So this week was spent at the John Owen Today conference. It was good to meet people I had only made contact with over the internet in the past (e.g. Marty Foord, Mark Jones and John Tweeddale) and to make new contacts. This was the main benefit of the conference as not many of the papers were directly relevant to my thesis – I was unable to attend the most relevant paper (John Owen’s Gospel Offer: Well Meant or Not).
The most thought provoking talk for me was the first of the conference by Prof VanAsslet on “COVENANT THEOLOGY AS RELATIONAL THEOLOGY: The Contributions of Johannes Cocceius and John Owen to A Living Reformed Theology”. The particular point I found interesting was his stress on the relationship between the denial of a distinction between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace and eternal justification. Essentially VanAsslet argued that a proper distinction between the covenant of redemption (the triune God’s eternal counsel) and the covenant of grace (the execution in time of this eternal counsel) helped prevent time (covenant of grace) being swallowed up in eternity (covenant of redemption) thus mitigating against eternal justification. VanAsslet noted historically if the covenant of grace is collapsed into the covenant of redemption there is the danger of eternal justification emerging (e.g. Gill).
Moving away from the conference, and to keep this blog vaguely related to the free offer the question has again been raised in a recent article – just who is the gospel offered to and must they be sensible sinners. (The inference of the article was sensible sinners). Well lets see how James Durham would answer. So Mr Durham, who is the gospel offered to:
“The person called to this, is expressed thus, if any man, etc. which putteth it so to every hearer, as it it went round to every particular person, if thou, and thou, or thou etc … because where the Lord saith any man, without exception, who is he that can limit the same, where a person of whatsoever condition or qualification is found, that will accept of the offer according to the terms proposed?” (Revelation, Rept. Old Paths, 2000, 274).
Right so the gospel is offered to everyone who hears preaching. But Mr Durham, are you really sure the gospel offer isn’t restricted to sensible sinners – I mean we would never offer the gospel to those most insensible of sinners, professed atheists, would we?
“We make this offer to all of you, to you who are atheists, to you who are graceless, to you who are ignorant, to you who are hypocrites, to you who are lazy and lukewarm, to the civil and to the profane. We pray, we beseech, we beg you all to come to the wedding … We will not, we dare not say, that all of you will get Christ for a Husband; but we do most really offer Him to you all, and it shall be your own fault if you lack Him and go without Him.” (Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Soli Deo Gloria, 60)
Finally I found out this week that there is an unpublished manuscript sermon by Samuel Rutherford on Rev 3:20! I assume that Rutherford takes the same view of this verse as Durham i.e. it is an evangelistic appeal to unbelievers. In which case this sermon is hugely significant for my thesis and would, perhaps, depending on its length, be worth transcribing and including as an appendix to my thesis. I need to get up the the National Library of Scotland and read this sermon post haste!