Robert Cleaver on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel




Of Godly Fear, the Second Sermon, 1613

on Heb. 4:1

By [Forsaking the promise of entering into his rest, &c.] Hence we may note this Doctrine, that,

The hearing of the promises is not sufficient for the obtaining of salvation, unless by faith we lay hold on the same.

Those Israelites of whom mention is made in this Text had the glad tidings of the Gospel preached unto them, but the word that they heard profited them not, because it was not mixed with faith in those that heard, Chap. 4:2.  Those impious and blasphemous Jews, which railed upon Paul and his Doctrine, and contraried the things which were spoken by him, had the forgiveness of sins through Christ preached and proffered [held out to someone for acceptance; an offer or proposal] unto them, and yet had no benefit thereby.  Judas himself was present among the hearers of our Sauior, when he made that heavenly Sermon (Matt 5:6-7, wherein are contained many blessed promises; yet was he never the better for that, but rather much worse, because he gave not entertainment thereunto: his sin was thereby increased; and so is theirs, whosoever they be, that make no better use of the promises than he did.  If I had not come and spoken unto them (says Christ) they had had no sin; to wit, in comparison, they had been nothing so faulty as they were; when he had preached the Gospel unto them, and they had rejected the same, that did exceedingly aggravate their sin.

Here then are those to be reproved that are ready whensoever any occasion is offered to discourse at large of the blessedness of these times wherein wee live, above those wherein our forefathers lived.  For then (say they) there was nothing but palpable ignorance: the Scriptures were hidden from the common sort; being in a tongue that they could not understand, neither might they without peril of their lives search into the same.  But now the case is far different: we have liberty to hear the instructions of the Word in public, and to read the same in private, and thus far they say well: but what use do they make of the Gospel that is offered unto them? do not they, for all their good words, either absent themselves from the preaching of it, or if they repair unto it, is it not for fashion rather than for conscience?  Do they not come to carp either at the matter, or at the manner of delivery, rather than to be edified thereby?  If their consciences testify against them that they are guilty in these things, they have small cause to glory of the happiness of our times. For albeit the light of the Gospel do tend to the salvation of many, yet it shall be for the increase of condemnation unto them who doe not receive the promises thereof, nor obey the precepts that are delivered unto them: both which do always go together; for whosoever refuses to walk in the ways of God’s commandments, he does withal reject the promises; and therefore though the Land be happy in regard of the Word, yet he is miserable, because he reaps no benefit thereby.

Secondly, the promise is forsaken through infidelity, when men think it to be bootless for them to apprehend the same, and that there is not therein virtue sufficient to bring them unto heaven: whence it comes to pass that if they be set upon by fears and terrors, they sink under the same, as Judas did, notwithstanding all the sweet promises which be hard from his Master.  And as for their souls, so for their estate, if they be poor and behind hand, or any other way distressed, they imagine it to be a folly for them to cast their care upon God, and to rest upon his promise, who has said that He will not fail, nor forsake those that depend upon him: they will never put Him to it, nor try what He will do for them (as wicked Ahaz professed when he was in danger of the enemy, Isa. 7:12) but they will rather shift for themselves, and use falsehood and lying, and whatsover ill means they can devise for the releiving of themselves, this also is to reject the promise.

Thirdly, they also are guilty of the same crime, that do prefer earthly things before heavenly.  He that doth not forsake father and mother, wife and children, lands and goods, and all that he hath or might have, for Christ his sake, and the Gospels, is not worthy of him.  And therefore were they rejected as unmeet guests for the heavenly banquet, who made more account of their farms, their oxen, and such like outward things, than they did of those spiritual comforts which the Lord offered unto them: And in like sort shall they be judged and condemned as contemners of the promises of life, who do more greedily seek after gold, and silver, and perishable substance, than they do after the treasures of a better life, which are permanent and everlasting.  Indeed God’s people are oftentimes over-carried with an immoderate affection towards the things of this world, and lust breaks in upon them, but they give no harbor nor lodging thereunto in their hearts, neither doe they love these lying vanities, more than grace and godliness, but would willingly give the Master a place above the servants, though they, as rude and unmannerly guests, do strive for the chief room in their souls: they would gladly prefer the glory of God and the means of their salvation before all the kingdoms of the earth, & desire these outward things only as helps and furtherances thereunto. And thus we see how the promises may be rejected.

Again God’s mercies and graces and the testimonies of His favor are offered unto all sorts, so that none needs to complain that his serving of the Lord will be bootless: though the gates of great men be opened unto some and shut against others, it is not so with heaven-gate: that stands wide open unto all, that through the faithful and conscionable use of the means, do strive to enter in.  For in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew, nor Graecian, Barbarian, nor Scithian, bond nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3.28), but in him, all are one: that is, all are equally respected without any personal difference; for God regards not one country more than another; one nation more than another: the Master has no preeminence above the servant, unless he be more religious; neither shall the servant have a less reward than the Master, except he be less gracious: women are accepted with the Lord as well as men, neither hath he any regard of the one sex more than of the other.  Seeing then that He imposes on all men without exception an holy care of their salvation, and punishes all those that neglect it, and rewards all such as observe it…

It is recorded by the Evangelist Luke, that when our Savior drew near unto Jerusalem, he wept for it, saying, (Luke 19:42) O if thou hadst known, at the least, in this thy day, these things which belong unto thy peace! but now are they hid from thine eyes.  As if He had said if thou hadst wisely considered of the season, when the Lord offered unto thee favor and mercy, and hadst made use of the same, thou mightest have been happy, notwithstanding all their former rebellions; but now thou art miserable, because thou wantedst wisdom to discern the opportunity. We have through the preaching of the Gospel the same offer of mercy that the Jews had; let us not be slack in taking hold thereof, nor harden our hearts while it is called today, but seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near: and look how watchful and observant men will be of the fittest opportunity for the preserring[?] of their suits (especially in matters that nearly concern them) unto an earthly Prince; so and much more vigilant let us be in observing the best and meetest season for the seeking and obtaining of favor from the Lord of Heaven and Earth.



A Godly Form of Household Government

The Duty of Parents Toward their Children

yea, never so good, learned, and skillful school-masters: never such plenty of so good and plain books printed, never so good cheap: the holy Ghost mercifully offering his gifts, as it were, into the mouths of all men: few there be that will open their mouths to receive them, their eyes to see the clear light, nor yet their ears to here so pure, manifest, and wholesome, and heavenly doctrine, even the word of God, the means of our salvation.



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The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel