Weekly update 20 – Durham on Objections to Receiving Christ

I’ll start this post by noting that Durham’s Sermons on Isaiah 53, Christ Crucified, have been reprinted by Naphtali Press. John (Rabbi) Duncan described reading Durham’s sermons on Is 53 as akin to “eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ”.  They are excellent sermons and contain much that is good for the soul.  So go and buy them!

In this post I’m picking up on Durham’s sermon on Matt 22:4, Gospel Presentations are the Strongest Invitations.  This sermon is found in The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, p43-79. For the three previous posts on this sermon see, here, here and here.

Throughout this sermon Durham has been preaching the gospel offer:

God the Father, and the King’s Son the Bridegroom, are not only content and willing, but very desirous to have sinners come to the marriage. They would fain (to speak with reverence) have poor souls espoused to Christ.
p44

Towards the end of the sermon Durham comes to consider some objections his hearers may have had to accepting the free offer of the gospel.  They centre on our inability, and election.  How does Durham deal with these issues pastorally?

OBJECTION. “Alas, I would come to the wedding, but I cannot come. I would believe but my faith is not prompt and ready.”
ANSWER. Does not the covenant provide an answer to that also? It calls for nothing but your subscribing … It comes to this, “yes” or “no”. And if you say that you cannot say “yes” in faith … is there not a promise of grace that though your hand is, as it were, withered, if you attempt it, you shall be enabled to stretch it forth?

p74-5

This is an objection from our inability to come to Christ.  “I would come to Christ but I am dead in trespasses and sins so I can’t come.”  Durham answers by pointing us to the example of the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:10).  Could he stretch forth his hand?  No.  Was he commanded to?  Yes.  Did he argue with Christ about this – why have you asked me to do something I can’t do?  No.  He just went ahead in obedience to the command.  This should be our pattern.

What more do you have to say? Lay out your objections. These words “all things are ready” will answer them all. The garment is ready to be put on, yea, Jesus Christ is your wedding garment; take and put Him on. He is the cure for all your diseases; apply Him for the cure of them all.
p76

To paraphrase Durham – There is no objection you can come up with but it is answered by “all things are ready”.

OBJECTION … there are several other needlessly disquieting objections … (and, alas, that there should be such trifling, if I may call it so, such whining, as it were …) among which is this one: “I do not know if I am in the covenant and contract of redemption. I do not know if I am one of God’s elect.”
ANSWER 1. What is this? You do not well know what you say. Have you anything to do with that secret by a leap at the first hand. Are you not called to marry Christ? Is not this his revealed will to you? I protest in His name, this is the thing that you are called to; and will you make an exception where He has made none? Or will you shift obedience to a clear command, upon a supposed decree which you can not know but by the effects … Will you reason so in the matter of your eating and drinking? … Will you this day refuse your dinner … Because you do not know if God has appointed …
ANSWER 2. … Were there ever any who had that doubt cleared to them before they came to Christ? Who would ever have come to Him if they had stayed till that had been taken out of the way? Has the Lord told that to any before they came? Has He said to them, “Believe, for you are elect”? But His method is thus “Believe, and you shall know in due time that you are elect.”
ANSWER 3. Is there anyone who can say that the offer or the refusal of the match depended on this? If any of you will say, “Because I was not elect, He refused me,” then He will answer, “How often would I have gathered you.” And no more ground for sentencing professors of the gospel to destruction will be needed than this: “Man, woman, you had the offer of the gospel and refused it; therefore go to your place.” He will not judge according to the decree of reprobation, but according to His call and your dislike to it.

p76-8

This is the objection – I don’t know if I am elect or not.  Durham answers this in three ways.  First he points out that we don’t look to God’s secret decree in any other aspect of our lives.  We don’t ponder over our meals and think – I’m not sure I should eat this, maybe God hasn’t decreed that I should have a meal tonight.  Durham reasons – if we don’t meddle with God’s decree in all other aspects of our life then so it should be with our salvation.  We are to look to the revealed will of God which is that we should come to him for salvation.  Second he points out that no one ever knows they are elect until after they believe.  To say I won’t believe until I know I am elect is, for Durham, to put the cart before the horse.  Third Durham protests that we will not be condemned for being a reprobate, but for unbelief.

Well then, what is the sum of the matter?

This is our commission to you today. We tell you that the King has made ready for the feast; yea, all things are ready. Come, then, and let there be no more debate about the matter … Only deliver up yourself to Him, and, in the Lord’s name, I tell you that you shall be dearly welcome.
p78-79

I’m not sure what I’ll post on next week.  I’ve been wandering in the bypath meadow of secondary scholarship on 17th century Scottish theology recently and there is not much edifying in there to post on.

I’m off on holiday this week so it will be Monday again when I post – or possibly even Tuesday.

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