17 Universal Invitations Conflict Hopelessly With The Particular Provisions Of Grace
First, that universal invitations can never be made to agree with particular, fixed, and eternal purposes; a particular covenant that shall never be broken, is everlasting, immovable, ordered in all things and sure; a particular redemption that is real and eternal; particular promises that are all yea and amen in Christ; and a particular provision which God ‘will abundantly bless.’ And it is most certain, that if universal invitations cannot be made to agree with those great points, they can form no part of the ministry of those great points, and so, no part of the ministry in the communication of the blessings thereof. The economy of grace can only be sure, as it is particular, and must be as particular as it is really sure. And that it is particular must be admitted, if the Bible be admitted as the standard law-book of the case; for the Lord knew the end from the beginning, Isaiah 46:10; ‘For he himself knew what he would do, John 6: 6; ‘That the purpose of God according to election might stand, Rom 9:11; ‘Even so, then, there is at this present time a remnant according to election of grace; and if by grace, then it is no more of works,’ Rom 9:5,6; ‘Our God is in the heavens, and he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased,’ Psalm 115:3: ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight,’ Matt 11:25-27. ‘So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,’ Rom 9: 16; Now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe, John 14:29; that in purpose, God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world,’ Heb 4:3.
The provisions of grace are not only made for the certain support and eternal salvation of all them that come to Christ by faith, but are equally and altogether as much made for the purpose of quickening, disposing, and bringing by faith to Christ, all and every one that shall be saved by him; none have ever come to Christ in any other way than by the power of grace, that we can find in any one personal testimony recorded in the sacred word; and none can now say that they have ever come into the life of true godliness and hope of salvation, but by the Lord’s own power and operations of grace; and that he alone has made them all that they are as believers unto eternal life, according to the testimony that Paul the apostle bears of his own case, saying, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am,” I Cor.15:10. As it was in the fullness of grace that the Saviour came in the flesh and dwelt among men for their salvation, so it is in the power of the same grace only, by which sinners do or can come into the Spirit to dwell safely with Christ. And as it is by grace only that sinners are savingly brought to Christ for salvation, every thing to the contrary of this fact being unknown by any testimony of truth under the whole heavens; if the provisions of grace, both in fullness and power, be not particular, but general, how is it that all are not by grace made to be for salvation, what grace made Paul to be? The apostle saith, ‘Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works; but according to his own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,’ 2 Tim 1:9. If the provisions of grace be not particular only, why are not all men saved, and called with an holy or sanctifying calling, not according to their works, but according to God’s purpose and grace given to all in Christ Jesus before the world began? We know it is not so, and what is the reason it is not, but that grace is sovereign and particular only?
And was Paul quite right with the truth of God, in putting salvation by grace in purpose, before calling by grace, so as for the former to ensure the effectuality of the latter? And if he was right with truth in this, what part of the truth of God is it right with to call all men by universal invitations first, and after that, they are to be saved if they come, and if they do not come they will not be saved at all, after so called, but be damned for not coming? The Ephesians saints had been dead in sin, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others, but God quickened them together with Christ, and raised them up together with him, and made them sit together in heavenly places with him; and all this was done for the great love wherewith he loved them, even when they were dead in sins, Eph 2:4-6. Now if the provisions and intentions of grace be not particular, but general, and this great love be general too, how is it that all men are not quickened, and raised up together with Christ, and blest, as the Ephesians were? For it is impossible to find any in a worse, or more helpless state, than God found the Ephesians in, when he put forth the power of his grace upon them.
The apostle, in speaking to the saints at Corinth, in the Christian confidence of having for a happy hereafter, ‘A building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,’ says, ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit, 2 Cor 5:1,5. If the provisions, intentions, and operations of grace be not particular, but general, how is it that all men are not declared to have the like house of God eternal in the heavens, and they wrought into fitness for the self-same thing, as Paul and the Corinthians were, by the Lord himself only? The Lord saith, ‘I will gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come, and see my glory,’ Not, I wish to gather, and it will be most piously prudent for them to bethink themselves and come; but I will gather, and they shall come, and see my glory, Isaiah 66:18. It is therefore plain beyond all fair contradiction or reasonable doubt, that the coming of any sinner into the life and saving truth of the faith of Christ, is of the operative power of grace only, and that such operations of grace are sovereign and particularly only, and so at direct war with duty faith and universal invitations to salvation.
All grace unto salvation, and all gospel truth that proclaims it and makes it known, ‘come by Jesus Christ, John 1:17; and they are and must be agreed, for Christ is not divided, nor opposed in his truth, to himself in his grace; if grace was universal, truth in its intent would be so, and salvation would be so accordingly. These three agree in one mind, and divine deeds best tell what that mind is, beyond all theories.
If the invitations of the gospel unto salvation, or to a partaking of the blessings of the gospel that are unto eternal life, had ever been by the Lord himself intended to be general and all men alike, there never would have been that particularization and description of character which cannot be denied to be contained in them all, but they would have been given out without any such restrictions to character as is now contained in them, and which is as clearly stated a point as the blessing itself is plainly named, and as that the welcome is purely gracious to the sensibly needy. As salvation is determined of God, “according to the election of grace,” and according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, Eph 3:11, so every truth of the gospel, and, consequently, the invitations of the gospel as a part of such truth, are according to the election of grace, and the purpose of God in Christ Jesus, and as entirely so too as the existence of a ‘remnant’ of God-fearing, truth-believing, grace-saved people ‘at this present time is according to the election of grace, Rom 11:5. And as all the blessings of the grace of God are determined according to his own purpose and the good pleasure of his will,’ in such a manner only he speaks, and in such a manner only he works, as “after the counsel of his own will;” and he authorizes no man or angel to speak otherwise in his name. And, consequently, there is a character described in the invitations as suited to them, and as to whom the invitations are suited; because the very character under which they are described, marks them out as the undeniable heirs of promise, to whom the blessing named in the invitation belongs, and for whom the provisions of the gospel are truly and without fall made. So that the invitations of the gospel are special property, and are consequently maintained as sacred, and made as effectually infallible in all their properties above described, and to their full intent accordingly, as are all other parts of the truth of the Lord that endureth for ever.’
John Foreman (1792-1872) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone, serving this position for close to forty years. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“John Foreman (1792-1872) was for upwards of 40 years pastor of the Church at Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone—a tall, stalwart, rugged man, with an iron constitution and of tremendous energy. When an agricultural labourer in the county of Suffolk he was called by grace; his first pastorate was at Cambridge, whence in 1827 he came to London. Although not a learned man, in the usual sense of that expression, he possessed varied general information, which he obtained by considerable reading, by intercourse with men, and by long and close observation. As a preacher he was distinguished by great plainness of speech and vigour of address; his sermons were often very instructive and impressive, and many of his thoughts grand and lofty. There was, however, considerable inequality in their value. His voice was strong and clear and, when he was warm in his subject, was exerted with great animation and rapidity of utterance. He was emphatic in declaring salvation to be entirely by grace and not in any sense or degree by works. Hence he had a great antipathy to what is termed the duty-faith scheme, which in his view, as it makes salvation depend on the exercise of faith as a moral duty, entirely enervates and destroys the character of the Gospel dispensation; changing a system of free favour and special distinguishing grace into one of condemnation and legal bondage. At the same time he was careful to maintain the necessity of good works, as the fruit of a gracious change of heart. His "Remarks on Duty-faith," with a preface by James Wells, is a valuable production worthy of a reprint. It gives a fairly complete idea of his views of truth, and affords a sample of his style in writing and preaching. As an able minister of the New Testament, he distinguished carefully between the several covenants therein set forth, and faithfully described the various characters therein indicated. Careful and prayerful attention to the nature of these covenants, as set forth in various parts of the Old Testament especially, will clear away clouds of difficulties which often trouble young believers. He was tender and sympathetic in his addresses to the weak and tried, and careful and considerate to the lambs and nurslings of the flock. He was a remarkable proof of what the Divine Spirit can effect by the instrumentality of a plain, unlettered man, so far as the learning of the schools is concerned. Possessed of the smallest possible advantages of early education he had to make his way by dint of perseverance and self-culture. Part of a report published by bis Sunday School during his pastorate has present-day lessons.
"At the commencement of our school it was supposed by some of our friends that it was impossible to carry on the Sabbath-school on free grace principles. The experiment, however, was tried, and our prayers have been answered —we have not to pronounce it a failure. Free-will and duty-faith have never formed a part of the creed of any of the teachers to our knowledge. We have always contended that life must precede action, and, consequently, have never been able to invite the dead to perform acts that belong alone to the living. The first chapter that was read in the school, in the hearing of the children, was John 3, in which is set forth the necessity of the new birth, and that alone by the invincible and omnipotent power of the Holy Ghost. Here we took our stand and from this point we have never swerved. The grand and glorious doctrines of free and distinguishing grace, as preached by our pastor, have ever been maintained as the truth within the walls of our school; and, although warm advocates for the use of means, we have never believed, much less taught, that there is any power or efficacy in them, but that they are only useful as made so by the Holy Ghost. The providing of suitable class books has been a matter of no small concern. A catechism was chosen, and others added after, besides reading and spelling books; but as years rolled on, one after another was given up, until we are left with the Bible only. This is our one class book for all who can put their words together.”