Richard Sibbes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel




The Church’s Riches by Christ’s Poverty, in vol. 6 of his works

“For your sakes”

A man perishes by the Law in such sins, but then there is a pardon offered, if men will come under the government of Christ, and lead new lives: but if men refuse, there is a super-added guilt; not only justice condemns such wretches, but mercy itself: because they refuse mercy upon these terms rather than they will leave their sinful courses; mercy and justice both meet to condemn such persons.  Let us take heed therefore of abusing the mercy and love of God: for then we quite overthrow God’s end in the Gospel: for why does He convey all to us by love, and mercy, and grace, but that it may work the same disposition again in us to Him? or else we overturn the end of the Gospel: Let us take heed of this as ever we will find interest in this grace, without which we are the miserablest wretches that live: it were better for us that we had never heard of Christ and the Gospel, then to live in sins against conscience, under the manifestation and publication of grace.



The Fountain Opened, in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 5:506-507.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“In a word, being to bring Christ and the church together, our [preachers’] aim must be, to persuade people to come out of their estate they are in, to come and take Christ.  Whatsoever makes for this, that course we must use, though it be with never so much abasing of ourselves.  Therefore the gospel is promulgated in a sweet manner.  ‘I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God,’ etc.  The law comes with ‘Cursed, cursed;’ but now in the gospel Christ is preached with sweet alluring. ‘I beseech you, brethren,’ and ‘We as ambassadors beseech you, as if Christ by us did beseech you,’ etc., 2 Cor. 5:20.   This is the manner of the dispensation in the gospel, even to beg of people that they would be good to their own souls.  Christ, as it were, became a beggar himself, and the great God of heaven and earth begs our love, that we would so care for our own souls that we would be reconciled unto Him.  It was fitter, indeed, that we should beg of him. It was fit we should seek to be reconciled to him, but God so stoops in the dispensation and ministry of the gospel, that He becomes a beggar and suitor to us to be good to our souls.  As if he had offended us, He desires us to be reconciled. The wrong is done on our part, yet He so far transcends the doubtings of man’s nature, that He would have nothing to cause man’s heart to misgive, no doubts or scruples to arise.  He Himself becomes a beseecher of reconciliation, as if He were the party that had offended.  This is the manner of the publication of the gospel.”



Angel’s Acclamations, in vol. 6 of his works

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Luke 2:13,14

Good Will Towards Men

Diverse copies have it otherwise, On Earth peace to men of good will; some have it; Good will towards men; the sense is not much different: Peace on earth, To men of God’s good will, of God’s good pleasure; that God has a pleasure to save, or good will towards men, of God’s good pleasure, Peace on earth, to men of God’s good will and pleasure, or Gods good pleasure towards men.

God, shows now good pleasure towards men.

The love that God bears towards man, has diverse terms, from diverse relations, as it is a propension in him to do good, so it is love.  As it is his free, so it is his good pleasure or grace, as it is to persons in misery, it is mercy.  The fountain of all is love.  But as the object is diversely considered, so the terms be divers, good pleasure and grace imply freedom in the party loving, and mercy implies misery in the party loved.

Now this free good will and grace, it is towards Men, towards mankind, he says not, towards Angels; it is more towards men, than (even) to good Angels (in some sort,) for now man is taken to be the Spouse of Christ, good Angels are not so: neither is it good will to evil Angels, for their state is determined, there is no altering of their condition: therefore God is called Philanthropos [lover of men], not Philangelos [love of angels]; and the Scripture calls this Philanthropia [philanthropy], the love that God has showed to men in Christ.  Therefore we should have thoughts of God, as gracious, loving our nature, more than the Angelical nature in some respects.

[Margin Note: To love mankind]

And [you all] learn this for imitation, to love mankind [as God does].  God loved mankind, and surely, there is none that is born of God, but he loves the nature of man, wheresoever he finds it, he will not stand altogether, whether it be good or bad, etc.  But because we are now in the way, and our state is not determined, and because God loves the nature of man, therefore every man that has the Spirit of God, loves mankind, he will labor to gain Turks, or Indians, etc. if He can, because He loves the very nature of man, but I pass from this point to the second.

[Note: Gods good will, the ground of all good. ]

This Good will of God, to restore lapsed man, by the sending of his Son, is the ground of all good to man, and has no ground but itself.

God’s grace and love to the creature, is altogether independent, in regard of the creature, God fetches not reasons of his love from the creature,



The Success of the Gospel, in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864), 7:280.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.


Whereto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and what are they like?
Luke 7:31-35


“Christ in the former verses had commended St. John’s ministry, and in the verse next going afore he speaks of the different success it found in the publicans, from that it found in the pharisees, who rejected the counsel of God.  Now in the verses following he shows what success his own ministry had amongst them, and thus He does by way of comparison or parable.  And this he brings by way of asking a question, which implies admiration and indignation, both showing a deep passion, as it is in Isa.: ‘What shall I do for my vineyard?  Isa. 5:4; and this shows in general, that the refractory disposition of man is a matter of indignation and of admiration, especially if we consider what it despises, and whom.


First, They despise the word of God, the saving word, the counsel and wisdom of God; nay, secondly, they despise God clothed in flesh, that was born and died for their sakes, and thereby offers salvation to them, and life everlasting; yet all this to the obdurate heart of man is as lightning that dazzles the eyes and helps not the sight a whit; and therefore, Isa. 6:10, the prophet is bidden ‘to make the heart of the people fat.’  Go tell this people, hearing they shall not understand, etc.: and therefore no marvel if God bears indignation against such.  ‘Whereto shall I liken the men of this generation,’ Luke 7:31; this generation of vipers, that are worse than any of the generations fore-passed, by how much they have had more means to be better.”


[Webmaster’s Note: “died for their sakes” above can be taken in two ways.  “For” expresses purpose and can either mean (1) a revealed intention consistent with the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel, as purchasing a redemption intended to be offered, given and received by the gospel hearer, or (2) in the sense of decree, actually paying for one’s personal sins in a universal-conditional atonement.

Seeing that Sibbes affirms Limited Atonement and explicitly denies a general atonement elsewhere, “for” should be interpreted as (1) consistent with the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel:

“‘Believed on in the world.’  By ‘world,’ especially here in this place [1 Tim. 3:16], is meant the world taken out of the world, the world of elect.  There is a world in the world, as one saith well in unfolding this point; as we see, man is called a little world in the great world.  Christ was preached to the world of wicked men, that by preaching, a world might be taken out of the world, which is the world of believers.  Hence we may clear our judgments in that point, that when Christ is said to redeem the world, it must not be understood generally of all mankind.  We see here, the world is said to believe in Christ.  Did all mankind believe in Christ? was there not a world of unbelievers?”

– The Fountain Opened, in Works, 5:516-517]


Works, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1983)

vol. 2, p. 186, as narrated by Ian Murray, The Cross: the Pulpit of God’s Love, n.d., p. 26.  The block quote is Murray’s, the quotes inside are Swinnock’s.

“Our sin must be discovered ‘to drive us out of ourselves,’ but then ‘there must be a great deal of persuasion to still the accusing conscience of a sinner, to set it down, make it quiet, and persuade it of God’s love’.”

vol. 2, p. 187, this quote is wholly Swinnock’s

Christ offers Himself in mercy to the worst soul… It is our office [the minister’s office], thus to lay open and offer the riches of Christ.”



Expositions of St Paul, Sermon on Galatians 2:20, Banner of Truth edition, p.389, this quote was compiled by Rev. Colin Maxwell

Christ’s love is propounded to all in general” 





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