William Ames on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

An Analytical Exposition of Both the Epistles of the Apostle Peter

“By which also He [Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison;  Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

1 Pet. 3:19-20


Doctrine 3.  God uses much patience and long-suffering towards the disobedient.  This is gathered from verse 20.

Reason 1.  Because by this means God’s clemency [disposition to show forbearance, compassion, or forgiveness in judging or punishing] and mercy is manifested.

2. Because by this patience of God all are invited, and many are drawn unto the obedience of faith.

3. Because this patience makes those that are stubbornly disobedient altogether inexcusable, and so justifies God in his just judgments.


“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

2 Pet. 3:9


Question:  Whether all and every particular man be meant thereby, when it is said, that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance?

Answer:  The patience of God according to its nature has that use and end, to lead all sinners unto repentance, Rom. 2:4, and in that sense might their interpretation be admitted, who understand these words and the like of all and every particular man.  But that the Apostle in this place has special reference to the elect, it appears thereby, that he speaking of the beloved of God, verse 8, and reckoning himself amongst the number of us, says, that God is long-suffering to us-ward, that is, towards those beloved, and is not willing that any should perish that is, any of them: because Gods principal work towards men is the salvation of the faithful, and therefore all his ways tend thereunto, as unto the scope and mark whereunto they are directed.



Conscience with the Power and Cases Thereof 

Book 1, Chapter 13

4. Now in fastening our eyes upon the promises of the Gospel, we must consider

Thirdly, that this grace is particularly offered to all those to whom it is preached, Mark 16:13.


Book 2, Chapter 9

Concerning this Spirit the first Question is, what a man ought to do that he may obtain the lively act, and sense of it?

1st Answer:  He ought to give diligent attention to the preaching of the Gospel, 2 Cor. 3:6,8.  The Ministers of the New Testament are called the Ministers of the Spirit, and the Ministry thereof the Ministry of the Spirit, because by that means God does offer, and communicate his Spirit, Gal. 3:2, Ye have received the spirit by the hearing of Faith.  Eph. 1:13:

In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

2.  He ought to beg this Spirit of God, Luke 11:13, Your Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.

3.  He ought to open the doors of his heart that the Spirit may enter in, Ps. 24:7Rev. 3:20.  That is to call off his mind from earthly things and to raise it upwards and to prepare himself, by all means to entertain the motions of the Spirit.


Book 1, Chapter 26

14. The inward offer is a spiritual enlightening, whereby those promises are propounded to the hearts of men, as it were by an inward wordJohn 6:45, Whosoever has heard of the Father and has learned, comes to me. Eph. 1:17.  That he might give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, the eyes of your mind being enlightened, that ye may know what is that hope of your calling.

15. This also is sometime, and in a certain manner granted to those that are not elected. Hebrews 6:4 & 10:29; Mat. 13:20.

16.  If anyone oppose himself out of malice to this illumination, he commits a sin against the Holy Ghost, which is called unpardonable, or unto death. Heb.6:6 & 10:29; 1 John 5:16; Matt 12:32.

[Notice that Ames says the offer is not only outward but inward as well, and in a certain manner to the reprobate, who opposes it.  One can only oppose something if something is exerting force upon them in a certain direction.  In this case it is resistible.]



The Substance of Christian Religion

The 25th Sermon

Use 3.  Of Direction, how we may rightly use the Sacraments; to wit, so as in a singular manner, we seek our edification and advancement in this, that we see Christ there offering and giving his grace to us by name, and in particular, and accordingly, thus sealing to us in particular our salvation.



Dr. David Lachman on William Ames

The Marrow Controversy, Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1988, p. 28-29

While William Ames is willing to say that ‘in respect of that sufficiency which is in the mediation of Christ, He can be said to have satisfied for all, or everyone,’ he restricts both the purchase and application of redemption to the elect.  ‘The redemption of Christ is applied to all and only those, for whom it was obtained by the intention of Christ and the Father.’ [William Ames, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity. (London: Edward Griffin for John Rothwell, n.d.), pp. 69-70]  Thus, though it is true that various temporal benefits are given to others as well, ‘it is rightly said: Christ did only satisfy for those that are saved by Him.’ [Ibid., pp. 100-101.]  Reflecting this, the offer of Christ in the gospel ‘is an objective propounding of Christ, as of a means sufficient and necessary to salvation.’  Although Christ is able to save all who come to Him, and the promises of Christ ‘are propounded to all without difference, together with a command to believe them,’ [Ibid., pp. 110-111.] the offer which is often propounded promiscuously, by special propriety belongs to and is directed to the elect, for whom Christ was intended by the Father. [Ibid., p. 102]”



Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel