Robert Rollock on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel



Rollock was a prominent minister and very influential professor of theology in Scotland. He was one of the primary developers of covenant theology and a fountainhead for theology for the Scots during the following centuries.



A Dialectic Analysis of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 8:19-39, p. 140.  This quote was translated and compiled by Marty Foord.

“God wills all men to be saved. 1 Tim. 2:4.  He wills, I say, salvation even of the reprobate, because salvation of the creature in itself is a good thing: it is true, He does not decree it, it is true, He decrees the death and destruction of them [the reprobate].  This will is a certain willing and approving simply, it is true even a certain decreeing. […] for there is either an effective decreeing, or a permissive decreeing.”

The Original: “Deus vult omnes homines salvos fieri. I. Tim. 2.4. vult, inquam, salutem etiam reproborum, quia salus creaturae in se res bona est: verùm non decernit eam, imò verò decernit mortem ac perniciem eorum. […] Estque voluntas quaedam verò etiam decernens. […] est enim vel decernens effective, vel decernens permissive.”



A Treatise of Effectual Calling, ch. 31, in Select Works, volume 1, p. 214-221

Secondly, they [Roman Catholics] dissent from us about this same special object, namely, the mercy of God in Christ.  For we say and affirm, that the object of justifying faith is, not only a general mercy, nor only a general promise touching Christ, but much rather a special mercy, and a special promise: that is, mercy offered in the Gospel, not in common to all, but peculiarly to me, or to thee.  For albeit the promises and sentences of the Gospel be conceived generally; yet it is certain, that they are to be received particularly by every one, as if they were spoken to every one in several: as for example, John 3[:16], the promise of the covenant of grace is conceived generally in these words, Whosoever believeth in the Son shall not perish, but have life everlasting.  This promise is indeed generally conceived, but it is to be understood particularly and singularly by every one, as if it had been spoken to me, or to thee: If thou believest in the Son, thou shalt not perish, but have everlasting life.  The Apostle 1 Tim. 1[:15], does understand this general sentence, namely, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, no otherwise than if it had been pronounced only concerning himself: whereupon he does apply it particularly unto himself, assuming by name, that he is the sinner, and concluding,

[Margin Note: How the believer is to make a syllogism in form.]

at the least secretly, that Christ came into the world to save him by name.  We may make trial of this thing by those promises that are made specially in the Gospel to save certain men: as to the man sick of the palsy, Matt 9, to the woman that was a sinner, Luke 7, to the Adulteress, John 8, to Zacheus, Luke 19, to the thief, Luke 23.  For the Spirit of Christ, when any general promise or sentence touching Christ and his mercy is alleged, does no less particularly now apply the same to every man, by speaking inwardly to the heart of every one, then at that time Christ did by his lively voice apply those particular promises to some certain persons.  Romans 3. Where the righteousness of God is said to belong to all believers, and that without distinction, it is plainly signified that that righteousness is offered to men of every sort and condition, and also propounded to every several person.  1 Tim 2[:4], after he has admonished that we are to pray for all men, he adds, that God will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.  Out of which it follows, that in the publishing of the Gospel, God has respect, not only of all men in common, but also distinctly of every several person: which regard also he will have us to have in our prayers.  What need many words?  For if there were nothing else that did

[Margin Note: The mercy of God in Christ offered generally to all the world, particularly applied to every one by the Spirit, is the object of justifying faith.]

 teach this, the administration of the Sacraments alone hath force enough in it to prove, that the mercy of God in Christ is offered specially to every one.  For in both the sacraments, the seals of that mercy are given and offered to every one severally.  And let this suffice, to show that special mercy (as it is called) is the object properly of justifying Faith, against which our adversaries [the Roman Catholics] hold.

The object of justifying Faith being made to be a general mercy, it follows that faith, in the opinion of our adversaries, is general, and not a special assent.  For seeing there is only a general mercy propounded generally to the Church, and not offered particularly to the several members thereof, how can any particular man challenge that particularly to himself, which is not spoken and offered particularly?  But we affirm, that justifying faith is that whereby every believer does particularly, not only assent to the promise that it is true in itself, but also apprehends with the heart the promised thing, and applies it properly to himself.  For this being made plain, that the mercy of God was particularly offered to every one, it follows, that faith must be particularBut for the proof hereof there are almost infinite testimonies of the Scriptures: we will be content but with a few.  

Gal. 2:20, And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Mark here, he does by faith peculiarly apply to himself the Son of God, and his life, his love and his death.  Neither is there any cause why any one should say, that this might be lawful for the Apostle, who had some extraordinary revelation of that thing, but that it is not lawful to the common sort of Christians: in as much as the Apostle does in this place bear the person of every Christian and believing man.  

Rom. 8, For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, etc.  Mark here that special trust and particular application is pointed at by the verb of the singular number.  

Beside, that which is cited out of Habakkuk by the Apostle, The just shall live by faith, does sufficiently insinuate a special faith: for thereby is signified that every just person does live by his faith, that is, by a special assent to, and application of the righteousness of God in Christ.  

Matt chap. 9, a particular faith is commended to the man sick of the palsy: to whom it was said, Son be of good comfort, thy sins be forgiven thee. 

John 3, when it is said, He that believeth in the Son hath eternal life; that very same special faith is signified, which is when every one does assent particularly to, and apply to himself everlasting life offered to himself.  

What need many words?  The same thing does that verb (I believe) which is found in the Apostles Creed, teach: For to believe, is there specially and particularly to believe.



Treastise on God’s Effectual Calling, in Select Works, 1:269.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter

Next, faith, whereby we receive the promise of the Faith covenant, which is offered unto us in Christ, is of the mere grace of God. Phil. 1:29, For unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe, but also to suffer for him.  Hence it follows that faith is the free gift of God.  That former grace may be called the grace of our vocation; this grace is common to all that are called, elect and reprobate.  But the latter grace in our effectual calling may be called the grace of faith, appertaining only to the elect; for it is given only to those that are predestinated to life everlasting to believe. Under the grace of faith I likewise comprehend the grace of hope and of repentance as being subaltern graces, and comprehended under this argument of our effectual calling.



Sermon 12, Psalm 80:1-4, in Select Works of Robert Rollock, ed. William M. Gunn (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844-1849), 1:464.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“The saints find in experience, that it is not an easy thing to find a familiar access to God in prayer.  Except our consciences first be purged, we can have no access to God; therefore, whosoever would draw near to God, let him seek to follow the counsel of the Apostle in the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the 22nd verse, where he says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in an assurance of faith, sprinkled in our hearts from an evil conscience.”  No flesh can have a favorable access to God, except his conscience be first purged from guiltiness; yea, that which we speak of the guiltiness of sin, we speak also of sin itself, that except it be quite taken away out of his sight, that he will not look favorably upon us. And this is that which the prophet says here, “If thou, O Lord, straitly markest iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”  For, as guiltiness of sin stays us to behold God, so sin itself stays God from beholding us, miserable wretches, with the eyes of his compassion.  So long, therefore, as thy conscience is not purged, when thou go to present thyself before his majesty, if thy conscience be wakened, thou wilt find God marking thy sins, laying them to thy charge, and wilt find him as a terrible judge, compassed about with burning wrath, ready to destroy thee: and if He mark thee, thou hast no standing, and if thou appear not clothed with the righteousness and perfect satisfaction that Jesus, through his blood, has purchased for thee, thou dare not presume to approach, for then his fierce wrath shall be poured out upon thee.”

[Note that “for” implies purpose.  The word can be taken in two ways, either (1) in a revealed sense 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 a decretive sense as actually paying for one’s personal sins in a universal-conditional atonement.

Seeing that Rollock 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:

“When the Lord died, ye must not think that he died for all: he died for some: he died not for any reprobate: he separated the Elect from the Reprobate, by virtue of his death. When he offered himself to the death, his eye was set upon every one of the Elect that was in the world: and when he was going to death, he said in his heart, I will die for this sinner, and this sinner, etc.”

– Twenty-Five Lectures Upon the Last Sermon and Conference of our Lord Jesus Christ, With his Disciples immediately before his Passion, (Edinburgh: Printed by Andro Hart, 1616), 214-215.]



16. The Crucifixion, continued, in Select Works of Robert Rollock, ed. William M. Gunn (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844-1849), 2:188–189.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“In all this railing out against Him, ye see the extreme humiliation of Jesus Christ for our sins.  He is made of no reputation; no, He is trod on as a worm; and no question that extreme torment of body was not so grievous to Him as was this railing on Him.  They speak to Him as a very reprobate, and so far as lay in them, they endeavored to make him to despair of all help.  So ye may see this railing was a thing most grievous to Him.  And David being his type, he complains on this shame that they heaped on him, in the 22nd Psalm.  All this lets us see how dearly the Lord has bought our life and salvation; and we are more than miserable if we see not this.  And also, it lets us see what should have become of us if he had not satisfied for us, and what should become of thee, if thou be not in Christ in that great day.  And it tells thee, seeing all this is for thy sin, that thou shouldst have a sad heart to have such a Redeemer made such a spectacle, and thou shouldst groan under the burden of sin; and when thou read of the cross, thine heart should be sorrowful that ever thou shouldst have moved the God of glory to such vengeance of his dear Son for thee.  Think not that every man shall be relieved of his sin by Him; no, only those who learn to groan under the burden of their own sins, by the which they have pierced Him, and turn to the Lord unfeignedly, and get favor.  So, if thou learn not at one time or other to groan under the burden of thy sin, thou shalt never be relieved by Him.”

[That Rollock is describing the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel here and not a general atonement, see the editorial comment on the Rollock quote immediately above]



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The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel