John Willison on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

1680-1750

 

 

Sacramental Meditations, in The Whole Works of John Willison, 1816, vol. 3

Meditation 25, p. 286-8.  This quote was compiled by R. Andrew Myers.

A crucified Christ, with all his purchase, is offered to all the hearers of the gospel: for Christ in his word, and by his ministers in the gospel-offer, speaks to all and every one of them; yea, speaks to every sinner, man and woman in particular, as though he called them by name and surname.  And every man is bound to take the call and offer home to himself, as if he were so named, and believe that Christ stands at his door and knocks, saying, If you, or any man, will open to me, I will come in.  ‘The promise is to you, and to all that are afar off;’ even to all the ends of the earth, and to the stout-hearted; to all the sons of men, to every creature, to them that have no money, to the poor, maimed, blind, naked, wretched, and miserable, and to whomsoever will come.  ‘To you is the word of this salvation sent.’  Christ does beseech you to be reconciled, and to beware of coming short the promise, by unbelief; such a promise as that, ‘Whosoever believeth in the Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life:’ and that, ‘Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out:’ besides many others; John 3.16; 6.37; Rev. 3.17-18, 20, 22.17; Prov. 8.4; Isa. 45.22, 46.12, 55.1; Mark 16.15; Luke 14.21-23; Acts 2.39, 3.26, 13.26, 47; 2 Cor. 5.20; Heb. 4.1.

Now, seeing the gospel-call and offer is given to every one, faith, which is the echo of the gospel-call, must needs receive an offered Christ, and salvation through him, with particular application to the soul that believes.  As Christ offers himself, and his purchase, to every soul in particular, so faith appropriates Christ to the soul itself in particular.  And, indeed, the life and sweetness of faith lies in this appropriation and applicatory acts, when the soul is helped to say, with Thomas, ‘Thou art my Lord and my God;’ and with the spouse, ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his;’ and with David, ‘Thou art my rock, and the God of my salvation.’  Unbelief would tempt me to put away the gospel-offer from me, saying, It does not belong to me, I am not elected, nor designed to share of Christ’s purchase: He did not love me, nor die for me.  But in regard secret things belongs to God, my salvation is at stake, my need of a Saviour is unspeakable, and the offer is made to me;  I have no time to lose in disputing with the devil and unbelief, but I will go to Christ on the ground I have.  He tells me He came to save sinners [1 Tim. 1:15]: I am sure that this is my name: He loved enemies, that is my name; He received gifts for the rebellious, that is my name: and now I hear the master calling and inviting me in particular: therefore in spite of the devil and unbelief, and all my guilt, I will go forward, and accept of Christ as my Saviour and my King: I will trust him with my salvation, and believe ‘he loved me, and gave himself for me,’ vile and guilty as I am.  This essay to believe, Lord, I make in thy strength, and in obedience to thy command: but, oh! my endeavours are weak and feeble!  It is only the Spirit enlightening my mind, and opening up the gospel-call and promise to me, saying, ‘To you is the word of this salvation sent,’ that determines me to make particular application of thy love-offer, by an acceptable appropriating faith.  Let my help come from thee!

O Lord, my sins are great and numerous; but should I add to them the sin of refusing the remedy, and putting away Christ’s love and blood offered to me in the gospel, this would be greater than all the rest: for so I would bring not only my own blood, but the guilt of the blood of God upon my head.  This I dare not do: now my soul is at stake; now the remedy is in my offer; my need of it is great; I cannot delay closing with it; yet a little while, and my opportunity is gone, and I must change my dwelling forever; and how can I go anywhere without my Savior?  Christ I must have to teach me, to justify and sanctify me; none else can do it, on Him all my help is laid.  How shall I go to a communion-table without Him?  how will I go to death without Him? how will I go to death without Him? how will I got to a judgment-seat without Him?  Lord, my case is desperate without thee; wherefore I accept thy offer, I believe thy love, I trust in thy merits, I apply they blood, I appropriate thy purchase, and cry, ‘My Lord, and my God.’  I confide in a sin-pardoning God, and rest on his promise to me, through Christ’s blood and merits, for life and salvation; and though clouds arise, and he should threaten even to slay me, yet I will trust in Him, as one ‘that loved me, and gave Himself for me.’

Objection: But does not the calling sinners to such appropriating acts of faith, encourage the presumptuous confidence of hypocrites to call God their God, like Balaam, Num. 22.18, and to continue in sin?  

No; these gospel-calls do encourage sinners to love God, to repent and leave their sins; for, till we believe, and taste something of God’s love to us, we cannot love Him, nor turn to Him, 1 John 4.19, ‘We love him, because he first loved us.’  And the abuse or presumption of hypocrites must not hinder the publishing of free gospel-offers and promises

It is the duty, then, of every man that has Christ’s love-offers tendered to him, repent and believe the gospel; to see his lost state in Adam, and his need of Christ; to be well pleased with the gospel-device, receive Christ in all his offices; to trust in Him as his Savior, and thereupon believe that his sins are forgiven through Christ’s blood; and so persuade and assure himself that Christ is his, that He died for him, and that he shall have life and salvation through Him…”

 

Advice 2, p. 314-316

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

Rev. 3:20

 

Lost sinner!  I bring you good tidings; the eternal Son of God has undertaken a long journey, and endured great sufferings, to purchase salvation for you!  A dear purchase it is, dear has it cost Him to obtain it! and now He has brought it the length of your door, and there, O man!  Christ is standing, knocking, and saying, ‘This day salvation is come to this door; open and take it in.’  Now, can you refuse, O sinner! to take in Christ’s purchased salvation, when Christ has come with it to your very door, even the door of your heart?  Behold, He stands at it, and knocks for entrance.  Open, open!  etc.

The arguments for your opening are strong and many:

1.  Consider at whose door Christ does stand, even at the door of a creature infinitely below Him.  O it is a beggar’s door, that has nothing to entertain Christ when He enters! yet says He, Open to me, and I will bring in provision with Me, and make you a rich feast.  It is at the door of a poor Lazarus, that is all full of ulcers and sores; yet, says Christ, Open, and I will bring in the balm of Gilead, a plaster of my blood for healing all your sores, and, for as costly as it is, it shall cost you nothing.  It is even at the door of an enemy, a mortal enemy, that Christ stands; you have spoke ill of Him, thought ill of Him, and done ill to Him; you have affronted Him, wounded Him, and lodged his traitors and murderers: yet, says Christ, Open, and hearken to the offers and terms of reconciliation which I have purchased for you with my blood; they are most surprising and safe, easy and honorable.  It is at the door of Satan’s slaves that Christ stands, those who have been long drudging at his work, and feeding upon his husks; yet, says Christ, Open to me, and I will set you at liberty, and make you God’s freemen and children.  Why, then, will you not open and receive Him joyfully?  O sinner! stand amazed at God’s condescending goodness, in standing at the door of such a smoky cottage, so ill swept, and out of order!  Good reason have you to cry out, ‘Lord, I am not worthy you should come under my roof.’  But seeing that you humble yourself to visit the unworthy in such a manner, come in, and but speak the word, and the house shall be cleansed, diseases healed, grievances redressed, and the soul made happy.  It is highly your interest then to open the door, and welcome in your Savior, who stands and knocks for access.

2.  Again, consider who it is that stands at your door: It is even the King of glory, a King of infinite power and majesty!  And will you not lift up the gates of your souls to this King?  Were is but an earthly king that knocked at your door, you would soon open and receive Him; yea, count it a great honor that you had such a person in your house.  But what are clay kings to the ‘King of glory’ to the Prince of the kings of the earth? to our great Immanuel, the glorious Plant of renown, the Head of the elect world?’  Who then would not cast the gates wide open to such a glorious King?  Again, He is ‘the everlasting Father,’ and the Father of all believers, that stands and knocks!  A Father full of pity, that follows after his prodigal children, and invites them to return to Him!  And will not a child open the door to his Father?  Can you find in your heart to keep your compassionate Father standing at your door?  Nay, further, it is your Husband that knocks, a loving Husband, that has suffered much for your cause: And will not an affectionate spouse open and let in her husband?  Moreover, it is your Physician that knocks, who brings healing medicines for all your diseases, by which He has cured many thousands before now!  And will not a sick and dying man let in such a Physician?  Open, O sinner! why will you die?

3.  Consider Christ’s patience and long-suffering at your door; He does not knock and then go away, as one indifferent whether you open or not; no, He knocks and stands still; He stands and knocks again, and that after many repulses!  No beggar, wanting an alms, would stand so long at our doors, as Christ stands at a beggar’s door, not seeking to take from him, but wanting to give unto him.  O wonder at his goodness and long patience!  Behold, He that has a throne of glory to sit on, and ten thousand times ten thousand to bow before Him, is willing, O sinner, to stand at your door!  Yes, He stands, whilst you do lie in the bosom of your lusts.  He stands without, whilst his enemies are let in, and allowed to possess the best seats!  He stands at the door, while Satan is let in, and gets the easy chair!  O wonderful patience! that Christ, after so many affronts and repulses, and after seeing enemies preferred before Him, should continue to stand at your door and knock!  But, O sinner! do not try his patience too much, nor provoke Him too long; for, observe the text, He now stands, He is on his feet ready to go away; the knock will be given that will prove the last, and you know not but the present knock may be it; do not then delay to open one moment longer.

4.  Consider Christ’s earnest desire to be let into your heart; He not only stands at the door, but He knocks; yea, knocks loud, and knocks often, to convince you of his earnestness.  Many a loud knock does He give, by his calls and invitations in his word, “Come unto me, open unto me, look unto me.”  Many a knock gives He by his promises to you, “I will come in, I will sup with you,” etc.  Many a knock gives He by his threatenings of wrath and vengeance against those who shut their doors against Him.  Many a knock gives He by your own conscience, and by his own Spirit, raising convictions, inclinations, desires and purposes within your heart, to bring you to a Savior.  And many a rap and knock does He give at your door on sacramental occasions.  Then it is He knocks aloud with his nailed hands and pierced feet, and stands at your door iwth his wounds open, his blood streaming, and his garments dyed with blood; and all this to show his earnestness to be let into your heart.  Open then to Christ, O sinner! while He is knocking, be assured He will not knock always; this may possibly be the last day of the Spirit’s knocks and strivings with you; so that, if you refuse to open at this present knock, God may strike you dead and senseless all your life, clap a seal on the door that it shall never open; you may hear ministers knock after this, but never hear God’s Spirit knock again; and ‘woe unto you if He depart from you.’  Remember, O man! for as many knocks God gives at your door, He keeps an exact account of them all, and will reckon them all up to you at the judgment-seat.  And can you think He will open heaven to you then, who will not open heart to Him now?  No, no; his ear will be as deaf to you hereafter, as yours is to Him now.  Read and believe that terrible word, Prov. 1:24, etc.

 

 

Advice 3, p. 317-319

“If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in and sup with him.”

Rev. 3:20

 

Great and precious are the promises which Christ makes to them who hearken to his voice in the gospel-offers, and open their heart to receive him as offered to them in all his offices: I will come in, and bring all the benefits of my purchase with me, to entertain and feast that soul, even pardon, peace, light, life, grace and glory.

1.  Observe, the duty called for is to hear Christ’s voice, and open the door to Him; that is, to accept and embrace the free gospel-offers, and heartily to acquiesce in the gospel-method of a sinner’s reconciliation and sanctification through the righteousness of our glorious Immanuel, and willingly receive and submit to Him as our Prophet, Priest, and King.  What is the preaching of the gospel, but Christ’s charming voice calling lost sinners home to Himself?  What is it, but Christ’s following them with invitations and entreaties to come to Him and live?  This is Christ’s voice which He would have sinners to hear, Come and live; though they generally refuse to hear the voice of his sovereign offering him his life, as condemned sinners do?  John 5:40, “Ye will not come to Me that ye may have life.”  Yet behold, after many refusals, He follows his offers with arguments, strong arguments, to prevail with sinners; and after the greatest obstinancy He is loth to break off his treaty with them, Hos. 11:8, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?  Why will ye die?”  What reason can you give for refusing life, or for choosing death?

2.  Observe who it is that Christ calls to hear his voice and open their doors to Him: It is not this or that man only, or any particular sort of men, it is any man, every man that sits under the gospel.  “If any man will hear my voice and open the door, (says Christ), I will come in.”  “If any man will open, (be he old man or young man), I will come in.”  If the greatest sinner, the most crimson-colored sinner, will open, I will come in.  “Any man,” if the swearer will open, if the sabbath-breaker, if the murderer, if the drunkard, if the unclean, if the thief, if the cheat, if the liar, if the mocker, if the prayerless man, if the man that hates God and godliness, will open to me, “I will come in and sup with him.”  O what encouragement does this word, “if any man,” give to ever sinner to flee to Christ!  If any man, whoever he be, whatever he has done, if he will welcome me, receive me in the gospel-offers, I will come in to him.

3.  Observe, Christ requires sinners to open the door, that He may come in to teach them; however unable they be, this is their duty; they must mint, and use all means to do it, and look up to Him for strength.  He will have the sinner’s consent, and the soul made willing to receive him.  O then cast open the door, open it wide, receive Christ wholly, receive Him without reserve, open before him the “two-leaved gates,” not the wicker, or one leaf only, but both leaves of the door!  Let Christ have the full and free consent of the soul, an abundant entrance into it.  There are some resolving to open the door to Christ, others perhaps are beginning to open it: O let them not halt in doing it!  With some the door is half open, and there they stop.  They are almost, but not altogether Christians.  O almost Christian! why do you halt?  Why would you lose all the pains you have been at?  A little more would cast the door wide open, and make you an altogether Christian.  Go then a little further, O sinner!  to save your soul.  Open to Christ all the powers and faculties of your soul.  Open to Him fully here, as you would have Him to open freely to you hereafter.  Oh! what mean you to open to Christ by halves?  Alas! the half open door will be ready to go to again, and if so, it may never open for the future.  Let this be your concern then to go a little further than the almost Christian, and rest not in fair beginnings.

4.  Observe, how great the advantage is of opening the door to Christ: Why?  I will come into the house, says He; even the friend of sinners, the King of glory will come in, the best guest that ever came into a poor man’s house: How honorable, how profitable, how happy and blessed, must such a visit be!

Question:  For what end will Christ come in?

Answer:  He will come in to enlighten the house; for the soul is a dark dungeon while Christ is shut out: He will come in to adorn and enrich the soul with the ornaments and treasures of his grace:  He will come in to reign in the soul, and pull down the tyrant that has long oppressed you: As in the text, He will come in and sup with you, and cause you to sup with Him: And, because you have no fitting provision in the house, He will bring it with Him.  And O how rare are Christ’s dainties, his hidden manna, the fruits of the tree of life, the grapes of Canaan, the bread that comes down from heaven!  How excellent is the water of life!  One drop of it would be an everlasting spring in your soul, that would keep you from thirsting after the creature anymore.  What a rich feast are the graces of the Spirit quickened to a lively exercise!  What a blessed feast is pardon of sin, peace with justice, peace with the law, an interest in Christ’s purchase, intimations of Christ’s love, gospel-promises applied, communion with God, views of eternal life, well-grounded hopes of immortal glory! etc.  O how precious and delicate are those gospel-rarities which are set before you on the communion-table, and freely tendered to everyone that opens the door to Christ!  

Who would not welcome such a Guest, that brings such glorious provision with Him?  Had poor sinners spiritual appetites sharpened for Christ’s feast, there would not be so many shut doors against Him.

5.  Observe, how solemnly Christ offers these gospel-blessings to you, with a Behold I stand, etc.  Christ takes witnesses upon it, witnesses against the refusers: Behold, ye angels, and witness for me how kind and bountiful my offers are to Adam’s rebellious children!  Behold, ye ministers, and witness against those who shut Me out!  Behold, ye stones and timber of the house, ye elements and communion-tables, bear witness for me and against them!  Behold, ye fellow-communicants and hearers, bear witness one against another, that I knocked, I called, I knocked loud, I knocked long, but ye kept your doors bolted against me.  It is a melancholy thought for those who are ministers to entertain, that they will one day be brought in as witnesses against those who shut out their Savior; but when called, they must witness against such, though never so dear to them now, that Christ called, but they refused; He made kind and large offers, but they regarded them not.  O, then, let every soul set about sweeping and washing all the rooms, and case open all the doors, as wide as they can, to the King of Glory, and receive Him with acclamations and praise!  Take the crown off the head of self, and put it on the head of Christ, ascribing all the glory of your salvation to Him, and nothing to free-will, or your own doings.

 

 

 

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