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OFFERS OF GRACE
 
AND
 
DUTY FAITH
 
BY
 
F. WINDRIDGE
AUTHOR OF "THE HARP OF ZION"
 

 

OFFERS OF GRACE AND DUTY FAITH1

 

 

The reader may find nothing new in the following arguments against offers of grace and duty faith teaching; but when old errors reappear, still older truths must be brought forward to refute them.  That these truths are well known among us is no argument against their repetition, but the contrary: "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth" (I. John ii. 21).

 

It has been noticed that those who labour to spread the above-mentioned errors have a way of inculcating them without expressly using the words "offer" and "duty."  Such men are frequently very skilful in the art of subverting their hearers.  The method adopted is one of insinuation rather than of unequivocal statement.  It consists not so much in plainly declaring error as it does in concealing truth.  A string of favourite passages - torn from their context - are constantly repeated and an Arminian construction strongly, yet guardedly, hinted; but, as has often been urged by godly men, no interpretation of Scripture can be accepted which ignores the analogy of faith - that is, if such interpretation contradicts other parts of the sacred records, it must be set aside (Romans xii. 6, I. Peter iv. 11).

 

The aim of this pamphlet is not so much to convince whose who cleave to the error as it is to confirm those who love the truth, but who may nevertheless be weak and wavering.  Neither of these results can follow without the Lord's blessing.  For that blessing the writer prays.  Those who differ from his conclusions are entreated to point out from Holy Writ in what respects those conclusions are wrong.  If they are indeed wrong, this can be demonstrated.  "To the law and to the testimony" (Isaiah viii. 20).

 

 

I.  OFFERS OF GRACE

 

The term "offers of grace" comprehends, among other things, the teaching that God invites, beseeches, urges, or exhorts persons who ultimately perish to accept Christ, to seek salvation, to savingly believe the gospel.

 

If it is true that God invites those who ultimately perish, it must also be true that He wishes, or desires, or is willing that they should be saved.  But it is contrary to His glorious perfections to wish or desire anything which He will not accomplish: "He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth" (Job xxiii. 13).  "He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Psalm cxv. 3).  "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" (Daniel iv. 35).  "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Proverbs xx1. 1).  "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isaiah xlvi. 10).

 

Men believe not because they are not the sheep of Christ (John x. 26).  "God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear" (Romans xi. 8).  Universal invitation men deny this.  It is not necessary, however, for God to put forth power to prevent men from believing with a saving faith.  He has merely to withhold power.  This He does; this He has determined to do; and this He has a Sovereign right to do - for "power belongeth unto God" (Psalm lxii. 11).

 

Further, the Scriptures tell us of the immutable decrees of Jehovah.  These decrees speak of destruction as well as of salvation, making known to us the absolute determination of God that some who hear the gospel shall not be saved by it (II. Corinthians iv. 3).

 

Negatively. - God did not choose them: "I never knew you" (Matthew vii. 23).  He did not redeem them: "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me" (John xvii. 9).  He does not, and will not, regenerate them: "To them it is not given" (Matthew xiii. 11).

 

Positively. - "There are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men" (Jude 4).  God is "willing to shew his wrath" (Romans ix. 22).  "Unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed" (I. Peter ii. 7,8).  "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place" (Acts i. 25).  He was a "son of perdition" (John xvii. 12).  "The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Proverbs xvi. 4).  "Whom He will He hardeneth" (Romans ix. 18).  "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" (Exodus vii. 3).  "They could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them" (John xii. 39,40).  "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (John viii. 44).  "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew xxiii. 32,33).

 

In spite of these plain declarations of God's Word, men still fret and fume against the doctrine therein revealed.  They say: "Will you tell us on what ground men are condemned, seeing that, if this fatalistic doctrine is true, they only act in accordance with God's decree?"  This question is, in substance, very ancient: it was anticipated and answered nearly two thousand years ago.  "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault?  For who hath resisted His will?  Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?  Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Romans ix. 19-21).

 

Although the seed of the serpent (Genesis iii. 15, John viii. 44) have no eyes to see any beauty in Christ (Isaiah liii. 2), being under "the power of darkness" (Colossians i. 13); no ears to hear the music of the gospel (Matthew xiii. 43), being "like the deaf adder" (Psalm lviii. 4); no mouth to feed on gospel provision (John vi. 53), being without faith (II. Thessalonians iii. 2); no life to feel any need (Psalm cxlv. 16), being "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians ii. 1) - yet, say some, God invites them.  But God does not invite blind men to look at Christ: He gives sight to some (Acts xxvi. 18), and then bids them look.  He does not invite deaf men to listen: He gives hearing to some (Isaiah xxix. 18), and then bids them hearken.  He does not invite to the gospel feast without first creating an appetite in those invited (Luke i. 53).  He does not bid dead sinners live without communicating life (Ezekiel xvi. 6).

 

Again.  While Jehovah has made provision for the elect (a robe, a mansion, a throne, a kingdom), He has made none for the rest.  Yet, insists gainsaying man, the rest are invited.  But does God invite men to clothe themselves without providing for them a robe; to inhabit the realms of bliss without preparing for them a mansion; to reign in glory without foreordaining them to a throne; and to become kings (Revelation i. 6) without giving them a kingdom?  Does He invite men to an inheritance which was never intended for them, and for which He does not prepare them (Colossians i. 12)?  He does not.

 

"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever" (Deuteronomy xxix. 29).  God has revealed His sovereign determination not to save all who hear the gospel.  Those of His servants who perceive this (some, if not most, of the Puritan divines evidently did not2) dare not invite all.  They dare not build up in false confidence those who have never been convinced of sin, nor give the strong drink of gospel consolation to those who know nothing of a heavy heart (Proverbs xxxi. 6).  They can and do "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark xvi. 15) without casting the children's bread to dogs (Matthew xv. 26).  They cannot invite to the gospel feast those who are satisfied with the world's dainties, because Jesus forbids His servants to cast pearls before swine, and commands them not to give that which is holy to the dogs (Matthew vii. 6).

 

There is, further, a wide difference between an offer and a gift.  It is essential to the nature of an offer that the person to whom it is made should have both will and power to reject it or to receive it.

 

It is essential to the nature of a gift that it be received.  Nothing can possibly be a gift which is rejected.

 

Eternal life is a gift (John x. 28, Romans vi. 23).  Those who are made recipients of it have no more power to reject it than they had to reject natural life.  God says "Live!" and the previously dead soul necessarily lives.

 

 

II.  DUTY FAITH

 

"Duty faith" may be briefly defined as the doctrine which declares it to be incumbent upon every man who hears the gospel to exercise saving faith in it, and which represents the non-possession of such a faith as the procuring cause of the sinner's eternal destruction.

 

No conceivable act can be within the scope of a creature's duty if it was never within the power of the creature to perform it (Job xxxiv. 23).  It is impossible, therefore, for the seed of the serpent to believe to the saving of the soul - not only because they lack the power to do so now, but also because they never did have this power even in Adam, their federal head.  Duty faith men acknowledge that man has no power to believe, and will also admit that he never will have the power unless it be given; but they very plainly intimate their belief that man originally had this power, and that God will be just in punishing for the non-fulfilment of the duty of believing, though man has lost the power to perform it.  But it is not true that Adam, in his primitive innocence, had power to believe in Christ for salvation.  In three ways this was an impossibility: 1. Morally; 2. Dispensationally; 3. Physically.

 

1. Morally impossible.

 

Unfallen man was not the subject of sin (Genesis i. 31): therefore did not need pardon.  Being upright (Ecclesiastes vii. 29), he could not look for One to raise him up.  Not having transgressed, he needed no Mediator, but enjoyed immediate and comfortable communion with God (Genesis ii. 21), and no shedding of blood was needed to provide him with a covering: he required no skins of beasts for his body (Genesis iii. 21), nor for his soul a robe of righteousness procured by the slain Lamb of God (Isaiah lxi. 10, Revelation xiii. 8).  Being blessed of God (Genesis i. 28, v. 2), he could not hope in a Deliverer from that curse which did not exist.

 

2. Dispensationally impossible.

 

Man was created under the covenant of works, the tenor of which was as follows:- "Do and live.  Fulfilling my requirements, you will remain in your present state - a sinless, happy soul in a sound and vigorous body, inhabiting a beautiful, yet material, earth.  Your obedience, which but your duty, will merit nothing; but so long as you remain in unswerving fidelity to your Creator and Benefactor, so long will His present favour and blessing rest upon you.  But in departing from Him, you will become liable to His curse and all its terrible consequences: 'Dying, thou shalt die' (Genesis ii. 7 - margin).  You are to love God, hope in Him, and implicitly trust Him."

 

Nowhere in the inspired pages is it hinted that Adam would have gone to heaven had he continued in his original uprightness.  He was constituted lord of the material creation (Genesis i. 28, Psalm viii. 6, Hebrews ii. 7,8).  The faith, hope, and love which he then possessed were the natural virtues of an unfallen man - not the implanted graces of the Spirit in a fallen man.  Consequently, it is still the duty of man, though fallen, to exercise the faith, hope, and love which he at first possessed in Adam.  But, even if this were possible, he would in no wise be entitled to heaven; for when Adam fell, he and his posterity lost the paradise of earth, not the paradise of heaven.  Those who were not given to Christ in the eternal covenant of grace not only fell in Adam, but they virtually fell into perdition - not because God was unable to rescue them, but because He determined not to do so.  They are therefore distinguished from the seed of Christ (Isaiah liii. 10) by the appellation of the seed of the serpent (Genesis iii. 15).  They do not participate in the covenant of grace (Psalm l. 16); they never did (Isaiah lxiii. 19); they never will (Isaiah xiv. 20 - last clause).  Hence it cannot be their duty to exercise the faith, hope, and love which are the fruits and effects of it.  The "faith of God's elect" (Titus i. 1) is in the midst of a chain on the first link of which we read "chosen from the beginning"; on the second, "sanctification of the Spirit"; and on the last, "salvation" (II. Thessalonians ii. 13).  To close this argument, it may be said that man, being created under a covenant whose terms are works (Galatians iii. 12), could not be simultaneously under a covenant of a distinctly opposite nature - namely, that of grace (Romans xi. 6).  Placed under the first covenant (Hebrews ix. 1), he could not at the same time be under the second (Hebrews x. 9).

 

3. Physically impossible.

 

i.  The first exceeding great and precious promise revealed to man was pronounced after the fall (Genesis iii. 15).  It was therefore subsequently to the fall that Adam became partaker of the divine nature (II. Peter i. 4); a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians iii. 26); a son of God as led by the Spirit (Romans viii. 14), though previously a son of God by creation (Luke iii. 38); a consciously adopted child by the Spirit's witness (Romans viii. 15, Hebrews x. 15) - in short, a new creature (II. Corinthians v. 17, Galatians vi. 15).  To believe in Jesus, then, a new creation is necessary; and, as it is physically impossible for the creature to perform the work of the Creator, it was physically impossible for unfallen man to believe on Jesus.

 

ii.  The name of every individual believer in Jesus is enrolled in the book of life (Philippians iv. 3, Hebrews xii. 23 - margin).  This was done before any of them had an actual existence (Psalm cxxxix. 15,16).  An indispensable pre-requisite to true faith in Jesus is that the name of its possessor shall be inserted in this book, since none but those found therein will escape the lake of fire (Revelation xx. 15).  If, therefore, it was the duty of unfallen Adam to believe savingly, it must also have been his duty to inscribe his name in that list which was completed before the world began (Revelation xiii. 8, xvii. 8).

 

If it was not originally the duty of man to believe as a new creature, it cannot be the duty of man to do so now, as the fall did not involve him in new obligations.  He was created under the law, and that law still demands undeviating obedience from all who are not delivered from it by Christ (Romans iii. 19, vi. 14).

 

The infinitely righteous God is not a hard master, reaping where He has not sown, and gathering where He has not strawed (Matthew xxv. 24).  He will not demand new covenant obedience from those whom He has decreed to leave under the old covenant (Hebrews viii. 13).  To say that the just and wise God will punish men for the non-possession of that faith which He has determined to withhold from them is to charge Him foolishly (Job i. 22) and to represent Him as a tyrant more oppressive than Pharaoh, who wanted bricks without providing the necessary material.

 

Men are eternally punished for their transgression of the law (Romans vi. 23, I. John iii. 4).  Their contempt of the gospel is a proof, an evidence, of their already lost condition - not the cause of it (John iii. 18).

 

 

1The doctrines of offered grace and duty faith are rejected y the Strict Baptists as a denomination.  The Gospel Standard and the Earthen Vessel are generally admitted to be fairly representative magazines, and both are firmly opposed to these doctrines.  Incidental proof of this may be found in the current numbers (April, 1905).  The G.S. contains a letter (page 180) whose writer boldly attacks these errors; and the E.V. has an address (page 105), by a well known minister, in which they are ably exposed.

 

2It may, however, be observed that those in our denomination who believe in offers of grace and duty faith differ from the Puritans in at least three ways:  1. The Puritans identified themselves with religious communities which regarded these doctrines as true.  2. The Puritans openly declared that Christ is "offered" to all, and that it is the "duty" of all to accept Him.  3. The Puritans did not sign articles of faith in which these doctrines were declared to be false.