Archive for the ‘William Greenhill’ Category

Weekly Update 36 – There is a Greenhill close at hand!

January 5, 2008

Back to the esteemed Westminster Divine William Greenhill and his work Christ’s Last Disclosure of Himself.  Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson in their work Meet the Puritans comment that, “These sermons offer some fine material on… the free offer of the gospel.” (Meet the Puritans, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Book, 2007, p300).  Indeed!

Now last time, in my first post on Greenhill, I highlighted two evidences that Christ is willing to save sinners 1) His commands 2) His sweet invitations.  This week I’m going to pick up on some more of his 15 evidences that Christ is willing to save sinners.

Point 7 is particularly interesting and relates to the end and nature of the gospel ministry.  Greenhill writes that Christ’s willingness to save sinners appears “in that the Lord Christ has instituted and appointed… His ministers, and sent them to woo, entreat, beseech, and draw men unto Him” (p137).  For Greenhill, the very purpose of the ministry “is to make known His [The Lord’s] forwardness and readiness to receive sinners, and to go forth in His name, and to get them to come to Christ” (p137).  Greenhill notes that “the great work of the ministry is to make known the willingness of Christ, and to bring sinners unto Christ so that they might have mercy from Him” (p139).

How many today have this conception of the ministry?  I have highlighted several times on this blog Durham’s conception of the purpose of the ministry and it is the same as Greenhill’s.

Of importance to Greenhill is the fact that it is not merely the preacher who is beseeching sinners but “God beseeches sinners, and therefore we beseech you” (p139).  This flows from the nature of the ministry – the minister is only an ambassador with no message of his own; his duty is to relay his master’s message.  This also flows from the high view that the Reformed faith has of preaching.  The Second Helvetic Confession says, “Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed…”  The faithful preacher speaks the words of God.  Again Durham makes this point repeatedly.

Point 10 highlights that it is “strong evidence that the Lord Christ is willing to save sinners and do them good in that He is grieved, troubled, and affected greatly that sinners will not come to Him” (p141).  Citing Christ’s Lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) Greenhill comments that “Christ is grieved to the heart that men and women do not come to him… Christ weeps over souls, families, and cities” (p142).  Oh for the compassion of Christ!

There is much of value in Greenhill’s other points but I’ll stop here.  I would like to return to Greenhill at some point in the future on the idea of preparationism (the sinner has to prepare himself for coming to Christ by so much mourning over sin, thus placing the warrant to believe in the sinner’s own sorrow) as a cursory reading of him may give the idea he leans towards this.

I’ve got a lot more material to post on the free offer from Durham and others but I may soon start mixing things up a bit and posting on some other aspects of Durham’s theology.  Various topics will probably come up e.g. the Call to the Ministry, Prophecy, Song of Solomon, the Sabbath.  He has many helpful things to say that are not related to the free offer 🙂

Weekly Update 34 – William Greenhill on “Christ’s Last Disclosure of Himself”

December 22, 2007

“…And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Rev 22:17

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.