Stephen Charnock on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

 

A Discourse of the Subjects of the Lord’s Supperin The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1865), 4:464.  The following three quotes were compiled by Tony Byrne.

 

“Let us not judge ourselves by a general love. As there is a general love of God to man, a general love of Christ to mankind in dying, and giving a conditional grant of salvation upon faith and repentance, and a particular love to the soul of a believer, so likewise in man there is a general assent, and a particular serious assent to the truth of God, and accordingly a general love upon the apprehensions of what Christ has done in general.  There is a common love to God, which may be so called, because the benefits enjoyed by men are owned as coming from that fountain; a love arising from the apprehensions which men commonly have of the goodness of God in himself, and a common love wrought in them to God, as to other things that are good.  Again, men may have a false faith, and a false apprehension of pardon of sin, when indeed no such pardon is granted to them; so they may have proportionably a false love upon such an ungrounded belief.”

 

[Charnock is making the profound point that the common love of God for all his creatures, including sending Christ in the gospel to them, is reflected in man, who is created in God’s image, in that even common unbelieving man has a common love for God.]

 

 

Man’s Enmity to God, in The Works of Stephen Charnock (Banner of Truth, 1997), 5:521.

“(2) God has been importunate in entreaties of us. God offers not only truce, but a peace, and has been most active in urging a reconciliation.  Can He manifest his willingness in clearer methods, than that of sending his Son to reconcile the world to himself [2 Cor. 5:19-20]?  Can he evidence more sincerity than by his repeated and reiterated pressing of our souls to the acceptance of Him?  God knocks at our hearts, and we are deaf to him; He thunders in our ears, and we regard him not; He waits upon us for our acceptance of his love, and we grow more mad against Him; He beseeches us, and we ungratefully and proudly reject Him; He opens his bosom, and we turn our backs; He offers us his pearls, and we tread them under our feet; He would give us angels’ bread, and we feed on husks with swine.  The wisdom of God shines upon us, and we account it foolishness.  The infinite kindness of God courts us, and we refuse it, as if it were the greatest cruelty.  Christ calls and begs, and we will not hear him either commanding or entreating.  To love God is our privilege, and though it be our indispensable duty, yet it had been a presumption in us to aspire so high as to think the casting our earthly affections upon so transcendent an object should be so dear to Him, had He not authorized it by his command, and encouraged it by his acceptance.  But it is strange that God should court us by such varieties of kindness to that, wherein not his happiness but our affection does consist; and much stranger, that such pieces of earth and clay should turn their backs upon so adorable an object, and be enemies to Him, who displays himself in so many allurements to their souls, and fix their hatred upon that tender God who sues for their affections.
Consider that God is our superior.  An inferior should seek to a superior, not a superior to one below him. There is an equality between man and man, but an infinite inequality between God and us.  God is also the party wronged, and yet offers a parley.  And consider further, that when He could as well damn us as court us, He wants not power to rid his hands of us, but he would rather show his almightiness in the triumph of his mercy, than the trophies of his justice; He would rather be a refreshing light than a consuming fire.”

 

 

On the Goodness of God, Discourse 13, in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2: 285–287. 
“1. How affectionately does He invite men!  What multitudes of alluring promises and pressing exhortations are there everywhere sprinkled in the Scripture, and in such a passionate manner, as if God were solely concerned in our good, without a glance on his own glory!  How tenderly does He woo flinty hearts, and express more pity to them than they do to themselves!  With what affection do his bowels rise up to his lips in his speech in the prophet, Isa. 51:4, “Hearken to me, O my people, and give ear unto me, O my nation!”  “My people,” “my nation!”—melting expressions of a tender God soliciting a rebellious people to make their retreat to Him.  He never emptied his hand of his bounty, nor divested his lips of those charitable expressions.  He sent Noah to move the wicked of the old world to an embracing of his goodness, and frequent prophets to the provoking Jews; and as the world continued, and grew up to a taller stature in sin, He stoops more in the manner of his expressions.  Never was the world at a higher pitch of idolatry than at the first publishing the gospel; yet, when we should have expected Him to be a punishing, He is a beseeching God.  The apostle fears not to use the expression for the glory of divine goodness; “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us” (2 Cor. 5:20).  The beseeching voice of God is in the voice of the ministry, as the voice of the prince is in that of the herald: it is as if Divine goodness did kneel down to a sinner with ringed hands and blubbered cheeks, entreating him not to force Him to re-assume a tribunal of justice in the nature of a Judge, since He would treat with man upon a throne of grace in the nature of a Father; yea, He seems to put Himself into the posture of the criminal, that the offending creature might not feel the punishment due to a rebel.  It is not the condescension, but the interest, of a traitor to creep upon his knees in sackcloth to his sovereign, to beg his life; but it is a miraculous goodness in the sovereign to creep in the lowest posture to the rebel, to importune him, not only for an amity to Him, but a love for his own life and happiness: this He does, not only in his general proclamations, but in his particular wooings, those inward courtings of his Spirit’s, soliciting them with more diligence (if they would observe it) to their happiness, than the devil tempts them to the ways of their misery: as He was first in Christ, reconciling the world, when the world looked not after him, so He is first in his Spirit, wooing the world to accept of that reconciliation, when the world will not listen to him.  How often does he flash up the light of nature and the light of the word in men’s hearts, to move them not to lie down in sparks of their own kindling, but to aspire to a better happiness, and prepare them to be subject to a higher mercy, if they would improve his present entreaties to such an end!  And what are his threatenings designed for, but to move the wheel of our fears, that the wheel of our desire and love might be set on motion for the embracing his promise?  They are not so much the thunders of his justice, as the loud rhetoric of his good will, to prevent men’s misery under the vials of wrath: it is his kindness to scare men by threatenings, that justice might not strike them with the sword: it is not the destruction, but the preserving reformation, that He aims at: He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; this he confirms by his oath.  His threatenings are gracious expostulations with them: “Why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Eze. 33:11)?  They are like the noise a favorable officer make in the street, to warn the criminal he comes to seize upon, to make his escape: he never used his justice to crush them, till He had used his kindness to allure them.  All the dreadful descriptions of a future wrath, as well as the lively descriptions of the happiness of another world, are designed to persuade men; the honey of his goodness is in the bowels of those roaring lions: such pains does Goodness take with men, to make them candidates for heaven.”
“[3] How meltingly does He bewail man’s willful refusal of his goodness!  It is a mighty goodness to offer grace to a rebel; a mighty goodness to give it him after he has a while stood off from the terms; and astonishing goodness to regret and lament his willful perdition.  He seems to utter those words in a sigh, “O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my way” (Ps. 81:13)!  It is true, God has not human passions, but his affections cannot be expressed otherwise in a way intelligible to us; the excellency of his nature is above the passions of men; but such expressions of himself manifest to us the sincerity of his goodness: and that, were He capable of our passions, He would express Himself in such a manner as we do: and we find incarnate Goodness bewailing with tears and sighs the ruin of Jerusalem (Luke 19:42).  By the same reason that when a sinner returns there is joy in heaven, upon his obstinacy where is sorrow in earth.  The one is, as if a prince should clothe all his court in triumphant scarlet, upon a rebel’s repentance; and the other, as if a prince put himself and his court in mourning for a rebel’s obstinate refusal of a pardon, when he lies at his mercy.  Are not now these affectionate invitations, and deep bewailings of their perversity, high testimonies of Divine goodness?  Do not the unwearied repetitions of gracious encouragements deserve a higher name than that of mere goodness?  What can be a stronger evidence of the sincerity of it, than the sound of his saving voice in our enjoyments, the motion of his Spirit in our hearts, and his grief for the neglect of all?  These are not testimonies of any want of goodness in his nature to answer us, or unwillingness to express it to his creature.  Has He any mind to deceive us, that thus entreats us? The majesty of his nature is too great for such shifts; or, if it were not, the despicableness of our condition would render Him above the using any.  Who would charge that physician with want of kindness, that freely offers his sovereign medicine, importunes men, by the love they have to their health, to take it, and is dissolved into tears and sorrow when He finds it rejected by their peevish and conceited humor?

 

On God’s Patience, in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:482.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“Had not Christ interposed to satisfy the justice of God, man upon his sin had been actually bound over to punishment, as well as the fallen angels were upon theirs, and been fettered in chains as strong as those spirits feel. The reason why man was not hurled into the same deplorable condition upon his sin, as they were, is Christ’s promise of taking our nature, and not theirs.  Had God designed Christ’s taking their nature, the same patience had been exercised towards them, and the same offers would have been made to them, as are made to us.  In regard of the fruits of his patience, Christ is said to buy the wickedest apostates from him: 2 Peter 2:1, ‘Denying the Lord that bought them;’ such were bought by him as ‘bring upon themselves just destruction, and whose damnation slumbers not,’ ver. 3; he purchased the continuance of their lives, and the stay of their execution, that offers of grace might be made to them.”

 

 

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The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel