Are There Invitations in the Proclamation of the Gospel?

     From Signs of the Times -September 15, 1904

     It is so asserted by all religionists of the present day, and therefore perhaps it is well to ask whether it be so or not. With regard to this question, as with all others pertaining to the religion of Christ, the word of God itself must decide for us. We wish first of all to say that the word invitation does not occur in the New Testament at all, and in the Old Testament in the three places where it is used, the meaning is that of calling. The word translated "invite" in those three places is generally elsewhere translated calling. It is well not to use the word when it is not used in Scriptures. One of the poets has written "The trumpet of the gospel sounds with an inviting voice." Here the word is not objectionable, if the meaning of the poet is understood. He evidently intended what the word attractive would convey, and this is true; there is that which allures and attracts the humble, penitent heart in the gospel. But it is nowhere said in the word that our God invites any man to anything, or to do anything, or come anywhere. Our God calls men, and when he calls the message is made sweet to them, and when he says, "Seek ye my face," their hearts do not fail to comply, "Thy face Lord, will I seek." But are not such Scriptures as these: "Come unto me, all ye that are labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink;" and "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," invitations? We refer to these three Scriptures because they are most frequently alluded to as invitations and if they are not, it is sure that invitations are not found in any other Scriptures. If all the circumstances be considered which stand connected with such texts as the above, it will appear that the word invitations will hardly measure up to the meaning. For instance, these words in all these Scriptures are addressed to those who are already crying out in their need, if not with voice, then with the heart; the thirsty want water, and the weary and heaven laden want rest. Man may not have heard any cry from their lips, but God has heard the cry which insues from their hearts; the thirsty man calls for water, the weary is calling for rest with the calling of the heart. Now to that weary man Jesus says in the gospel, There is rest to be found in me alone, I possess that which gives rest; poor weary soul; do you want rest from all your burdens? Yes, that burdened soul replies. Then to that soul Jesus holds the rest; the very thing that is needed and that is being sought. Is this an invitation to that soul? It is much more than an invitation, it is a call; it is a response to prayer it is a gift of that which is being sought. A beggar comes to our door; his appearance shows that he is poor, and he says, "I am hungry." He asks for bread. When you make known to him that you have a provision laid up on purpose for just such hungry people as he, and set that provision before him, is it an invitation? It is not in any sense an invitation, but a blessed answer to his need. A wonderful privilege conferred upon him. Your child or servant, toiling all the day to provide for himself in some strange vineyard, finds no place of rest there; he is wearied and burdened and sees no prospect of relief and after all his toil he finds but husks for his living and no time of resting, yet he longs for rest; "Oh where shall rest be found?" he cries. "Surely I shall attain to it if I toil hard and long enough;" but no, there is no end to the toil and burden. Now to that child or servant that must have rest or fall in despair you come and say, "I have rest; I will give you rest; come to me." Is that an invitation? Is it not a response to his cry? Is it not an assurance given to him who longs for such an assurance? To the child of God all such precious words from the Lord come with power. They come not as something offered to him, but as something given him in response to his great need. He is not invited to partake, but he is given to partake, and it is a wonderful thing to this poor and needy sinner that such precious things should be pressed to his lips and refresh his soul.

     The word invitation conveys a meaning which is contrary to Christian experience, as we have tried to state that experience above. The word in itself does not convey the thought of need upon the part of the one invited. One may invite his neighbor or his friend his friend, his equal, to come and dine with him; this does not convey the thought that the neighbor is in need of help, or that he has made any plea for food. In fact, to imply in the invitation that such was the case would be a gross insult to that neighbor. Still further, it implies that each one, the inviter and the invited are equal so that the invitation carries with it no obligation on the part of him who is invited to come and no thought of charity conferred upon him by the invited. But when God says in his word, "Come unto me and drink," or when he applies that word by the Holy Spirit to the heart of a thirsty soul, there is need and poverty on the part of that soul, and the word comes with healing power and heals the hurt, as water quenches thirst. The water itself is not inviting (to use the word of the hymn writer referred to before) to any man when that man knows no thirst, but to the thirsty the water is in itself inviting. Such a heart longs for the living waters, but such a heart does not see any ground whereby he can claim this water; he feels unworthy of it; he is unworthy of it; but he wants it; he must have it or perish. What a gracious gift it becomes to him when the Master holds it forth and presses it to his lips, and he drinks and lives. The dear Lord has not invited him to drink, but has given him to drink. Is there not a vast difference between such an experience as this, and a simple invitation? The man who is my equal, and who needs nothing may be invited but the beggar stands upon different ground. I do not invite him, but respond to his cry for help, and I place food and clothing in his hand. So we are all beggars in relation to the things belonging to the eternal world. Our God does not invite us near, but he brings us near; he does not invite us to eat and drink, but he answers our need by giving what we need, and he makes his revealed word precious to the soul, and comforts the soul with its revelation of salvation, the salvation which in all its parts is of God.

     We do not doubt that some, perhaps many, have used the word invitation, meaning nothing else but what we have here presented, and we have not called attention to the word that we might find fault with any that have thus used it, but because we are told to hold fast to the form of sounds words. When those that have denied the doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace make common use of any word not used in Scriptures, it is time to examine that word well, lest we become ensnare but unsound doctrine, which may be brought in by the use of even a word. Let it be far from us to make any brother an offender for a word, yet let us be careful not to use unscriptural words. We do not say that we ought to confine ourselves to words found in Scripture, but let us see that the words we do use are scriptural, that is, in harmony with what the Scriptures teach.

     It is sure that our God does not invite men dead in sins to arise and live; he speaks and they live. Neither does he invite the living to eat and drink, any more than a mother invites her newborn babe to eat and live. The mother gives food to her babe, and the child eats as provided for of God, and grows and thrives. God gives heavenly consolation to his little children, and they eat, and drink, and live, and grow, and thrive. Should they live on earth a thousand years, they are all the time little children; God gives to them, and they receive what he gives.

     We have not thought on the other hand that in this connection the word "command" is applicable, only from within. The beggar does not realize any compulsion laid upon him to eat and drink from without. The compulsion is within, his hunger commands him to eat. The giver of food does not give to him as though he uttered a command to him, but as one who is in pity supplies his need. If one of us could give to another a hunger for anything that we had to give, then in giving that hunger we should be giving a command, a command which would not be disobeyed; he would under the stress of that commandment be compelled to eat. When this degree of hunger is within him it is itself the commandment dwelling within him, and to eat becomes a sweet and gracious privilege. The food is given to the hungry by the hand of love, and no message can be quite so delightful to his ears as the word, Eat, O friends; eat and drink, O beloved. The command to eat is in the very life of that man, and here is the gracious provision to satisfy that command. Every word of God in Christ Jesus is that bread, and that water, and that wine. From the wells of salvation, that salvation which is in Christ, such seeking souls draw water with joy, as said the prophet. To men and women thus prepared every promise is bread, every principle of doctrine found in the words is bread, and every commandment is bread. Jesus said, It is my meat and my drink to do the will of him that sent me. To do the will of God is to eat if we possess the Spirit of the Master. So far as we do possess that Spirit we shall find our most satisfying food in his service. Then we shall realize what is meant when it is said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. To such hearts the commandments of God are not grievous. What soul satisfying thing it is when some gracious commandment is sealed upon the heart, and we come to feel that the commandment is love, and that love is its fulfilling also. Here is meat indeed, and here is drink indeed.

     It is written, Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is. Perhaps we read this and feel as though we must obey this commandment; we abide in the assemblies of the house of the Lord; we go up to the place of worship regularly, and do so because we desire to be obedient; perhaps we remember the poor liberally, as we are bidden in the word of God to do, and feel that in this we must obey; perhaps we contribute our full share, as the Lord has prospered us, to all the expenses of the church, of whatever nature. This we do, as well as all other things that seem to be demanded in the word, and yet all these things do not seem to be meat and drink to us. Outwardly we have done what we were commanded as followers of Christ, yet in it all there has been no comfort of love no joy in the Lord, no witness of the Sprit and we seem to ourselves to be doing all these things just as the Pharisee might do them to be seen of men or at least for some selfish end and we are not near to the Master in the experience of finding all this to be our meat and drink. Such a state as this must and will be a grief to all who love the Lord and there will of necessity be great searchings of heart for something more than all the outward righteousness; we want to find the commandment a joy, and not a burden; bread and water, not a weariness; and when the power of the Spirit of Jesus is felt within then we long to do all the will of God both in inward love and outward obedience. Commandments will then all of them be as our daily bread, and obedience will be a privilege conferred, then indeed will we find the commandments not grievous but pleasant. What a wonderful work is that which can bring the soul to enter into the power and meaning of the word of the Lord which has said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." By every word. It is the glory of the gospel that it reveals where lies our power to do his will. In Christ Jesus all is fulfilled, As he dwells in us the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us. The apostle does not say it is fulfilled by us, but in us. As it comes to be fulfilled in us, we come to see more and more clearly that this righteousness is not and cannot be fulfilled by is. The revelation of light within shows more and more clearly the greatness of darkness in which it shines. This is a good work, in this is our humiliation, and in this is the exaltation of Jesus. Thus we come to make mention that the Lord alone is exalted. This in whom such experience is found will go softly on their way; their life will be found as they are brought near to Christ by heart felt experience and in their daily walk before God within and without; their death is when they are found living after the flesh, As they have come to love life and desire to see good days so will they strive to abstain from evil and refrain their lips from all guile. This will not be bondage, but liberty. They will find the bondage when they cannot do the good that they would.

Topics: Hyper-Calvinism Gospel Distinctives
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