This is the third week of blogging through James Durham’s sermon Gospel Presentations are the Strongest Invitations. One more week to go on this sermon. This sermon is found in The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, p43-79.
It is the duty of all to whom the good news of this marriage comes to come to it, and, when they are invited to it, presently without all delay to yield.
Once again we see Durham clearly advocating what we would call “duty faith”. Also for all who are invited the marriage is “good news“. Further note Durham is appealing for an immediate response to the gospel. He did not direct his hearers to go away and think about things. No, his hearers were to come to Christ, “presently without all delay“.
All who come may expect a very good and heartsome welcome. None need to fear that they shall not be made welcome … The Lord will not look down on such as come; nay, He is waiting to welcome them, and to meet them, as it were, midway, as we see in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15).
The Lord is “waiting to welcome” sinners! What a comforting truth.
There is very good news here … therefore I would exhort you all to believe this report. There are, alas, few who do indeed believe that the eternal God has this design of marriage between Him and sinners … believe that this is the good word of God … and that He is waiting to ratify them to all who give them credit … believe that this offer is really His.
The gospel is good news. That is what it is – to all who hear it. Also note, for Durham, the gospel offer is not man’s offer, it is God’s. It would therefore not be correct to say that it is simply the preacher offering, it is the preacher offering in Christ’s stead.
Be holily amazed and wonder that the offer of this marriage comes to you, and that He is content to marry you.
It is a wonderful and amazing thing that the gospel should come and tell us that God is content to marry us in Christ.
What is our commission today? This is it … the King … speaks to you by us, and we speak to you in His name, and tell you that our blessed Lord Jesus is wooing you. We declare, publish and proclaim it.
What is the preacher’s commission? To speak on God the Father’s behalf and proclaim that in the gospel Jesus Christ comes to woo all the hearers of it. How many fulfil their commission?
Our Lord Jesus is not far to seek. He is here waiting to close the bargain with you. This is our errand, to proclaim these glad tidings to you … Is not the Father ready? He has given His consent. Is not the Bridegroom ready, when He has done so much … The feast is ready, the garments are ready … The contract is ready … He is ready to accept you if you will accept Him. Our blessed Lord Jesus says that He is content to marry you … there is in effect nothing wanting but your consent, and let that not be wanting, I beseech you.
In the gospel we have then the consent of God to close the bargain of salvation with us. On the side of God, all things are ready. All that hinders our salvation is our unbelief.
It is not one or two, or some few who are called; not the great only, nor the small only, nor the holy only, nor the profane only, but you all are bidden; the call comes to all and every one of you in particular, poor and rich, high and low, holy and profane. “Ho (proclaims the Lord, as it were, with an “Oh, yes!” in Isaiah 55:1), everyone that thirsts, come; and he that hath no money, let him come.” “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely” Revelation 22:17. Our blessed Lord Jesus … In His name we invite all of you, and make offer of Jesus Christ to be your Husband …
The gospel does not only come to “sensible sinners” as per later hypercalvinistic developments. It comes to every hearer of the gospel. All are invited. Note also for Durham the gospel offer is not as it were an indiscriminate message that just happens to be proclaimed in a wide audience. No, the gospel is a particular and specific invitation to each individual who hears.
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.
Again there is no limit of the offer to “sensible sinners” – even atheists receive this offer! Note Durham’s descriptions of preaching the gospel. It is praying, beseeching, begging. Does this characterise the preaching of many today?
Before we proceed any further, we do solemnly protest and, before God and His Son Jesus Christ, take instruments this day, that this offer is made to you … that the Lord Jesus is willing to match with you, even the most profane and most graceless of you, if you are willing to match with Him. He earnestly invites you to come to the wedding.
Even the least sensible sinner in the audience receives the earnest invitation of Christ.
I would not put one of you outside the reach of this invitation. However carnal we may be in speaking His mind, yet we do not desire to obscure or limit our Lord’s grace. He calls all of you to the wedding … Come, then, oh, come and subscribe …
Again there is no limit on the gospel offer.
This is very well becoming … to make this offer to great and small, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, gracious and graceless, hypocrites and profane. There is here no exception of persons with Him; the blessed God is content to match with the most graceless and godless of you as well as with those who are gracious and godly.
No sensible sinner here!
There is joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, and the price was paid for the elect who are yet graceless as well as for those of them who are now gracious; for all were once in the same condition. Therefore do not look with straitened hearts on the rich and liberal allowance of our blessed Lord Jesus.
Durham believed in and preached a definite efficacious atonement – “the price was paid for the elect“. But he was always conscious of the danger of his congregation drawing false conclusions from this and getting caught up in speculations as to whether Christ’s death was for them. Durham therefore points to the character of those for whom Christ died – sinners. Therefore he reasons, are you a sinner? Then don’t exclude yourself, for Christ died for sinners.
We call you to believe, and we declare in His name that, if you will take yourselves to Him in good earnest, you shall be saved … You who are profane, take Him … You who are self-righteous, take Him … Whatever you are … take Him.
Again the gospel is to all hearers, not just a select few.
You must not delay to come and close the bargain; you must not put it off till tomorrow, nay, not an hour. All things are ready. Just now, now is the accepted time: here stands the blessed Bridegroom … We dare not be answerable to our Master, nor can we be answerable to our trust and commission, if we shuffle by or thrust out any of you if ye do not thrust out yourselves … let me beseech and beg you to come to the wedding.
There is to be no delay in accepting the offer of Christ. It must be received now. No preparationism here! (The doctrine that sinners must go through certain prolonged stages before coming to Christ.) Again note for Durham preaching the gospel involves begging and beseeching.
We cannot allow you an hour’s time to advise … close with Him presently, or you may never have the like opportunity … The King is on His throne … His servants invite in His name. Come, therefore; come without further lingering …
The offer must be accepted immediately because who knows if the hearers will live to receive another offer?