Weekly Update 2

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.”
ibid, p55

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!


3 Responses to “Weekly Update 2”

  1. Greg MacDonald Says:

    Good to see you up and blogging. A good way to discipline yourself, I’m guessing. Wish blogging was around when I was a student – could have been useful!

    I was very pleased to see you posting ont he purpose of the minstry. This is so fundamental for a church that we all seemt o assume we must know the answer to it by now. But unless we agree on what ‘preaching the Gospel’ actually is, then there will be no consistency in preaching.

    Now I wouldn’t be me without at least one small criticism….! So here goes:

    Re the last main paragraph above;
    “So then for Durham, calvin, and the reformed tradition…” You HAVE shown us this to be Calvin & Durham’s view, but, although I agree with you, I think you would need a much longer post to move from there to assuming the whole of ‘reformed tradition’!
    Every bessing

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:


    Thanks for the comments. Guilty as charged on the overgeneralization above – though as theologians you dont get much more representative than Calvin and Durham! I guess I forgot rule 1 from the research methodology lectures, “Always be careful when moving from the particular to the general”! I might just get onto doing the extra work required for my generalisation at some point 🙂

    Every blessing

  3. Chris Coldwell Says:

    Just wanted to let you know that Durham’s Sermons on Isaiah 53 is back in print and readily available now. Thanks for the link!

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