The Will of God and the Gospel Offer
Charles Calder Mackintosh
These passages from classical Reformed theologians and preachers speak of God’s desire for or delight in the salvation of those who hear the gospel offer, inasmuch as his revealed will is an expression of his goodness and kindness toward the hearers of the gospel.
Charles Calder Mackintosh (1806-1868):
Christ weeping over the coming ruin of sinners whom he would have gathered but who would not come to him, and divine mercy pleading for forbearance to be shown as a gracious property of the divine nature towards the impenitent
(“The Saviour’s Compassion” and “Divine Long-Suffering,” sermons on Luke 19:41-42 and Luke 13:6-9, in Memorials of the Life and Ministry of Charles Calder Mackintosh, D.D., of Tain and Dunoon, Edinburgh 1870, pp. 127-129 and 141-142)
“The Saviour’s Compassion”
But more than all this, He saw multitudes of immortal souls passing into eternity, with the guilt of His blood upon them, dying in darkness, and cast into outer darkness.
And He “would have gathered them” (Luke 13:34). His infinitely compassionate heart told Him how He had sought their salvation. He knew that He had come to them with glad tidings, that He had sincerely and earnestly invited them to the enjoyment of rest, that His mercy had gone out importunately after them beseeching them not to die, that He had spent His strength in labouring among them; and now finding, as it were, this mercy thrown back upon Him, returning to His breast all but empty, because while He would have gathered them they “would not.” He wept over their coming ruin.
We would remember that this is very holy and tender ground. It is evident that our Lord’s lamentations did not arise from any want of complacency in His Father’s will regarding the salvation of some and not of all: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25); or from the want of entire complacency in the threatenings of that law which attaches eternal ruin to sin; or from any feeling that His own work would be in vain, and that He should not “see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied” (Isaiah 49:5-6, John 6:37, 10:27-28). None of these things are to be understood. But we trace it to the pity and mercy of His heart, overflowing in sorrow in contemplating the misery produced by sin. Unless He had been “the Lamb of God,” He could not have been thus affected. It was a part of His humiliation to be “despised and rejected of men.” It was a necessary consequence of His purity and love, that this rejection should make Him “a man of sorrows.” And it was perfectly consistent with His perfection as God-man that He should weep over the destruction of sinners, while He saw clearly that they merited their doom, and while the foundations of His own happiness should be altogether untouched by the sight of their misery. We see His holy jealousy in the denunciations against the Scribes and Pharisees: “Ye hypocrites, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” We see His complacency in the punishment of the lost, in the words which He tells us He will address to the wicked on that day: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” We see here the gushing forth of His mercy, the mercy which has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” the grace and tenderness and love (unselfish, self-sacrificing love) manifested in the whole of His work of humiliation and suffering, and by which He revealed the Father’s “love”; mercy and love not the less real but the more wondrous, because in alliance with the purity which hates sin, and the righteousness which cannot spare sin. We have the heart of Christ opened up to us, a heart filled with good-will to sinners, with tenderness and compassion; yes, as having as its deepest affection in connection with the glory of His Father, thirst for their salvation; full of grace, pure grace, yet holy grace which cannot desire to be exercised at the expense of righteousness or to screen the guilty. And though every tear has been wiped from His eyes, though His sorrows were over when He said “It is finished,” and He is now infinitely exalted above all sorrow, yet His heart is the same–as gracious, and as full of compassion as in the days of His flesh.
Christ’s tears over Jerusalem now assure the most guilt-laden sinner of His readiness to receive him, and that he cannot perish because of want of willingness in Christ to save him.
The forbearance of God, that gracious property of the Divine nature, or exercise of the Divine character, in virtue of which He has “no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” is brought out very strikingly here in His general long-suffering towards the impenitent and unfruitful. He comes seeking fruit, after He has spoken to them in His word; He finds none: yet He bears with them. He comes, Sabbath after Sabbath, year after year; and though they cumber the ground, He bears with them still; for His is not the manner of men.
Then this forbearance is brought out in the special and successful interposition of mercy pleading for a further respite to the barren tree: “Let it alone this year also,” etc. Our position under the gospel is at all times sufficiently solemn–that it must be to us either the gospel of salvation or the occasion of our greater condemnation. To be unfruitful under the means of grace is at all times sufficiently terrible–ever liable to be “cut down.” But there are critical times in the sinner’s history; times when God “comes down” to inspect him, to see if in righteousness He can spare him any longer; times when, if his eyes were opened, the first thought that suggested itself might be, that he had already filled up the measure of his iniquity; times when further space to repent can only be obtained by some new and unwonted exercise of the infinite mercy that resides in God. Who can tell whether such a time has not passed in regard to some one now addressed, and whether the period of respite is not very near a close? Or who can tell whether the solemn conference between righteousness and mercy in regard to some of us may not now be going on? May not righteousness be demanding with a voice of thunder that this or that sinner, who has so long “refused” when God called, so long “disregarded” while the Lord stretched out his hand in warnings and expostulations, should be cut down; while mercy pleads, as only Divine mercy can plead, that, notwithstanding all, he yet be spared for a little while? “True, most true, he deserves to be cut down, but oh, that soul, capable of such intense suffering or intense joy, is unspeakably precious: even for such a sinner as this did Christ die; and such can He save. Spare him, that I may dig about him; I am not yet weary of this thankless work. My bowels yearn over him; he considers not what he is doing: I will bring yet nearer to his mind and conscience a long-despised Saviour. I will cast him into a furnace of affliction; I will make him to realize, as he has never yet done, how bitter the world is without Christ. Peradventure, he may yet prove a jewel in the crown of Jesus. But if not, then after that thou shalt cut him down.”