Friday, March 17, 2006

Rutherford and the Gospel Offer

Excerpts from Trial and Triumph of Faith
  • Now, the special intent of the gospel is to bring men to put a high and rich price upon Christ, and this is one gospel-offer: What thinkest thou of so excellent a one as Christ? What wouldst thou part with? What wouldst thou do or suffer for Christ?
  • Faith can stand upon one foot, even on a general word; hence, this is a gospel word in the Prophets, which requireth faith, Turn to the Lord for he is merciful, (Jer. 3:12; Joel 2:13; John 4:2). And because a general promise received with heart-adherence and confidence giveth glory to God; and if it be holden forth to a humbled soul, who is now within the lists and bounds of grace, and, for any thing that the person thus laden with sin knoweth on the contrary, (for the secrets of election and reprobation belong to the Lord) Christ mindeth and intendeth to him salvation, therefore he is to believe.
  • This would be considered, that unbelief breaketh with Christ first, before Christ break with the unbeliever; and the elect of God findeth no more, nor any higher favour in the kind of external means to open the Lamb's book of life, which is sealed and closed with God's own hand, than the commandment of believing. Now, when our Lord maketh offer of the kingdom of sons, to slaves, and casteth his jewel of Christ offered in the gospel, in the lap and bosom of a bastard, whatever be the Lord's secret decree and purpose in so doing, the bastard is to take God at his word, and to catch the opportunity of God's love in so far; and if he do it not, the gospel offer to the reprobate being a treaty of peace, then the treaty breaketh off first upon his side; for Christ cometh within a mile of mercy, to meet the sinner, and the sinner cometh not the fourth part of a mile, yea, not half a step of love and thankful obedience, to meet Christ; and so, Christ killeth the unbeliever with the sweetness of the preventing courtesy of offered mercy.
  • But if the sinner be wearied and laden, and seeth, though through a cloud only, Christ only must help and save, if not, he is utterly and eternally lost, What is there upon Christ's part to hinder thee to believe, O guilty wretch? Oh, (saith he,) I fear Christ only offereth himself to me, but he mindeth no salvation to me.
    —Answer. Is not this to raise an evil report and slander on the holy One of Israel? For Christ's offer is really an offer, and in so far, it is real love, though it cannot infer the love of election to glory, yet the total denial of this offer openeth up the black seal of reprobation to heathens without the church. And therefore it is love to thee, if thou be humbled for sin; (2.) And have half an eye to the unsearchable riches of gospel mercy; (3.) And be self-condemned; (4.) And have half a desire of Christ: thou mayest expound love by love, and lay hold on the promise, and be saved. An error of humble love to Christ, is no error.
    Though it were true, that you were upon the borders of hell, yet the gospel, though it except you from actual mercy, yet excepts you not from the duty of believing and coming to Christ; and though such think and imagine, that they believe Christ is able to save and redeem them, only they doubt of his will, yet the truth is, the doubt of unbelief is more of the power of mercy and infinite grace in Christ than of his will; and my reason is, "that whosoever believeth, hath set to his seal that God is true;" (John 3:33;) and "He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." (1 John 5:10.)
  • It is true, the gospel excepteth no man from pardon, and all that hear the gospel are to be wearied and laden, and to receive Christ by faith, as if God intended to save them. But the promises of the gospel are not simply universal, as if God intended and purposed, that all and every one should be actually redeemed and saved in Christ, as Arminians teach; and so God excepteth in his own hidden decree, not a few, though he reveal not in the gospel who they are, yet he revealeth in the gospel the general, that "many are called, but few are chosen:"
    And I grant, there is no ground for any one man not to believe upon this ground, because some are reprobated from eternity, and it may be I am one of those, for the contrary is a sure logic; many are chosen to life eternal, and it may be that I am one of those. (2.) It is most untrue, that Christ belongeth to sinners as sinners, for then, Christ should belong to all unbelievers, how obstinate soever, even to those that sin against the Holy Ghost. Nay, Christ belongeth only to sinners elected to glory, as elected to glory in regard of God's gracious purpose, and He belongeth only to believing sinners, as believing, in regard of actual union with Christ, (Eph. 3:17, Gal. 2:20). (3.) It is false that sinners, as sinners, do receive Christ, for so, Judas and all sinners should receive Christ: now the Scripture showeth, that believers only receive him, (John 1:12, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 3:17). (4.) It is false, that sinners, as sinners, believe in Christ. This way of libertines is a broad way for sorcerers, thieves, murderers, parricides, idolaters, remaining in that damnable state, to believe; whereas sinners, as such, sinners thus and thus qualified, are to believe; that is, humbled, wearied, and self-condemned sinners only, are to believe, and come to Christ. It is true, all sinners are obliged to believe, but to believe after the order of free grace; that is, that they be first self-lost and sick, and then be saved by the physician.
  • If Christ be sent for lost Israel, and say in the gospel, 'Who will go with me?' and say to thee, 'My Father the King sent me, his own Son, to bring thee up to his house,' why, but thou shouldst go? When old Jacob saw the chariots and messengers that Prince Joseph, his own son, yet living, had sent to fetch him, "His heart failed for joy." Seest thou the chariot of Pharaoh paved with love? make, then, for the journey. The home we have here is a taking lover; why, but thou mayest say, I cannot stay here, the king hath sent for me.
    Christ's act of dying was a special law: "This commandment received I of my Father, that I should lay down my life." (John 10:18.) (3.) By his death and resurrection he is made a Prince by law, and hath law and authority to forgive sins, (Acts 5:31; Matt. 9:6); and power to give life eternal, (John 17:2,)—and rule all by a new law in his new kingdom. (Matt. 28:8.) Our heaven now, is by law and a special commission; but the gospel is a general: he brought all God's secrets from heaven; and in his special commission, Christ hath, as it were, private instructions: Save such and such persons, not any other, not all Israel, but the lost sheep; not the goats. There is a great mystery, how there be no double-dealing in the gospel, and two contrary wills in God.
  • He offereth, in the gospel, life to all, so they believe; and God mindeth to work faith, and intendeth to bestow life on a few only; like a king's son coming to a prison of condemned men, with offered pardons to all, upon condition they accept of them; but yet he singleth out some, and persuadeth them to lay hold on the Father's grace; and by the head taketh them out, and leaveth all the rest to justice. Yet is it no greater mystery than this, "Many are called, but few are chosen." So Christ's sending with his commission, cometh under a two-fold notion: one is, in the intention of the Evangel; the other is, in the intention of him who proposeth the Evangel to men,—I mean, God's intention to give faith and effectual grace. The former is nothing but God's moral complacency of grace, revealing an obligation that all are to believe if they would be saved; and upon their own peril be it, if they refuse Christ. This is the heart and mind of Christ to persons, revealing two things: (1.) Men's duty; (2.) God's grace to give life eternal to believers. But the latter is not a moral will in God only, but a real physical will, (to speak so,) according to the which, Christ effectually, strongly layeth bands of love, cords of sweet enforcing grace, to persuade the soul to take Jesus Christ. Christ cometh to the mind under a higher apprehension, with his rainy and wet hair, knocking, and again knocking, to show his face in such soul-redeeming beauty and excellency, as the soul must be taken captive, subdued, and overcome with the love of Christ; as the spouse is so wrought on with the beauty, grace, riches, endowments of excellency, words of love of such an husband, that she is forced to say, 'I have no power, neither heart nor hand to refuse you.' Now, the former notion of the gospel is enough to lay the obligation of believing on all; so as though the gospel reveal not God's purpose of election, (that is only and formally revealed in, and by God's efficacious working of faith, called the inward calling,) yet it saith this to all, 'You are all to believe no less, than if there were not any reprobated persons amongst you.' If, therefore, any despairing ones, as Cain, yea, and many weak ones, refuse to believe, on this ground, Why should I believe? the gospel hath excepted me, it belongeth not to me, I am a reprobate,—they are deluded, for the gospel formally revealeth neither the Lord's decree of election nor reprobation. The embracing of the gospel, and the final rejection thereof, can speak to both these; but that is neither the gospel voice, nor the gospel spirit, that revealeth any such bad tidings.