John Murray Compared with the Post-Reformation on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

 

Introduction

Sometimes the claim is put forward that John Murray’s thesis on the Sincere, or Well-meant, offer of the Gospel in the mid-1900’s (that the Gospel Call to particular, unconverted sinners reflects God’s gracious nature and will for them to come to Him, and that God, by his Revealed Will, desires the salvation of all men) was novel and does not broadly represent historic, reformed theology from the days of the reformers and puritans in the 1500’s and 1600’s (the post-Reformation).  

So, to demonstrate that Murray’s position is broadly reflective of the majority, historic reformed viewpoint, we have summoned the testimony of one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of reformed theology during the post-Reformation era: Dr. Richard Muller.  

Muller, in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (PRRD), 4 vols.  Buy  surveys, summarizes, and gives a characteristic sampling of the system of reformed theology during the 1500’s and 1600’s, quoting a wide array of standard authorities (often in Latin) from that time period.  In his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology  Buy  (a standard reference work) Muller provides the standard definitions of theological categories that were common to reformed theology during the post-Reformation. 

Below, for the sake of comparison, quotes from Murray have been provided followed by quotes from Muller summarizing the thought of the 1500’s and 1600’s, under 12 topical questions.  As will be seen, every element of Murray’s position on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel was standard fare during the puritan era.  

While historic reformed writers have used a great diversity of language and categories to describe God’s sincere calling and desire that unconverted sinners come to Him (though not every theologian was of the same mind on all the details), and there are many more factors and categories to be taken into account that play into these issues, yet, reformed theologians have positively affirmed what they in fact affirm below.  

The reader is encouraged to read Murray’s exegetical article, The Free Offer of the Gospel (from where all of his quotes have been taken) and Muller’s PRRD (particularly volume 3 on God’s essence and attributes) and Dictionary in full.  

Further resources (both theological and historical) that may be of help and interest appear at the end of each question’s section and at the very bottom of this page.  In particular, to see documented in overwhelming detail that the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel has been the majority view of the older reformed theology, please peruse:

1500’s – Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel  (24 Theologians)

1600’s – Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel  (100+ Theologians)

Please enjoy the material below, and may it cause our hearts to melt afresh before the gracious, loving and kind will of our Savior towards us.

 

 

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever…”

Deut. 29:29

But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared…”

Titus 3:4

 

 

 

Order of Contents


1. Is there Common Grace?
2. Is Common Grace for the Purpose of Leading Men to Repentance?
3. Does God offer us Eternal Salvation in the Gospel?
4. Is the Offer of Salvation an Expression of God’s Grace to the Hearer?
5. Does the Offer of Salvation Express the Gracious Nature of God?
6. Is God’s Revealed Will God’s Will?
7. Does God’s Revealed Will Contain Purpose?
8. Is the Gospel Call for Hearers to Come to Him Sincere?
9. Is an Aspect of God’s Will Ineffectual?
10. Is the Gospel Offer Conditional?
11. Does God Love All Men?
12. Does God Desire the Salvation of All Men?

 

 

 

 

1.  Is there Common Grace?

John Murray

On Matt 5:44-48

But it [Matt 5:44-48] does tell us something regarding God’s benevolence that has bearing upon all manifestations of divine grace.  The particular aspect of God’s grace reflected upon here is the common gifts of providence, the making of the sun to rise upon evil and good and the sending of rain upon just and unjust.  There can be no question but all without distinction, reprobate as well as elect, are the beneficiaries of this favor, and it is that fact that is distinctly stated in verse 45.

 

Conclusion 1

We have found that the grace of God bestowed in his ordinary providence expresses the love of God, and that this love of God is the source of the gifts bestowed upon and enjoyed by the ungodly as well as the godly.

 

Richard Muller

Dictionary, p. 130

gratia communis, ‘common grace’

i.e., a nonsaving, universal grace according to which God in his goodness bestows his favor upon all creation in the general blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good.  Thus, rain falls on the just and the unjust, and all men have the law engraved on their hearts.  Gratia communis is therefore contrasted by the Reformed with particular or special grace (gratia particularis sive specialis, q.v.).

 

gratia Dei, ‘the grace of God’

viz., the goodness of God (bonitas Dei, q.v.) toward mankind manifest as undeserved favor and, specifically, the cleansing power of God which renews and regenerates sinners.

 

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 572

There is also good ground for concluding that the modern conception of ‘common grace’ finds its root more in the period of Reformed orthodoxy [the 1600’s] than in the era of Calvin and his contemporaries, given that many of the orthodox theologians were willing to define the gratia Dei [grace of God] as a bounty or graciousness extending to all creation

¹ Cf. Maresius, Collegium theol., II.li; Wendelin, Christianae theologiae, libri duo, I.i.22; Leigh, Treatise, II.xi (pp. 83-84)…  

While God is gracious to all, his grace is particularly bestowed upon those who are his in Christ…

 

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 579

3.  Distinctions in the Divine Mercy.  Granting such controversy, the Reformed orthodox were led to note distinctions in the divine mercy similar to those noted in the divine will and grace, most notably a distinction between misericordia universalis [a universal compassion] and misericordia specialis [a special compassion].  The former refers to the divine relationship to all creatures suffering temporal miseries; the latter refers specifically to the divine mercy on the elect, the ‘vessels of mercy’ chosen by God, and therefore refers to a saving and eternal blessing.¹

Thus first,

There is a mercy of God which extends to all his creatures, Ps. 145:9; Lk. 6:35God is merciful unto all men, but especially to some men (Ex. 20:6) whom He has chosen unto Himself…  All blessings Spiritual and Corporeal are the effects of God’s mercy.  Common blessings of his general mercy, special blessings of his special mercy.’²

The universal mercy of God offers food to hungry creatures, water to the thirsty, restored health to the sick, consolation to the sorrowful, freedom to the captives—as the Psalmist often teaches….

¹ Wendelin, Christianae theologiae, libri duo, I.i.24 (2); Turretin, Inst. Theol. Electicae, III.xx.12; cf. Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theol., II.xvii.23; Ridgley, Body of Divinity (1855), I, p. 109.

² Leigh, Treatise, II.xi (p. 88)

 

More Resources

Common Grace

Bible Verses on Common Grace

The Difference Between Reformed Common Grace and Arminian Common Grace

Historic Reformed Quotes on Common Grace

John Calvin Quotes on Common Grace

The Westminster Standards and Divines on Common Grace

 

 

 

2.  Is Common Grace for the Purpose of Leading Men to Repentance?  (Rom. 2:4)

John Murray

On 2 Pet. 3:9

In Romans 2:4, it [longsuffering] is associated with the goodness and forbearance of God, and subsumed under his goodness, as that which is despised by the impenitent who treasures up for himself wrath in the day of wrath, who does not know that the goodness of God “leadeth him to repentance” (eis metanoian se agei).  The choice of the verb agein is to be noted.  Since the impenitent are in view, it cannot refer to efficacious grace.  Nevertheless, it is a strong verb as its use in Romans 8:14 shows: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (cf. Gal. 5:18).  It must be understood as a constraining influence flowing from the goodness of God which is calculated to bring men to repentance.  The construction in Romans 2:4 is remarkably similar to that in II Peter 3:9.

 

Richard Muller

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 547

God is patient, Psalm 103:8; Job. 21:7.  God’s patience is that whereby He bears the reproach of sinners and defers their punishments; or it is the most bountiful will of God, whereby He doth long bear with sin which He hates, sparing sinners, not minding their destruction, but that He might bring them to repentance.  See Acts 13:18.¹

‘It is thus] ‘the most bountiful will of God not suffering his displeasure suddenly to rise against his creatures offending, to be avenged of them, but He does warn them beforehand, lightly correct and seek to turn them unto Him.’²

¹ Leigh, Body of Divinity, II.xiii (p. 299), citing marginally Nahum 1:3 and Isa. 30:18; cf. Cocceius, Summa theol., III.x.67.

² Leigh, Treatise, II.xiii (p. 106).

 

 

More Resources

The Common Operations of the Spirit

On the Compatibility of Resistible and Irresistible Grace

The Westminster Standards and Divines on Common Grace

Common Grace

Bible Verses on Common Grace

Historic Reformed Quotes on Common Grace

 

 

3.  Does God Offer us Eternal Salvation in the Gospel?

John Murray

Conclusion 5

The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all.   Such grace is necessarily a manifestation of love or lovingkindness in the heart of God.  And this lovingkindness is revealed to be of a character or kind that is correspondent with the grace bestowed.  The grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness.  The love or lovingkindness that lies back of that offer is not anything less; it is the will to that salvation.  In other words, it is Christ in all the glory of his person and in all the perfection of his finished work whom God offers in the gospel.  The loving and benevolent will that is the source of that offer and that grounds its veracity and reality is the will to the possession of Christ and the enjoyment of the salvation that resides in Him.

 

Richard MullerDictionary, pp. 133, 31-32, 332

gratia universalis, ‘universal grace’

i.e., that grace of God in the universal call of the gospel according to which salvation is offered to all.

 

voluntas Dei, ‘the will of God’

The voluntas signi vel praecepti, the will of the sign or precept, is the voluntas revelata, or revealed will, of God and the voluntas moralis, or moral will, according to which God reveals in signs and precepts his plan for mankind both in the law and in the gospel.  Here, again, the Lutherans and Reformed differ insofar as the former [the Lutherans] deny [though the Reformed affirm] the contrast between a universally offered salvation revealed in the voluntas signi [the will of sign, or revealed will] and a secret elective will in the voluntas beneplaciti.

 

More Resources

What is the Gospel?

Thomas Ridgley on the Terms ‘Offer’ and ‘Invitation’

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in the Canons of Dort

See the section ‘On the Meaning of the Latin “offero” in Dort’, where R. Scott Clark rightly argues that the Latin term in the Canons of Dort does not mean ‘present’, but ‘offer’.

You Must Choose Christ to be Saved

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Confessions, Documents and Commentaries on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1500’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1600’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in the Westminster Standards and Divines

Is the Gospel Offer Conditional?

Samuel Rutherford on The Gospel is Conditional

 

 

 

4.  Is the Offer of Salvation an Expression of God’s Grace to the Hearers?

John Murray

Conclusion 5

The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all.  Such grace is necessarily a manifestation of love or lovingkindness in the heart of God.  And this lovingkindness is revealed to be of a character or kind that is correspondent with the grace bestowed.

 

Richard MullerDictionary, pp. 332, 133, 31-32

voluntas Dei, ‘the will of God’

The Reformed [of the 1500’s and 1600’s], by contrast [from the Lutherans], argue a hidden will of God to bestow special saving grace irresistibly upon the elect, a voluntas decreti sive beneplaciti arcana [will of decree or hidden good-pleasure], more ultimate than the revealed will of God to offer salvation to all by means of a universal grace

 

gratia universalis, ‘universal grace’

i.e., that grace of God in the universal call of the gospel according to which salvation is offered to all.

 

More Resources

Bible Verses on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Sum of Saving Knowledge on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1500’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1600’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Three Points of Common Grace

What is the Gospel?

 

 

 

 

5.  Does the Offer of Salvation reflect the Gracious Nature of God?

John Murray

Introduction

This implication [that the use of the word ‘desire’ implies] is that in the free offer there is expressed not simply the bare preceptive will of God [of command only] but the disposition of lovingkindness on the part of God pointing to the salvation to be gained through compliance with the overtures of gospel grace.  

Again, the expression ‘God desires,’ in the formula that crystallizes the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all the ‘seeming’ attitude of God but a real attitude, a real disposition of lovingkindness inherent in the free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture proffered and the invitation given.

 

Conclusion 1

We should expect that herein is disclosed to us a principle that applies to all manifestations of divine grace, namely, that the grace bestowed expresses the lovingkindness in the heart of God and that the gifts bestowed are in their respective variety tokens of a correspondent richness or manifoldness in the divine lovingkindness of which they are the expression.

 

Conclusion 5

The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all.  Such grace is necessarily a manifestation of love or lovingkindness in the heart of God.  And this lovingkindness is revealed to be of a character or kind that is correspondent with the grace bestowed.  The grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness.  The love or lovingkindness that lies back of that offer is not anything less; it is the will to that salvation.  In other words, it is Christ in all the glory of his person and in all the perfection of his finished work whom God offers in the gospel.  The loving and benevolent will that is the source of that offer and that grounds its veracity and reality is the will to the possession of Christ and the enjoyment of the salvation that resides in Him.

 

Richard Muller

Dictionary, pp. 31-32

amor Dei, ‘the love of God’

The amor Dei universalis [the universal love of God] is frequently called by the scholastics complacentia, or general good-pleasure; the amor Dei communis [the common love of God] is understood to be benevolentia in the strict sense of goodwill toward human beings; and amor Dei specialis, is termed amicitia, i.e. friendship or sympathy toward believers. 

Considered as a divine attribute, the amor Dei [the love of God] can be defined as the propensity of the divine essence or nature for the good, both in the sense of God’s inward, intrinsic, benevolentia, or willing of the good, and in the sense of God’s external, extrinsic, beneficentia, or kindness, toward his creatures.

 

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 458

The term voluntas signi, literally, the will of the sign [the revealed will], is closely related to the term signum voluntatis, the sign of the will or purpose It indicates an overt sign or indication that someone wills something and can therefore be understood as a revealed will or, specifically, as a revealed precept or ‘preceptive will’—thus, what is literally called the ‘signified will’ is a will that God makes known and in effect ‘signifies’ what is commanded.  This signified or perceptive will moreover, does not contradict the will of the divine good pleasure, although the relationship between the two may sometimes be difficult to establish immediately.  The voluntas signi, therefore, is not a ‘mere sign’ but one that corresponds with something that is truly in God.  

 

More Resources

Jonathan Edward on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

John Howe on What Anthropormorphisms Attributed to God Positively Teach

John Howe on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

John Murray on the Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1500’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1600’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Bible Verses on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

 

 

6.  Is God’s Revealed Will God’s Will?

John Murray

Introduction

It should have been apparent that the aforesaid Committee [of the OPC], in predicating such ‘desire’ of God, was not dealing with the decretive will of God; it was dealing with the free offer of the gospel to all without distinction and that surely respects, not the decretive or secret will of God, but the revealed will.

 

On Matt 5

This informs us that the gifts bestowed by God are not simply gifts which have the effect of good and blessing to those who are the recipients but that they are also a manifestation or expression of lovingkindness and goodness in the heart or will of God with reference to those who are the recipients.

 

On Isa. 45

This text expresses then the will of God in the matter of the call, invitation, appeal, and command of the gospel, namely, the will that all should turn to him and be saved.  What God wills in this sense he certainly is pleased to will.  If it is his pleasure to will that all repent and be saved, it is surely his pleasure that all repent and be saved.  Obviously, however, it is not his decretive will that all repent and be saved.  While, on the one hand, He has not decretively willed that all be saved, yet He declares unequivocally that it is his will and, impliedly, his pleasure that all turn and be saved.  We are again faced with the mystery and adorable richness of the divine will.  It might seem to us that the one rules out the other.  But it is not so.  There is a multiformity to the divine will that is consonant with the fulness and richness of his divine character, and it is no wonder that we are constrained to bow in humble yet exultant amazement before his ineffable greatness and unsearchable judgments. 

 

On 2 Pet. 3

To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel.

 

Richard Muller

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 458

The term voluntas signi, literally, the will of the sign [the revealed will], is closely related to the term signum voluntatis, the sign of the will or purpose It indicates an overt sign or indication that someone wills something and can therefore be understood as a revealed will or, specifically, as a revealed precept or ‘preceptive will’—thus, what is literally called the ‘signified will’ is a will that God makes known and in effect ‘signifies’ what is commanded.  This signified or perceptive will moreover, does not contradict the will of the divine good pleasure, although the relationship between the two may sometimes be difficult to establish immediately.  The voluntas signi, therefore, is not a ‘mere sign’ but one that corresponds with something that is truly in God.  

 

Dictionary, pp. 31-32, 332

amor Dei, ‘the love of God’

Considered as a divine attribute, the amor Dei [love of God] can be defined as the propensity of the divine essence or nature for the good, both in the sense of God’s inward, intrinsic, benevolentia, or willing of the good, and in the sense of God’s external, extrinsic, beneficentia, or kindness, toward his creatures.

The amor Dei universalis [the universal love of God] is frequently called by the scholastics complacentia, or general good-pleasure; the amor Dei communis [the common love of God] is understood to be benevolentia in the strict sense of goodwill toward human beings; and amor Dei specialis, is termed amicitia, i.e. friendship or sympathy toward believers. 

In the discussion of the divine attributes, the amor Dei [love of God] is considered both as an ultimate essential characteristic of God determinative of the other attributes and as one of the affections of the divine will.  In the former sense, resting on the scriptural predication, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8), the scholastics can subsume the grace (gratia), mercy (misericordia), long-suffering (long animitas), patience (patientia), and clemency or mildness (clementia) of God under the amor Dei.  In the latter sense, the amor Dei [the love of God] together with these related attributes is viewed as an aspect of the divine willing and is juxtaposed with the wrath (ira) and hate (odium) of God against sin.

 

voluntas Dei, ‘the will of God’

The Reformed [of the 1500’s and 1600’s], by contrast [from the Lutherans], argue a hidden will of God to bestow special saving grace irresistibly upon the elect, a voluntas decreti sive beneplaciti arcana [will of decree or hidden good-pleasure], more ultimate than the revealed will of God to offer salvation to all by means of a universal grace

The voluntas signi vel praecepti, the will of the sign or precept, is the voluntas revelata, or revealed will, of God and the voluntas moralis, or moral will, according to which God reveals in signs and precepts his plan for mankind both in the law and in the gospel.  Here, again, the Lutherans and Reformed differ insofar as the former [the Lutherans] deny [though the Reformed affirm] the contrast between a universally offered salvation revealed in the voluntas signi and a secret elective will in the voluntas beneplaciti.

 

More Resources

Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Wish and Pleasure

John Howe on God’s Revealed Will is Actually His Will

On the Distinction Between God’s Revealed Will and his Will of Decree

Is God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call God’s Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish?

John Howe on What Anthropormorphisms Attributed to God Positively Teach

 

 

 

7.  Does God’s Revealed Will Contain Purpose?

John Murray

Introduction

Again, the expression ‘God desires,’ in the formula that crystallizes the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all the ‘seeming’ attitude of God but a real attitude, a real disposition of lovingkindness inherent in the free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture proffered and the invitation given.

 

Conclusion 4

We found that God reveals Himself as not taking pleasure in or desiring the death of those who die but rather as taking pleasure in or desiring the repentance and life of the wicked. This will of God to repentance and salvation is universalized and reveals to us, therefore, that there is in God a benevolent lovingkindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save.  This pleasure, will, desire is expressed in the universal call to repentance.

 

 

Richard Muller

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 458

The term voluntas signi, literally, the will of the sign [the revealed will], is closely related to the term signum voluntatis, the sign of the will or purpose.  It indicates an overt sign or indication that someone wills something and can therefore be understood as a revealed will or, specifically, as a revealed precept or ‘preceptive will’—thus, what is literally called the ‘signified will’ is a will that God makes known and in effect ‘signifies’ what is commanded.  This signified or perceptive will moreover, does not contradict the will of the divine good pleasure, although the relationship between the two may sometimes be difficult to establish immediately.  The voluntas signi, therefore, is not a ‘mere sign’ but one that corresponds with something that is truly in God.  

 

Dictionary, pp. 222, 329, 332-333

permissio efficax

Effective permission or willing permission; especially, the providential concursus (q.v.) underlying evil acts of human beings; a concept typical of Reformed theology, which will not allow a bare or ineffectual permission on the part of God and which will acknowledge no realm of activity outside of the will of God [such as in Arminianism].  God therefore is viewed as positively willing to permit the free agency of human beings and as supporting their acts with his providential concursus even when those acts go against his revealed will.

vocatio, ‘calling

specifically, the call of God to be his children, which occurs by the grace of the Holy Spirit, both generally in the government of the world and the manifestation of divine benevolentia [goodwill] (q.v.) toward all creatures, and specially in and through the proclamation of the Word.

 

voluntas Dei, ‘the will of God’

“The Reformed [of the 1500’s and 1600’s], by contrast [from the Lutherans], argue a hidden will of God to bestow special saving grace irresistibly upon the elect, a voluntas decreti sive beneplaciti arcana [will of decree or hidden good-pleasure], more ultimate than the revealed will of God to offer salvation to all by means of a universal grace…

The voluntas signi vel praecepti, the will of the sign or precept, is the voluntas revelata, or revealed will, of God and the voluntas moralis, or moral will, according to which God reveals in signs and precepts his plan for mankind both in the law and in the gospel.  Here, again, the Lutherans and Reformed differ insofar as the former [the Lutherans] deny [though the Reformed affirm] the contrast between a universally offered salvation revealed in the voluntas signi and a secret elective will in the voluntas beneplaciti.

The Reformed further argue the distinction of the voluntas decreti vel beneplaciti [will of decree or good-pleasure] or voluntas decernens [decreeing will] into the categories of voluntas efficiens, effecting will, and voluntas permittens, permitting will.  Under the former category, God is viewed as directly or indirectly through instrumental causes effecting his positive will, whereas under the latter category God is understood as permitting both contingent events and acts of free will even when such events and acts go against his revealed will.

 

More Resources

Bible Verses on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Common Operations of the Spirit

On the Compatibility of Resistible and Irresistible Grace

Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Wish and Pleasure

Is God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call God’s Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish?

The Westminster Annotations on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

James Durham’s ‘The Unsearchable Riches of Christ’ on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Is Common Grace for the Purpose of Leading Men to Repentance?

Historic, Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer

 

 

8.  Is the Gospel Call for Hearers to Come to Him Sincere?

John Murray

Introduction

In other words, the gospel is not simply an offer or invitation but also implies that God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness.  And the word “desire” has been used in order to express the thought epitomized in Ezekiel 33:11, which is to the effect that God has pleasure that the wicked turn from his evil way and live.  It might as well have been said, ‘It pleases God that the wicked repent and be saved.’

 

Conclusion 4

We found that God reveals himself as not taking pleasure in or desiring the death of those who die but rather as taking pleasure in or desiring the repentance and life of the wicked. This will of God to repentance and salvation is universalized and reveals to us, therefore, that there is in God a benevolent lovingkindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save.  This pleasure, will, desire is expressed in the universal call to repentance

 

Richard Muller

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 463

In other words, the Reformed Orthodox deny that the hidden will or eternal decree of God runs counter to the truth of God’s revelation: they do not follow out the late medieval nominalistic line of argument severing the potential ordinate [ordained, actually manifested power] from the divine potential absoluta [absolute, or possible power], that the divinely given order of things stands in no necessary relation to the ultimate being of God, but they nonetheless assume that the revealed will is largely perceptive and promissory, not utterly reflecting the divine good pleasure [of decree]: in his revealed will, God genuinely calls all who hear the gospel and promises to accept all who answer his invitation—in his hidden will, He determines those to whom the grace will be given that enables response to his calling.

 

Dictionary, p. 329

vocatio, ‘calling

specifically, the call of God to be his children, which occurs by the grace of the Holy Spirit, both generally in the government of the world and the manifestation of divine benevolentia [goodwill] (q.v.) toward all creatures, and specially in and through the proclamation of the Word.  Both Lutheran and Reformed scholastics make this distinction between the vocatio generalis [general calling], or universalis [universal], and the vocatio specialis [a special calling], or evangelica [evangelical/gospel].  General or universal calling is sometimes termed vocatio realis, or real calling, because it occurs in and through the things ([in Latin:] res) of the world, whereas special, or evangelical, calling is sometimes termedvocatio verbalis [verbal calling], since it comes only through the Word (Verbum). 

[Muller is saying that the Reformed Orthodox distinguished between a calling of God through General Revelation (providence, the attractive glory of God in Creation, Ps. 19:1-4; Acts 17:26-27, etc.) and Special Revelation (the preaching of the Word).  In Latin realis means ‘things’, and hence there is a call through the things of the world, that is, from General Revelation.  Either way, the calling is predicated of God, and God’s calling to ‘all creatures’ is ‘to be his children.’

 

More Resources

Bible Verses on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Common Operations of the Spirit

Quotes from the 1500’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Quotes from the 1600’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Confessions, Documents, and Bible Notes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Wish and Pleasure

Is God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call God’s Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish?

 

 

 

9.  Is an Aspect of God’s Will Ineffectual?

John Murray

Conclusions 2 & 3

(2) We have found that God Himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfilment of certain things which He has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass.  This means that there is a will to the realization of what He has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which He has not been pleased to decree.  This is indeed mysterious, and why He has not brought to pass, in the exercise of his omnipotent power and grace, what is his ardent pleasure lies hid in the sovereign counsel of his will.  We should not entertain, however, any prejudice against the notion that God desires or has pleasure in the accomplishment of what he does not decretively will.

(3) Our Lord Himself in the exercise of his messianic prerogative provides us with an example of the foregoing as it applies to the matter of salvation.  He says expressly [in Matt 23:37] that He willed the bestowal of his saving and protecting grace upon those whom neither the Father nor he decreed thus to save and protect.

 

Richard Muller

Dictionary, pp. 222, 329, 333

permissio efficax

Effective permission or willing permission; especially, the providential concursus (q.v.) underlying evil acts of human beings; a concept typical of Reformed theology, which will not allow a bare or ineffectual permission on the part of God and which will acknowledge no realm of activity outside of the will of God [such as in Arminianism].  God therefore is viewed as positively willing to permit the free agency of human beings and as supporting their acts with his providential concursus even when those acts go against his revealed will.

vocatio, ‘calling’

Against the Reformed distinction between an effective (efficax) and ineffective (inefficaxvocatio [calling], the Lutherans hold the sufficiency of Scripture and the efficacious character of God’s call in all cases.  Failure to heed the call indicates no fault in the Word but rather in the hearer.  The Reformed, by contrast, distinguish vocatio specialis [an individual or particular calling] in vocatio externa [the external call], which is the universal call of the gospel to all men without distinction, and vocatio interna, which is the inward calling of the Spirit that creates the communion between man and God necessary for the vocatio externa [external calling] also to be vocatio efficax [an effectual calling].  Only the elect are therefore effectively called…

 

voluntas Dei, ‘the will of God’

The Reformed further argue the distinction of the voluntas decreti vel beneplaciti [will of decree or good-pleasure] or voluntas decernens [decreeing will] into the categories of voluntas efficiens, effecting will, and voluntas permittens, permitting will.  Under the former category, God is viewed as directly or indirectly through instrumental causes effecting his positive will, whereas under the latter category God is understood as permitting both contingent events and acts of free will even when such events and acts go against his revealed will.

 

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 470

3.  Voluntas efficax and voluntas inefficax….  But what of the possibility that God’s will can be distinguished into voluntas efficax [an effective will] and voluntas inefficax [an ineffective will]?  This latter distinction is ill chosen, but will stand if it refers to the effectual will of God to the decree and the ineffectual will to the divine precepts, the former being incapable of resistance and the latter resisted successfully by all evildoers.  If a distinction between effective and ineffective will is sought in the voluntas decreti [will of decree] itself, this is repugnant and deeply in error…

 

More Resources

Is God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call God’s Will, Desire, Pleasure and Wish?

Bible Verses on God’s Revealed Will Being His Will, Desire, Wish and Pleasure

The Common Operations of the Spirit

On the Compatibility of Irresistible and Resistible Grace   

Bible Verses on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Anthony Tuckney on the Sincere Calling of the Gospel

Richard Fairclough on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Francis Roberts on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Heinrich Heppe on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Amandus Polanus on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Philip Henry on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Louis Berkhof on the Sincere Free Offer offer of the Gospel

 

 

 

10.  Is the Gospel Offer Conditional? 

John Murray

Introduction

Still further, it is necessary to point out that such ‘desire’ on the part of God for the salvation of all must never be conceived of as desire to such an end apart from the means to that end.  It is not desire of their salvation irrespective of repentance and faith.  Such would be inconceivable. For it would mean, as Calvin says, ‘to renounce the difference between good and evil.’  If it is proper to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate, then He desires such by their repentance.  And so it amounts to the same thing to say ‘God desires their salvation’ as to say ‘He desires their repentance.’  This is the same as saying that He desires them to comply with the indispensable conditions of salvation.  It would be impossible to say the one without implying the other.

 

on Mt. 23:37

Our Lord in the exercise of his most specific and unique function as the God-man gives expression to a yearning will on his part that responsiveness on the part of the people of Jerusalem would have provided the necessary condition for the bestowal of his saving and protecting love, a responsiveness, nevertheless, which it was not the decretive will of God to create in their hearts.

 

Richard Muller

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 566

5.  Voluntatas absoluta and voluntas conditionata.  The distinction between decretive and perceptive will, voluntas beneplaciti and voluntas signi, relates also to a distinction between absolute will and conditioned will (voluntas absoluta et voluntas conditionata).  According to the former, God wills and determines that something should occur ‘without any condition’ in the object of God’s willing—but the latter, the conditional will, rests upon the fulfillment of a condition in or by the object of the divine will, for example, the will of God to save men upon condition of faith.  Maccovius notes, against the Arminians, that the distinction is ‘utterly vain.’  Wendelin indicates that this distinction causes some difficulty, but makes perfectly good sense if it is understood solely in terms of the voluntas signi [will of sign, or revealed will]—granting that most of the divine precepts, promises, and condemnations are stated conditionally.  The distinction is, however, extended improperly to the eternal decree, inasmuch as the decree cannot be ‘suspended on conditions’…

 

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 464

As in the previous controversies, the rectitude of the distinction depends upon its definition: ‘it is possible to allow a voluntas conditionata [conditional will]’ in God ‘but not in an a priori and antecedent sense, as if dependent on a condition, rather in an a posteriori and consequent sense, given that some condition in the creature intervenes between the will and its execution’; and then ‘only to the extent that the condition does not belong to the internal divine act (a parte actus interni) or volition (volitionis), but to the external object (a parte obiecti externi) or thing willed (rei volitae).’

In this sense, the distinction can legitimately be applied to the promises associated with God’s covenants the covenants of law and gospel, where God’s promises are extended conditionally to sinners In other words, the conditional will remains an immutable will, willed eternally by God, but it is understood as being directed toward a contingent or conditional event: the condition, strictly understood, obtains, not in the divine will, but in the temporal event

 

More Resources

Thomas Ridgley on the Terms ‘Offer’ and ‘Invitation’

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in the Westminster Standards and Divines

Westminster Larger Catechism #32 says, ‘he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by Him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in Him…’

Samuel Rutherford on The Gospel is Conditional

You Must Choose Christ to be Saved

 

 

11.  Does God Love All Men?

John Murray

On Matt 5

The disciples are to love their enemies in order that they may be the sons of their Father; they must imitate their Father. Clearly implied is the thought that God, the Father, loves his enemies and that it is because he loves his enemies that he makes his sun rise upon them and sends them rain.  This is just saying that the kindness bestowed in sunshine and rain is the expression of divine love, that back of the bestowal there is an attitude on the part of God, called love, which constrains him to bestow these tokens of his lovingkindness.

 

Conclusion 1

We have found that the grace of God bestowed in his ordinary providence expresses the love of God, and that this love of God is the source of the gifts bestowed upon and enjoyed by the ungodly as well as the godly.

 

Richard Muller

Dictionary, pp. 31-32

amor Dei, ‘the love of God’

Considered as a divine attribute, the amor Dei [love of God] can be defined as the propensity of the divine essence or nature for the good, both in the sense of God’s inward, intrinsic, benevolentia, or willing of the good, and in the sense of God’s external, extrinsic, beneficentia, or kindness, toward his creatures.

Externally or extrinsically, the amor Dei is directed toward all things, but according to a threefold distinction.  

[1] The amor Dei universalis [universal love of God] encompasses all things and is manifest in the creation itself, in the conservation and governance of the world;

[2] the amor Dei communis [common love of God] is directed toward all human beings, both elect and reprobate, and is manifest in the blessings, or benefits (beneficia), of God;

[3] and the amor Dei proprius, or specialis, is directed toward the elect or believers only and is manifest in the gift of salvation.

The amor Dei universalis is frequently called by the scholastics complacentia, or general good-pleasure; the amor Dei communis is understood to be benevolentia [goodwill] in the strict sense of goodwill toward human beings; and amor Dei specialis, is termed amicitia, i.e. friendship or sympathy toward believers. 

In the discussion of the divine attributes, the amor Dei is considered both as an ultimate essential characteristic of God determinative of the other attributes and as one of the affections of the divine will.  In the former sense, resting on the scriptural predication, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8), the scholastics can subsume the grace (gratia), mercy (misericordia), long-suffering (long animitas), patience (patientia), and clemency or mildness (clementia) of God under the amor Dei.  In the latter sense, the amor Dei together with these related attributes is viewed as an aspect of the divine willing and is juxtaposed with the wrath (ira) and hate (odium) of God against sin.”

 

PRRD, vol. 3,

p. 562

The one God can be understood as Trinity, as creator, and as redeemer: accordingly, the love of God can be understood as the love of the Father for the Son, the general love of God for all creatures, his love of human beings, his special love for his elect, and his love of the good or goodness itself.’¹

¹ Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, p. 959, cols. 1-2)

 

p. 563

Third, above his love for all creation, God loves humanity in generalThis love, Musculus notes, ought to be a source of wonder on our part…  Scripture speaks…  of the surpassing love of God for human beings, made in the image of God and accorded a special dignity ‘above all other creatures’…

 

p. 566

4.  Amor voluntaries: its nature and objects.  The ‘voluntary love of God’ is the love according to which God freely loves his creatures as the secondary object of the divine love.¹   … There is also a certain logic of interrelation of attributes in the orthodox presentation of the voluntary love of God for the worldGod’s propensity to love the finite order rests on the grounding of the finite order in the goodness of God:

From the goodness springs the love of God, by which God is inclined towards the creature, and delights to do it good, and as it were, to unite Himself with it.’²

¹ Wendelin, Christianae theologiae, libri duo, I.i.23 (2); similarly, Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, I.iii.33

² Pictet, Theol. Chr., II.vii.4; cf. Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theol., II.xvii.8; Synopsis purioris theologiae, VI.xl..

The first of these approaches, the amor benevolentiae [love of goodwill], is defined as an antecedent love resting on the benevolentia or good will of God toward all creationand must be distinguished, like the providence of God, into the categories of universal love of God for all created good and the special love according to which God unequally loves various creatures, given the inequality of the goodness in them

God’s love to Christ is the foundation of his love to us, Matt 3:17; Eph. 1:6.  God loves all creatures with a general love, Matt 5:44,45, as they are the work of his hands; but He does delight in some specially, whom He has chosen in his Son, John 3:16; Eph. 1:6.¹

¹ Leigh, Treatise, II.vii (p. 71).

 

More Resources

The Three-Fold Love of God

John Calvin Quotes on God’s Love for all Mankind

Historic Reformed Quotes on Common Grace

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel Interpretation of John 3:16

 

 

 

12.  Does God Desire the Salvation of All Men?

John Murray

Introduction

It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.  The Committee elected by the Twelfth General Assembly [of the OPC] in its report to the Thirteenth General Assembly said, “God not only delights in the penitent but is also moved by the riches of his goodness and mercy to desire the repentance and salvation of the impenitent and reprobate” (Minutes, p. 67).

 

On Eze. 33

This is just saying that the import of the hortatory and interrogative clauses at the end require or presuppose a will of God to repentance and life, a will to which the bare notion that God is pleased when men repent is not by any means equal. The only adequate way of expressing the will implied in the exhortation is the will that all should repent and it is surely that truth that is declared in the oath supported statement, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from his way and live.

 

Conclusion 4

We found that God reveals Himself as not taking pleasure in or desiring the death of those who die but rather as taking pleasure in or desiring the repentance and life of the wicked. This will of God to repentance and salvation is universalized and reveals to us, therefore, that there is in God a benevolent lovingkindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save. This pleasure, will, desire is expressed in the universal call to repentance.

 

 

Richard Muller

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 508

In this most inclusive sense, the divine goodness can be identified as benevolentia, the ‘inclination of the will to do good as far as it is possible and lawful to do so’ or, indeed, as ‘the love of God towards his creatures’ by which He acts to ‘promote their happiness and perfection.’¹  Accordingly, Scripture teaches that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8), that He is ‘good and upright’ (Ps. 25:8), that He takes ‘no pleasure’ in the death of his creatures (Eze. 18:32), would have none to perish (2 Pet. 3:9), and ‘will have all men to be saved’ (1 Tim. 2:4).²

¹ Venema, Inst. Theol., VII (p. 163).

² C.f. Venema, Inst. Theol., VII (p. 163), with Turretin, Inst. Theol. Elencticae, III.xx.2,5.

 

PRRD, vol. 3, p. 566

4.  Amor voluntaries: its nature and objects.  The ‘voluntary love of God’ is the love according to which God freely loves his creatures as the secondary object of the divine love.¹   … There is also a certain logic of interrelation of attributes in the orthodox presentation of the voluntary love of God for the worldGod’s propensity to love the finite order rests on the grounding of the finite order in the goodness of God:

From the goodness springs the love of God, by which God is inclined towards the creature, and delights to do it good, and as it were, to unite Himself with it.’²

¹ Wendelin, Christianae theologiae, libri duo, I.i.23 (2); similarly, Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, I.iii.33

² Pictet, Theol. Chr., II.vii.4; cf. Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theol., II.xvii.8; Synopsis purioris theologiae, VI.xl..

 

 

More Resources

Bible Verses on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call as God’s Desire, Wish and Pleasure

This page documents the following 11 historic, reformed theologians as teaching that God desires the salvation of all men: Bucer, Luther, Calvin, Mayer, Culverwell, Durham, Fuller, Hodge, Bavinck and Finlayson.  This shows that John Murray reflected a significant portion of historic reformed theology when he argued for this position.  Countless more theologians from the 1500’s and 1600’s taught this, though they may not have used the exact phrase, in their exegesis of 2 Pet. 3:9, Eze. 18:23 & 33:11 and other passages.  See below.

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1500’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes from the 1600’s on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel Interpretation of John 3:16

 

 

 

 

Related Pages

John Murray on Common Grace and the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Richard Muller on Common Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel

Common Grace

Bible Verses on Common Grace and the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on Common Grace

The Difference Between Reformed Common Grace and Arminian Common Grace

The Westminster Standards and Divines on Common Grace

The Common Operations of the Spirit

On the Compatibility of Resistible and Irresistible Grace

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Confessions, Documents and Commentaries on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in the Westminster Standards and Divines

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on God’s Revealed Will and the Gospel Call as God’s Desire, Wish and Pleasure

The Three-Fold Love of God

John Calvin Quotes on God’s Love for all Mankind

What is the Gospel?