Heinrich Heppe on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel


Heppe was a German reformed theologian and church historian, specializing in Dogmatics, and held a professorship at the University of Marburg, Germany.



Reformed Dogmatics, 1861, revised and edited by Ernst Bizer, English translation by G.T. Thompson, 1950, reprinted in 2007 by Wipf and Stock

p. 87

(2)… Although God wills some things voluntas signi [will of sign, or the revealed will], like the repentance of the reprobate, the faith of Judas, the non-slaying of Christ, which He nevertheless anything but decreed by voluntas beneplaciti [will of good-pleasure, or decree] as things that would never happen; and He wills some things voluntas beneplaciti, which He can anything but will voluntate signi, like the selling of Joseph or the slaying of Christ.

(3)  But these wills are not contrary, because they are not concerned with the same things, nor is their connection and reference the same.  The object of the beneplacitum [good-pleasure of decree] is an existent eventuating [causing to become an event] in the nature of things, which is to have or not to have an actual existence, be it a good or a bad existent [existence], consonant or not with the voluntas signi.  But the object of the voluntas signi is approval of the morally good and honorable or disapproval of the unjust and wicked.


p. 95

God’s holiness is manifested generally as perfect kindness and love and as perfect righteousness.  Both rest upon a “certain benevolent and beneficent propension towards the creatures”, which is present in God (Peter van Mastricht, II, xvii, 3).  “The love of God is the essential property or essence of God, whereby delighting Himself in it He wishes it [the creature] the good which He approves.”  To be distinguished are the “general love of God”, the object of which is creation generally, so that “no one either of men or even of demons may say that he is not loved of God”; God hates the sin in the godless, but loves the nature created by Him—and the “special love of God, by which He peculiarly pursues the separate elect” (Amandus Polanus, II, 122).  Herein is manifested the “goodness of God”, according to which God is in and for Himself “supremely good” and towards creation “beneficent” (Riissen, III, 41).  Since then God’s love for the creature is essentially a “love not due”, it appears as grace.  “God’s grace is his virtue and perfection, by which He bestows and communicates Himself becomingly on and to the creature beyond all merit belonging to it” (Johann Heidegger,  II, 94).  Over against the misery of the creature God’s love is manifested:

(1) as mercyEtymologically misericordia [Latin for ‘mercy’] is ‘wretchedness of heart’ due to a sense of another’s wretchedness together with alacrity in succouring the wretchedActually in God it is nothing but grace towards the wretched.  (Peter van Mastricht, II, xvii, 22)

(2)  as patience and longsufferingPatientia Dei is His most benign will, by which He so controls His anger, that He either bears sinning creatures long and puts off punishment, awaiting their repentance, or He does not pour forth all His anger in one moment upon them, lest they should be reduced to naught”; and

(3)  as gentleness: “God’s clemency is his most benign will, by which mindful of His mercy in wrath He is propitious to us and spares us, although we have deserved otherwise, preferring our repentance and conversion to our death” (Amandus Polanus, II, 24 and 25).


p. 97

33.—Yet God manifests His righteousness in such a way, that He thereby allows not merely His righteousness to prevail but withal His love too, and so in His righteousness reveals His whole nature.—Andreas Hyperius, p. 160f: “When God punishes, He not only enacts righteousness but also mercy attested by allWhenever He mulcts [extracts payment from], He never does so as severely as men have actually deserved.”


p. 185, this quote was compiled by David Ponter.

25.–But while by praeteritio [passing over in reprobation] God refuses His redeeming grace to the rejected He does not deprive them of His common grace, which latter would have sufficed man in his original state to attain to eternal blessedness, and of which man continues to receive so much that he has no ground for excuse left at the judgment seat of God.

p. 363, this quote was compiled by David Ponter

36.–It must also be recognized that, supported by the common grace of God fallen man is capable of producing an ordinary morality and of doing good in external and natural things, or at least of exercising himself in them.  But even the goodness that man does in external, natural and ordinary things is not truly good and pleasing to God.  He never achieves it entirely from the right motive, i.e., never from love and obedience to God alone, He always admits the joint influence of his concupiscence.  As a result, it is true, the naturally and the ordinarily good works are rewarded by God with temporal benefits.  But in truth they are sinful and condemnable.  And in spiritual things man can do absolutely nothing good, since his spiritual eye is veiled from the knowledge of God that brings blessing and his will can do and achieve only what is contrary to God’s good pleasure.  

RISSEN (IX, 45):

The question is not as to outward civil and moral good. We do not deny that some powers still survive in man after the lapse, as regards those outward works and civil goods, so that he exercises justice and temperance and emits an act of mercy and charity, so that he keeps his hands from theft and murder and emits operations of like virtues by the antecedent concurrence or God and His general assistance; this is the outlook of Gentile virtues, of which later.  But the question is of spiritual and supernatural good which is pleasing and acceptable to God: whether man in the state of sin is so corrupt, that the power of his liberum arbitrium [free will] as regards the good in question are not only slipped and worn but quite perished, so that he cannot know anything truly saving or do anything good: which is what we affirm.”

p. 366, this quote was compiled by David Ponter

37,–Hence fallen man enslaved by sin cannot in any way personally grasp gracious aid when offered to him, or rise to a positive non-resistance to it, or prepare in an external disciplinary or pedagogic way to receive a redemptive favor.

p. 477-478, this quote was compiled by David Ponter

That the satisfaction of Christ would be sufficient to atone for sin-guilt in all men, if the Father would let it benefit them all, is generally recognized. CF., e.g., RISSEN (XII, 11):

“…the satisfaction of Christ might be said to be sufficient for the sins of one and all, if so it had seemed good to God; for since it was of infinite value, it was quite sufficient for the redemption of one and all, if it had seemed good to God to extend it to the whole world. And here belongs a distinction used by the Fathers and retained by various theologians, that Christ died sufficiently for all, but effectually only for the elect; which phrase, understood of the worthiness of Christ’s death, is very true, although it is less accurate if referred to the will and counsel of Christ.  For the Son gave himself to death, not with the purpose and intention of acting personal substitute in the room of one and all, to give satisfaction for them and secure them salvation; but for the elect only, who were given him by the Father to be redeemed and whose head he was to be, he was wiling to give himself up.”

p. 513-4

For the elect on the other hand, who in view of the law and the covenant of works see themselves in the first instance in the same situation as the rejected, they are a preparation for faith, since by His prevenient [“that which comes before”, preparatory] grace God leads the elect out of darkness into light by causing a serious longing for redemption to proceed from these terrors of conscience, and then holding before them the promise of grace in the Gospel and causing what is offered them from without to be brought into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Casper Olevian, p. 252).

[Note that Heppe affirms prevenient/preparatory grace.  The initial reformed objection to Arminianism was to their exclusive adherence to preparatory grace and denial of irresistible grace.  The reformed, while upholding irresistible grace, never intended to deny prevenient grace itself.  See Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, 4:82-83]

7.—These means are first of all the revelation of the kindness and the love of God in the works of creation, which cannot assure a permanent and living hope in God, because to the sin-conscious heart they cannot give the comfort of the forgiveness of sin and because man blinded by sin is all too prone to misunderstand and misuse God’s revelation in nature.


p. 517

13. In the same way too it cannot be concluded that because the outward calling of the rejected is ineffectual it is therefore not seriously meant by God. Outward calling is always per se [of itself, in principle] a real calling to salvation, since everyone who follows it up thereby gains righteousness in Christ and eternal life: only, in the case of the godless, it is ineffectual because of their hardness of heart.  Similarly, the calling from God’s side is always seriously intended, since God promises grace even to the rejected upon condition of faith, and makes faith for them a duty.  But of course God omits to give faith to the rejected, because He is not bound to do so in the case of any man… From this it follows that even the calling of the godless is on God’s side ‘sincere and serious’.



See Also

Peter van Mastricht on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Amandus Polanus on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Johann Heidegger on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel



Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

1800’s Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer