“…And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
William Greenhill (1597/8-1671) was a famous and influential Puritan minister. He was one of those at the Westminster Assembly who argued for an independent system of Church government as opposed to Presbyterianism. Poor ecclesiology aside 🙂 he says a number of helpful things, particularly relating to the free offer. He has one work in particular dealing with the free offer which has been reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria as Christ’s Last Disclosure of Himself – it is a series of sermons on Rev 22:17 (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1999). What I want to do is post on one small section of a sermon entitled “Christ’s Willingness to Save Sinners”. [I will post more on this book at some point in the future].
Greenhill begins the section by noting that “it lies in the hearts of all sinners to question the willingness of God and Christ to save them and do them good” (p130). He expands on the implications of this, “And here lies that which sticks with sinners, to question the willingness of God and Christ” (p131). Again we see the pastoral importance of the well meant offer. It is only an articulation of a well meant offer of salvation that can answer such concerns. Greenhill proceeds, “Now Christ is very willing that sinners should come unto him, and I shall make this out in several ways.” He lists 15 ways Christ shows this willingness. I’ll cover some of them this week, and some next week.
Evidence 5 is particularly interesting. We know Christ is willing to save us, because he commands us to come to him. “This [willingness] appears from the commands of Christ. When a thing is commanded, those who command would fain have it done. Now the Lord Christ commands men to come unto Him. He commands them to believe… so when God the Father and Christ the Son command us to believe, they are very willing that we should do so. When princes send out their commands to the people to do such and such things, they are very desirous that they should be done. So when God gives out His commands in the gospel, and when Christ commands men in the gospel to come, it is an argument that there is a strong will in Him for it to happen” (p135).
Those familiar with current critics of the free offer will know that they view the above as “bad logic”. Because we are commanded by God to do something, for them, is no indication that God is actually willing that we do it. I’m not going to go into the why’s and wherefore’s of the arguments but just note how different that kind of reasoning is to this Puritan presentation of the gospel. [How Greenhill’s comments here relate to some of the arguments of John Owen in The Death of Death will have to wait until another day!]
But is the gospel merely command – a presentation of some facts i.e. those who believe are saved and those who do not believe are damned? Not for Greenhill. Evidence 6 of Christ’s willingness to save sinners is, “Does not Christ sweetly invite you, and use sweet invitations and allurements to draw sinners to Him?” One of the texts Greenhill uses to illustrate these “sweet invitations” is Rev 3:20. (Yes, this is another Puritan using Rev 3:20 evangelistically! I don’t understand the aversion some modern “Puritans” have to the evangelistic use of this text.) Commenting on this text, Greenhill says, “What sweet invitations have we from Christ! How forward, how ready is the Lord Jesus to do poor sinners good!” (p137).
So is the gospel a command? Yes, but we must not forget it is a “sweet invitation” as well!
So two evidences down – only 13 more left 🙂 I’m going to be without internet access for most of the next week (how will I cope!) and it is a general family time in any case so responses to comments (which are always valued and very welcome) will be slower than usual.