Roberts was an English presbyterian puritan who wrote the most comprehensive and mature book on covenant theology during the puritan age, God’s Covenants with Man (1657), a 1700 page treatise. Roberts was a confidant of the other puritans: Robert Baillie, Simeon Ashe, Thomas Edwards and Cornelius Burgess.
Clavis Bibliorum : The Key of the Bible, Unlocking the Richest Treasury of the Holy Scriptures, 1675. This work is an introduction to the Bible. Roberts gives introductions and summaries to every book of the Bible.
p. 2, ‘An Introductory Advertisement to the Reader’
Here you shall find [in the scriptures]:
1. God descending to man, in preparing all spiritual privileges for sinners in Jesus Christ our Savior, in tendering [offering] [the] richest grace by Covenant-Promises and Ordinances, and in applying these preparations and tenders actually to the soul by the Spirit.
2. Man ascending unto God, by the Spiritualizing of his nature [the Spirit renewing his nature], acting of his faith, aspiring of his desires, fervency of his prayers, and holy tendency of his conversation, yea, both God and man sweetly closing [sealing the deal] together in a most intimate communion in Jesus Christ, which is as another paradise, and heaven on earth.
p. 411, ‘A Chronological Order of the Order of Times wherein Prophets Prophesied’
God therefore raises up another prophet against Nineveh, viz. Nahum, who not so much invites them to repentance (as Jonah did) as threatens their destruction.
p. 414, Isaiah
The chief aims of this prophecy are:
2. To invite Jews and Gentiles of all sorts… unto repentance and reformation, with many sweet alluring, evangelical promises of pardon and mercy.
p. 418, Isaiah
2. The causes as it were inducing God hereunto, viz….
Partly, that hereby the nations far and near may be brought to serve and worship God with his Church, verse 14 to 28, whom God invites to Himself with promises of confirming and increasing them in the knowledge and faith of Christ, verse 18 to the end.
p. 426, Jeremiah
Occasion. God having warned his people against their many horrid provoking sins, by diverse foregoing prophets, inviting them to repentance and reformation, they left themselves involved under his heavy judgments, but in a manner all in vain, the peoples’ hearts being hardened…
[The] Scope therefore of this prophecy is, 1. Seeing the warnings of the former prophets were despised, the former tenders of God’s grace rejected, the great patience of the long suffering God abused, and his judgments themselves, especially the captivity of the ten tribes into Assyria unfruitfully managed, by an obstinate impenitent incorrigible people…
p. 491, Luke
He showed under the parable of a Great Supper, that God invites many by the ministry of his Gospel, to spiritual and eternal communion with Him, who yet upon vain pretenses refuse to come in…
p. 492, John
3. The form of John’s writing is singular in Mysteriousness and Sweetness… In Sweetness, this gracious disciple of Christ’s love, breathing out such tenders [offers] of grace, and torrents of love all along his Gospel….
3. Upon this exclusion of Israel of old, the Christian Hebrews are charged to fear lest they also through unbelief come short, and be shut out of God’s promised Rest, ch. 4:1. And this for diverse reasons:
1. Because the tender [offer] of this rest is made to us in the preaching of Christ’s Gospel, as well as to Israel, verse 2.
2. Because, the Word preached, tendering [offering] this rest to Israel, became unfruitful to them through unbelief: so it will to us, verse 2.
3. Because, by faith we enter into rest, as Israel contrariwise entered not, through unbelief, verse 3.
Objection: But what is that Rest which we are invited by Christ’s word to enter into?…
The Mystery and Marrow of the Bible: viz. God’s Covenants with Man, (London: R.W. for George Calvert, 1657)
The block quotes below are those of Won Taek Lim summarizing the thought of Roberts in his God’s Covenants with Man, as excerpted from Lim’s excellent dissertation: Won Taek Lim, The Covenant Theology of Francis Roberts (Chungnam, South Korea: King and Kingdom, 2002). The block quotes are Lim’s; the smaller quotes inside are Roberts’ words. The page numbers are to Lim’s dissertation.
Here “Jesus Christ, the chief matter of the covenant of faith [grace], is the foundation and original ground of this distinction” as He is considered differently, that is, “Christ being the great promise; and the accomplishment of the promises.” This helps Roberts clarify the reason for “covenants in the plural, but promise in the singular number” in the covenants of promise [the Old Testament covenants, see Eph. 2:12]. It is “because for substance the principal promised mercy, Christ, is but one; though for circumstance and manner of administration in the tender [offer] of Christ of old was diverse.” ¹
¹ Francis Roberts, The Mystery and Marrow of the Bible: viz. God’s Covenants with Man (London: R.W. for George Calvert, 1657), pp. 185-186.
The manner of this calling consists in the tender [offer] or offering of Christ and of all saving happiness in Him to sinners and sinners’ accepting, embracing, or closing [sealing the deal] with this tender [offer]. Roberts divides this tender [offer] of Christ to sinners into ineffectual and effectual. While ineffectual tender is not fully efficacious to conversion and salvation, effectual tender redemptively illuminates the mind to understand and effectually opens the heart to assent to the offer and trustfully to apply it. The distinction of ineffectual calling and effectual calling arises from this different tender of Christ, ineffectual and effectual. While hypocrites and reprobates may be ineffectually called, effectual calling is peculiar to the elect. This tender [offer] of Christ and of all saving happiness in Him is accepted, entertained, and embraced by sinners so that Christ becomes theirs, and they Christ’s. Roberts understands this reception of Christ tendered as twofold, passive and active. Passive reception happens when God apprehends the sinner and infuses into his soul habits, principles, seeds of faith, repentance, and grace by which the dark mind is enlightened, the dead heart is made alive, and the unwilling will is made willing. Active reception happens when the mind, will, and heart of a sinner thus apprehended and qualified by God “through his assistant and co-operating grace,” accept Jesus Christ by faith, trustfully resting and relying upon Christ alone and upon God in Him for life and salvation. The end of calling sinners to Christ is more immediately and subordinately the spiritual and eternal happiness of the called, but more mediately and ultimately the glory of God calling and converting them.²
² Roberts, God’s Covenants, pp. 1643-1647.
The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel
Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel