “goodness” (IV., i.). Even His dealings with sin manifest His goodness (V., iv.). Especially does His treatment of the elect, however, flow from His free unchangeable love (XVII., ii.; III., v.; V., v.); His love follows them at every step, and every separate blessing bestowed upon them is a “grace”: effectual calling (X., ii.), faith (XIV., i.), justification (XI., iv.), pardon (XV., iii.), adoption (XII., i.), each is reckoned among the saving graces (XIII., i.; XVI., iii.; XVII., i.; IX., iv.). All His acts to His children are those of a gracious God (V., v.), all things being made to work together for their good (V., vii.), even His correctings being gracious (V., v.) and all to the praise of His glorious grace (III., v.). There is certainly no lack of emphasis on God’s love here; though no doubt it is His sovereign love that is emphasized. Nor is it at all true that in glorifying God’s infinite love for His children, the Confession minimizes or fails to give due recognition to His unspeakable love for all His reasonable creatures. He is the God of love: “Most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (II., i.). Moved by this love He has voluntarily condescended to covenant with men as men, with a view to their fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward (VII., i.); and when men had spurned this offered favor, He was pleased to make a second covenant, “wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith him him, that they may be saved (VII., iii.)—an assertion of the universal sincere offer of salvation in Christ which is not taken away, but rather established, by the immediately subsequent assertion that God has further taken care that it shall not in all cases remain without fruition. To overlook these and similar passages in the effort to represent the Confession as disregarding the proportion of faith is most seriously to misrepresent its teaching. As a matter of fact the Confession builds its whole fabric on God’s love, and emphasizes His general love quite as strongly as the Scriptures themselves; although like the Scriptures, it does not substitute a general benevolence for the whole round of Divine attributes, or deny His sovereignty or His justice in proclaiming His love.
B. B. Warfield, On the Revision of the Confession of Faith (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1890), 25–27.

Later on, Warfield references a criticism of Robert Smith Candlish about the Confession:
Dr. Candlish, in supporting his overture in the Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow, supplies a good example of how they are presented. “The Confession,” he is reported as saying, “did not express, in their scriptural proportions, some aspects of the Gospel, and these were such vital and precious truths as the love of God to the world, His free offer of salvation to all men, and the responsibility of every one who heard this gracious call for accepting or refusing it. It was not meant that these truths were not contained in the Confession. He strongly contended that they were in it, but they were not so prominent in it proportionately to the statement of other truths—those of the sovereignty and almighty power of God’s grace—as they were in the Bible” [The Glasgow Herald 37 (Tuesday, February 12, 1889), p. 10].


June 16, 2017

Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on Romans 2:4

His goodness is manifest throughout all creation . . . . some of the richest temporal mercies are often overlooked and perhaps entirely forgotten, merely from the fact that they are so common . . . . All these mercies to us are but common blessings.
Asahel Nettleton, “Despisest Thou the Riches of God’s Goodness? (Romans 2:4),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 150–151. Nettleton also calls these common blessings “distinguished favors” (Ibid., 151).
In the gift of his Son to our lost and ruined world he has manifested the riches of his goodness named in our text. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God was under no obligation to send his Son to die for rebels against himself. Why then should he come to this earth with a message of peace and good will to man? Why not take on him the nature of angels and extend pardoning mercy to them? It is owing to the riches of divine goodness, my hearers, that the cross of Christ was erected in our world and not in the world of despair. But every mercy is heightened from the fact that we are sinners. God commendeth his love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

“He saw the nations dead in sin,
He felt his pity move.
How sad the state the world was in,
How boundless was his love.”
Ibid., 152.
The riches of divine goodness appear not only in the sufferings and death of the Son of God, but in the melting invitations of mercy to sinners.—Ho every one that thirsteth. In the parable of the great supper the invitation is to all. Come for all things are now ready. The riches of divine goodness (are offered to) the poorest and vilest of sinners. To us, my hearers, is the word of this salvation sent. Yes, pardon, peace, and all the treasures of heaven are brought even to our doors and offered to us for nothing. Not only are they freely offered, but even pressed upon our acceptance by every endearing consideration.
One would think, that after sinners had rejected the free offers of salvation, God would make no further exertions to save them from deserved wrath. But to all this, he has superadded the strivings of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s last effort to save sinners . . . . So many years has the Savior been standing with open arms and with a bleeding heart inviting him to life. So many duties have been neglected, and so many sins committed in the sight of the sin-hating God and yet the sinner has been spared . . . . He has opened the windows of heaven and shed around us the light of the glorious gospel to lead us to repentance.
Ibid., 153.
All who neglect the gospel do emphatically despise the riches of divine goodness. Every day they trample under foot the Son of God. Sinners despise the forbearance and longsuffering of God, every moment they are unconcerned for their souls . . . . Think what Christ has done for your salvation and what returns you have made? Will you this day render him the homage of your hearts? Or will you continue still longer to despise all the offers of a bleeding Savior? Will you say, What is the Almighty, that I should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Ibid., 156.


Samuel Langley (d.1694) on the Death of Christ and the Lord’s Supper

It must be acknowledged, that these words [“Take, eat, this is the Body of Christ which is broken for you,” or “And this Cup is the New Testament in Christ’s blood which is shed for you”] considered absolutely and in themselves, may be interpreted more generally either, 1. of Christ’s being sacrificed for the redemption of all the world of mankind, the genus humanum; and that not only sufficienter (for that which is paid for the redemption of persons, is not strictly a price, because it is sufficient in its own nature to be a worthy and valuable consideration to redeem them) but conditionally by way of Christ’s intention also to redeem mankind, that is, upon the condition of believing: So that this Gospel may be preached to every human creature (not so to any lapsed Angel) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. God so loved the world, &c. Or, 2. (if this please not, the fuller explication whereof may be seen in learned Camero, and the larger disquisition of it in the acute Amyraldus) Christ died for all, in that he bought all, to be Lord and Ruler over them, as Mediator in the Kingdom he hath received by dispensation from the Father to be Lord of all. Or, 3. as he procured some common benefits for all. But I conceive it’s manifest, these words of administration considered as words of administration in the Sacrament, and so with special relation to the Sacrament, cannot be understood in so large a sense, q. d. Christ died for thee if thou wilt believe, or on condition of they faith; or Christ died for thee, or was broken for thee, that he might have power of thee as Lord and Judge, or to purchase some common benefits for thee, as he died for all mankind. For so they might be applied to heathens, yea to the most wicked of heathens, and such as are visibly in the most notorious opposition of, and apostasy from the very name of Christianity; and so this should be no more an application of comfort to the visibly most worthy receiver, then is applicable to the vilest Mahumetan on the face of the earth.
Samuel Langley, Suspension Reviewed, Stated, Cleared and Settled Upon Plain Scripture-Proof (London: Printed by J. Hayes for Thomas Underhil at the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard, 1658), 65.

Benjamin Woodbridge’s (1622–1684) View of the Extent and Effects of the Death of Christ

Harvard College’s first ever graduate said:
...I am altogether proselyted to renowned Bp. Davenant’s judgement, concerning the extent and effects of the death of Christ, (if that be Arminianisme) especially since I read Daylee’s [Daille’s] late Vindication of Amyrauld against Spanhemius. And the chief reason that inclines me to it, besides the evidence of truth, is the advantage I have thereby to give a clear and smooth answer to all the Scriptures, which the Arminians are wont to use in defense of their cause.
Benjamin Woodbridge, The Method of Grace in the Justification of Sinners (London: Printed by T. R. and E. M. for Edmund Paxton in Pauls-Chain, right over against the Castle Tavern, near Doctors Commons, 1656), A5r.

Biographical Sketches
Woodbridge, in the words of Cotton Mather, was “the Leader of this whole Company [of Graduates of Harvard College], and . . . a Star of the first Magnitude in his Constellation.” Calamy speaks of him as “a great Man every way; . . . the first Graduate of the College; . . . the lasting Glory as well as the first Fruits of that Academy.”
John Langdon Sibley, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge Massachusetts. Volume 1. 1642–1658. (Cambridge: Charles William Sever, 1873), 20.

June 15, 2017

Martin Luther (1483–1546) on Christ’s Sacrifice for the Sins of the Whole World

All the prophets well foresaw in the Spirit, that Christ, by imputation, would become the greatest sinner upon the face of the earth, and a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; would be no more considered an innocent person and without sin, or the Son of God in glory, but a notorious sinner, and so be for a while forsaken (Psalm 8), and have lying upon his neck the sins of all mankind; the sins of St. Paul, who was a blasphemer of God, and a persecutor of his church; St. Peter’s sins, that denied Christ; David’s sins, who was an adulterer and a murderer, through whom the name of the Lord among the heathen was blasphemed.

Therefore the law, which Moses gave to be executed upon all malefactors and murderers in general, took hold on Christ, finding him with and among sinners and murderers, though in his own person innocent.

This manner of picturing Christ to us, the sophists, robbers of God, obscure and falsify; for they will not that Christ was made a curse for us, to the end he might deliver us from the curse of the law, nor that he has anything to do with sin and poor sinners; though for their sakes alone was he made man and died, but they set before us merely Christ’s examples, which they say we ought to imitate and follow; and thus they not only steal from Christ his proper name and title, but also make him a severe and angry judge, a fearful and horrible tyrant, full of wrath against poor sinners, and bent on condemning them.
Martin Luther, “Of Jesus Christ: #202,” in The Table Talk of Martin Luther: Luther’s Comments on Life, the Church and the Bible (Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 174.

Note: Notice that in Luther’s theology, Christ, by imputation, was “a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world,” and had “lying upon his neck the sins of all mankind.” Luther explains that by saying that, “the law, which Moses gave to be executed upon all malefactors and murderers in general, took hold on Christ.” He then specifies that some of these people are the unbelieving “sophists” and “robbers of God,” who “obscure” and “falsify” the fact that “Christ was made a curse for us” by way of imputation, yet Christ “for their sakes alone [i.e. for sinners as such] was made man and died.” In other words, in Luther’s theology, he views the death of Christ as involving an unlimited imputation of sin, or a universal satisfaction for all sinners “in general.”


June 11, 2017

Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on 2 Corinthians 5:20

Many, I am aware, express strong desires for salvation, and sometimes say they would give all the world, if they had it, for an interest in the divine favor, while they have never found in their hearts, to feel the least degree of contrition for their sins, or the least degree of love and gratitude to the God who made them, and the Savior who died for them. Whatever value such individuals may place on a heaven of eternal happiness, they do actually prefer sin to all things else;—and in spite of the offers of eternal life, the calls of a bleeding Savior, the invitations, commands, and threatenings of Almighty God, they are now forcing their way down to eternal perdition.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XX: Sinners Entreated to be Reconciled to God,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D. D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 256. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sinners Entreated to be Reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:20),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 363. Notice that the “them” for whom the Savior died are those without a saving interest in the divine favor, who lack contrition for their sins, nor do they have a love and gratitude to God. “They” are headed “down to eternal perdition.” The “them” and “they” must therefore include the non-elect.

As Nettleton continued this sermon, he said:
And now all things are ready; God is inviting and beseeching you to accept his mercy!
God himself is beseeching you to be reconciled ... Why will you stand out against the will of heaven?
Again—consider what God has done for your salvation. The gift of a Savior was not an act of justice to our world. Sinners had no right to demand the blood of the Son of God to atone for their guilt .... This Savior has concluded a treaty of peace for rebellious man .... Will you not hearken to the voice of the heavenly charmer?—your bleeding Savior? Have you no repentance—not a tear to shed for the sins which nailed him to the cross? O what amazing love invites!
But he arose from the dead, and ascended to his throne of glory, from which he now invites you to his arms, and beseeches you to accept the salvation which he has purchased with his blood—and is he unworthy of your love? .... God beseeches—God commands your compliance now.


June 10, 2017

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813–1843) on Christ’s Sufficiency and Willingness to Save All

1. Show that it is not by reason of anything in Christ that sinners are lost.

It is not because Christ is not sufficient to save all.
The whole Bible shows that Christ is quite sufficient to save all the world—that all the world would be saved, if all the world were to come to Christ: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.’ The meaning of that is, not that sins of the whole world are now taken away. It is quite plain that the whole world is not forgiven at present. (1) Because the whole is not saved. (2) Because God everywhere calls sinners to repentance, and the first work of the Spirit is to convince of sin—of the heavy burden that is now lying on Christless souls. (3) Because forgiveness in the Bible is everywhere attached to believing. When they brought to Jesus a man sick of the palsy, Jesus, seeing his faith, said unto him: ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee.’ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ The simple truth of the Bible is, that Christ hath suffered and died in the stead of sinners—as a common person in their stead; and every man that is a sinner hath a right to come.

Christ is quite sufficient for all, and I would prove it by this argument: if he was sufficient for one sinner, then he must be sufficient for all. The great difficulty with God (I speak as a man) was, not how to admit many sinners into his favor, but how to admit one sinner into his favor. If that difficulty has been got over in Jesus Christ, then the whole difficulty has been got over. If one sinner clothed in Christ may come unto God, then all sinners may. If one sinner may have peace with God, and God be yet just and glorious, then every sinner may have peace with him. If Christ was enough for Abel, then he is enough for all that come after. If one dying thief may look to him and be saved, so may every dying thief. If one trembling jailer may believe on Jesus, and rejoice believing, so may every other trembling sinner. O brethren! you may doubt and wrangle about whether Christ be enough for your souls, but if you die Christless, you will see that there was room enough under his wings, but you would not.

Sinners are lost, not because Christ is unwilling to save all.
The whole Bible shows that Christ is quite willing and anxious that all sinners should come to him. The city of refuge in the Old Testament was a type of Christ; and you remember that its gates were open by night and by day. The arms of Christ were nailed wide open, when he hung upon the cross; and this was a figure of his wide willingness to save all, as he said: ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ But though his arms were firmly nailed, they are more firmly nailed wide open now, by his love and compassion for perishing sinners, than ever they were nailed to the tree.

There is no unwillingness in the heart of Jesus Christ. When people are willing and anxious about something, they do everything that lies in their power to bring it to pass. So did Jesus Christ: ‘What could have been done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it?’ But if they are very anxious, they will attempt it again and again. So did Jesus Christ: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ But if they are still more anxious, they will be grieved if they are disappointed. So was Jesus Christ: ‘When he came near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.’ But if they are very anxious, they will suffer pain rather than lose their object. So did Jesus Christ: The good Shepherd gave his life for the sheep. Ah! dear brethren, if you perish, it is not because Jesus wishes you to perish.

A word to anxious souls. How strange it is that anxious souls do most of all doubt the willingness of Christ to be their Saviour! These should least of all doubt him. If he is a willing Saviour to any, O surely he is a willing Saviour to a weary soul! Remember the blind beggar of Jericho. He was in your case—blind and helpless—and he cried: ‘Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy upon me.’ And when. the crowd bade him hold his peace, he cried so much the more. Was Jesus unwilling to be that beggar’s Saviour? He stood still, and commanded him to be brought, and said: ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole.’ He is the same willing Saviour still. Cry after him; and, though the world may bid you hold your peace, cry after him just so much the more.

A word to careless souls. You say Christ may be a willing Saviour to others, but surely not to you. O yes! he is quite willing for you too. See him sitting by the well of Samaria, convincing one poor sinful woman of her sins, and leading her to himself. He is the same Saviour toward you this day. If you do perish, it is not because Christ is willing. He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He pleads with you, and says: ‘Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?’
R. M. McCheyne, “42. Ye will not come unto me (John 5:40),” in From the Preacher’s Heart (Additional Remains, 1846; repr. Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1993), 294–296. Also in Robert Murray McCheyne, “Sermon LXVIII,” The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, 2 vols. (New York: Robert Carter, 1847), 2:394-396.


Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on John 17:9

9, 10. It is out of special Love to them, for the Salvation and welfare of these, that I now pray to thee, and not for the mere Worldlings and Enemies of thy Kingdom, (though for them also I have such desires and Prayers as signifie my common Love; and the Elect among them yet unconverted, I have such requests for, as are suited to their state.) But these that thou hast give me peremptorily to save, are the People of thy peculiar Love as well as mine. And all that I so love thou lovest also, and it is in them that I am glorified, and my Person, Office and Grace is honoured, which others do but swinishly despise.
Richard Baxter, “The Gospel According to St. John,” in A Paraphrase on the New Testament (London: Printed for B. Simmons, at the Three Cocks in Ludgate-street, 1685), F1v. See also Richard Baxter on Christ's prayer in John 17.