Commentary on the Larger Catechism, vol. 2, p. 50
Here let us consider that there are some things presented to us in an objective way, which contain the subject of the gospel, or that call which is given to sinners to pursue those methods which, by divine appointment, lead to salvation. As, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17); so do common convictions, and whatever carries the appearance of grace in the unregenerate. In this respect God deals with men as intelligent creatures, capable of making some such improvement of those instructions and intimations as may tend, in many respects, to their advantage. This must be supposed, else the preaching of the gospel could not, abstractedly from those saving advantages which some receive by it, be reckoned an universal blessing to those who are favored with it. This is here called the grace which is offered to those who are outwardly called by the ministry of the word.
Offers of grace, and invitations to come to Christ, are words used by almost all who have treated on the subject. Of late, indeed, some have been ready to conclude that these modes of speaking tend to overthrow the doctrine we are maintaining; for they argue that an overture, or invitation, supposes a power in him to whom it is given to comply with it. Did I think this idea necessarily contained in the expressions, I would choose to substitute others in the room of them.
However, to remove prejudices or unjust representations which the use of them may occasion, either here or elsewhere, I shall briefly give an account of the reason why I use them, and what I understand by them. If it be said that such expressions are not to be found in scripture, the circumstance of their not being there should make us less tenacious of them. Yet they may be used without just offence given, if explained agreeably to scripture.
Let it be considered, then, that the presenting of an object, whatever it be, to the understanding and will, is generally called an ‘offering’ of it. Thus Gad says to David, from the Lord, ‘I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them…’ (2 Sam. 24:12). So, if God sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing, and bids us choose which we will have [Webmaster’s note: see Dt. 30:11-20 and Rom. 10:5-9], his doing so is equivalent to what is generally called an offer of grace.
As for invitations to come to Christ, it is plain that there are many scriptures which speak to that purpose. Thus it is said, ‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,’ (John 7:37). And, ‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,’ (Isa. 55:1). And elsewhere Christ says, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ (Matt 11:28). And, ‘Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely,’ (Rev. 22:17).
Moreover, when an offer or invitation to accept of a thing, thus objectively presented to us, is made, the offer of it always supposes that it is valuable, that it would be greatly our interest to accept it, and that it is our indispensable duty to do so. Now, these are the principle ideas which I include in my sense of the word, when I speak of offers of grace in the gospel, or of invitations to come to Christ.