Therefore, there is not grace or love of God displayed in the gospel apart from the mercy of God. For the reprobate the day of grace, while a benefit purchased by the death of Christ, chiefly for the elects sake, is but a stay of God's hand, till the day of His wrath. All this the Professors deny by their assertion that the desire of God in the free offer respects not the decretive will, but the revealed will.
Calvin in his Institutes (Vol. 2, Book 3, chapt. 24, para 15) in reference to Ezekial 18:23, "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways and live," disposes of any idea that there is a desire and pleasure in God apart from His decretive will, when he writes: "the passage is violently wrested, if the will of God which the prophet mentions is opposed to His eternal counsel, by which He separated the elect from the reprobate."
It is relevant to discourse here on the extent of the compassion of God manifested in the free offer of the gospel.
At the outset we assert that the extent of the actual compassion of God in the free offer of the gospel is no more revealed in the Scripture than is His eternal election and predestination. The wrath of God against the elect when not in a state of grace is real, otherwise it could not be said that He hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all, or that He saw the travail of His soul and was satisfied. On the other hand, the wrath of God against the reprobate is real and without remission. In the day of grace when God has stayed the day of His wrath chiefly for the elects sake, He makes a gracious offer to all, which is ever qualified in Scripture as manifestly calling all men to repentance or toward them that repent. Since God has not given Christ to all, it cannot be said that God has an actual compassion toward the reprobate who are known to Him. The objection that we make a bare preceptive will cannot be carried, for God ever annexes a blessing to it, and even gives exhortation Furthermore, it is His preceptive will which He has committed to His ministers as the word of reconciliation. As they are God's ambassadors so they beseech all to whom they preach, yet it is God alone who inwardly speaks and calls to those to whom it is His intention to give Christ. Though there is an offer of mercy to all in the gospel, it remains part of the revealed will of God, that He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy. Calvinists therefore do not preach that God desires to save all, any more than they hold it as part of their doctrine.
If there is to be a free offer of the gospel, let it be made by the right use of means, as set forth by the Westminster divines and briefly enumerated in numbers 1 and 2 above. Let there be a free offer of Christ in the gospel yes, but let it be clearly made known that the offer is to them that labour and are heavy laden, as did the Saviour when He said, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Let our ministers make a free offer of the gospel as did the prophet Isaiah (chapter 55) to them that hunger and thirst, when he cried, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Let not our opponents object that this is not a free and open offer without discrimination, and that it would require us to make open offer only to those who manifestly labour and are heavy laden, or to those who hunger and thirst. Such was the error of the Particular Baptists, who desiring a gospel suitable to their ordinance and their idea of a pure church, that they did not make the gospel offer to the manifestly unregenerate. Robert Shaw also points out that it was the error of the Neonomians:
"This offer is not restricted, as Baxterians allege, to sensible sinners, or those who are convinced of their sin, and their need of a Saviour; for it is addressed to persons sunk in total insensibility as to their own miseries and wants (Revelation 3:17, 18). This offer is made as really to those who eventually reject it, as to those who eventually receive it; for if this were not the case, the former class of gospel-hearers could not be condemned for their unbelief" (John 3:18, 19).
Common sense demands that there must be an outward call to the unregenerate and undiscerning men, in order for there to be an inward call. It is God's ministers who must make a free and open outward call to sinners without distinction, yet even in that they must make their invitations to them that labour and are heavy laden, and to them that hunger and thirst. It is the Spirit's work to make the inward call, whereby He convinces us of our sin and misery, enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel. Thus the outward call, and the free offer of Christ in the gospel is make to all indiscriminately, and though this call consists in an invitation to them that hunger and thirst, it is in the inward calling of the Spirit, that the invitations and offer are applied and made effective. In order to effectually call some, God is just in outwardly calling all to whom the gospel is preached.
Thus we see that the notion that God desires the salvation of all is quite unnecessary to a free offer of the gospel, and is even destructive of and foreign to it. Let us therefore have done with the notion of the Professors and return to the old ways, for , "thus saith the Lord stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:16). Let us not be dismayed when men eminent in scholarship and ability reply to us, "We will not walk therein."
One further objection considered.
It is objected that God loved men out of Christ before He chose them.
Such a notion cannot be sustained to prove that God loves men out of Christ in time. In the first place it is fraught with the difficulties which attend the division or ordering of decrees.
In the omniscience of God, there never was a time when He did not know all things, and there never was a moment in eternity when it was necessary for God to make order to His thoughts or decrees. It is only because of our weakness that our theology falls, or tends to fall into the infra or supra-lapsarian positions. Some at different points in their theology appear to belong to both. In actual fact there is not with God a plurality or order of decrees, there is only one decree.
A thing foreknown is a thing foreordained. God knew the end from the beginning, therefore sin was foreordained. We do not assert that God simply foreordained that men should sin, but rather that God foreordained that man should sin by his own free act. Therefore, in the omniscience of God we must hold that God contemplated men as sinners in loving and choosing them. That God ever contemplated all men in perfection, when it was foreknown and foreordained that all would become sinners is a matter of pure speculation and conjecture. The Scripture simply asserts that God chose a certain number out of all those who deserve to perish. There are no grounds whatsoever for the notion that God loved men out of Christ before He chose them, for in God's choice of men it cannot be said that love preceded choice; the act of love which contemplated men as sinners was in itself a choice. Love and choice are but a single act of the will of God. If God loves men at all, He loves them in Christ, for there can be no division of love in the Trinity. The attributes of God are not divisible, nor are the acts of His will. So that when God loved Adam, even in His state of perfection, He loved Him in Christ. Such is true of all the elect, for the Lord Jesus said of them, "All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them." It is because the elect were Christ's that He gave His life a ransom for them.We do not assert that it was necessary for God to love and choose men as sinners, we merely state that the Scripture reveals that He did so in every case. If so, He will certainly save all those upon whom He has set His love.