The Free Offer of the Gospel in the Free Church of Scotland

by Rev. Robert McCurley¹


Inviolable Doctrinal Truths

(1) The Free Church affirms the distinction between God’s revealed will or will of precept and God’s sovereign will or will of decree. Both are asserted in our constitution. (WCF III.8, SC 24, LC 12, LC93)

This affirmation maintains that what God wills according to his precept may not be willed by him according to his eternal decree. Conversely, the Free Church denies that we are maintaining the alleged notion of divine frustration when we assert that God’s revealed will does not always coincide with his will of decree.

(2) The Free Church affirms that God’s eternal decree to save is limited to the elect alone and that God does not effectually call all to whom his invitation of the gospel is extended. (WCF III.6, LC 30, 59, 61, 68)

(3) The Free Church affirms that in the preaching of the gospel, which is the exposition of God’s revealed will, God graciously and sincerely offers salvation to both the elect and the reprobate. (LC 63, 68)

Conversely, the Free Church denies that it is Arminian to affirm that God offers salvation equally to the reprobate and the elect in the preaching of the gospel.

(4) The Free Church affirms that the gospel promises offered in the preaching of the gospel are only appropriated by faith, which is the condition in the covenant of grace whereby sinners may be saved. (WCF VII.3, LC 32)

(5) The Free Church affirms as a necessary consequence from the above points that both limited atonement and the gracious invitations for all gospel hearers to receive the gospel are biblically compatible. 

See The Sincere Offer of the Gospel in the Westminster Standards 



Free Church of Scotland Theologians

James Bannerman                                                              William Cunningham

John Kennedy                                                                                 Robert Shaw

George Smeaton                                                                        Archibald Bonar

Thomas Chalmers                                                              John “Rabbi” Duncan

Robert Murray M’Cheyne                                                     Charles Mackintosh

James MacGregor                                                                            Hugh Martin

Kenneth MacRae                                                                          Charles Brown

Patrick Fairbairn                                                                         Robert Candlish

Horatius Bonar                                                                         James Buchanan

William C. Burns                                                                    Murdoch Campbell

Duncan Matheson                                                                           James Begg 

William Arnot



Clarification on Historical Theology

Despite the great diversity on innumerable points found within the pre-1900 Free Church, No verifiable record has been found of the question of the free offer of the gospel ever even being a subject of debate.  On the contrary, the definitive evidence indicates that the Free Church was in perfect unanimity on this question.  If a claim is made otherwise, evidence should be brought forward.  

One important qualification must be added.  Posing quotes by the same authors cited above to the contrary effect can only be accomplished by mis-handling their writings.

Were the points listed in this document “open questions” on which good men in the Free Church differed?

Were these fallible authors contradictory in their writings?

It is submitted that the answer to both questions is negative.  The problem lies in failing to distinguish things that differ. The mistake which can be made is that quotations from past Reformed writers can be lifted out of the context of a discussion of Amyraldian errors on the atonement – and not material to addressing issues pertaining to the free offer of the gospel.  This mistake of misapplying quotations from Reformed writers yields much confusion.

Perhaps the clearest treatment of the distinctions between the Amyraldian errors and the doctrines related to the free offer of the gospel, as understood in the constitution of the Free Church, is found by the Free Church constitutionalist, James MacGregor, in an article entitled, “The Question of Principle Now Raised in the Free Church Specially Regarding the Atonement,” 1870.


¹ This is not an officially binding statement of the Free Church of Scotland, but is a summary of the majority opinion on the subject from history and her constitution.  It is true of the old Free Church of Scotland, as documented above, but more particularly applies to the current Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), of which Rev. McCurley is a pastor


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The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel