John Mayer on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel


Mayer produced one of the major reformed, whole Bible commentaries during the 1600’s.  The first volume was published in 1627 and the last in 1653.



Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1627-1653


Eze. 18:23 – “Have I any pleasure at all, that the wicked should die, but that he should turn from his ways and live?”

1652, p. 421-22, as excerpted in Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament, Vol. 12, Ezekiel, Daniel, ed. Carl Beckwith, 2012, p. 105.  

The case of a wicked person turning and living, despite his former wickedness being laid open in the premises, now he infers on this ground: that the Lord wills not, neither delights in, anyone’s death, but in his conversion and salvation.  Indeed, that none, however far he has gone in sin, might despair, but by hope in his mercy be drawn to turn to Him who is so gracious.

But against this it is objected both that He has foreordained some to damnation and that it is not in people to will, but He works to will and to do of his own good pleasure in the death of the wicked, why does He not turn Him? 

Answer: He offers him grace and pardon for all that is past to turn him; indeed, He counsels him to turn, and entreats him, by his benefits seeks to lead him to repentance.  Indeed, more than all this, He knocks at the door of his heart by his Spirit.  Who can say then, but that it is true, which is here said, He delights not in his dying?


Matt 5:43 – “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.”

1631, vol. 1, London, p. 111-12.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

Augustine: These last words are not to be taken, as the words of one commanding a just man, but tolerating a weak one.  And herein the law is not against the Gospel, for Paul says, that some men are hateful unto God, and therefore may be hated of us; but they are to be hated only in respect of their vices, and not of their persons, which be God’s creatures; this being not understood, made the Scribes to think, that they might hate the very person of their enemies.  But Christ teaches to love our enemies, setting down precepts for the perfect, unto which every faithful person ought to strive by prayer, and endeavor to attain.

And with Augustine, I think, that there is an hatred of enemies agreeable to God’s word, viz. the hatred of their vices, but not of their persons, which are notwithstanding to be loved, and prayed for.


2 Tim. 2:4-6 – “Who would that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

1631, vol. 1, London, 495–498.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

A great question here offers itself how it can be said that God would that all men should be saved, when as it is certain that most men shall be damned? for God is omnipotent and how then should it happen unto any otherwise that God wills?  Saint Augustine in divers places answers diversely hereunto:  


First, that He wills the salvation of all that are saved, so that none are saved, but such as He wills should be saved.  And thus these words are a fit reason of praying for all, because by our praying the Lord’s will may be inclined to save those, who unless He be willing, cannot be saved.


Secondly, in the same book he says, that by all men, all sorts of men are to be understood, according to that which went before, for kings and for those that are in high place[s]; for if it should seem strange that the Apostle should bid to pray for such, as most abhorring from Christian humility, being in so great sublimity, pomp, and secular pride, he resolves us here, that God would that all sorts of men should be saved, kings and private persons, noble and ignoble, high and low, learned, and unlearned, strong and weak, witty and dull, rich and poor, males and females, etc.


Thirdly, God would, that all men should be saved, because He requires of all, that they walk in the way of good works, promising salvation to all that do so, and threatening destruction to such, as do not.  So that, as that master, who bids all his servants work in his vineyard, promising them a reward, if they so do, and that after they have labored a while there, they shall take their rest, and feast with him, but if any does not so, he shall grind perpetually in the milne, may well be said to will, that all should have rest and joy: so may it rightly be said of the Lord, promising to the obedient, and threatening the disobedient.  And much like unto this is the solution brought by him in another place.  Because we know not who shall be saved, and yet are commanded to preach salvation to all, thus being set a work to labor and desire the salvation of all, God’s Spirit working this desire in our hearts; this our willing and desiring to save all is said to be Gods willing of the same, who works this will in us, as Rom. 8:26, the Spirit is said, to make request, when we make request by the assistance of the Spirit.  These expositions of Saint Augustine are followed by most expositors.  Bullinger follows the first, Calvin the second, and Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, and others the third, calling the will of God here spoken of, the will of the sign [the revealed will], and not of his good pleasure [the will of decree].


But none of all these do so well agree with this place, as to satisfy about this question.  For touching the first, what is this to the moving of us to pray for all men, that none can be saved, but they whom God wills, seeing He wills not, neither decrees the salvation of all, this should rather make us not to pray, than to pray for all men.  Again, though God would that some of all sorts should be saved, yet what is this to ground our praying upon for such and such particular Kings and men in authority over us, whom haply he will not have saved, though some of their rank shall be saved?  And lastly, if it be expounded by the will of the sign [revealed will], but not of his decree, what were this wise, but to oppose the wills of the same God one against another? and to teach that He makes show of that, which He never intended?  Howsoever therefore in speaking of these things before, Text 21,  I have rested upon these distinctions, yet now I have thought good to inquire a little further, what more may be said herein.  There is then another exposition, understanding by God’s will, his delight and desire, out of the infinite goodness and benignity of his nature: For this is, that all and every one should be saved, according to the reason by and by rendered, for there is one God, who created and made all men, and therefore as they are his own creatures, his will is, that they should all be saved, and not one of them damned.  For this is also added by Saint Peter, God is patient towards all men, not willing that any should perish, but all come to repentance [2 Pet. 3:9].  And by the Prophet Ezekiel the Lord professes, I will not the death of him that dyeth, wherefore turn ye and live [Eze. 18:32]: these words, I will not, are by [Immanuel] Tremellius [1510-1580] rendered, non delector, I am not delighted, and in the original, it is לא אהםצ, I love not.  If God’s will then be considered in itself without respect unto willful and obstinate sinning, it is, that all should be saved: but because He is most just, and so cannot but will, and accordingly punish them with destruction, and this will is called by some his antecedent will, the other of damnation, his consequent will, as it is in Damascen, whose words are these; We must not be ignorant, that God precedently would that all should be saved, and attain to his kingdom, for He made us not for punishment, but to be partakers of his goodness, as He is good: but He will have sinners punished, as He is just.  That is therefore called his first and precedent will and acceptation, which is of Himself; but the second his sequent will or permission, being of us.
First therefore, and of his infinite goodness, God would that we should all be saved, but when we will not, but harden our selves in our sins, He will and resolves to damn such as are thus hardened therefore.  Agreeably hereunto speaks Ambrose [the marginal note references some Latin in Ambrose on Matt. 23:27], God will that all should be saved, but so, as if they come unto Him, for He wills not so, that the unwilling should be saved, but He would so have them saved, as if they themselves would.  And this seems to be grounded plainly upon that speech of our Savior Christ, How oft would I have gathered you together, and ye would not?  [Matt 23:37]  


If it be demanded, cannot God make all men willing, if it pleases Him, and how become they willing, that are willing? is it not of Him? seeing it is of Him then, that some are willing and some not, how can man’s unwillingness be said to be the cause of his damnation? and not God’s will and decree indeed the cause as of the salvation of some, so of the damnation of others?  


I answer, as before upon Rom. 9, God’s electing of some to salvation and his reprobating of others, is not as of Himself and of his own good nature He is moved to do, for so He inclines to be alike gracious to all: but mankind becomes sinful, that was at the first made holy, and being thus sinful, here comes in his choosing of some yet out of his infinite mercy to salvation, others being rejected in his justice to damnation, after which He inclines or not inclines men’s wills accordingly, so that some will and some will not turn, and so such as will not He damns, and yet is truly said not to will the death of any, because of Himself He has no delight or pleasure herein, neither comes it first of his will, but of man’s own corruption, which He cannot but in justice thus punish.  This point is more largely handled, Rom. 9, Text 21, and therefore I say no more here, but refer the reader thither.  


It is enough to show it to be good and acceptable to God to pray for all that He is best pleased with, and prefers the salvation of all, as He at the first made all, and since sent his Son into the world to give Himself, as a ransom for all.  But how can it be thus said either, seeing that if the ransom be payed for all, all are not delivered?  


To this it is generally answered, that Christ’s giving of Himself to the death was a ransom sufficient to save all men, according to the signification of the word αντίλυτρον [redemption], used to set forth the ransoming of captives, when one is given to death for the delivering of another.  For Christ alone was worth all the world, and his death equivalent to the dying of all men by everlasting death.  When therefore He gave himself to the death for us, He suffered on his part so much as was sufficient to save all men, that neither on the part of God, nor of Christ Jesus there might be any want [lack], but the want might be altogether in themselves in such as are damned.  Christ died for all [in the sense of sufficiency described above], the Gospel is preached to all, and all enjoy the holy Sacraments, which are the means of salvation; but such, as are not hereby moved to faith and repentance, shall perish not withstanding through their own default…


…Note, how free God is from being the cause of any man’s destruction: for He has done so much, as the Prophet Isaiah speaks, that he challenges his people, saying, O house of Israel, what could I have done more, that I have not done. [Isa. 5:4]  The fault of man’s ruin is in himself only, and the perverseness of his own will.  For though he has no power of himself to do good, yet he may refrain, from being obstinate, willful and refractary in his sinning, which while he does not, it is just with God to condemn him, though it even grieves Him so to do.


2 Peter 2:1  – “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

1631, vol. 3, London, p. 146, this quote was compiled by David Ponter

Touching that saying, “Denying the Lord that bought them;” none are properly said to be bought by the Lord, but the elect; yet in a large sense, all to whom the Gospel comes are said to be bought by him, yea all men, because the price He paid is sufficient to ransom all; neither is it by any defect therein that any perish, but through their own wickedness and unbelief.



2 Peter 3:9  – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

1631, vol 3, London, p. 167–168.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

Note again, that though the Lord damns many to hell, yet He is not willing so to do, his desire is rather, that all should repent and be saved, as He declares by sending the means amongst them.




The English Catechism Explained, 1623

p. 71

Fourthly, because God has his ambassadors of peace, the ministers of God’s Word amongst us, we must use them reverently, and readily hearken to all good motions, which they shall make unto us on God’s part: lest the Lord, seeing our base usage of them, and our regardlessness of such wholesome instructions, as they offer unto us in his name, grow angry, and refuse to keep any more peace with us.  




Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

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

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