The Will of God and the Gospel Offer

Samuel Rutherford

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.

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661):
God’s serious and unfeigned ardency of desire that we do what is our duty
(Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himselfe, London 1647, pp. 443-45 [irregular pagination: colophon lll2-lll3] and 440-42 [colophon: Kkk4-Lll1])
Rutherford observes that objections justly raised against the deficient Arminian view of God’s decree are not pertinent respecting God’s revealed will, because it does not purpose to effectuate anything.

It’s much worthy of observation, how that sweet evangelic invitation is conceived, Isa. 55:1, Ho, everyone that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that hath no silver, come buy, and eat: as if the Lord were grieved, and said, Woe is me, Alas that thirsty souls should die in their thirst, and will not come to the water of life, Christ, and drink gratis, freely, and live. For the interjection, Ho, is a mark of sorrowing, as ah, or woe, everyone that thirsts. It expresseth two things, 1. A vehemency and a serious and unfeigned ardency of desire that we do what is our duty, and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ and our salvation. This moral connection between faith and salvation is desired of God with his will of approbation, complacency, and moral liking, without all dissimulation, most unfeignedly [margin: What the revealed will of God is]; and whereas Arminians say, we make counterfeit, feigned, and hypocritical desires in God, they calumniate and cavil egregiously, as their custom is. 2. The other thing expressed in these invitations is a sort of dislike, grief, or sorrow (it’s a speech borrowed from man, for there is no disappointing of the Lord’s will, nor sorrow in him for the not fulfilling of it), or an earnest nilling and hating dislike that these two should not go along, as approved efficaciously by us, to wit, the creature’s obedience of faith and life eternal. God loveth, approveth the believing of Jerusalem and of her children, as a moral duty, as the hen doth love to warm and nourish her chickens; and he hateth, with an exceeding and unfeigned dislike of improbation and hatred, their rebellious disobedience and refusing to be gathered: but there is no purpose, intention, or decree of God, holden forth in these invitations called his revealed will, by which he saith he intendeth and willeth that all he maketh the offer unto shall obey and be saved. But it’s to be observed, that the revealed will of God, holden forth to all, called voluntas signi, doth not hold forth formally that God intendeth, decreeth, or purposeth in his eternal council, that any man shall actually obey, either elect or reprobate; it formally is the expression only of the good liking of that moral and duty conjunction between the obedience of the creature and the reward, but holdeth forth not any intention or decree of God, that any shall obey, or that all shall obey, or that none at all shall obey.

And what Arminians say of Christ’s intention to die for all and every one, and of the Lord’s intention and catholic good will to save all and every one, to wit, that these desires may be in God though not any be saved at all, but all eternally perish, which maketh the Lord’s desires irrational, unwise, and frustraneous — that we say with good reason of God’s good will, called voluntas signi, it might have its complete and entire end and effect though not any one of men or angel obey, if there were not going along with this will of God another will, and eternal decree and purpose in God, or working by free grace in some chosen ones what the Lord willeth in his approving will.

Now this desire of approbation is an abundantly sufficient closing of the mouth of such as stumble at the gospel, being appointed thereunto, and an expression of Christ’s good liking to save sinners. Expressed in his borrowed wishes, Deut. 5:29. O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep my commandments. Ps. 81:13. O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel walked in my ways. Which wish, as relating to disobeying Israel, is a figure, or metaphor borrowed from men, but otherwise showeth how acceptable the duty is to God, how obligatory to the creature. But the Lord’s expostulations, Ezek. 18:31. Why will ye die, O house of Israel? Verse 32. For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies. In the Lord’s crying to sinners, Prov. 1:20. Wisdom cries, she uttereth her voice in the streets. The word is to cry with strong shouting, either for joy, Ps. 81:2, or sorrow, Lam. 2:19, which expresseth Christ’s desire to save sinners.

[Margin: No lip-love, nor any empty love in God, but that which is effectual and real to work the good he desireth to the party loved.] We are hence taught to acknowledge no love to be in God which is not effectual in doing good to the creature; there is no lip-love, no raw well-wishing to the creature which God doth not make good. We know but three sorts of love that God has to the creature, all the three are like the fruitful womb; there is no miscarrying, no barrenness in the womb of divine love.

[Margin: A threefold love in God effectual.] He loves all that he has made, so far as to give them a being, to conserve them in being as long as he pleaseth. He had a desire to have sun, moon, stars, earth, heaven, sea, clouds, air. He created them out of the womb of love and out of goodness, and keeps them in being. He can hate nothing that he made.

There is a second love and mercy in God, by which he loves all men and angels, yea, even his enemies, makes the sun to shine on the unjust man as well as the just, and causeth dew and rain to fall on the orchard and fields of the bloody and deceitful man, whom the Lord abhors, as Christ teacheth us, Matt. 5:43-48. Nor doth God miscarry in this love. He desires the eternal being of damned angels and men; he sends the gospel to many reprobates, and invites them to repentance and with longanimity and forbearance suffereth pieces of froward dust to fill the measure of their iniquity, yet does not the Lord’s general love fall short of what he willeth to them.

[Margin: Christ’s love of election cannot miscarry.] There is a love of special election to glory; far less can God come short in the end of this love. For the work of redemption prospereth in the hands of Christ, even to the satisfaction of his soul; saving of sinners (all glory to the Lamb) is a thriving work and successful in Christ’s hands.

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