So second weekly update time.
I thought I would post this time on Durham’s view of the purpose of the ministry as this sheds some significant light on his view of the importance of the free offer of the gospel. To begin this discussion of Durham’s views here is a quote from his Christ Crucified: Or the Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53, Naphtali Press, Dallas, 2001 (sadly now out of print – http://www.naphtali.com/#Christ%20Crucified). When discussing the confirmations of the truth that every man has warrant to believe in Christ and take him as Saviour Durham states that this right to believe:
“May be confirmed from the end for which God appointed the Word and the ministry in his Church, even to make the offer of Christ and life through him (John 20:31, These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name); the Word is both written and preached for this very end.” p 88.
So it is evident for Durham that the offer of Christ and life through him is of the very essence of the minister’s work. And further, Durham believes that this offer of Christ in preaching is one of the great confirmations that all sinners have a warrant to come to Christ for salvation. The centrality of the free offer of the gospel to preaching is highlighted in several other places in Durham’s writings:
“When the Master sends out His servants in His name their great work is to invite to the wedding and to close the marriage.”
The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Soli Deo Gloria, Morgan, 2002, p44-45 (See https://store.ligonier.org/product.asp?idDept=B&idCategory=PU&idProduct=UNS01BH – buy it! ).
“The great work of the ministers of the gospel is to invite unto, and to endeavour to bring this marriage between Christ and souls to a close.”
I could go on and on with further quotes. The point is clear – according to Durham proclaiming the free offer of the gospel is the central (though by no means exclusive) duty of the minister.
In this view of the chief work of the ministry, is Durham some kind of trail blazer coming to prominence in the 1650’s and revolutionising the hitherto settled reformed view that the core work of the ministry was to lecture on doctrine (see note 1) or some other thing? Well, hear John Calvin commenting on 2 Corinthians 6:1 (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom40.xii.i.html):
“Ministers are here taught, that it is not enough simply to advance doctrine. They must also labour that it may be received by the hearers, and that not once merely, but continually. For as they are messengers between God and men, the first duty devolving upon them is, to make offer of the grace of God, and the second is, to strive with all their might, that it may not be offered in vain.”
So there we have it. The first duty devolving on ministers is to “make offer of the grace of God”. And the second, to do all in your power that the offer is not slighted. (My attention was drawn to this quotation by Stebbins’ work reviewed last week.)
So then for Durham, Calvin and the reformed tradition the free offer of the gospel is important enough to be the first duty of the minister of the gospel.
Comments, suggestions and constructive criticism welcome!
Work done this week:
* Finished Stebbins’ work on the free offer
* Progressed slowly with Durham’s Christ Crucified
* Began note taking on David Silversides’ “The Free Offer: Biblical & Reformed”
* Continued motoring through the Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology
Work for next week:
* Make some significant progress on Christ Crucified (otherwise the timetable is slipping)
* Continue with Mr Silversides’ work and the DSCHT
* Provide the ‘exciting’ quotes from Durham’s CC I promised last week
Note 1 – I am not criticising doctrinal *preaching*. Indeed “free offer” preaching with its focus on sin, the atoning work of Christ, etc is inherently doctrinal. I am against theological lectures mascerading as sermons!