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to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb. To this holy feast we are allowed to invite all the heretics and infidels of Christendom; also the Jews who are looking for a Messiah to come; and with them to invite the deluded Mahometans and idolatrous pagans. We
may invite men of every character, as well as of every creed. We may invite the pharisee, who is full of self-righteous religion, and with him the man who makes no pretension to any religion. They both equally need a Savior's righteousness; and both should be urged to accept of it. Immoral and also moral men need the salvation of Christ; and we have the same authority for offering it to the one class as to the other. He declared that he came to call sinners to repent. ance. If their sins are as scarlet, he can make them white as snow; if they are red like crimson, he can make them like wool. His blood cleanseth from all sin. With such an all-sufficient Savior in view, no degree of moral pollution presents an insuperable obstacle to the sin. ner's salvation. Let him forsake his way and his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, yea, he will abundantly pardon. Isa. lv, 7.
Hitherto we have considered the presentation of the gospel offer as a thing which God allows to be done, rather than that which he is zeal. ously engaged should be done. But this is not disclosing the whole truth in relation to this subject. Further light will be reflected on it when we consider,
III. The variety of ways which God has taken to present and to secure the presentation of this gracious offer. He himself calls to us out of heaven, and points us to the Savior, saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Mark ix. 7. The Son of God not only died for lost men, but preached the gospel to them with his own blessed lips. He invited them with great tenderness and earnestness to come to him for life. At a certain time he said to those who were about him, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. xi. 28. And since he went to heaven, he has sent them this kind invitation, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and
the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” In presenting the offers of the gospel, the Holy Ghost takes a conspicuous part. “ The Spirit says, Come.” Rev. xxü. 17. God said to Noah before the flood, My Spirit shall not always strive with man. A threat to withdraw the Spirit from the im. penitent, so that he shall no more strive with them, supposes that they are now striven with; and this striving implies, among other things, an offer of
mercy. They who fail to accept this offer, are charged with resisting the Holy Ghost. Acts vii. 51. It appears, then, that each person in the glorious Trinity is employed in arresting the attention of an apostate world, and urging their acceptance of proffered grace. The written word is the voice of God; and by this he is constantly addressing all those to whom it comes, saying, “Turn you at my reproof; behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Prov. i. 23. There is another way which the God of all grace has taken to insure the extensive, permanent, and faithful presentation of the gospel offer, which ought to be distinctly noticed, as a striking proof of the deep
interest he takes in its success, I refer to the stated ministry of the word. He has appointed that there should be a succession of men in his church, who shall separate themselves to this work, giving themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. These are appointed not only to feed the church, but also to seek the reconci. liation of the world: “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.” 2 Cor. v. 20. It is the divine plan, that the men employed in this work should be able, pious and discreet; and that their number should be multiplied, until they shall be able to fulfil, to the utmost extent, the command to “preach the gospel to every creature,” making the offer of salvation to every son and daughter of Adam.
Nor is the liberty of presenting this gracious offer wholly confined to the commissioned heralds of salvation. Every man who has em. braced it himself, ought to say to his unbelieving neighbor and brother, Know the Lord. Heb. viii. 11. The whole mystical bride, as well as the ministers of reconciliation, is expected to concur with the Spirit in presenting the invitation. “ The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.” Rev. xxii. 17. It seems to be made the duty of every man, who hears what a great and merciful salvation has been provided for a fallen world, to spread the news, and call the attention of others to a subject which so nearly concerns them all. None who believe in the reality of gospel salvation, can doubt whether God has made it the duty of parents to present this subject to their children. He has always, in all his institutions, made the seeking of a godly seed a matter of primary importance.
Would all this pains be taken, to place before the children of men the provision which has been made for their redemption, if God were not ready to forgive such as accept the proffered mercy? Would the Father call to them out of heaven; would the Son have come to earth to address them; and would the Spirit press their consciences, if no door of mercy were opened to them, nor divine solicitude entertained in their behalf? Would Christ, besides enjoining it on all his disciples to pray and labor for the conversion of unbelievers, have appointed a succession of men to hold the office of his ambassadors, to beseech sinners to be reconciled to God, if his heart had not been engaged to effect their reconciliation ?
us now attend to this interesting inquiry, What is implied in the acceptance of the offer of salvation ? Before giving a direct an. swer to the inquiry, suffer me to lay down three positions, the truth of which is made clear by the attention we have been called to pay to the freeness, extensiveness, and earnestness, with which the scriptures present the gospel offer. (1.) That every one who accepts the offer, will be accepted of God; he who complies with its conditions will be saved. “ To him that knocketh it shall be opened.” The man who was driven from the wedding because he had not on the wedding garment, had not truly accepted the invitation which had been sent him: he had not complied with its reasonable conditions. Matt. xxii. 1113. (2.) It is clear that every man has a right to accept the offer. The presentation of the invitation gives him a perfect right to accept it, though he has nothing to give in exchange for the good he is to receive.
He need not go about to establish his own righteousness, but is required, as a guilty creature, to submit to the righteousness of God. (3.) Holiness of heart is not made necessary, to give the sinner a right to accept the salvation of Christ. His accepting it is a holy act, there. fore holiness is to be looked after as an evidence that he has accepted , but not as that prerequisite which gives him the right to accept. To him as a mere sinner the offer is made, and while he knows nothing better of himself than this, that he is one of the lost children of Adam, his warrant to accept the proffered mercy, is clear and indubitable. He is required even now to behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. John i. 29.
The invitation, “Ho, every one that thirsteth,” is not restricted to those renovated souls that thirst after righteousness : it seems rather to bespeak the attention of such as are seeking after happiness where it can never be found. See Isa. Iv. 1, 2. Nor do I think the Savior's invitation to those who labor and are heavy laden ought to be considered as merely addressed to sin-burdened souls. Does not our true David, Israel's king, in imitation of his type, invite every one that is in distress, and every one that is in debt, and every one that is discontented, to gather themselves to him, with the gracious promise, that he will give them rest? 1 Sam. xxii. 2. Matt. xi. 28–30. But if these invi. tations should be thought to be restricted to persons of a particular character, there are enough others which very manifestly admit of no such restriction. The promises are made to something amiable in our character, something which we never possess until we are born of God; but commands and invitations are addressed to all, both good and bad.
I now return to the question, What is meant by an acceptance of the gospel offer? It must undoubtedly mean, that the salvation of Christ is received on the very terms of the offer; and that on these terms it is cordially received. Should an earthly sovereign offer a free pardon to rebellious subjects, on condition of reconciliation to his government, their acceptance of his offer must imply submission to his authority. A real acceptance of the offer of salvation, which is made us through the mediation of the Son of God, always comprehends these two things, viz. a cordial approbation of the salvation itself, and of the way in which it was procured. The salvation itself is a deliverance from suffering, by means of a deliverance from sin, The man who accepts the offer of salvation, does as cordially approve of deliverance from sin, as from suffering. Sin, in his view, is a body of death, from which it is most desirable to be delivered: and if there is any thing for which he unfeignedly thanks God, it is for the prospect of a complete deliverance from this evil, through the Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. vii. 24, 25. The circumstance, that his deliverance comes through the death and intercession of Christ, in distinction from its being the fruit of his own personal merit, forms no objection to it. To him it is a pleasing circumstance; nay, it is that without which salvation would lose all its glory. To sum up all in a word; he who embraces the offer of salva. tion, comes fully into the views of the God of salvation. He delights in just such a salvation as God offers him; and is well pleased with the very Savior in whom God declares that He is well pleased. He highly prizes reconciliation with God; and reconciliation in such a
way, as to imply no relinquishment of claims on the part of divine government, nor the fixing of any stigma on the divine character.
He rejoices with all his heart, that, by means of the atonement, God is declared to be just, while he is the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
If we thus accept the offer, the salvation is ours. As the terms of salvation originate with God, it necessarily supposes, that he has given his consent to them already. As soon, therefore, as we have satisfac, tory evidence that we have acceded to the terms ourselves, we may be assured that the treaty of peace between us and our Maker is actually ratified. If we are at peace with him, there can be no doubt of his being at peace with us. If we possess that faith by which proffered mercy is accepted, we are assured that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. v. 1.
The call to sinners to embrace the gospel, I have considered in the light of an invitation ; and in this form it is often presented to us in the oracles of God. But let it be remembered, that between this and such invitations as we often receive from our friends, there is a wide differ. ence. When we negative-an invitation to participate with our friends in a feast, we feel no guilt; for we consider them as rather informing us what we may do, than what we must do; as giving us permission to partake with them, rather than imposing an obligation. But an invitation from God has all the binding authority of a command. It is not only designed to inform us, that we may come to the marriage supper, which he has at great expense prepared, but that we must come, or be guilty of a heinous sin. To refuse to comply with the gospel offer, and take hold of the covenant of grace, is undoubtedly a much more aggravated sin than that which was committed in Eden, by which the first covenant was violated, and the whole race exposed to ruin. We are not merely invited, but also commanded to believe on the name of the Son of God: and he who does not obey this command, practically declares that he is resolved still to persist in his rebellion against the throne of Heaven, 1 John, iii. 23.
Is not the truth of the present Article put beyond all doubt? Is it not abundantly evident, that life is set before us in the gospel, and that we are invited to choose it? The proof of this does not depend on a single text: there are many which unite their testimony in support of the same thing. The doctrine which is contained in this Article, appears diffused through the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Every passage does not treat on this particular subject : but there are many which do; and these all unite in exhibiting the gospel offer as free and universal. They harmonize in the declaration, that all things are ready, and that all who will, may come to the marriage ; and that all who truly accept the invitation will be made perfectly welcome.
It may, perhaps, be brought as an objection to this statement, that for a long time the blessings of salvation were confined to one nation, namely the Jews. To this I would reply ; that the door of mercy, even then, stood open to the gentiles. The door of the church was not shut against them. Provision was made by the God of Israel for the stran. ger who should sojourn amongst his people, (if he were disposed to Worship their God, and attend on his appointed ordinances,) that he
and his seed should be entitled to the seal of the covenant, the same as though they had been native Israelites. By comparing Deut. xxxii. 8, with Acts xvii. 26, 27, it would seem as though this is assigned as a special reason, why God, who made of one blood all the nations of men, located the children of Israel in the midst of the sons of Adam ; that their gentile brethren might by this means have a better opportunity to seek Jehovah, the true God, if haply, during all the darkness of that period, they might feel after him and find him.
There is, however, a wide difference between not being explicitly invited, and being forbidden to come. All the gentile nations are not yet explicitly invited: but certainly there is no interdict which keeps any of them back; for the commission to invite extends to all. Apd if, during the Jewish dispensation, there was not such an explicit command to preach to the gentiles, still it was always true that those gentiles who came to trust themselves under the wings of the God of Israel, were cheerfully received into the congregation of his people. Ruth ii. 12. The personal ministry of Christ was chiefly confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ; but he never rejected a gentile who applied to him, either for healing or for salvation. If any instance occurred of his rejecting an applicant on account of gentilism, it was the case of the Syrophenician woman.
And even in this case, it is obvious, that his deferring to grant her petition was not because he had no mercy for sinners of the gentiles ; but that it was designed both to prove and to increase her faith and importunity. He proclaimed it as a rule, whereby he would be invariably regulated in dispensing those rich and enduring mercies, which in the character of a Savior he had to bestow ; that no humble applicant should be sent empty away: Him
T; that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.
The agreement of this with the Article which immediately precedes it, is very manifest ; for the offer of salvation to sinners originates in an atonement for their sins. Without atonement there is no salvation ; of course no offers of salvation are made, except what are based upon it. And it is in view of a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, that the whole world are to be invited to partake of these blessings. If the atonement were of a limited value, being sufficient for only a part
a of the race, there would be no propriety, by an unlimited invitation, to offer its benefits to all. And had its value been infinite (as it is) with. out being made for the human race in general, in such a sense as to furnish a provision for their salvation, still there would be no propriety in an indiscriminate offer. Although the atonement for sin, by the death of our Redeemer, was infinite ; yet, since it was in no sense made for the fallen angels, the offers of salvation are not extended to them. They are not, like ourselves, put into a new state of probation ; but “are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day." In common with all intelligent creatures, they are under obligation to love the Redeemer's character, and to approve of the way of life by his death : but they have no part nor lot in the benefits of his