James Durham on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

“It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Durham (1622-1658) teaches that God desires the salvation of all men.”

Dr. Donald Maclean

James Durham and the Free Offer of the Gospel




A Dissertation on Durham and the Free Offer

Maclean, Donald – James Durham (1622-1658) and the Gospel Offer in its Seventeenth Century Context  Buy  2015  311 pp.   



The Sum of Saving Knowledge

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


The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

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



Christ Crucified, Seventy-Two Sermons on Isaiah 53

Buy  p. 6-9

“From the plain offers which the Lord makes in his word, and from the warrant he gives his ministers to make the same offers; it is their commission to pray them, to whom they are sent, to be reconciled; to tell them, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, as it is in 2 Cor. 5:19,20 and in Christ’s stead to request them to embrace the offer of reconciliation . . . Chapter 6:1 We beseech you (saith he) that ye receive not this grace in vain; which is not meant of saving grace, but of the gracious offer of grace and reconciliation through him . . . How comes this gospel so near? . . . As it brings an offer of these good things on the terms on which they are to be gotten, so it never tells that Christ is come but it says also, Here is life to be gotten in him by you, if ye will take the way proposed to come by it . . . this makes the gospel glad tidings, because it comes always with an offer of Christ, and of life in him . . . when it brings him so near, that ye have him in your offer, and the authority of God and his promises interposed, to persuade you to accept the offer . . . But it may be asked, Why will God have Christ in the offer of the gospel brought so near the hearers of it?

Answer: 1. Because it serves to commend the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus: when the invitation is so broad, that it is to all . . . It’s this, which gives us warrant to receive that which God offers: it’s not because we are elected or beloved of God before time, or because he purposed to do us good . . . these are not the grounds of faith, being God’s secret will: but we believe, because God calls and makes the offer, invites and promises, know that he is faithful, and we may trust him . . for the word in its offer speaks alike to all, and to none particularly . . .”

Sermon 2, p. 70

“But wherever this gospel is preached, there Christ is laid, as it were, at the heart or door of every soul that hears it, to be believed and rested on.”

Sermon 2, p. 72

2 Cor. 6:1, We beseech you (saith he) that ye receive not this grace in vain; which is not meant of saving grace, but of the gracious offer of grace and reconciliation through Him.”

Sermon 2, p. 74

“It is expressed under the similitude of a standing and a knocking at a door, because the gospel brings Christ a knocking and calling hard at sinners’ door, Rev. 3:20, Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man will hear my voice, and will open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me.  So Cant. 5:2.  By the sleepy Bride it is said, It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh.  And Psalm 24, last four verses, it is cried out, Lift up your heads ye gates, and be lift up ye everlasting doors, that the king of glory may come in:  Which is an earnest invitation to make way for Christ Jesus, wanting nothing but an entry into the heart...”

Sermon 2, p. 80

“Seeing Christ comes near you in this gospel, and this is one of the market days, I entreat you, while He is near, receive Him, call upon Him while He is near… open to Him, take Him in, give Him welcome… There is not a conscience in any man that hears this gospel, but that He will have this testimony from him in it, that He came near them, was in their sight and within their reach and grip, as it were, if they would have put out their hand to receive him… O receive this gospel, give him room; while He is content to sup with you, take Him in, make sure of your union with Him. This is the end [design] why this report is made, and Christ is laid before you, even that you may lay yourselves over on Him.”

Sermon 2, p. 83

“To close up all, consider that Christ is near you, and hath been long near you, and wooing you…”

p. 96-97 

“Why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”

Ezekiel 18:31-32

“Faith… is well expressed in the Catechism, to be a receiving of Christ as he is offered in the gospel.  This supposes that Christ is offered to us, and that we are naturally without him.  The gospel comes and says, ‘why will you die, O house of Israel?  Come and receive a Savior.’”

p. 125

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.”

Luke 19:41

“Sometimes He complains (as John 5:40), Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life; and sometimes weeps and moans, because sinners will not be gathered (as Luke 19:41-42 and Matt 23:37).  Can there be any greater evidences of reality in any offer?

p. 125 

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

Rev 22:17

“…grace says, Ho, come, and (Rev 22:17), Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.  It is not only, to say with reverence, those whom he wills, but it is whosoever will…”



Heaven Upon Earth

Sermon on Heb. 10:22

And it is the great end and design of the Gospel, to proclaim the market of grace, and to make this offer unto you sinners freely; seeing I say, all this is, O! take-with and be humbled under the sense of your guilt, from which ye cannot possibly be delivered any other way, and come forward and make use of it: And be-think yourselves seriously, I beseech you, if this day of salvation be sat [that is, available and made sure], and if this offer of grace be despised; your Conscience may and will certainly waken upon you, yea war upon you most terribly, and ye will never get it quieted; but if ye will now in time embrace, and make use of the offer…

…and ye will have this aggravation of your guilt, even the despising of the Redeemer, and of the dear price of his precious blood paved for the Ransom of Sinners; of the Physician that offered perfectly at his own cost to cure you; and of the Cautioner [one made a surety] that offered freely and frankly to pay your debt; and this will wait upon you, to make the prickings, and piercings, the woundings and stoundings, the gallings and gnawings of the Conscience more deep and intolerable: Therefore let me in the name of the Lord, (who is in earnest with you, and we desire according to our measure to be in earnest with you) warn you to flee from the wrath to come; O! know that ye have Consciences, and that they (as I said before) will once awake; and when they shall begin to be roused, O! but they will challenge, and accuse in a dreadful manner; lay your account to meet with such unanswerable challenges, and confounding accusations; and if there be no other ground whereon ye can with safety bottom the eternal salvation of your immortal Souls, but the righteousness of Christ; If nothing can possibly purge and pacify, cleanse and calm the Conscience, but coming to, and washing at this fountain of the blood of Christ; O! come in time; if ye cannot wash your selves, put him to it, as David does, Ps. 51, when he cries, wash me, cleanse me, purge me, wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities.  It will be no excuse, I assure you, it will be no plea, nor apology for you in the great day, to allege, that ye could not do it; since He offered himself as a fountain to wash at, and to wash you all in particular that hear me this day, and is doing so very seriously just now, if you will employ, and put him to it: Consider that sad word, Jer. 13:27Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? it is not, canst thou not make thyself clean? but wilt thou not be made clean?  To wit, by Me, who am able to do it, and offer to do it freely, if thou be but honestly willing; This will be the loud and terrible voice wherewith God and the Conscience will in that day cry to many a man and woman that lived under the Gospel, and had this offerWoe to thee, thou would not be made clean; Thou would not make use of the blood of Christ of this blood of sprinkling, when it was in thine offerThou would not come to him that thou might have life; Thou would not take him for a Physician to heal thee, but chose rather to lie still wallowing in thy filthiness, and to rot away and die in thy sores and wounds, then to come to him to be cleansed, and cured by him, though he offered to do both very freely: amongst all the woes that will be denounced then, and executed against sinners, those against professing Christians, who lived under this Gospel, and refused to come to Jesus Christ for Life, and neglected so great a Salvation, will be the loudest and most terrible; the woes of Chorazin, and Bethsaida, and of Capernaum will be more intolerable in the day of judgment, then those of Tyre and Sidon; yea, than those of Sodom and Gommorrah; How yet more terrible and intolerable, suppose ye will be the woe and judgement of them that live now under the clear and bright Sunshine of Gospel-light?  Let me therefore once more earnestly beseech and obtest you in the Name of the Lord, by the love you profess to bear to your own immortal Souls, to take with your sin, and to flee, and speedily to flee to this city of refuge, set open before you; lest the avenger of blood [one’s conscience], the great avenger of this despised and trampled on blood of the covenant, this blood of sprinkling, over-take you; if you seek not to draw near to God, by this new and living way; but live and die under your defilement, and at distance from him; Woe upon woe, woe upon woe, will eternally take hold of you.



The Blessedness of Those that Die in the Lord

Sermon 1

1. Study to be in him, there is no possible dying in Him without being in Him, any that would be happy by dying in Him would by all means accept of the offer of the Gospel, flee to Christ for refuge and close with Him by faith, and endeavor to put that out of question that ye are in Him;  O! Make it sure that thou hast given Him a soul to save, and acquiesce [passively submit, comply or go along with the will of another] in Him as thy savior



An Exposition of the Ten Commandments

On Breaking the Second Commandment

27. When there is any quenching of convictions, or the motions, or stirrings of affection wakened up by the Word

30. When we do not make use of Promises offered in Preaching, and directed by God to us by an Authorized Ambassador, and do not so lay weight on them as from Him.

31. When we reject the many sweet offers of the Gospel, and come not to the Marriage of the King’s Son.

32. When we do grieve Gods Spirit who presses it upon us.

These things being promised, we come to speak to the things proposed; and we say, The Sacraments of the New Testament (of which only we speak purposely) have in Gods appointment and our use, these three ends especially;

1. The first is to represent clearly the nature of the Covenant, and the things promised therein, as, the washing away of sin, Christ himself, his death and benefits, and the way how we come to the application of all these, to wit, by Faith freely, putting on Jesus Christ for taking away guilt, and strengthening us to an holy walk; in all these the Sacraments (that is, the signs and word of institution added) do fully and clearly, 1. To the Ears, 2. To the Eyes, 3. To our other senses of feeling, etc. not only hold forth what is offered, but our way of closing with and accepting of that Offer; as if God, who by Preaching lets us hear Him speak (inviting us to be reconciled to him) were in the Sacraments, letting us see him tryst and close that bargain with us by his Ambassadors; in which respect, the Sacrament may be called the Symbol and Token of the Covenant, as it is, Gen. 17…

Again, it is to be considered that the Sacrament seals particularly, not only as it says, All that Believe shall be saved, but also as it says, Thou, if thou wilt Believe, shalt be saved; and the seal is so appended to that conditional Offer, that the Covenant stands not only sure in general to all Believers, but to Me particularly upon my closing with it, as if God were particularly singling me out to make the offer unto me, and to take my engagement, and to put the seal in my hand, by which Faith is more particularly helped and strengthened than by the Word alone; there is great use therefore of the Sacraments, in that thereby we get Faith quieted in the believing of this, that God will lay-by his Controversy, and keep his Covenant, and make forth-coming his Promises to those who fly for refuge to Jesus Christ, according to his Oath and Seal: Thus he seals the Major Simply, the Minor Conditionally, but Particularly; Or we may suppose God speaking to us from the Covenant thus, He to whom I offer Christ, he may receive Him; and all that believe, and receive the Offer, shall obtain the Blessing offered: But I offer Christ to thee: therefore thou may and should receive him; and if thou accept the Offer, thou shalt obtain the Blessing offered, and shalt be saved: Thus the Major and Minor are simply sealed, but the Conclusion conditionally: Or the Sacrament seals the Offer simply; but the Promise as it is applied to such a particular Person Conditionally, if he receive the Offer, so that none needs to question God’s Offer, nor Christ’s Performance on our Acceptation.  And thus the Sacraments may be called Testimonies, of God’s Grace to us, because particularly they seal that Offer of his Grace unto us, namely Christ and Salvation by Him, and his being content to give Him upon condition of our believing.



Commentary on the Song of Solomon

As is clear from below and throughout his commentary, Durham interprets the Bride in the Song as the visible church of Christ who Christ is married to.  Thus the sweet, loving and earnest offers of grace that Christ desires the people to receive are made to unconverted reprobates as well as the elect.


“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

Song 2:13

We may take these words, or epistles of Christ’s, as directed to three sorts (as the duty here pressed, rise and come away will bear):

1. To these that are dead in sins, whom Christ by his voice quickens, and makes to rise, John 5:28.  Although this be not the immediate intent of it, as it’s spoken to a believer; yet considering the scope of recording this, and the matter contained in it, it may well be thought useful to engage these who are yet strangers to Christ, there being still but the same way of making at the first, and afterward recovering nearness with Him, to wit, by faith in him; and so it will press receiving of, and closing with Christ.

There are three parts of this Sermon or Epistle.

1. There is a kindly invitation, that mainly respects the pressing of faith, from verses 10 to 14.

2. There is a loving direction or twoverse 14, looking especially to the practice of duties.

3. When He has given the invitation, He presses it most seriously and weightily; for though it be of our concernment, we are not easily induced even to believe: O but the world is much mistaken in this, that think it an easy matter to believe!  And also, He would have us knowing, He allows us the comfortable exercise of faith in Him, with all His heart (if we may speak so) when He thus presses and persuades us to it.  Likewise we may gather, that it is no common thing, which He exhorts unto, when He does so seriously press it; but it is of most weighty concernment to us.

There are three ways He makes use of, to press it;

1. By excellent, loving titles, my love, and fair one; which are given here, especially to let her know he loved her, and thereby to en|courage her to follow the call.  The faith of his love, hath no little influence upon our acting faith in particulars on Him.

The third way He insists to urge this (for the call, and kindness comes still on his side, even when we are in the fault) is by most pressing arguments of three sorts…

2. He presses her to rise and come, from some heartsome encouragements He proposesverse 12.  There is a great change (says He) now, when the angry winter is over, all things are pleasant and lovely.  

2. The time of singing of birds is come.  As in the Spring, birds sing, which in the winter drooped; So (says he) now many poor sinners have changed their sad note, and begin to sing, who once were sinking under fears: And the good news of the Gospel, like the voice of the turtle, is heard in our land; these good tidings have been sent even to us, which is no little evidence of love, and no small confirmation to faith: That the news of the Gospel, and the consolation of sinners thereby, is here understood, is very agreeable to the scope: And these prove the removing of wrath, and are encouraging for stirring sinners up to the exercise of faith.  And O how heartsome, and refreshful is the spiritual Spring, when the day-spring from on high visits us! (as these things, mentioned in the text, are in the natural spring very pleasant, and tend to provoke men to go and recreate themselves in the fields.)  And this is the particular scope of this place: There is never a sinner has gotten good of Christ, but it proves Him to be very kind; and the blessed change Christ has wrought on them, should encourage others to believe, especially when it is the day of their visitation, and the Sun of Righteousness has become warm by the Gospel unto them, or unto the place and society in which they live.

3. He presses his direction and call, by the very presentness, and now of the season of graceverse 13.  The fig-tree putteth forth, &c. Which shews not only, that Summer is near, but that it is even at the door, Matt 24:32,33, and (says He) the vines bud and give a smell; whereby is held forth, the thriving of the plants of God’s vineyard, under the dispensation of grace, as we may see, verse 15.  All these prove, that now is the acceptable time, and now is the day of salvation; and there are large allowances of consolation to them, that now will accept of Christ’s offers, and subject to his call:  Therefore, says He, even to us, sit not the time when all is ready, but up, and come away: And that the voice of the turtle is heard in our land, (that is even the Church wherein we live) proves it to be the season of grace also; for, it’s long since the time of the turtles singing hath come to us, and their voice is yet still heard: And this says the chock and season of grace is amongst our hands, now when Christ’s call comes to our door, and therefore it would not be neglected.



“I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.”

Song 5:2

[Durham understands the Bride to be the visible church.  Thus the sincere and well-meant offers of grace are made to gospel hearers alike for the purpose of conversion, including the unconverted and reprobate, as is clear from Durham’s citation of the conversion of Lydia, those in Ps. 81 who would not hear but clung to their idols, Durham’s language of begetting faith, the Word being rejected, that such common operations of the Spirit are not saving, are sometimes frustrated forever, etc.]

Therefore it’s his voice or word that not only calls, but knocks, implying some force it had upon her: By voice is understood the Word, as Chap. 2:8,10, yet, as backed with the Spirit and power, and as commended thereby to the conscience, 1 Cor. 2:4, and convincingly demonstrated to be the very voice of Christ; yet, so as rods inward and outward, and other means may have their own place, being made use of by Him, yet still according to the word.  

His great end [purpose] for which he knocks, is in that word open; which, as it implies her case, that her heart was in a great measure shut upon him, and that by some carnal indisposition He was kept out of it, and was not made welcome; So it requires the removing of all that stopped his way, and the casting open of the heart by faith to receive his Word, and by love to receive himself: and in these two especially, this opening does consist,

1. In the exercise of faith, Acts 16:14, The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, and that is expounded, she gave heed unto these things which Paul spoke.

2. An enlarging and warming of the affections towards Him (which ever comprehends the former) as, Psalm 81:10. Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it: What that is, the refusal following declares, my people would not hear, (that is, believe) Israel would none of Me, or loved not me (as the words in the Original import) they cared not for me, they desired me not, and would not quit their Idols, as in the foregoing words, verse 9. is mentioned.

3. There results from these two a mutual familiarity, as Rev. 3:20, If any man will open, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me. 

This opening then, imports the removing of every thing that marred fellowship with Christ, and the doing of every thing that might dispose for enjoying of it, as awaking, rising, etc. all which follows in the 4th verse, and while He commands to open, He calls for the entertaining of fellowship with Him, which now is by her drowsiness interrupted: Which two parts of the verse put together, hold forth,

1. That Christ’s own Bride may shut the door on him, and so make a sad separation betwixt him and her.

2. Christ’s word is the great and ordinary external mean, whereby he knocks at men’s hearts, and which he makes use of for begetting faith in them.

3. That in a believers secure condition, there will be sometimes more than ordinary convictions, stirrings and motions by the Word.

4. That the Word of God, backed with power, will reach the securest heart and affect it.

5. That believers will discern Christ’s voice and call, when their condition is very low.

6. It will be refreshful to them to have Him knocking; she looks on it as a kindly thing, even to have his knock bearing-in convictions, challenges, or somewhat else on her; though it please not her flesh, yet in as far as she is renewed, it will be the voice of her Beloved to her.

7. Christ has a way of following his own, even when they are become secure; and sometimes then, will make his call, challenges or convictions pursue more hotly and pressingly than at other times.

8. When Christ knocks and presses hardest, it’s for our own good, and it’s a token of love in Him to do so; for, there is nothing more deplorable, than when He says to one under indisposition, and in an evil case, let him alone.

9. When Christ calls by his Word, it is then our duty to open to him, and to receive him; and this can no more be slighted without sin, than prayer, mortification and other commanded duties; can be neglected or slighted without sin.

10. Christ may call very pressingly, and his Word may have some work on the conscience and affections of hearers, and they be some-way affected with it, and yet the Word be rejected, and the heart not made open to Christ; as here she sleeps still notwithstanding; and the following verse confirms it.

11. There are some operations of the Spirit, which though they be more than a common work on the generality of hearers, yet are not saving, and may be, and often are, even by believers frustrated for a time, and by others for ever; for, this knocking gets a refusalverse3.  So deceiving, beguiling and dangerous are common motions to rest on, when the finger of gracious Omnipotency is not applied, as verse 4.

12. Christ’s design when he knocks fastest, is friendly, and yet it sometimes says, things are not right: This is the end of all his knocking and speaking to a people, and then it is plainest when he speaks most powerfully.



“I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?”

Song 5:3


In sum, this reasoning is indirect and frivolous, shewing in the general,

1. That men incline to cover their secret misregard of Christ, as if it were rather tenderness to themselves, than indiscreet disrespect to him, yet he expounds it so: as, Matt 22:5, when they allege it as a necessary excuse, that they behoved to wait on their farm and merchandise, he interprets it, they made light of the invitation to the marriage of the Kings Son.

2. It shows, that the shifts whereby men put back Christ, are exceeding frivolous, there can be no strong nor relevant reason alleged for our slighting Christ, and for our ruining ourselves in slighting of Him in the offers of his grace in the Gospel; although corrupt nature exercise and rack it’s invention, to find out reasons to plead our excuse, yet when such reasonings are examined, they will not abide the trial.

3. That when men’s hearts are in a declining frame, very trivial and weightless arguments will prevail to make them keep out Christ; and for as trivial as they are, they would prevail even with believers, did not grace refute them, and make way for his entry into the soul.

[Note that unbelievers can only keep out Christ if He desires to come in unto them]


on Song 8:8

14. As God’s call in the Gospel, is a wooing, or bespeaking for marriage betwixt Christ and sinners, so believers believing is their consenting to accept of Christ for their husband, according to the terms of the contract proposed; and this closes the bargain, and makes the marriage; for, then the proposed offer of matching with Christ is accepted of.



Commentary on Revelation

There are several dozen more references to the sincere free offer of the gospel in Durham’s Commentary on Revelation.  This is only a select few of them.


on Rev. 1:18

“Not only that there is a God; but that our Lord Jesus Christ, is God; and that, notwithstanding His being God, yet He has loved sinners so well, that He took on man’s nature; and in that nature, died for them; and that He, who woos sinners, and offers to marry them, is God, and yet is very tender to them and of them: which is no small consolation.  And it shows also, that He is faithful and powerful to perform His promise to Believers: so there is not a design of enemies laid from the beginning to this day; but He hath a hand beyond it.”

7. Concerning the Nature and Difference Between Common and Saving Grace

“…yet is it also clear that saving faith is of another nature, and hath other qualifications concurring in it’s acting as such: the first acts on Him, as powerful to bring forth such an act, and in respect of some particular manifestation of His Will for the bringing forth thereof; the other considers Him as a Savior offered to us by God’s faithfulness in the Word; and for that end, to wit, Salvation; and upon that account, to wit, as offered, and as such, it receives Him and rests on Him, being moved thereunto by its giving credit to the faithfulness of God in respect of His Covenant and offer of special Grace.”

“…whereas the tenor of the Covenant in the condition that it proposes, and in its acceptation of Grace (to speak so) does ever propose and accept these Graces, simply considered as such, that is, it accepts of Faith: and the Believer is to be accounted a Believer, and in Covenant, not only because of the degree of his Faith in Christ; but because he, considering Him as the Savior of sinners, and as sent of God for that end, is drawn, out of respect to the faithfulness of God in His Word, to receive Christ, as He is offered to him; and upon that account, according to the terms of the Covenant, to submit to His righteousness, and rest on Him for attaining of Salvation.” 


on 2:18-29

“…And if the Lord’s willing of men (at least such as are under His Ordinances) to be saved be thus understood, as including only the duty which God lays upon men, and the connection that He has made between it and Salvation in His Word, It may be admitted [that God wills their salvation]: but if it [God’s willing of all to be saved] be extended to any antecedent will [will of decree] in God Himself, distinct from that which is called His revealed will, This place and such like will give no ground for such an assertion.  If it be asked then, Why did He give her [Jezebel] space to repent, if He intended not her Salvation [according to the will of decree]? 

Answer: To forbear deciding of what might be His purpose to this particular person, (who haply may be an Elect) because nothing is decided of her final condition in the Word; These reasons may be given,

1. thereby the Lord commends His Grace that does so condescend to such a person.

2. The aggravation of her guilt and inexcusableness, are the more clear, as has been said; and thereupon He has the more access to manifest the spotlessness of His Justice, as is in the threatening, verse 23.

3. It does the more comfort and encourage a penitent sinner, to step forward in the hope of Mercy, seeing even such a person as Jezebel has had such an offer; and that she, if penitent and believing, would have been accepted.”

on 3:1

“Secondly, All these [common operations of grace] may be, and yet the person not be brought really to deny his own righteousness, and positively to receive Christ offered in the Gospel, and to rest upon Him, for the attaining of life through His righteousness and satisfaction…”

on 3:3

In them [Christ’s directions in 3:3] the Lord draws them back to consider the time of their espousals (as it were) and the terms upon which they Contracted together; what He proposed to them, and what they received off His hand, when the Word came amongst them; that now themselves may see if they have been answerable to such Engagements and Resolutions; and if there be not reason to repent of their declinings.  In general, this direction puts them to a back-search of themselves: which is an excellent mean of recovery, either of Minister, or of People who have declined, as was cleared from the Epistle to Ephesus 2:5.  But more particularly, there are four words holding forth their duty:

1. Remember how thou ‘received’: this imports,

First, That there was an offer made to them of the Gospel.

Secondly, That they had in profession received the same.

Thirdly, When it is said, how thou hast, etc., it imports some more than ordinary conviction, or warmness in that their professed subjection to the proposed Gospel.  It is like, some of them were as John Baptist’s hearers were, John 5:35, rejoicing in that light for a season; but afterward becoming carnal and secure.  And if there was any honesty, it was then more lively in exercise, than it continued to be thereafter: therefore, saith the Lord, consider what hath become of that now, and if the present deadness be answerable to that tenderness; and so, upon that consideration, be provoked to study more livelinesse.

2. The second word is, how thou hast heard: this is almost the same with the former, and looketh to the terms which God proposed to them when He took them to be a Church, and what was their purpose when they submitted thereunto. As if the Lord had said, did I propose to you only to take on a name without reality? or did ye engage only to be professors in shew, and not to be throughly sincere? See then how this condition of yours answers my proposal, and your engagement.

From p. 201

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

Rev. 3:18

“…but here there is a far more wonderful depth and mystery of free grace and infinite love in the proposed cure.  It is proposed by way of offer under the expressions that belong to bargaining.  And indeed here is an excellent market or fair, wherein we may consider these five:

First, There is the wares proposed, which indeed are the cure of the former case; and they are contained in three words, 1. It is gold tried in the fire. 2. White raiment. 3. Eye-salve.  All which are very suitable to their wretched, poor and blind condition: under which expressions is understood, Christ Jesus Himself, and His benefits, who only can work the effects ascribed to these upon sinners, and make such a change upon their Spiritual condition: for He it is, that is made to us of God, Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, 1 Cor. 1.30. And considering the strain of the Gospel where these properties are only attributed to Christ, together with the scope of this place, there can be no doubt of this.

Secondly, We may consider here the parties that are bargainers: upon the one side, the offerer is the Prince of the Kings of the earth, the beginning of the Creation of God, our blessed Lord Jesus, who makes offer of Himself to sinners, and saith, Behold Me, Behold Me, unto these who were not called by His Name [Isa. 65:1]; on the other side, these to whom the offer is made, or who are to be the buyers, they are wretched, poor, miserable, etc.  This looks disproportionable-like at first; yet it suits well with the bargain of Grace, where the Lord’s Merchant is, every man that hath no money, Isa. 55:1, providing he be throughly sensible of the same.

The fourth thing in this market or bargain, will yet commend this more; and it is this, to wit, the terms upon which these wares are proposed, implied in these words, buy of Me: which is not to be understood, as if there were some equivalent price required, or to be given for Christ: for, that is contrary to the scope of this place.  And, considering the excellency of these wares, and the poverty of these that are called to be the Merchants, what can be expected of them in recompense for such an excellent bargain?  The terms then must be Grace, as the same market is proclaimed, Isa. 55:1-3, He, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price, &c. And vers. 3. the wares to be bought are the same, to wit, the sure mercies of David, that is, Christ Jesus, (as being compared with Act. 13:34 is clear) whom the Lord promises there to give, because there is no other way possible for the attaining of Him. This is expressed under the similitude of buying, to shew, that as there is in covenanting with God two parties to be considered (as in all bargaining) and some excellent wares which the one must have from the other; so there must be a mutual consent and engaging for the closing of this bargain, as there is in bargains amongst men, though the difference be still in this, that here all the terms are of Grace. But, God willing, we shall consider the nature of this bargain peculiarly by itself.

The fifth thing in this Bargain, is, The Manner of Christ’s proposing the same, I counsel thee, etc., Which is not so proposed, as if it were left indifferent to them to hearken or not.  But it is thus expressed for these Reasons; 1. That thereby He may bear out His affection, who, as a Friend, condescends to give them counsel in things that are of most concernment for their own good.  2. This also shows the necessity and advantage of following this advice, because they are counselled to it by Him that is the Counselor, Isa. 9:6, and the Father’s substantial Wisdom.  It must therefore be folly to reject His advice.  3. It is thus expressed, to gain their consent the more willingly to the same:  Therefore in the Gospel, He does beseech and entreat, etc., that thereby hearts may be induced to submit cheerfully to Him

3. As there is a fullness in Christ; so there is a freeness in Grace to make that fullness forthcoming to sinners that will follow Christ’s advice: and there is no sinner that hears this Gospel, but may think himself sufficiently warranted to close this bargain with Christ, if heartily he submit to the terms thereof.  But of these no more for the time.

The fourth thing in the body of the epistle, is our Lord’s pressing of this His counsel:  Which is done two ways, verses 19,20, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, (saith He) be zealous therefore and repent.  The first part of the verse has the argument in it, the second part is a conclusion drawn from it.  The argument is, Whom I love, I rebuke and chasten; that is, it is not my way to reprove with words or chasten with rods these whom I carry no respect unto; but I use this way to them whom I love, as I love my visible Church, which is confirmed from Prov. 3:12… The second part of the direction, is, And repent: Which calls them kindly to be affected with their hypocritical condition: and these two are inferred by the word, Therefore, from the former ground that expresses God’s love to them.”


“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” 

Rev. 3:20

The second way He presses it, verse 20, is, by a most instant and importunate pursuing of His offer, with a protestation of his being there, and of his making the same.  This is done four ways;

1. By showing His work and posture, I stand at the door and knock.  Hearts are naturally as castles shut and guarded by the Devil against Christ:  When He comes with His ordinances, He does thereby, as it were, lay a siege at them, and by His word knock at the doors thereof to gain their consent; and the more pungently he presses by His ordinances, He is said to knock the more:  And in this respect, Song 5:2, His voice is said to knock at the believer’s door in their sleepy condition.  Here these two things are imported:  

1. Christ’s continuing to deal with His Church, and to wait upon her in His ordinances, notwithstanding of her many former refusals.  Thus, He is said to stand at the door:  Whereby is holden forth their ingratitude to him, in keeping of Him out, and His patience that still waits on.

2. In this, by the other word, is imported His growing more instant in His dealing with them: Therefore He is said to knock.  And indeed if the former sharp threatening and charge, and the sweet free Offer be considered, it may well be said that now His knocks are doubled.

2. The second way He presses in this verse, is, by making His offer particular, as it were, bringing it to every man’s door, If any man hear My voice, and open the door, etc.,  Wherein 1. He expresses what He would have.  2. From whom.  

(1) What He would have, is in two expressions, the one is, If any man hear my voice; that is its hearkening to His voice which he requires, as Ps. 95:7, for the want of which He complains, Ps. 81:13.  And in these expressions often the terms of the Covenant of Grace are expressed, as Isa. 55:2,3, and is upon the matter, that same with buying formerly mentioned, as in that place of Isaiah is clear.  And it sets forth faith’s consenting to hear and hearken to, and accept of God’s Offer of Grace in the Covenant; as, refusing to hear, holds forth men’s rejection of the same…  This then is the duty called for, and the terms upon which the offer is made, to wit, Faiths yielding to receive and admit Christ, for the End for which He is proposed.

(2) Secondly, the person called to this, is expressed thus, If any man, etc.,  Which puts it so to every hearer, as if it went round to every particular person, If thou, and thou, or thou, etc.,  And this manner of expression does obviate any objection which might rise, such as, What if the most part reject [the offer]?  Be it so, says He, If any man open, it shall be well with him:  Or if it should be objected, I am a sinner, miserable, a hypocrite of long standing that has often rejected the Gospel, etc., This If any man will open, etc., answers all these at once: Because where the Lord says, Any man, without exception, who is he that can limit the same, where a person of whatsoever condition or qualification is found, that will accept of the offer according to the terms proposed?  And so this any, is a is a particular application of the former advice; yet such a particular application as reaches every one of whatsoever condition they be.

3.  The third way how it is pressed here… And what more can there be requisite to press the making of Christ welcome by sinners, than such a promise, or rather, three promises put in one?

4.  The fourth thing that presses this Offer in this verse, is, the Behold, which is deservedly premitted to all.  And in this place (beside the usual weight it has in other cases) it is Christ, making this Offer of His observable to them, so that afterward they shall not get it shifted, but this shall be as an instrument taken upon His making the Offer, to stand in futuram rei memoriam: And so is like that, Be it known unto you, Men and Brethren, etc., whereby Paul closes his sermon, Act 13:38.  And thus, as it were, He drives the nail to the head before He leave it, testifying that if this good bargain come not to a close, the blame shall be upon their side.  And so we may see how weightily the Lord preaches in these Epistles to the [visible] Churches.


on 3:14-22

Under all this he is a man that has never been at the market of free Grace, nor has bought, or put on the white raiment, etc. therefore still all the wares are his own; his righteousness is of his own spinning; his peace stands on his own bottom; and Christ hath never been fled unto, or accepted of for righteousness by him: therefore is there still need of making offer of, and pressing, the market of Grace unto and upon him.  


11. Concerning the way of Covenanting with God, and of a sinners obtaining Justification before Him

This last Epistle, directed to the Church of Laodicea, does contain a short sum of the Gospel, and Gods way of engaging sinners to Him. It will therefore be meet to take some more particular consideration thereof: For, here,

1. we have man described in his sinful condition, as miserable, naked, poor; and withal, blind and ignorant of the same.

2. We have the remedy proposed, to wit, gold, and white raiment, etc. that is, Christ and His righteousness, which is the great promise of the Covenant of Grace, as the mids [means] leading to the enjoying of God.

3. There is the condition on which this is offered, that is, believing, expressed under the terms of buying, opening to Him, hearing His voice, etc. 

4. There are motives whereby the acceptance of this offer upon such terms is pressed, and that both from the necessity thereof, and hazard if it be slighted, and from the many advantages that do accompany the accepting thereof.

5. We have the duties that are called-for upon this acceptance, to wit, [??]al and repentance, which are comprehensive of all.

This does hold forth God’s way of Covenanting with a sinful person, whereby the guilt of his sin, and the curse following thereupon, are removed: Which we may conceive in this order,

1. Man is supposed not only to be sinful, but also obnoxious to the curse of God, and, in his appearance before Gods Justice, to have that sentence standing against him.

2. There being no remedy possible upon mans side, as a satisfaction to that Justice, there is an external righteousness provided, to wit, the satisfaction of the Mediator, which being imputed to the sinner, is in law to be accepted as satisfactory for him by virtue of the Covenant of Grace; and by virtue thereof, he is to be absolved, and discharged as if he himself had satisfied: this is the meritorious cause of our Justification.

3. This satisfaction of the Mediator, is not imputed to all, nor to any, but upon the terms agreed upon, to wit, that it be received, and rested upon, Therefore the Gospel is Preached; and this righteousness is not only revealed therein, but offered thereby to all who shall by Faith receive the same: in which respect, the Gospel, if it is contained in the Word, and the Preaching thereof, is only called the external instrumental cause of our Justification.

4. When by the Power of Gods Spirit, the sinner is brought to receive this offer, and to rest upon this righteousness, as the only ground of his peace, and his whole defense against the Law before the Justice of God, then, according to the offer, he becomes interested [legally bound] in this righteousness, and Christ becomes his righteousness, who is, by this receiving of Him, put on by the Believer; and by this, he may plead absolution from the challenges of the Law before Gods Justice, as a debtor may plead absolution from his debt upon his instructing the Cautioner [one person acting as surety]  to have payed it.  And in this respect, Faith is called the condition of the Covenant: because it is upon this condition that Justification is offered to us therein; and upon this condition, God becomes our God, and Christ our Righteousness: and it is also called the instrumental cause of our Justification; because it acts by receiving Christ, as He is held forth in the Word: and if that be justly called the external instrumental cause, which does offer Him for our righteousness, Then may Faith well be called the internal instrumental cause; because it does receive Him for that same end, and because by this receiving, He becomes our righteousness, upon which our Justification is grounded. Hence,

5. upon this receiving of Christ, and presenting of His righteousness for our defense before God’s Justice, that righteousness and satisfaction is imputed to us, and accounted for ours; and upon this, our sins are pardoned, and we absolved before God: and this is that wherein formally our Justification consists: and this is the end why this counsel is proposed, that by receiving of this offered righteousness, this may be attained.  This way of restoring of sinners by Grace, is often set forth by way of mutual bargain as in Covenanting, Treating by Ambassadors, Marrying, Buying, and such like.  All which, do import a mutual dosing of a bargain upon mutual terms: and thus it is expressed, to show, not wherein formally our Justification does consist; but to show the way and terms by which we may come at it, and upon which we close with God: and in this respect, Faith is called the condition of the Covenant of Grace; because it supplies that place, and hath in it that which ordinarily a condition has, that is proposed in making of a mutual bargain: sometimes also, it is set forth under legal expressions…

It is granted that the Word is the external instrument of Justification; and that must be, because it does offer the same upon condition of believing; or, holds forth a righteousness by which we may be justified: So Faith must be the internal instrument, because it receives the same that is offered by the Word; and receiving, is no less necessary to Justification, than offering: and seeing that receiving and offering relate so to each other, and both to the end, there is reason to attribute the same kind of causality to the one, that is given to the other, respectively.

That Faith is thus the condition peculiarly, and not Works, nor any other grace, (beside what is said afterward upon Repentance) may thus appear,

1. Because Faith only hath that peculiar aptitude of receiving Gods offer and returning of our engagement; and so, for making the bargain mutually to be closed: and Faith cannot be conceived to be exercised; but the bargain must be conceived to be closed, and that person to be in Covenant: therefore, the exercising thereof, must be peculiarly the condition.

13. Some general Observations concerning Preaching, and especially Application

He presses these exhortations to duties with motives, which comprehend both the prejudice of neglecting them, and the advantage that comes by the performing of them.  Again, when He proposes the offer of the Gospel, and invites to believe (as to the Church of Laodicea) He does,

1. open their sinful dangerous and hypocritical case, and batters down the ignorant self-confidence which they had in their own formal profession. And,

2. He proposes the right remedy, to wit, Himself and His benefits, His imputed Righteousness which can only cover their nakedness, etc.

3. He clears the terms upon which that gold and white raiment is obtained, under these expressions of buying, opening, hearkening, &c. And,

4. He does most sweetly, and yet most vehemently press it: partly, by condescending friendly to counsel and entreat; partly, by making His offer large, free, and particular to any man that will openetc. and partly by urging His call weightily and rousingly with a behold, I stand; as if after He had made the offer and had knocked, He were now taking instruments, in the consciences of hearers; thereby, as with a nail to fasten His invitation upon them; and so, pressing their closing therewith, or otherwise assuring that He will leave this instrument upon record against them.

16. We will find an orderly method in all the Epistles…

4. In particulars He premits [presses] clear discoveries and convictions of sin, to exhortations, to duties, and offers of the Gospel: and He premits [presses] exhortations to motives, whereby He presses them.  

5. And lastly, He closes with what is most pathetic and affectionate, either in way of threatening or promise, having that weighty admonition added, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, etc. and so He begins by working them up to some serious composed frame of spirit, and closes with some affectionate impressing of the thing upon them in the most pathetic manner.  Although this here, be most in application; yet we conceive that this order of proposing what is more general and doctrinal, and which serves to the clearing of the judgement in the first place, and the subjoining of what is more convincing, pathetic, and affectionate which is done by way of use and application in the last place, That thereby hearers may be dismissed with some impression of the thing; this order, we say, may be well gathered hence.  And indeed, it is the most native and genuine order, first, to inform the judgement, and thereby to make the readier way to work upon the conscience, will, and affections. To this purpose see Acts 13, how Paul does there proceed and close, vers.38, 39, &c.

17. In all this, the Lord’s way holds forth His great design of gaining them to whom He speaks [the visible church, including reprobates]: so as it satisfies Him not to exonerate Himself (to speak so of Him) in doing of His duty; but He is zealous to get His message received; and, in sum, to get them saved [the visible church, including reprobates]: therefore weightily does He follow it, inviting, exhorting, pressing and protesting as unwilling to be refused.  

This indeed is a fountain-qualification of a Preacher, to be travailing in birth till Christ be formed in hearers; and so to Preach to them, as hungering and thirsting for their Salvation, and not having only before him the proposing of some profitable matter, or the handling of some point exactly; nay, not only his own exoneration, and the justifying of God by making the hearers inexcusable; but a single serious desire to have them gathered and espoused to Christ; that the proud may be humbled, the hypocrite convinced, and the Word made the savor of life unto life unto them according to their case.  This, I say, is a fountain-qualification, from which many other qualifications do flow, it being seldom in any Minister but it puts an edge and weight upon the Word in his mouth, as the want of it makes the most part want savor, and, in the finest words, often to have but little weight.

on 19:1-7

1. For the marriage of the Lamb is come.  Christ’s marriage with His Church is three ways spoken of in Scripture,

1. As it comes by the offer of the Gospel, wherein many are espoused and by faith engaged to Him, Cor. 11:2.  Thus it has been even since Christ’s days, His marriage was then and many were and are invited, Matt 22etc. 

From p. 739

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

Rev. 22:17

The second Come, that commends the excellency of this Book, is, Let him that is athirst, Come.  And whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely, Is there yet anybody that is not clear in the interpretation of it?  Let them come and take this Word before Christ come; For, He will not get another Word:  As if He said, I have made many fair and free Offers, and now I close my last Offer with a good word, Whoever will take Christ, and life through him freely, on the terms of free grace, let him come, and take him without money, and without price, Isa. 55:1.  This is our Lord’s Farewell, that He may press the Offer of the Gospel, and leave that impression, as it were upon record amongst the last words of the scripture; and His scope is to commend this Book, and the Offers he has made in it, as most free, and on the terms of grace, wherein Christ aims much to draw souls to accept it, and teaches us, that all that would expect comfort of his Coming, and pray for it with a well grounded confidence, they would first come to Him, and close with Him, and make use of His offer.  This makes a comfortable meeting with Him, and who cannot say the first Come to Christ, that he may come, let themselves come to Him, and hear and answer His call to them, that so they may turn over their request to Him.

From this also it does appear, that Covenanting does in order of nature precede Justification: because, by Covenanting and being in Covenant, we come to have a right thereto, as to a promise of the Covenant, as the accepting of an offered pardon, does go before our having actual right to the following privileges, or a woman’s consent before her actual claim to the Husband’s goods, though the one is not supposed to be without the other; even as the breach of Covenant, does precede our being liable to condemnation by the Law.  Hence also we may someway gather, that there may be some formal different consideration of the condition of Justification, from the condition of the Covenant: for, Justification being a legal judicial act, it must presuppose such a condition as may be a ground in Justice to absolve a sinner; and therefore in this, Christs satisfaction, as presented and pleaded, must be the only ground; for, it is with respect to that only, by which a sinner can be justified; and this is, to be found in Christ, Phil. 3:9.  Covenanting again, being a mutual deed, wherein the Lord condescends to make a free offer, and to admit in Covenant upon condition of receiving, the condition here must be that which entitles to that thing offered, and enters the person within the bond of the Covenant, which must be Faith.  Hence these two acts of Faith, whereby it is defined, may be thus conceived,

1. It receiveth Christ, and so it enters into, and closes with, the Covenant, and gets instantly a title to what is contained therein.

2. It resteth on him; which must be judicially understood, as of rests on a relevant defense, and therefore pleads it, as it is said, Rom. 2. that the Jews rested on the Law, which was to expect Justification by it, and so to rest on the righteousness thereof; in which sense we now rest by Faith on Christ’s Righteousness: this supposes one to be in Him, and in the Covenant, and it looks, as such, to Justification; and in respect of its manner of acting immediately on Christ our Righteousness, it may well be called the instrumental cause of our Justification.  Thus, suppose a sinner to be lying under God’s curse, and suppose the Mediator to have satisfied, and a Proclamation to be made that whatsoever sinner liable to the curse for sin, will accept of Christ’s Righteousness, and rest thereon, he shall be justified.

1. A sinner is induced to receive that offer, which is done by consenting, and submitting to that way of obtaining righteousness; this is the closing with the Covenant· and thus Faith is the condition thereof. Then,

2. Suppose him to look to the charge that stands against him for his former sins in Gods threatened curse and to satisfy this he gives-in Christ’s satisfaction; which being offered to him for this end that he, upon the receiving thereof, may be justified



See Also 

Margaret Durham on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel



Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

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