I came across an announcement of the reprinting of Robert Rollock’s Select Works this week. That is good news – assuming people will read Rollock as opposed to letting him gather dust on their shelves! This has spurred me on to post some things from Rollock, who has long been recognised as an important figure in the development of Covenant theology e.g. Sherman Isbell notes, “Rollock was a seminal early exponent of covenant theology in Scotland” (Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, p726).
Rollock makes certain key points when discussing the free offer of the gospel. They will be familiar to long term readers of the blog.
Rollock emphasises the centrality of the free offer of the gospel for the ministry and preaching. He noted that the “frail and poor creatures” who hold “such a high, excellent, and glorious office” are “to offer salvation to them who before were condemned and castaways… to the end that the gospel and the promises of mercy may profit and edify them.” (Sermon XVII in Select Works, 1:531). This is expressed elsewhere in the direction “that they in their ministry might declare, and make manifest the gentleness and long-suffering of God towards all men…” (Of the Resurrection of Christ in Select Works, 2:532).
Rollock distinguishes the free offer of the gospel and the effectual call which cannot be resisted, as he notes “the promise of the covenant, which is offered unto us in Christ, is of the mere grace of God… [this] grace may be called the grace of our vocation; this grace is common to all that are called, elect and reprobate.” However, there is also “grace in our effectual calling [which] may be called the grace of faith, appertaining only to the elect; for it is given only to those that are predestinated to life everlasting to believe.” Rollock explains in more detail, “For whereas there is a double mercy of God in our effectual vocation, to wit: First, an offering of Christ with all his benefits in the covenant of grace, or the Gospel ; secondly, faith to receive Christ being offered, (under faith I comprehend hope and repentance, which follow faith), therefore, in our effectual calling two graces must be understood ; the grace of our vocation, or of offering Christ unto us, and the grace of faith, or of receiving Christ by us.” (Rollock, Select Works, 1:269-71). Note Rollock’s identification of the external offer with grace, which even the reprobate receive.
Rollock affirms that the free offer of the gospel is not an offer that is just presented to men in general, rather it is a specific offer and conditional promise to each hearer: “… it is to be noted of this object of faith, that it is special, that is, offered to me, to thee, and to every man specially and distinctly.” So although it is true that “the promises and sentences of the Gospel be conceived generally, yet it is certain, that they are to be received particularly by every one, as if they were spoken to every one in several… the promise of the Covenant of Grace is conceived generally… but it is to be understood particularly and singularly by every one, as if it had been spoken to me, or to thee.” This particular offer is important for assurance: “For seeing mercy is offered particularly to thee and to me, &c., and I again assent particularly to it; now am I certain of that mercy that it is mine specially, seeing I do already by faith and special application possess it.” (Rollock, Select Works, 1:197,214,217).
Hopefully that has whetted your appetite for Rollock’s Select Works. They are well worth purchasing.