George Ella on Doctrinal Matters

Maurice Roberts And The Free Offer Hoax

The so-called Banner of Truth’s witch-hunt against alleged Hyper-Calvinists continues with Maurice Roberts quite deceptive apology for their new, radical theology hidden behind the mask of ‘The Free Offer of the Gospel’ (Issue 503-4). Pastor Roberts has picked out all the raisins and nuts he could find in the new BOT cake, seeking to lure traditional BOT readers away from the old paths by these tempting morsels. He has, however, offered us nothing of the seasoning of gall and bitter herbs which makes his cake the most stomach-turning culinary event since the counter-reformation opened their evil-smelling kitchen as purveyors of false food. A little of this comes through in Roberts’ accusing all those who disagree with him of being Hyper-Calvinists, but such tasteless taunts are but the icing on the BOT cake. True to their propaganda ministry, the BOT have failed to alert their readers to the highly immoral aspects of their teaching. Presumably, they are trusting that those who feed on their fare will think that, like good medicine, it has to taste rather putrid.

Roberts’ recipe starts with a healthy ingredient. “The invitation given by God to all sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, with the promise added that if they do so believe they will at once receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.” The Banner’s bogey-men John Gill and William Huntington taught this, too, so what is the catch? Roberts calls this ‘The Free Offer’ and explains it away by adding “The Offer is an expression of love and grace on God’s part towards sinful, unbelieving men. The Offer is sincere on God’s part, and it is genuinely and well meant. The Offer is addressed to sinners as they are and requires of them repentance and faith.” Now, inviting and commanding sinners to repentance and believe, is not the same as making an offer to all of them with the well-meant intention that such saving gifts are held in store for each of them. So what exactly is Roberts offering and what makes it free? Roberts does not answer this but an answer comes via John Murray’s BOT tiny booklet The Free Offer of the Gospel from which Roberts says he took his ideas. Murray argues that God would not desire the salvation of all without distinction unless He had provided the means for them. Thus the free offer is not a mere invitation but “God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness”. Murray goes on to say, “The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all . . . . . the grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness. The love or loving-kindness that lies back of that offer is not anything less; it is the will to that salvation.” He adds, “The loving and benevolent will that is the source of that offer and that grounds its veracity and reality in the will to the possession of Christ and the enjoyment of the salvation that resides in him.” The question of how God could delight in offering what He knows will not be accepted is left unanswered although the modern Free Offer BOT-orientated enthusiasts make a macabre point of emphasizing the well-meant delight their god has in offering, indeed, promising to sinners, what it has no intention of giving them.

Now Roberts goes on to argue that as, presumably, repentance and faith are made available to all, faith in Christ is therefore a duty of all. Each sinner is duty bound to accept what God has provided for him. Those who do not accept this ‘gospel’ are declassified from the status of ‘Christian’ to that of ‘Hyper-Calvinist’. Certainly, had Christ provided saving-faith for all men, they would be duty bound to use it. Just as God has provided the law for all men so they are duty bound to obey it. The Tattered-Banner contenders, argue, it appears, from the fact that the law is for all to the supposed fact that saving grace is for all so that every man is duty bound to obey the new law of grace. But grace is not a dutiful obligation to obey a law but is a divine act of re-creation which has nothing to do with law duties. It is a gift. Those who do not have it are not in the same category as those who have it. All who are under the law are duty-bound to keep it. All who are in Christ are bound to Him by grace. As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. God never asks of dead men that they wake themselves up from the dead. Sadly Fullerism, which is the essential philosophy behind the Banner’s Liberalism, denies that sinners are fully dead to the gospel, arguing that God would not demand of a sinner what he cannot do. This is the great breach between the old gospel and the BOT’s new-fangled imitation. God resurrects dead bodies and gives them new life, he does not give corpses built-in, do-it-yourself abilities to revive themselves. Duty faith is based on the Fullerite doctrine that God demands of all sinners what He has enabled them to do. Such a duty faith may be bold and fine humanism but humanism provides no salvation for sinners.

As the Banner of Truth Trust refer to me in their magazine as a Hyper-Calvinist, Roberts’ definitions of Hyper-Calvinism make interesting reading. His ‘Hypers’ appear far less ‘Hyper’ than he is himself considering his view of God sending those for whom Christ died in a ‘sufficient for all, Universal atonement’ to hell. I do not find the gospel I teach in Roberts’ mock-up, nor that of any of the names in the long list of Hypers and Antinomians that the BOT and her associate magazines are now placing in their media. It is Antinomian indeed to be so careless with terms. It is interesting to note that as they denounce one after the other of our great Reformers and Puritans and re-construct the biographies of others, soon the ‘Banner Boys’ will only have their own ‘modern apostles’ in their para-church left. But even they are being dismissed one by one! Perhaps Paul Helm’s Banner days are numbered as he is now saying nice things about John Gill on his web-site.

Roberts claims that only his Free Offer clan are true to the Word of God. This is the most deceptive part of Roberts’ gospel. He has not told us that the BOT bases its message on a manipulation of Scripture as per John Murray, nor that Iain Murray preaches a mutable god who has three basic wills, nor that John Murray and especially David Gay, whose works Roberts has also used in his Free Offer farce, teach that the Son and the Father had different wills. Nor that Stebbins, another of Roberts’ mentors referred to, teaches that God has a psychological problem. Indeed, judging by Paul Helm’s recent pronouncement in conjunction with the flood of “free offer’ articles and books coming from the BOT quarter, the creedal nature of God as eternally Father, Son and Holy Spirit is being abandoned altogether. We are left in the Banner’s Liberal theology with a crazed god who is at enmity with itself and, though it wishes to save all and has provided an atonement to save all, it delights in refusing to sinful man what it has promised him. This is all the fruit of the BOT’s rejection of the unity and immutability of the Word of God. If there is no immutable unity in God, how can we expect to find such immutable unity in the Word of God and visi versa? Thus with nauseating impiety, such writers as Erroll Hulse and David Gay strive to convince us that God’s Word is merely a bundle of irreconcilable paradoxes. Happily this downgrading is not going unnoticed and far more than one evangelical magazine and a number of ‘old path’ pulpits are denouncing this ungodliness for what it is – blasphemy.

Like David Silversides’ recent work on the Free Offer, Roberts claims the Westminster Standards are on his side. However, the Westminster Confession and Standards, as witnessed by Roberts’ quotes, limit the offer to those who are given to embrace it within the covenant of grace. This Reformed view of the ‘offer’ is the view of our Reformers, the Synod of Dort and all the Scottish Marrow-Men with whom Roberts usually says he agrees. That Christ is offered to those within His Covenant was also the view of William Huntington whom Roberts, of course, calls an ‘Antinomian’. As Roberts ministers in Scotland, it is a pity he shuns the theological inheritance that his sound predecessors have left him. It is well-known that many Presbyterians practice a ‘free offer’ with the excuse that their congregations are ‘presumed believers’, but this is a practice which can neither be defended by Scripture nor, happily, the Westminster Standards.

It has become popular for writers such as Roberts and Gay to add arbitrarily a list of VIPs on their visiting cards as ‘references’ to their creditworthiness. Dead men cannot stand up and protest. Roberts’ last sultana in his ‘demo’ cake is thus his supposed backing from orthodox writers. This is sheer bluff! None of the stalwarts Roberts lists speak of a free offer in BOT terms, or in any other, for that matter. Nor can Roberts argue that they really mean what he says as the works cited, yet strategically not named, show that they do not. Being dead, they still speak. It is really an act of base cheek to strive to hoodwink the BOT readership in this dishonest way. Offering Roberts’ gospel hoax to sinners in revolt against God is joining them, not saving them.

Bannière is a term used in chivalry for a knight who formerly had his glorious Banner carried in pomp before him but now is reduced to working as a barrow-boy selling cheap trinkets. It appears that the Edinburgh para-church militants have dipped their once glorious Banner before false gods and have thus become mere Bannières trading in cheap, no-good imitations.

George Ella


George M. Ella is a historian, author and biographer. His writings may be accessed at the online archived, ”Biographia Evangelica”.

George M. Ella, born February 1939 in Yorkshire, England, has lived most of his life on the European Continent. He is a retired Senior Civil Servant formerly employed in teaching, post-graduate teacher-training, chairing examination boards and curricula work. He holds degrees from London, Hull, Uppsala, Essen, Duisburg and Marburg universities with doctorates in English Literature and Theology. Dr. Ella has written regularly since the seventies for a number of magazines and newspapers and published numerous books on Church History, including biographies of William Cowper, William Huntington, James Hervey, John Gill, Augustus Montague Toplady, Isaac McCoy and Henry Bullinger besides works on doctrine and education. He is currently finishing the third volume of his series 'Mountain Movers'; a biography of John Durie; a work on Law and Gospel and further study material for the Martin Bucer Seminar. Dr. Ella is still internationally active as a lecturer and is a Vice-President of the Protestant Reformation Society. He is keenly interested in missionary work and has written on the spread of the Gospel amongst the Same people of Lapland, the people of India and the Native Americans. This present volume follows Dr. Ella's 'The Covenant of Grace and Christian Baptism', also published by the Martin Bucer Seminar. George Ella is married to Erika Ella, nee Fleischman, a former government administrator, and they have two sons Mark (41), Director of a Polytechnic College in Bremerhaven and Robin (39), Leading Senior Physician in a newly-built Geriatric and Psychiatric clinic in Dessau.

George Ella on Doctrinal Matters
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