William Styles, The Gospel: Its Nature And 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…

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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[1] 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.

[1] 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.

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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…

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A favourite text of the late C. H. Spurgeon’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, Divine 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.?[1]

[1] 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.

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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 not by any possi­bility avail himself, would be to mock and insult him in the cruellest manner. If the Gospel is an 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.[1]

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.

[1] 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.”

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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,[1] 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…

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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…

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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 in 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 20:21, 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…

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