Joseph Caryl on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel


Caryl was a member of the Westminster Assembly.  He frequently preached before the English Long Parliament, was a companion of John Owen, and was ejected from the English Church in 1662 with 2,000 other puritans.




An Exposition of Job

Chapter 32-34, 1661, London

p. 80

First, the holy Spirit of God; This office of the Spirit Christ sets forth (John 16:7), ‘I will send the Comforter, and when He is come,’ (what shall He do?) ‘He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment’; That is, He will bring proof home to the conscience to show sinners their evil state and evil lives; He will also bring home to their spirits the all-sufficiency of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and so overcome their unbelief, that they shall not be able to refuse the offers of grace.


p. 565

…yet God does render to him, according to that present work of faith in closing with the promise and the work of Christ’s righteousness therein tendered [offered] to him, and applied by him for his justification.


p. 700

In two respects sinners in general, may be said to turn back from God; First, when He commands and they will not obey Him, or withdraw their obedience from his commandments; Secondly, when He entreats and invites them, and they will not come to Him, nor accept his tendered [offered] respects and favorsThus the Lord complained of his own people (Ps. 81:11) Israel would none of me; God wooed them, but they had other lovers, and after them they would go; even Israel lightly regarded the God of Israel, yea they made a defection from Him.


p. 701

Thirdly, There is a turning back from God, proper to all unregenerate persons whether they be such as are civilly honest and possibly such as do not decline the outside of that religion wherein they were born and bred; or such as are flagitious in their lives and ways of God.  These may be said to turn back from God, because they have many calls to God, and are invited to come unto Him; which yet they either neglect and mind not at all, or refuse and reject, and so thrust away God from them


p. 811-12

Secondly Note:

To forgive sin, or to show mercy to sinners, is an act to which God declares Himself more inclined, or better pleased with, than to destroy sinners.

Everyone that sins deserves to be destroyed; yet says the Lord, ‘I pardon, I will not destroy’; I could destroy, and any one sin committed by any man would justify me against all the world in his destruction: Every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God upon that account (Rom. 2:19), yet God does not destroy.  And that He has no content [contentedness] in destroying, He binds it with an oath (Eze. 33:11) As I live says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, etc., as if He had said, I am not bent upon your destruction, I had rather be taken off, and save you, I pardon, I will not destroy.

If any shall say, Has God no pleasure in destruction?  Has He not a will to destroy as well as to save?

I answer, God has pleasure in destroying, but it is in the destruction of those who obstinately resist his Will, who refuse both his counsel and his Covenant… The Lord will declare Himself delighted in their destruction who have despised instruction; and He will glorify Himself in the actings of his justice upon them, who have slighted and put by the tenders and entreaties of his mercy.  Yet still God declares Himself more pleased in acting and putting forth his saving power, than his destroying powerThe prophet (Hos. 11:8,9) most pathetically represents, as it were, a debate in the breast of God Himself between his Justice and his Mercy; How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?  How shall I set thee as Zeboim?  Mine heart is turned within Me, my repentings are kindled together; (v. 9) I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy EphraimWe see the debate, the Lord determines for sparing, not for destroying.  So then, though He can, and will not only destroy, but laugh at the destruction of obstinate sinners, yet He loves to spare rather than to destroy.



Bible Thoughts, edited by Ingram Cobbin, reprinted 1995, Soli Deo Gloria, this book is a collection of excerpts from Caryl’s commentary on Job

p. 96-7

Isa. 6:9,10

They would not hear, therefore they shall not; they would not understand, therefore they shall not be able to understand.  They who refuse the offers of mercy, shall be destroyed with the offers of mercy.  And as God often takes away the gospel in wrath, so He sometimes sends it in wrath.  It is a great misery to have the gospel hid from a people for want of revelation, but it is lowest misery to have it hid in the revelation.

But who was to shut these eyes?  A holy prophet.  And how was he to shut them?  By prophesying or speaking to them in the name of the Lord.  The proper work of the word is to open the eyes and enlighten the mind.  But, when a people have long shut their own eyes against, or only dallied with that transcendent mercy, the light, then God, which is the severest judgment, shuts their eyes and darkens them with light.


p. 107

Isa. 55:7-8

As when God calls upon man to obey his will, and do his commandments, he is apt to say, at least in his heart, The duties are too many, and the burdens too great to be borne; so when the Lord calls upon wicked men, the worst of wicked men, to repent or turn unto Him, and He will abundantly pardon, or He will multiply to pardon, as it is in the original, they are ready to object,– What! Pardon such as we are?  We are too filthy and vile for washing.  Surely He will not pardon us.  These mercies are too many for us, and these favors too great for us to conceive till we believe God is merciful above us, we cannot believe He will pardon our sin


The Arraignment of Unbelief, 1645, London, p. 40, this quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

Thirdly, God has expressed Himself in Scripture, as much, yea more, for his willingness, than for his power to help; therefore we need not make our uncertainty of his will the reason of our unbelief, when we say, we are assured of his power: God has said, He is Almighty, etc., but there are not only words importing that God is willing to help his people, but promises and oaths that He will (Ps. 50:15) ‘Call upon me, and I will deliver thee’; Eze. 33:11, ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked (that place is meant primarily of a civil death, a death in trouble) but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’  Yea, God has manifested a willingness to help a people, which his power has not seconded; but He never manifested his power, when his will did not concur: that most passionate exclamation, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, How often would I have gathered thee! &c.’ [Matt 23:37] implies a general willingness in Christ to gather Jerusalem, yet Christ did not act his divine power effectually for their gathering.

[Caryl is saying that God has a will for that which He has not determined his power to effect, specifically in the salvation of his creatures.]




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