Pristine Grace

The Gospel is a Proclamation
Not an Offer
by Robert Sandeman

     Many popular preachers have considered themselves as a kind of factors, or rather ambassadors for God, commissioned and empowered by him to make offers of Christ and all his benefits unto men, upon certain terms, and to assure them of the benefits on their complying with the terms. Accordingly, they have not been negligent in setting forth the dignity of their character in this view, and they have plumed themselves not a little upon the offer they had to make, making frequent repetition of the this, their offer, with great parade. 

     But anyone who reads the New Testament with tolerable attention may see that there is as little foundation for any such offer as there is for bestowing the title of God’s ambassador on any man since the days of the apostles. The apostles were witnesses for God concerning Jesus of Nazareth. They laid before men the infallible proofs showing that Jesus is the Christ. The effect of this was that some believed and comforted with the apostles; and some disbelieved, and opposed them. 

     The apostles proclaimed a truth openly in the hearing of all men. They were witnesses for God to men, but they never bargained for God with men, however much some scriptural metaphors have been strained to that purpose. They never taught men to put forth any act, or to make one step of advance towards God on the prospect that God would condescend and come down the rest of the infinite distance to meet them. This was neither suitable to their office, nor to the honour of that God whose character they drew. 

     (But) as to ordinary teachers, or ministers of the gospel, it is well if they be able to declare the simple truth, as contained in the writings of the apostles, and maintain it in opposition to every lie that men would endeavor to mix with it in order to undermine it. This will procure honour enough to them in the minds of those who love that truth; and such teacher will be far from assuming an air of importance over others, as if they had any thing to offer to them more than the meanest lover of the truth has, who will be ready, as occasion requires, to offer any man an account of the evidence by which he himself is convinced of the truth. 

     The preachers, whose honour is concerned in what they call the gospel-offer, commonly take hold of the promises of the gospel, which it is easy to show are made only to believers, and by the hint of their authority, with the help of a little art, extend them to all their hearers without distinction. And to obviate the difficulty of “How shall I know that the promise is to me, or that Christ died for me?” they address their hearers in this manner. “We are the ambassadors of God, to us the word of reconciliation is committed; we are sent and commissioned to bring Christ near to sinners, and sinners near to Christ; we make an offer of Christ and all his benefits to you, and you, and you; in the name of the great God we declare, that the promise is to thee, and thee, O man, woman, whosoever thou art: in his name we call you this moment to stretch forth the withered hand and the withered heart, and take hold of Christ, saying, He is mine and I am his.” 

     I give here only a short specimen of what is to be found at large interwoven in almost all their sermons; and I am sensible they would as soon allow any article of the Christian doctrine to be attacked, as suffer this their offer to be called in question. We may find them busy moving questions, and warmly disputing one another about the nature and extent of Christ’s death, trying to learn which of them shall lay the most convenient foundation for their universal offer and the particular application or appropriation connected with it. But this same offer, so highly serviceable to their extravagant pride, is like to be one of the last things they were entertain a doubt of. 

     Accordingly, I find our most popular preachers, after they have given various motives and directions for stretching forth the withered hand, commonly enforcing them with this earnest and pressing call, “Up therefore and be doing.” 

     --- Robert Sandeman, Letters to Theron and Aspasio: Addressed to the Author, pgs 19-20