William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 11 – The Gospel: Its Nature And Invitations

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

XI. The Gospel—Its Nature and Invitations.

We believe that the Gospel, or the glad tidings of the sovereign, free, and enriching grace of God to lost sinners, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Ghost[1] is of the nature of a declaration or proclamation, and that to proffer mercy, or tender salvation, or offer Christ to the unregenerate, (as is often done, as if men had it in their own power to accept or reject the grace of God, and will augment their damnation if they refuse it,) is unscriptural, and wholly without Divine authority,[2] and that the invitations of the Gospel are addressed to those who possess spiritual life, and should be presented to those only whose character and condition, as conscious and contrite sinners, are so clearly described in the word of God.[3]

[1] Lk 8:1; Acts 13:32; Rom 10:15; 1 Cor 15:1,8
[2] Is 61;1,2; Lk 12:3; Acts 17:23; 20:27; Rom 3:25; Col 1:28; 1 Jn 1:3
[3] Matt 11:28; Jn 7:37; Acts 2:37,38; 16:29-31; Rom 10:12,13; Rev 22:17



Note 1:—The Nature of the Gospel

The Gospel is of the nature of a DECLARATION or PROCLAMATION.[1]

This appears from an examination of the terms by which it is described in the New Testament.

It is “the word of God,” (Acts 13:44;) the “word of His grace,” (Acts 19:3;) and “the word of this salvation,” (Acts 13:26.) A word is the expression of a thought—the vehicle iu which an idea is conveyed: and the Gospel is the oral or written expression of the gracious thoughts of God concerning the salvation of men.

It is a testimony, (Acts 22:18;) and the vocation of the preacher is to testify (or bear witness, or give evidence) to the great facts which the grace of God has originated, (Acts 2o:21, and 33:11.

It is a declaration—a ‘making known’ to men in current speech, of the things which concern their peace. (Acts 20:21, and 23:11.)

It is a proclamation—a “forthcrying,” or urgent and earnest statement of the way of salvation, (Isa. 61:1,2.)

It is the publishing of important intelligence, after the manner of a herald, (kerusso, 1 Cor. 1:23.)

It is announcing good news or glad tidings (euaggelizo, pronounced euangelizo, Gal. 1:16.)

It is to talk or discourse (lateo, Acts 11:19;) and onoe it is called speaking with boldness, (Acts 9:27.)

All these express or imply that the vocation of the preacher is to make known to sinners how they may obtain salvation.

Preaching the Gospel is, therefore, the declaration of all the great and gracious facts on which the redemption and renova­tion of sinners depend. It is not reiterating the name of Christ without reference to the purposes which centre in the person of the Son of God. It is not threatening men with damnation if they do not instantly believe the message of mercy. It is not shouting, “Come to Jesus,” without declaring to whom the invitation extends. It is not begging and intreating natural men to become spiritual men, and to do what only spiritual men can. It, however, is,—what the words referred to express and involve—the intelligent and comprehensive exhibition and exposition of the “way of salvation.” (Acts 16:17) The Gospel is a declaration of the way in which sinners are saved by sovereign mercy, sacrificial merit, and spiritual might, and due prominence should also be given to the will of the Father, the worth of the Son, and the work of the Holy Ghost.

How far much that is supposed to be Gospel corresponds with this ideal, let the reader, if he is a spiritual man, judge. (1 Cor. 2.)

Note 2:—Offered Grace an Ancient Error.

Antiquity and authority can both be pleaded for regarding the Gospel as an offer of Christ or a tender of grace to sinners. Thus in the Confession of Faith agreed upon in 1647 by the assembly of Presbyterian Divines at Westminster, we are told, chap. 10:2, that Effectual Calling ‘‘is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man; who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and con­veyed in it.”

This was, in substance, introduced into the Confession of Faith adopted by the Particular Baptists in 1689. They, however, while retaining the notion of offered grace, emphasised the testimony to the necessity of the Spirit’s work, by stating that Effectual Calling “is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sine and trespasses, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that is by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.” Chap. 10, 2.

Again, the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism declares that (Question 31) “Effectual Calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL.”

This was adopted by C. H. Spurgeon in “A Catechism with Proofs.”

It was—as Joseph John Gurney approvingly relates—the belief of William Wilberforce that the Gospel is “an effective offer of salvation made to every man born into the world,” and the vast majority of evangelical Christians would concur in this opinion.

It was through the labours of Tobias Crisp, (1600-1642), Joseph Hussey, (1660-1726), John Gill, D.D.,[2] (1697-1771), William Huntington, (1745-1813), John Stevens, (1776-1847) William Palmer, 1800-1873), and others, that the truth of God in this branch of the Gospel was subsequently elucidated.

The question, however, is not whether a doctrine is old or new, but whether or not it is supported by the word of God.

Note 3:—Offers of Salvation Lack Scriptural Authority

It is common to assume that offering Christ to sinners is an essential branch of the Gospel. Proof is, how­ever, rarely advanced: but, if the Bible and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants, so important an article of belief should not be regarded as unchallengeable, without positive appeal to the word of God.

Let the studious reader turn to Young’s Analytical Concord­ance,[3] and examine the words by which the preaching of the Gospel to the unconverted is described in the New Testament. Let him then turn to Hudson’s Critical Greek and English Concordance, and trace these words in all their occurrences. He will find that not one expresses or implies the idea that it is an Evangelist’s mission to tender, proffer, or offer Christ, grace or salvation to sinners. Their true meaning is given in Note 1, which consult.

It is observable that no text of Scripture is advanced in sup­port of this doctrine in any of the editions of the Assembly’s Confession and Catechisms,whether “printed by authority,”or otherwise.

The Rev. J. Macpherson and Dr. Robert Shaw, of Whitburn, to their excellent Expositions of the Confession of Faith (both standard works) are silent upon the statement that grace is offered in the GospeL Rev. A. S. Paterson, A.M., in his Con­cise System of Theology on the Basis of the Shorter Catechism (also a standard work} justifies the expression “that Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the Gospel,” in the answer quoted above, by observing that “this offer is tendered to all as sinners of Adam’s race; for were not this the case, the Gospel could not properly be called, “good news, or glad tidings of great joy to all men.’ Luke 2:10,11. This, it will be observed, is both a misquotation and a misapplication. The angel’s words were, “I announce to you glad tidings of great joy, which (the joy) shall be to all the people,’—the Jewish people. “To them was the first message of joy before its communication, through them, to the Gentiles.” Dean Alford and Dr. E. H. Plumpre.

A few texts have indeed been pressed to involve the idea of conditional overtures or offers of sovereign mercy to sinners. “We are ambassadors, therefore, on behalf of Christ; as though God were intreating by us: we beseech [you] on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:20. It is granted that were the persons here addressed by the Apostle Paul unregenerate men, who had given no indication of contrition or penitence, this text might fairly be cited to prove that Gospel ministers should tender grace to the unconverted, and beg them to accept God’s terms.

It is, however, fully shown in the Author’s “Manual of Faith and Practice,” page 228:—1. That the persons addressed were MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH at Corinth. 2. That the “you” following the word “beseech” is, on the authority of Dean Alford, rightly introduced in the Authorised, as it is re­tained in the Revised Version. 3. That the reconciliation con­templated is to be understood of full-hearted acceptance by Christians of the truth of God, and of their cordial resignation to the conduot of God. And, 4. That this is in harmony with the context.

The parables of the Great Supper and the Marriage of the King’s Son have been so used.

These—though resembling each other—are quite distinct.

The parable of the Great Supper was delivered in Perea, at the house of “a chief Pharisee,” during the last December of the Lord’s life on earth, (Luke 14:15-24.) The Marriage of the King’s Son was delivered in Jerusalem four months later, on the Tuesday before His crucifixion, when the hostility of His enemies had become far more open and pronounced, (Matt. 22:2-14.)[4]

The applicability of the first parts of both to the sin of the Jewish nation in disregarding the claims of Jesus to be their Messiah, refusing the national blessings and privileges which He would have bestowed on them; and finally conniving at and consenting to His death, is apparent to all.

The second parts of each are supposed to teach offered grace.

Luke 14:21: “Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.”

Matthew 22:8,9: “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.”

Luke 14:22. “And the servant said, ‘Lord it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.’ And the lord said unto his servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you that none of those men which were (originally) bidden, shall taste of my supper.’”

The latter part of the parable of the Great Supper teaches, that on the repudiation of the claims of Jesus by the bulk of the more wealthy and reputable portion of the Jewish community, His apostles commenced to minister in the Holy Land, (to which “the streets and lanes of the city answer) and wherever they found consciously destitute sinners, (whose spiritual condition is figuratively presented by the expressive terms, “poor,” “maimed,” “lame,” and “blind,”) they would bid them welcome to the great supper—assure them of the mercy of the Gospel.

The parable further teaches that, subsequently, the servants of Christ would go forth into Gentile countries, (signified by the “highways” and “hedges,”) and, by the urgent preaching of the Gospel, through the power of the Spirit, induce such char­ acters as had before been specified, (namely, men and women whom grace had made sorrowful for their degradation and sin) to apply to God for the rich provisions of His mercy.

The meaning of the expression, “compel” (or constrain, R.V.) them to come in,”is determined by the context. The servant would induce these “tramps and squatters,” as Dr. Plumptre calls them, to come to the great supper, by dwelling on the sumptuousness of the feast, and the bounty of him who was giving it, and explaining that the invitation was to the absolutely destitute.

This exactly corresponds with the manner of preaching the Gospel for which this Article contends, namely, not extending invitations to all men, irrespective of their characters, but assuring conscious and contrite sinners of the good-will of God in Christ towards them.

The second part of the parable of The Marriage of the King’s Son, (Matt. 22:8-10,) clearly corresponds in its teachings with the above.

God’s anger at the rejection by the Jews of the testimony of those who proclaimed the Gospel of His risen and ascended Son, and who were concerned in the persecution of the Apostles, and the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:64-60,) and of James, (Acts 12:2,3,) is evidently referred to in verses 6 and 7.

The preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and the urgent invitation of any who hungered in their souls for Divine mercy, is as plainly intended in the ministry of the “servants” in the “highways.”

That these passages do not support general invitations and offered grace is now, it is hoped, evident. In both parables the hungry, homeless and destitute were to be informed of a repast to which they would be welcomed, and their misgivings were to be removed by the assurances of those who were sent to invite them. So the invitations of the Gospel are addressed to those whose spiritual condition is analogous to the circum­ stances of those to whom only these were sent, and their fears and misgivings it is the business of the Gospel preacher to try to remove.”[5]

Acts 26:28. “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” It is supposed that Paul persuaded Agrippa to become a Christian, and almost succeeded in so doing. The Apostle, however, (as a glance at the context will demonstrate) did not urge this unhappy man to profess the religion of Jesus. Agrippa’s utterance admits of more than one interpretation. It is literally, “In a little thou persuadest (or dost thou persuade) me to become a Christian.” It should be remembered that the word Christian, at that time, was a term of contempt Agrippa, probably desirous of terminating the Apostle’s address, exclaimed, “In a little (time),” or, “with little (effort) thou wouldst persuade me,” (R. V.,) or dost thou persuade me to become a Christian. He was not in earnest. He did not mean that a conflict was going on in his own mind; but that he conceived it ridiculous for Paul to imagine that arguments so flimsy would affect a person so important as himself.

Paul, however, solemnly rejoined[6]—taking up Agrippa’s word, and giving his idea an earnest and pathetic turn, “I would to God that, whether in little or in much (whether with little or with great and protracted effort on my part) not thou only, but also all that hear me to-day, might become such as I am—except these bonde.”

2 Cor. 5:11. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” Supposed to mean that Paul and his colleagues, aware of the terror of future punishment, persuaded men to be saved. It is, however, evident that his subject is the fact that their commission was Divine, and that they had Christ’s authority for acting as His servants. Of this they were assured by the inner witness of the Spirit. “Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord,” R.V., not the terror,) or, as Alford happily renders it, “Being conscious of (‘no strangers to,) the fear of the Lord,” “we persuade men” (in general) of our integrity and the validity of our high office: “but we are made manifest unto God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.”

This was the view of John Hazelton, who observes that, “It has been supposed that the Apostle persuaded men to live, to believe and to turn to the Lord.” This, [however] is not the meaning of his words, but that—“We persuade men of our own sincerity, and of the fact that what we preach is the Gospel, or the very Word of God, and that we cannot possibly keep back any portion thereof.” Hence, he immediately added, ‘We are made manifest to God, &c.’” Sermons. Vol. 2. No. 32.

This we submit without fear of contradiction:—That the Master Himself is never recorded to have made an offer or proffer of grace to any one, (pages 28 and 29:) That no record of grace being offered, tendered or proffered is to be found in the Acts of the Apostles; and, That no such offers are con­tained or referred to in the inspired Epistles, especially in those to Timothy and Titus, in which minute and specific directions respecting the preaching of the Gospel are given.[7]

Note 4:—Offered Grace Implies Creature Ability

The Article sets forth that offers of salvation imply that it is within the power of natural men to accept or reject the grace of God. This is indisputable, since to offer to a person in dire necessity, advantages of which he could uot by any possi­ bility avail himself, would be to mock and insult him in the cruellest manner. If the Gospel is au effective offer of salva­tion, the character of God necessitates the belief that man is able to accept it, or it would never have been made.[8]

The absolute spiritual impotence of man, apart from the operations of the grace of God, has, however been amply demonstrated in Notes 1 and 6 to Article 10. Offers of salva­tion cannot be preached without implicitly denying these.

It is, therefore, a distinguishing feature of the Creed of the Strict and Particular Baptists to repudiate the doctrine of Offered Grace, not only because it has no authority in the word of God, but because it involves a contradiction to the testimony of the Bible to men’s real condition as lost and helpless sinners.

Note 5:—C. H. Spurgeon And James Wells

A favourite text of the late C. H. Smirgeon’s, and from which he frequently preached what was substantially the same sermon was Rom. 10:20,21 “But Esaias is very bold, and says (speaking for God) ‘I was found by those not seeking Me: I became manifested to those not enquiring after Me,’— (evidently, according to the context, the Gentiles,)— but to Israel, (and literal, national Israel are incontestably intended,) He saith, ‘Through the whole day, I stretched out My hands to a disobeying and conradicting people.’” Literal Translation.

The meaning, is, surely, plain. God’s sovereign and invincible grace in savingly revealing Himself to the benighted Gentiles, is presented, in a way of contrast with His conduct towards His nationally-favoured people. C. H. S., however, Sermon No. 207—saw here two apparently contradictory doctrines, Divtne Sovereignty in verse 20, and Human Re­sponsibility in verse 21.

His remarks under the first head few but Arminians would dispute. He rightly urges that God’s gracious acts of salvation are unmerited and sovereign, and insists that these truths ought to be preached.

He then, by way of transition, indulges in a little abuse of “hypers,” and proceeds to preach man’s responsibility,— that God wooes sinners to be saved, and this repeatedly. He warns his congregation against the dangerous men who protest against Duty-faith, and informs his careless hearers that they are “tying faggots for their own burning for ever. If they perish under the sound of the ministry, they will do so more terribly and fearfully than if they perished anywhere else.”

James Wells also published a sermon from this text, (Surrey Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 447.)

He shows that verse 20 is a Gospel declaration, and beautifully expounds it by a running comment on Isaiah 65, from which it is an extract. He then explains that verse 21 is an old cove­nant Scripture, and gloriously combats the idea that Everlasting Love can put forth its hand, and fail to grasp its object.

He concludes thus:—“In this stretching forth of the hand there was nothing spiritual,—and it appears to me to be a serious thing to represent God as a Father, trying to save His children, and yet cannot: the Saviour as trying to save a sinner, and yet cannot: the Holy Ghost as trying to save a soul, and yet cannot—and to bring this verse to father such delusions.”

Such was the primitive doctrine of the Strict and Particular Baptists. If the reader is a preacher, does he side with free-grace Wells, or the universally popular C. H. S.?[9]

Note 6: Future Punishment Not Augmented By Refusing Offered Grace.

It is currently held that while the Gospel is an effective offer of Christ to all men, those, who refuse to accept the mercy it presents, will be punished for this, in addition to the sentence of the Law for their sins. Thus it is believed that while the Gospel is the means of salvation to some, it will be the occasion of increased torment and woe to others. Against the unscripturalness of this, the Article protests.

It is granted that future punishment will admit of degrees, and that its measure will be the greatness and atrocity of sin as estimated by the final verdict of the equitable Judge.

It is also granted that the fuller men’s natural and rational knowledge of God’s revealed will, the greater their wickedness in continuing in wilful wrong-doing. The idolatry of the Jews as a nation, was more sinful than that of their heathen neighbours, for they had the inspired Scriptures. The sins of men who have been taught the truths of the Bible, are greater than if they were imperfectly acquainted with its moral defi­nitions and distinctions. To disregard the monitions of an im­perfectly instructed conscience is sin; but it is greater sin to rebel against the light, (Job 24:13.) It is, therefore, a fearfully solemn thing to know what is right on the authority of the Bible, and to persist in doing what it condemns as wrong. Men will be held accountable according to the measure of their acquaintance with truth. All men have sufficient moral know­ledge to warrant their condemnation as sinners. Some men have, however, a more accurate and extensive acquaintance with the distinctions between right and wrong, and their final doom as sinners will be proportionably increased. (Luke 12:47,48.)

While admitting this, we deny the theory of augmented dam­nation for rejecting the Gospel; for:

The final rejection which is supposed to lead to this frightful increase of eternal punishment must be either a spiritual or a natural act.

If it is a spiritual act, heaven-born sinners can not only be lost, but doubly damned, which none but Arminians would assert, and with them we have here no controversy.

If this rejection is a natural act—namely, that of a man who has not received the grace of Regeneration—then the doctrine represents God as guilty of the grossest injustice. The elect only can be saved. For their sins only Christ atoned. To none but them is He presented as a Saviour by the Holy Spirit; and through efficient grace, all such will receive Him. It would be distinctly unrighteous to punish other men for not availing themselves of provisions that were never made for them; for not accepting what was never designed for, or presented to them; and for declining what “they are not able to see,” John 3:3, or apprehend. To torture a blind criminal beoause he has no sight, would be the refinement of cruelty and to represent a holy God as wreaking vengeance on men for not doing what is beyond their original capacity, is surely the vilest slander on His goodness. “The natural man,” who has no higher faculty of understanding than his rational intellect— including both his mental and moral powers—“receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, and he is not able to know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” They can be perceived only by higher faculties than he possesses. Such a man is blameworthy for sin; but not for remaining passive concerning what he knows and can know nothing about. (1 Cor. 2:14.)

If those who do not yield the “obedience of Faith” to the Gospel are to be eternally punished for their unbelief, in addition to the equitable punishment which will be pronounced on their sins, this will surely be somewhere stated in the Bible. With the exception of 2 Cor. 2:15, no passage is ever advanced to defend it. It is tacitly accepted by thousands; none attempt to substantiate it.

The subject is discussed in the Author’s Manual of Faith and Practice, in which it is shown that “the claims of the Law of God cover all natural obligations,” (page 20,) that “the curse of the Law will be the sinner’s final condemnation,” (page 23,) and that “the death of Jesus will not augment and intensify the woe of the lost,” (page 56.)

Suggestive comments on 1 John 5:10, and Rev. 21:8,[10] are also given; (pages 23 and 204;) and Psalm 2:12; Prov. 1:24-26; Mark 16:16; John 3:18,19, and 16:8,9; and 2 Cor. 2:15[11] are explained in Addendum 5. to Chapter 15., page 233.

Note 7:—Gospel Invititations

It is the expressed will of the Lord Jesus that the Gospel should be preached to every creature, (Mark 16:15.) This is often understood to mean that salvation should be offered to every creature, and that all men indiscriminately should be invited to participate in its benefits. Our article, however, insists that “the invitations of the Gospel are addressed to those who possess spiritual life, and should be pre­sented only to conscious and contrite sinners, whose characters as such are so clearly described in the word of God.”

For example, those who spiritually hunger and thirst, (Isa. 55:1,2, John 7:37); those who “labour and are heavy- laden,” (Matt. 11:28); those who look to and call upon God, (Isa. 65:22; Rom. 10:12,18); those who are willing[12] to take the water of life, and those who, conscious of danger, flee to the refuge, (Heb. 6:18.) These expressions incontestably apply only to persons who have a consciousness of need and danger, and a perception of the suitability of the provisions of the Gospel to meet their case. Life precedes sensation. Such are therefore “quickened,” (Eph. 2:1,) or they could not feel thus.

Note 8:—Objections To General Invitations

Strict and Particular Baptists object to General Invitations not only on the ground of their having no support in the Bible, but for three specific reasons.

1. They insult God. Royal invitations are admitted to be tantamount to commands, and cannot be disregarded with im­punity. A subject who does not respond to the invitation of his Sovereign is guilty of disloyalty and rebellion. If (as is pleaded) God invites all men to be saved and some only re­spond, the latter resist His will. This, however, can never occur. In “A Manual of Faith and Practice ” it is shown that the words “Who will have all men to be saved,” 1 Tim. 2:4, simply mean men of all classes, agreeably to the context. It follows an exhortation to Christians to pray for all men—friends and foes, Jews and Gentiles, princes and peasants,—the “all” evidently intending all such as might oome within the range of their personal observation.

“In the word of a king there is power;” but if the King of kings invites many who arrogantly refuse, His word has exceedingly limited power. The error, therefore, involves serious misapprehension of the character of God.

Again, universal invitations are generally preached in con­nection with threatenings of Divine anger if they are disre­garded. God’s patience will be exhausted, Christ’s pity will turn into indignation. The insulted Spirit will strive no more, but abandon ungrateful men to darkness and doom. Their “day of grace” will terminate. It will then be too late to pray.

Jesus indeed said, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins,” (John 8:24,) and “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16,) and His solemn words demand frequent repetition. These preachers, however, are not content with reiterating them, but add to them by representing that a refusal to come to Jesus will inspire Him with passion and fury against those who spurn His overtures of love. All such state­ments are misrepresentations of God, and should be earnestly eschewed.

2. General Invitations are a sore hindrance and injury to repentant sinners. If gracious invitations are to be extended to all men, irrespective of their attitude to God, a preacher has no better news for a contrite sinner than for a contumaceous one. This is depriving anxious enquirers of the rich comfort which belongs to them by Divine right, under the plea of a desire to benefit all men. What is this but “hurrying the goats and worrying the sheep,” without doing good to either? On the other hand, the faithful proclamation of men’s danger as lost sinners, and the gracious invitations which extend to those who want salvation, may benefit all, while broken-hearted sinners must eventually be helped.

3. General Invitations are inseparable from other errors. Calvinists who urge them are compelled to advance plausible reasons for so doing. Some (for example) have been driven to the fiction that a distinction should be drawn between the merit of Christ’s atoning work—which is, they plead, infinite, and its application, which, they admit, extends to the elect only. Yet, if other men are willing to rest in this infinitude of unavailing merit, while the elect must be saved these may be saved. Thus a popular preachor—once a Strict and Particular Baptist—holds “the certain salvation of some men, and the possible salvation of all men.”[13] On the ground of this truth (?) it is urged that general invitations are consist­ent with God’s covenant order of things. It is hoped that the fallacy of this notion will be evident to every reader, and that he will repudiate the mistaken view of the proclamation of the Gospel which originated it.

General invitations are often the point of departure from the truth of the Gospel—the first false step in the direction of great and grievous error. May we avoid them, whatever sac­rifice may be involved by our adherence to the truth.

[1] These “Notes” on “Article 11, The Gospel: Its Nature And Invitations” are found in William Jeyes Styles’ book, “A Guide To Church Fellowship, As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists”, published 1902.
[2] In his Introduction to the hymns of Richard Davis, of Rothwell, (reprinted in 1833 by J. Andrews Jones) Dr. Gill directs attention to the fact that in some of them the phrase,“offering Christ,” or, “grace” is used. Thus, hymn 6—“Sinners, this grace is tendered to the vilest of you all; Come, sinners, come, accept this grace, the Gospel gives a call. Stand not for to dispute and die; free, offered grace receive; Such love embrace, accept such grace; O, do this grace believe.”
“To the use of such phrases,” the Doctor observes, “the author was led, partly through custom, they not having then been objected to, and partly through his affectionate concern for gaining upon souls, and encouraging them to come to Christ. I can, however, affirm upon good and sufficient tes­tmony, that Mr. Davis before his death changed his mind in this matter, and disused the phrases, as being improper, and being too bold and free for a minister of Christ to make use of.”
[3] These are diag(n)gello, euag[n)gelizo, katag{n)gello,—all modifications of ag(n)gellizo, to act as a messenger; and kerusso to proclaim as a herald. When preaching to Christians is de­scribed, these words are not used, but the term dialegemai (to discourse or argue) is employed.
[4] See “The Bible Students’ Life of our Lord,” by Rev. S. J. Andrews, First Edition, pages 327 and 858. Also Dr. Hanna’s “Our Lord’s Life on Earth,” page 888, in which a suggestive comment of the first part of the two parables, viewed separately and conjointly, will be found.
[5] On Matt. 22:9, C. H. Spurgeon, in his “Gospel of the Kingdom,” indeed observes, “’As many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.’ This indicates no limited call, no preaching to gracious character.” He thus shows how little he under­stood the views of those to whom he was so opposed. A conscious or sensible sinner is, we admit, the subject of a work of grace, or he would be apathetic and callous on the matter, as all unregenerate men necessarily are. But the Gospel (so we contend) does not address such on the ground or their graciousness, but of their sinfulness and peril. The student of Hart’s hymns will remember that this idea is repeatedly enforced; notably in hymns 61 and 91.
[6] Would that every Strict and Particular Baptist Minister felt the same earnestness concerning his congregation. God grant that contention for the truth may never sterilize our feelings in relation to perishing sinners.
[7] Bitter things have been said and written about Strict and Particular Baptists, because instead of offering Chriet to sinners and urging Faith as a legal duty, they present the invitations and promises of the Gospel in a hypothetical way. This, however, has the highest authority. “On the last day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying ”—what? Come all of you, come at once, to Me? No; but, “Ye have busied yourselves with disputations on religious topics,” now, “If {ean) any (one of you) thirsts (is vitally concerned about the salvation of his own soul,) let him come to Me, and let him drink.” (John 7:37.)
[8] The late John Gadsby, in a note to the last edition of the hymn-book of which he was the proprietor, points out that Watts’ well-known line, “Else we had still refused to taste,” involves the idea of an offer accepted or rejected, and contends that it should not be sung by those that love “the truth.”
[9] The absurdity of offered grace is apparent in a hymn cited in Glad Tidings, No. 13, a Tract issued from the Stirling Tract Depot. The sinner is assured that though, when he commenced reading it, he was “dead in sins,” he may this very moment have life if he believes God, and accepts the gift of His Son.
“There is nothing to do, for, being bom ‘dead’,
You must have another to work in your stead;
Christ Jesus in Calvary’s terrible hour
Has done all the work in such marvellous power,
That, raised from the dead, He now offers to you
Life, pardon, salvation, and nothing to do!
No, nothing to do, till you’re saved from your sins,
Then the power of doing good only begins.”
Sinners are born “dead,” and, therefore, can do nothing. Jesus, however, has done all that was required, and offers them life, pardon, and salvation. How an effective offer can be made to a dead person—and how thoughtful preachers can urge such absurdities, is inexplicable! Death which admits of response to an appeal, is not death: or an offer to death is a farce.
[10] It is shown that by the “unbelieving” (oi apistoi) in Rev. 21:8, is not meant those who have refused to believe in Christ and be saved, but such as are “faithless” in the sense of false—in whose characters no confidence could be reposed.
[11] 2 Cor. 2:15, “ We are a savour of death unto death,” was employed by C. H. Spurgeon to prove that “the Gospel of Jesus Christ will increase some men’s damnation at the last great day,” because such “men sin against greater light.” “This shall be the virus of their guilt—that ‘the light came into the world, and the darkness comprehended it not;’ for men love dark­ness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.’” Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 1., page 201. The reader is counselled to contrast this with the exposition referred to above.
[12] Rev. 22:17: “He that wills (ho thelon), let him take the water of life freely.” Will is the essence of character. What a man wills he is. This, therefore, so far from being a general invitation, is most specific in its delineation of the character of him to whom it is addressed.
Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” was addressed to an anxious enquirer, not to an unregenerate man.
[13] Thus certain Scotch preachers were wont to speak of the possibility of sinners receiving pardon through “the uncove­nanted mercy of God,”—as if there were a scheme of salvation exterior to that which is effected through the Covenant of Grace.

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)