William C. Burns on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

1815 – 1868

Burns was an influential Free Church of Scotland evangelist to Canada and China, and was a friend to Robert M. M’Cheyne and Hudson Taylor.  Taylor looked up to him as a spiritual mentor.



The Complete Works of William Chalmers Burns, edited by Parisis and Link, 2011

Chapter 8 – Letters to Sinners Seeking Salvation, page 47

And, more than this, while the devils plot your ruin, and seek by every fair means, fair or foul, to keep you from giving your heart to Jesus, and angels in heaven are longing for you conversion, and stand, as it were, ready to break forth into a shout of praise and joy, when you touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and are saved.  Oh!  Shall the golden harps of Heaven be never used in rejoicing over you?  Nay more, to crown the whole, Jehovah Himself has his eye upon you, and condescends so infinitely far as to be interested in you doom.  Behold!  He pleads, He waits, He beseeches, He commands you to embrace the offers of his free and everlasting love!  Shall the rejection of the love of God consign you to the lowest Hell?  Oh!  Shall his mercy never bless and glorify your soul?  Dear fellow-sinner, you engage the interest of Heaven, Earth, and Hell at once; and can you think that you are sufficiently alive to your danger? — that you feel aright your need of instantly giving the heart to Christ?  Shall you be less anxious to escape from coming wrath, and to lay hold on future glory, than the God of love, with saints and angels, is to see you saved?  yea, than wicked men and devils are to see you damned?  Oh!  Madness to be lulled asleep by the deceiver and murderer of souls!  To be cheated out of the inheritance of Heaven by those apostate spirits who never had an offer of a Savior, and who grudge God’s unspeakable gift to a dying world.  Oh!  How foolish will poor sinners look in hell, when the very devils tell them that they might have been saved, had they not madly been in love with death!  It will make the pit tenfold more insufferably awful to lost sinners when they think that they might have been in Heaven, had they been wise in time, and embraced God’s offered mercy.


Chapter 17, Part 8 – The Throne of Grace, page 151-152

Pardon is offered – peace is offered – grace is offered; not indeed on other terms than God’s; but we are here this night as ambassadors from Him to a guilty world – we are here to proclaim to you the gospel – to proclaim it, not to sell it – not to take anything for it.  You have nothing to give; and we offer it full and free to all – to each, whatever his past character, whatever his crimes.  ‘Tis as free and as full as sovereign love and grace can make it.  And now, are you going away with your load [of guilt and sin]?  Surely you dare not.  Dear fellow-sinners, we are now before the throne of grace; the rent veil is behind us – the mercy-seat before; come then, let us come together; if you fear that you cannot believe, then think of the pardons which so many have been lately obtaining, and will you not all accept them?  Say you are willing to take them at God’s hands, and you are freed, pardoned, saved!  Once more I press on you to delay no longer.  “As ambassadors for God, we beseech you in Christ’s stead, by ye reconciled to God.” [2 Cor. 5:20]  Be ye reconciled!…  Why, why do you not joyfully accept the permission and invitation to look out of yourselves altogether, far beyond to Immanuel, who saves his people from their sins?


Chapter 18, Part 3 – The Limit Set, page 168

 “Again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, ‘To-Day,’ After so long a time; as it is said, ‘To-Day’ if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” – Heb. 4:7

An offer of mercy had been made to Israel.  All the day Jehovah had stretched out his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people, who had, through unbelief, refused to enter in, having not only killed the prophets and stoned them which were sent unto them, but crucified the Holy and the Just one.  And, my dear friends, having persisted in this, they were given over to a reprobate mind, God swearing in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest.  Ah! it is a fearful thing when God gives a man over; when, while yet the short day of life in this world lasts, the day of grace has fled, fled forever; when the long suffering Emmanuel ceases to knock at the door of the heart; when the last striving of His Spirit is over.

My friends, your day of grace has lasted long, may are the offers of pardon and reconciliation, many the declarations of grace and mercy, many the proclamations of forgiveness and of peace that have been repeated in your ears – again and again.  They have come by ministers, by religious friends, by conscience, — ay, and by the very Spirit of Jehovah Himself, in the hearing of your outward ear, and in the hearing of your inward heart; and yet, through unbelief, are you sitting here this very evening in your natural state, dead, unpardoned, impenitent, unchanged; exposed to the thunders of vengeance, without a covert [secure hiding place].

“Again, He limiteth a certain day.”  The idea which these words convey is inexpressibly sweet and comforting in one sense, though truly awful in another.  We may just suppose a case.  A man is going fast along a road – a rebel and disobedient.  His master says to him, “If you stop and turn, before you come to such and such a point, I will forgive you.”  Yet the man refuses, persists, and runs madly on.  The kind master, unwilling to see his servant ruined, in his love, as it were, extends the point of turning, stretches the limit, and places the boundary line of life further on.

So it is, beloved friends, with your God.  A thousand times has He removed the line which finally excludes from his mercy; every sermon He has extended it; every Sabbath has seen it still distant.  And this night again He limiteth a certain day – a day of mercy and pardon, a day of love and grace.  But this day may be the last.  His .long-suffering does know a limitation and an end.  It may be that God is saying of you, impenitent sinner, that if to-day you turn not, He shall swear in His wrath you shall never, never enter into his rest.  “Today, after so long a time.”  Ah! sinner, can you stand that?  Listen how He pleads with you, after so long a time.  You know it has been long; long has He waited, pleaded and besought you, and yet you are keeping Him at the door of your heart.

[For more, see the whole 7 page sermon]



Chapter 18, Part 5 – The Secret Place, p. 186

And now, before we close, let us once more entreat you who are unconverted to turn to Jesus.  Could ministers but give you some faint idea of Christ’s willingness to save you!  If any soul here can declare that it is willing to receive Christ, let it know that Christ is yet more willing to save and to bless.  He does not wish you to remain an hour longer a stranger to his love.  Why did He suffer?  Why did He die?  Oh! not merely that He might be glorified in your destruction.  True, He will yet be so, if you continue to reject and despise Him, but that is not what He is seeking now.  He did not need to leave his throne in glory to seek that.  He need not have left the Father’s bosom in order to have the glory of this world’s condemnation.  He could have got that by leaving  the world alone in its sins, and under the curse of God.  And for what then, did He leave His Father’s bosom, and bleed and die on the cross – but just to be able to say, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.”  Is no one going to obey that call to-night, and to come, crying, “Lord, save me, I perish”?  Christ is in the offer of every soul in this place, to-night.  The Father’s unspeakable gift is within the reach of everyone now.  Blessed be God that a willing people still flee unto Him in the day of His power.  Jesus has a day of power, even in this lost world.  He has “an arm that’s full of power.”  Believer! can’t you set your seal to that?  Have you never felt your soul drawn out after Him, drawn forcibly – drawn irresistibly – drawn by a power that you have not got, a power that man never exerted, and that angel does not possess?  Fellow-sinner, seeking salvation! is the devil whispering in your ear, “If you are to be saved, you will be saved; and if not, your trying will do no good”?  Be sure that God is saying to you, “Return.”  Oh! is no sinner returning to-night?  Are none crying out – “Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord, our God.”


Chapter 18, Part 7 – The Lord Passing By, page 191

Blessed be God, a remedy has been found.  Not that we mean to say that the evil has been cured.  Far be it from us to preach a gospel that is to put all things right in the world, and produce universal quietness, and order, and peace; for however free the gospel offers are – and they have been free to all the world for ages past – multitudes have perished eternally.  The gospel offer comes too late to-night for many in your city; thousands have gone from thence to the place of darkness, and are lost beyond recall; and I fear it comes too late for some here, because they will not receive it.  What follows, as to the way of salvation, is given in God’s own manner, and in his own appointed order.  He looks down from His sanctuary’s height upon fallen, ruined man, and sees him living in open rebellion against His righteous rule, and in a state of apostasy, resting under the curse; being polluted in his mind as well as his condition by continuance in sin; while no one thing connected with him, except it be his misery and ruin, is fitted to attract the regard or the mercy of the Lord…



Memoir of the Rev. Wm. C. Burns, 1873, by Islay Burns

page 33-34

September 19th, 1838.

I have done very little today, but I have seen, I trust through the light of the Spirit, that I am especially deficient in the knowledge of the love of Christ, and am mournfully defective even in attempting to set this before the unconverted.  Yet surely this is the truth, the exhibition of which is of all most fitted to beget the confidence of an appropriating faith, and to manifest the glory of the Lord’s justice in visiting with a more awful damnation those who perish with Christ in their offer.


page 65-66

And just when I was speaking of the occasion and the nature of this wonderful address [from 1630], I felt my own soul moved in a manner so remarkable that I was led, like Mr. [John] Livingstone, to plead with the unconverted before me instantly to close with God’s offers of mercy, and continued to do so until the power of the Lord’s Spirit became so mighty upon their souls as to carry all before it, like the rushing mighty wind of Pentecost!  During the whole of the time that I was speaking, the people listened with the most rivetted and solemn attention, and with many silent tears and inward groanings of the spirit; but at the last their feelings became too strong for all ordinary restraints, and broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of joy and praise from some of the people of God.  The appearance of a great part of the people from the pulpit gave me an awfully vivid picture of the state of the ungodly in the day of Christ’s coming to judgment.  Some were screaming out in agony; others, and among these strong men, fell to the ground as if they had been dead; and such was the general commotion, that after repeating for some time the most free and urgent invitations of the Lord to sinners (as Isaiah 55, Revelation 22:17)…



A Letter to the people in the Highlands of Perthshire, Scotland, in the Sermons of William C. Burns, Banner of Truth edition, p. 202-203.  This quote was compiled by Rev. Colin Maxwell.

But what shall I say to those among you who have neither part nor lot in the matter of salvation?…  My heart is ready to break for you, when I think that, after all the solemn warnings you have received, and after all the pressing offers of Jesus that have been made to you in the name of God, you still remain in a state of heart ungodliness, or of open sin…  Oh!  Dear fellow-sinner, it is high time for you to awake out of sleep!

Arise and come to Jesus now.  He is crying, Come unto me, I will in no wise cast you out.  The Father is ready to receive you into his family.  The Spirit is striving with you, did you not resist Him and grieve Him away.  Halt no longer between two opinions…  Yield yourself then, to the Lord as a lost sinner, and He will not cast you out.  You have seen individuals around you, perhaps some of your own friends or companions, fleeing to Jesus: why did not follow them?  Are you resolved to be left behind in Sodom and to perish in the flames?





Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel