John Bunyan on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

 

One Thing NeedfulWorks 3:734.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne. 

I gave my Son to do you good,
I gave you space and time
With him to close, which you withstood,
And did with hell combine.”

 

Works, 1:131-136

Christ worked out our salvation that we might have peace, joy, heaven and glory forever.  He was set forth sweating blood in agony and wrestling with the thoughts of death which He was to suffer for our sins.  He cried, wept and mourned under the lashes of justice.  He was nailed to the cross with his arms open wide to show the freeness of his merit would be bestowed upon us if we comeO how heartily He will receive us into his arms!  He offers all freely; yea, He comes in the word of the gospel with the blood running down his face, tears upon his cheeks, fresh wounds in his hands and feet, and blood still flowing from his side, to entreat you to accept his gracious offer of reconciliation.  Will you love sin more than grace, and darkness more than light?  Will you shut your eyes to Him but open them wide for the pleasures of the flesh?  Will you run the hazard of death in the da of judgment?  Will you despise Him and reject his grace?

 

 

The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, or, Good News for the Vilest of Men, in The Whole Works of John Bunyan (London: Blackie and Son, 1862), 1:90.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

Thy stubbornness affects, afflicts the heart of thy Savior.  Carest thou not for this? Of old, ‘He beheld the city, and wept over it.’  Canst thou hear this, and not be concerned? (Luke 19:41,42).  Shall Christ weep to see thy soul going on to destruction, and will though sport thyself in that way?  Yea, shall Christ, that can be eternally happy without thee, be more afflicted at the thoughts of the loss of thy soul, than thyself, who art certainly eternally miserable if thou neglect to come to Him.  Those things that keep thee and thy Savior, on thy part, asunder, are but bubbles; the least prick of an affliction will let out, as to thee, what now thou think is worth the venture of heaven to enjoy.

 

 

Reprobation Asserted

Chapter 8, Whether eternal Reprobation in itself, or in its Doctrine, be in very deed an hindrance to any man in seeking the salvation of his Soul?

3.  It is yet far more evident that Reprobation hinders no man from seeking the Salvation of his Soul; because notwithstanding all that Reprobation does, yet God gives to diverse of the Reprobates great encouragements thereto; to wit, the Tenders of the Gospel in general, not excluding any; great Light also to understand it, with many a sweet taste of the good Word of God, and the Powers of the World to come; he makes them sometimes also to be partakers of the holy Ghost [in a non-saving way], and admits many of them into [external] fellowship with his Elect; yea, some of them to be Rulers, Teachers and Governors in his House: All which without doubt both are and ought to be great encouragements even to the Reprobates themselves, to seek the Salvation of their souls. Matt 11:28; Rev. 22:17Heb. 6:4-5Matt 25:1-2; Acts 1:16,17.

II. As it hinders not in itsself, so it hinders not by its Doctrine: For, All that this Doctrine says, is, That some are left out of God’s Election, as considered upright.  Now this Doctrine cannot hinder any man: for,

1.  No man still stands upright.

2.  Though it says some are left, yet it points at no man, it names no man, it binds all faces in secret: So then, if it hinder, it hinders all, even the Elect as well as Reprobate; for the Reprobate has as much ground to judge himself Elect, as the very Elect himself has, before he be converted, being both alike in a state of Nature and Unbelief, and both alike visibly liable to the Curse, for the breach of the Commandment.  Again, as they are equals here, so also have they ground alike to close in with Christ, and live; even the open, free, and full Invitation of the Gospel, and Promise of Life and Salvation, by the Faith of Jesus Christ.  Eph. 2:1,2; Rom. 3:9, John 3:16; Cor. 5:19-22Rev. 21:6 & 22:17.

 

Chapter 9 – Whether God would indeed and in truth, that the Gospel, with the Grace thereof, should be tendered to those that yet He has bound up under eternal Reprobation?

Thirdly, God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, would have all men whatever, invited by the Gospel to lay hold of Life by Christ, whether Elect or Reprobate: for though it be true, that there is such a thing as Election and Reprobation, yet God by the Tenders of the Gospel in the Ministry of his Word, looks upon men under another Consideration, to wit, as Sinners; and as Sinners invites them to believe, lay hold of, and embrace the same. He says not to his Ministers, Go preach to the Elect, because they are Elect; and shut out others, because they are not so: But, Go preach the Gospel to Sinners as Sinners; and as they are such, Go bid them come to me and live. And it must needs be so, otherwise the Preacher could neither speak in faith, nor the People hear in faith: first, the Preacher could not speak in faith, because he knows not the Elect from the Reprobate; nor they again hear in faith, because, as unconverted, they would be always ignorant of that also: So then, the Minister neither knowing whom he should offer Life unto, nor yet the People which of them are to receive it; how could the Word now be preached in faith with power?  And how could the People believe and embrace it?  But now the Preacher offering mercy in the Gospel to Sinners, as they are Sinners, here is way made for the Word to be spoke in faith, because his Hearers are Sinners; yea, and encouragement also for the People to receive and close therewith, they understanding they are Sinners: Christ Jesus came into the World to save Sinners. Lk. 24:46,47.

Thus you see the Gospel is to be tendered to all in general, as well to the Reprobate as to the Elect, to Sinners as Sinners; and so are they to receive it, and to close with the Tenders thereof.

 

Chapter 10, Seeing then that the Grace of God in the Gospel, is by that to be proffered to Sinners, as Sinners; as well to the Reprobate as the Elect;  Is it possible for those who indeed are not Elect, to receive it, and be saved?

First then, The Grace that is offered to Sinners as Sinners, without respect to this or that Person, it is a sufficiency of Righteousness, pardoning Grace, and Life, laid up in the Person of Christ, held forth in the Exhortation and Word of the Gospel, and promised to be theirs that receive it; yea, I say, in so universal a Tender, that not one is by it excluded or checked in the least, but rather encouraged, if he has the least desire to Life; yea, it is held forth to beget both Desires and Longings after the Life thus laid up in Christ, and held forth by the GospelJohn 1:16; Col. 1:19; 1 John 5:11,12; Acts 13:38-39; Col. 1:23; Rom. 10:12-14 & 16:25,26.

Secondly, To receive this Grace thus tendered by the Gospel, it is,

1. To believe it is true.

2. To receive it heartily and unfeignedly through Faith. And

3. To let it have its natural sway, course and authority in the Soul, and that in that measure, as to bring forth the fruits of good living in Heart, Word, and Life, both before God and Man.

 …

There is no man then perishes for want of sufficient Reason in the Tenders of the Gospel, nor any for want of Persuasions to Faith; nor yet because there wants Arguments to provoke to continue therein. But the Truth is, the Gospel in this has to do with unreasonable Creatures; with such as will not believe it, and that because it is Truth: And because I tell you the Truth, says Christ, (therefore) you believe me not, John 8.45.

3.  Touching the working of the Grace of Election; it differs much in some things from the working of the Grace that is offered in the ge|neral Tenders of the Gospel. As is manifest in these particulars:

5.  A man may overcome and put out all the Light and Life that is begotten in him by the general Tenders of the Gospel; but none shall overcome, or make void, or frustrate the Grace of ElectionJude 4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Matt 24:24; Rom. 11:1-3; etc.

The Gospel calls for Credence [faith] as a Condition, and that both from the Elect and Reprobate; but because none of them both, as dead in sin, will close therewith, and live; therefore Grace, by virtue of Electing Love, puts forth itself to work and do for some beyond Reason; and Justice cuts off others, for slighting so good, so gracious, and necessary a means of Salvation, so full both of Kindness, Mercy and Reason.

Chapter 11 – Seeing it is not possible that the Reprobate should receive this Grace and live, and also seeing this is infallibly foreseen of God; and again, seeing God has fore-determined to suffer it so to be;  Why does He yet will and command that the Gospel, and so Grace in the general Tenders thereof, should be proffered unto them?

Again, God may infallibly foresee that this Reprobate, when he has sinned, will be an unreasonable opposer of his own salvation; and may also determine to suffer him to sin and be thus unreasonable to the end, yet be gracious, yea very gracious, if He offer him Life, and that only upon reasonable terms, which yet he denies to close with. Isa. 1.18. & 55.12.

The Second Reason [to the question in the title of the chapter]

Secondly, God also shows by this, that the Reprobate does not perish for want [lack] of the offers of Salvation (though he has offended God) and that upon most righteous terms; according to what is written, As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but that the wicked turn from his wicked way, and live. Turn unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts; and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts.  So then, here lies the point between God and the Reprobate, (I mean the Reprobate since he has sinned) God is willing to save him upon reasonable terms, but not upon terms above reason; but no reasonable terms will down with the Reprobate, therefore he must perish for his unreasonableness.  Eze. 18:31-32; 33:10Zech. 1:3.

That God is willing to save even those that perish forever, is apparent, both from the consideration of the goodness of his Nature, of Mans being his Creature, and indeed in a miserable state.  But I say, as I have also said already, there is a great difference between his being willing to save them, through their complying with these his reasonable terms, and his being resolved to save them, whether they, as men, will close therewith, or no: So only He saves the Elect themselves, even according to the riches of his Grace, even according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus; working effectually in them, what the Gospel, as a condition, calls for from them.  And hence it is that He is said to give Faith, (yea the most holy Faith, for this is the Faith of God’s Elect) to give Repentance, to give a new Heart, to give his Fear, even that Fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting Ruin; still engaging his Mercy and Goodness to follow them all the days of their lives, that they may dwell in the House of the Lord for ever: And as another Scripture says, Now he that hath wrought the self-same thing, is God.  Ps. 145:9; Job 14:15; John 3:16; Eph. 1:4,7; Phil. 1:29 & 4:19; Acts 5:30,31; Eze. 36:26,27; Jer. 32 & 40; Ps. 23:6; Rom 8:26; etc. 2 Cor. 5:5; etc.

But I say, His denying to do thus [effectually call them to salvation] for every man in the World, cannot properly be said to be because He is not heartily willing they should close with the Tenders of the Grace held forth in the Gospel, and live.  Wherefore you must consider that there is a distinction to be put between God’s denying Grace on reasonable terms, and denying it absolutely; and also that there is a difference between his with-holding further Grace, and of hindering men from closing with the Grace at present offered; also that God may with-hold much, when he takes away nothing; yea, take away much, when once abused, and yet be just and righteous still.  Further, God may deny to do this or that absolutely, when yet He has promised to do, not only that, but more, conditionally.  Which things considered, you may with ease conclude, that He may be willing to save those not Elect, upon reasonable terms, though not without them.

It is no unrighteousness in God to offer Grace unto the World, though but on those terms only, that they are also foreseen by him infallibly to reject; both because to reject it is unreasonable, especially the terms being so reasonable as to believe the truth and live; and also because it is Grace and Mercy in God, so much as once to offer means of Reconciliation to a Sinner, he being the offender; but the Lord, the God offended; they being but Dust and Ashes, He the Heavenly Majesty.  If God, when man had broke the Law, had yet with all severity kept the World to the utmost condition of it, had He then been unjust? had He injured man at all?  Was not every tittle of the Law reasonable, both in the first and second Table?  How much more then is he merciful and gracious, even in but mentioning terms of Reconciliation?  Especially seeing He is also willing so to condescend, if they will believe his Word, and receive the love of the Truth.  Though the Reprobate then does voluntarily, and against all strength of reason, fun himself upon the Rocks of eternal Misery, and split himself thereon, he perishes in his own corruption, by rejecting terms of Life.  2 Thess. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:12,13.

And I say again, Forasmuch as these reasonable terms have annexed unto them, as their inseparable companions, such wonderful Mercy and Grace as indeed there is, let even them that perish, yet justify God; yea cryHis goodness endureth for ever; though they, through the wretchedness of their hearts, get no benefit by it.

The Third Reason [to the question in the title of the chapter]

Thirdly, God may will and command that his Gospel, and so the Grace thereof, be tendered to those that shall never be saved, (besides what has been said) to show to all Spectators what an Enemy Sin, being once embraced, is to the Salvation of Man: Sin without the Tenders of the Grace of the Gospel, could never have appeared so exceeding sinful, as by that it both has and does. If I had not come and spoken unto them, says Christ, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin. As sins that oppose the Law, are discovered by the Law, that is, by the goodness, and justness, and holiness of the Law; so the sins that oppose the Gospel, are made manifest by that, even by the Love, and Mercy, and Forgiveness of the Gospel: (If he that despised Moses Law, died without mercy; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God?)  Who could have thought that Sin would have opposed that which is just, but especially Mercy and Grace, had we not seen it with our eyes?  And how could we have seen it to purpose, had not God left some to themselves?  Here indeed is sin made manifest: For all [those people] He had done so many miracles amongst them (to wit, to persuade them to mercy) yet they believed him not.  Sin, where it reigns, is a mortal Enemy to the Soul; it blinds the Eyes, holds the Hands, ties the Legs, and stops the Ears, and makes the Heart implacable to resist the Savior of Souls…

The Fifth Reason [to the question in the title of the chapter]

Objection 3:  But you [Bunyan] have said before, That the Reprobate is also blessed with many Gospel Mercies, as with the Knowledge of Christ, Faith, Light, the Gift of the holy Ghost, and the tastes or relish of the Powers of the World to come: if so, then what should be the reason that yet he perishes?  Is it because the Grace that he receives differs from the Grace that the Elect are saved by?  If they differ, where lies the difference?  Whether in the nature, or in the degree, or in the management thereof?

I begin with present Mercy and present Justice. That which I call present Mercy, is that Faith, Light, Knowledge, and taste of the good Word of God, that a man may have, and perish. This is called in Scripture, Believing for a while, during for a while, and rejoicing in the Light for a season.  Now I call this Mercy, both because none (as men) can deserve it, and also because the proper end thereof is to do good to those that have it. But I call it present Mercy, because those that are only blessed with that, may sin it away, and perish; as did some of the Galatians, Hebrews, Alexandrians, with the Asians, and others.  But yet observe again, I do not call this present Mercy because God has determined it shall last but a while absolutely; but because it is possible for man to lose it, yea [it is] determined he shall, conditionallyHeb. 6:4,5; 2 Pet. 2:20; Matt 13:22; Lk. 8:13; John 5:35; Cor. 12:7Gal. 5:4; Heb. 12:15,16; 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:18 & 1:15; Heb. 12:25.

 

Chapter 4, Of the Causes of Reprobation

Thirdly, another cause of eternal reprobation is the act and working of distinguishing love, and everlasting grace: God has universal love, and particular love; general love, and distinguishing love; and so accordingly does decree, purpose, and determine: from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy; but from that love that is distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercyWas not Esau Jacob’s Brother?  Yet I loved Jacob, says the Lord, that is, with a better love, or a love that is more distinguishing: As he further makes appear in his answer to our Father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: As for Ishmael, says He, I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will also make him fruitful: but my Covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee.  Touching which words, there are these things observable: Mal. 1:2; Gen. 17:18,19, etc.

1.  That God had better Love for Isaac, than he had for his Brother Ishmael.  Yet,

2.  Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.

3.  This choice Blessing could not be denied to Ishmael because he had disinherited himself by sin; for this Blessing was entailed to Isaac, before Ishmael had a being also.  Rom. 4:16-19; Gen. 15:4-5; Gen. 16.

4.  These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishing love and mercy, which had so cast the business, that the purpose of God according to Election might stand.

Further, Should not God decree to show distinguishing love and mercy, as well as that which is general and common, He must not discover his best love at all to the sons of men.  Again, if He should reveal and extend his best love to all the World in general, then there would not be such a thing as Love that does distinguish; for distinguishing love appears in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the many called, and the few chosen.  Thus by virtue of distinguishing love, some must be reprobate: For distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angels in Heaven, and the inhabitants of the Earth; wherefore the decree also that does establish it, must needs leave some.

 

 

James Buchanan on John Bunyan

from Buchanan’s Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, page 383

Viewing it in this light, John Bunyan, the able author of the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ makes a felicitous and powerful application of this part of the Gospel narrative, to remove all the doubts and scruples of those who think themselves too guilty to be saved, or who do not sufficiently understand the perfect freeness of this salvation.  He supposes one of those whom Peter addressed, exclaiming, ‘But I was one of those that plotted to take away his life: is there hope for me?’  Another, ‘But I was one of those who bare false witness against Him; is there grace for me?’  A third, ‘But I was one of those who cried out, ‘Crucify him! crucify him!’ can there be hope for me?’  A fourth, But I was one of those that did spit in his face, when he stood before his accusers, and I mocked him when in anguish he hung bleeding on the tree: is there hope for me?  A fifth, But I was one who gave him vinegar to drink: is there hope for me?  And when, in reply, Peter proclaims, ‘Repent and be baptized EVERY ONE OF YOU for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you and to your children,’  Bunyan thus applies it to the conscience of every sinner: ‘Wherefore, sinner be ruled by me in this matter; feign not thyself another man, if thou hast been a vile sinner.  Go in thine own colors to Jesus Christ.  Put thyself amongst the most vile, and let him alone, to put thee among the children.  Thou art, as it were, called by name, to come for mercy.  Thou man of Jerusalem, hearken to the call,’ say, ‘Stand aside, devil, Christ calls me.  Stand away, unbelief!  Christ calls me.  Stand away, all my discouraging apprehensions, for my Savior calls me to receive mercy.’  ‘Christ, as He sits on the throne of grace, points over the heads of thousands directly to such a man, and says, Come, wherefore, since He says come, let the angels make a lane, and all men make room, that the Jerusalem sinner may come to Christ for mercy.’

 

 

Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, Works, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), pp. 286, 298

It is not the over-heavy load of sin, but the discovery of mercy… that makes a man come to Jesus Christ… Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about you!  Take heed that you do not tread them under foot, sinner.  With promises, did I say?  Yea, He has mixed all those with his own name, his Son’s name; also, with the names of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that He might encourage the coming sinner.

 

 

Works, 1:171-172

Have you seen your state to be desperate if the Lord Jesus does not undertake to plead your cause?  Jesus is not entertained, as long as men can make shift without Him.  Have you entertained Him like this?—‘I will perish forever if the Lord does not step in; Lord Jesus, undertake for me!’  Are you deeply concerned about the greatness of the damage that will certainly overtake you forever, if you are accused before God without Him?  Have you told Him what is the matter and how things stand?  He desires to hear them from your own mouth.  ‘O’, says the soul, ‘Lord, I have come to you upon an earnest business!  I am arrested by Satan, my conscience convicts me, and I will be accused before the judgment seat of God… Lord, I am distressed, undertake for me!’  O consider your advocate a friend, and not an enemy!  You must open your heart to Him and reveal your whole cause unto Him.

 

 

 

Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel