The Great Concern of Salvation, in The Works of Thomas Halyburton, 1833 Glasgow edition
This is the substance of what we [ministers] do, in our Lord’s name, crave [strongly desire]; and we are instructed to press those demands, and urge your compliance with them, 1. By entreaties; 2. By commands; 3. By threats.
1. Know then, O unbelievers, though our blessed Lord and Master might peremptorily require obedience to, and acceptance of these demands, and upon the first refusal turn you all into hell; yet such is his condescension, that He has given us in commission to beseech and entreat your compliance. Therefore, as ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God [2 Cor. 5:20]; which can no otherwise be, than upon an acceptance of the terms we have proposed to you. We want not motives to enforce our petition; we are rather straitened with the number of them than with want. We have so many in our view, that we know not where to begin, or how to end.
(1) We earnestly, in Christ’s stead, beseech your falling in with the demands made upon you, which are in themselves worthy of all acceptation. We crave no unreasonable thing, when we bid you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The request is suited to all the principles of reason. What more suitable than for the creature to grant the request, comply with the desire, (pardon the expression) of the Creator? What more suitable to that rational principle of self-preservation, and allowable self-love than for a captive to accept of a deliverer, a slave to receive a Redeemer, a condemned malefactor to welcome a pardon, a sinner to entertain a Savior, a wanderer to lay hold upon a guide, a poor man to accept of riches when offered, and a pursued offender to betake himself to the city of refuge? Nothing sure can better quadrate [conform] with that principle that is interwoven in the very frame of our natures. Again, what more suited to our interest than this? This is a rational principle, when kept within just bounds; and it has a great influence, for ordinary, upon the actions of men. [Self-] Interest, real or mistaken, rules the world; and never did it more appear than here, pleading strongly for your acceptance of, and compliance with our [ministers’] desires. A compliance will take you from the dunghill to the throne, will enrich the beggars with all the fullness of God; will make the children, nay, the slaves of Satan, heirs of heaven, and advance them to the estate and dignity of being sons of the Most High. It is not a few things, but all things, that you may make yours, by accepting of this offer. If you believe, “all things are yours, and you are Christ’s.” Once more, nothing more suitable to that principle of gratitude, that is judged to be so much suited to the nature of man, that he cannot forego it without sinking himself a degree below the very beasts. Nothing, I say, is more agreeable to gratitude. He who gave you all that you possess, to whom alone you must owe all that you shall to eternity enjoy, asks this small and reasonable boon [favor or request], this just desire; and we in his stead, beseech, entreat, and obtest [implore, call upon] your compliance. Shall we get a refusal, when our demand is so highly reasonable? If you will not heart this seconding and urging [of] our earnest request, then we take God, angels, and men, to witness against you, that rather than comply with the desire of the ambassador of Christ, supplicating you in his name, you will not stand to counteract all the principles of reason, self-preservation, interest, and gratitude, to hear whom you will not refuse in any other case.
(2) We beseech you in Christ’s stead, to accept of Him; for, we dare say, He is worthy of your acceptance, worthy for whom you should do this thing. He is the “only begotten of the Father,” and is possessed of all the glorious perfections of the Father; He is the “express image of his person,” the “the image of the invisible God.” And as upon account of his personal excellencies, so upon account of the good offices He has done you, He deserves good treatment at your hand. He has honored your nature, by joining it to his own, in a glorious and mystical personal union. He has given the most pregnant proof of matchless love to lost sinners: He left the Father’s bosom, to bring them there; He died, that they might live; He suffered, that they might be saved. In a word, all the perfections of the divine nature, all the perfections of your own, all the wounds, every drop of blood of the crucified Savior of the world, all the tears shed, all the drops of blood in his agonies did sweat for the relief of poor sinners; all cry with one voice, “Sinners, we beseech you, believe on the Lord Jesus.” Can you refuse what is craved by such a One?
(3) We pray you, by the “mercies of God,” in the “bowels of our Lord Jesus,” believe on Him, accept of Him; for his heart is upon this request. [There is] Nothing more acceptable to Him, than a compliance with this call; He laid the foundation of this offer we make to you, in his own blood; He wept at sinner’s folly, that would not comply with it; He has instituted a gospel ministry for this very end, and has been, if I may so speak, at a vast expense of gifts and grace for the maintenance of this his own ordinance. He has given them [ministers] most peremptory orders, to call you, to beseech you, to command, to threaten, nay, to compel you to a compliance. Will you refuse our Master that request He has so much at heart?
(4) We beseech you, accept of Him now, grant our request, as you would have yours granted by Him, at that day when you shall be obliged to supplicate Him, standing before his bar, as panels before the Judge of all the earth. None shall have their request granted in that day, who will not grant ours now. Will you not then hear our Master now?
(5) We beseech you, in the name of all the glorious Trinity, to grant our demands. We are ambassadors for Christ, and God does beseech you by us. God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, do all join in the supplication. Never were there such three names at a supplication, never such three hands at a petition. O sinners! what hearts have you, if you can refuse the desire, the supplication, the entreaties of a whole Trinity? All the love of the Father, all the grace of the Son, and all the blessings that are enjoyed by communion with the Holy Ghost, all plead with you for your compliance. Can you refuse us [ministers], then, O sinners, O rocks, O hearts harder than rocks?
(6) Once more, we beseech you, be ye reconciled to God, accept of, and believe on our Lord Jesus Christ; for we assure you, in our great Master’s name, He is no ordinary supplicant. He never came with such a supplication to the fallen angels; He never came with it to many nations of the world, who would, we make no doubt, welcome it, if they knew it, and had it. Kings are not ordinary petitioners, and therefore it is no wonder they take ill with a repulse.
Now, O sinners! what answer shall we give to Him that sent us? what return shall we give to our Master? Shall we say, that we came to the congregation of Ceres [a Roman goddess of fertility, implying that God’s people are spiritual pagans], that we showed his [Christ’s] commission, told our errand, in his name supplicated for a compliance with his demand? But that you would not hear Him, though we besought you in his name, by all the ties of reason, self-preservation, interest, and gratitude, by the glorious work of Christ, by all the marks of his love to mankind, by all his concern for sinners; that we had a whole Trinity seconding us, and that we met with a refusal? Are you willing that we take witness upon this refusal, and, in our Master’s name, protest that this our reasonable, nay, advantageous request, was refused? It is a wonder that ever the commands of God should be disobeyed; but it is yet a greater, that ever the request, the entreaty of a God should be denied. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, God beseeching! and man refusing!
(4) If you will obey this command, we have an allowance, in his name, to make offer of Himself, and of all his glorious purchase; and according to our [ministers’] commission, we do here, in the name of our great Lord and Master, offer Him for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: we offer Him, and all He has, to everyone within these doors. Whoever you be, whatever your sins are, though as great as ever were the sins of any of the sons of Adam, we do here offer Christ to you, and do promise, that if you will accept of Him, He will “in no wise [way] cast you out”; nay, He shall save you, make you sons of God, nay, heirs, yea, and joint heirs with Himself. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and ye shall be saved.”
6thly, The ministers of the gospel bear witness against you, that you have sinned…
(3) We give a testimony to this great truth when we preach Christ to you; for the whole gospel-revelation goes upon this supposition, that all have sinned. When we offer you a Savior, we assert that you are lost; when we press you to employ a physician, we assert that you are sick; when, in Christ’s stead, we entreat and beseech you to be reconciled to God, we declare you are enemies.
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Secondly, Try this fairly, we obtest [implore and call upon] you; for if you be not convinced, you are like[ly] to lose the advantage of all that is to be said from this text we are now entering upon. We shall, if the Lord will, from this scripture, hold forth and make offer of Christ Jesus our Lord as the only Savior of lost sinners; and if you be not convinced soundly of sin, you are like[ly] to lose the advantage of such offers; for none will welcome or entertain them, save only such as are convinced of sin.
(3) We see what faith is: it is the acceptation of what is offered for the ends [purposes] for which it is offered. Christ and all his purchase is made offer of to sinners, and that freely; and they accept of the offer, and receive Him.
Third thing implied in believing. This duty not only implies the sense of sin, and the knowledge of Christ just now insisted upon, but moreover it implies some knowledge of the gospel offer of Christ. This is absolutely necessary in order to our acceptance of Christ. It was not enough to set the man-slayer a running to the city of refuge, that he knew there was a city that had gates open, and was sufficient to preserve him; but moreover he must know, that it was designed for that purpose, that he had warrant to enter in at these open gates, and so to expect protection. And here there are two things [that] must of necessity be known.
1. That Christ and all his benefits are indeed offered in the gospel to poor sinners, and that freely. Hence it is, that our [Westminster Shorter] Catechism [#86] does thus qualify the object of saving faith, while it describes faith in Christ to be a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him as He is offered to us in the gospel.
2. As we must know that He is offered to us, so we must understand what the terms are whereon He is offered. That He is offered freely, does not hinder his being offered upon terms. If one offers another a sum of money, if he will receive it, he may be said to offer it upon terms, and yet offer it freely: and just such are the gospel-terms upon which the Lord Christ is offered; whoever will take Him and use Him, shall have Him.
Memoirs, in The Works of Thomas Halyburton, 1833 Glasgow edition
Part 4, Ch. 4, page 770
1. In the gospel there is the most sweet, honorable, profitable, suitable, and in all respects satisfying offer and proposal made, “A marriage with the King’s Son,” etc.
2. In the long run, the generality of those to whom this offer is made, even the more sober, that are not among the “remnant that use the servants despitefully, reject it, will not come, but make excuses.”
3. An undue regard to things, in their own place lawful, is that which gives rise to this ill reception among the sober sort of people; at least, this is that with which they countenance themselves in that infidelity, in which, without blushing, they could not otherwise continue: “I have married a wife, I have bought a yoke of oxen, a field,” etc.