Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thomas Chalmers - Scottish Amyraldian? V

[Note: this section is descriptive of Chalmers' theology, and reflects HIS views, not necessarily those of the present author]

The Free Offer of the Gospel was practically axiomatic with Chalmers, indeed it was the starting point of his theology, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” had been his entrance into the Kingdom, and he presented the same entrance to his hearers. William Hanna notes that, “The most marked characteristic of his pulpit ministrations after his conversion was the frequency and fervour with which he held out to sinners Christ and his salvation as God’s free gift, which it was their privilege and their duty at once and most graciously to accept.”[Hanna Vol. 1 P. 317] Writing in 1812, shortly after his conversion, Chalmers described the gospel like this: “It is just [God] saying to one and all of us, - there is forgiveness through the blood of my Son, take it; and whoever believes the reality of the offer takes it.”[Ibid. P. 263]

The writings of Thomas Chalmers positively teem with Free Offer passages, in his own preaching and in his instructions to his students on how to preach. “He would bend over the pulpit and press us to take the gift, as if he held it that moment in his hand, and would not be satisfied till every one of us had got possession of it. And often when the sermon was over and the psalm was sung, and he rose to pronounce the blessing, he would break out afresh with some new entreaty, unwilling to let us go until he had made one more effort to persuade us to accept it,” one of his old hearers recalled.[Ibid. P. 318] Here is a sample of that pleading from his expository sermons on Romans:

“We tell you of God’s beseeching voice. We assure you, in His name, that he wants you not to die. We bid you venture for pardon on the atonement made by Him who died for all men. We bid you apply forthwith to the spirit of all grace and holiness, that you may be qualified to enter into that beatific heaven from whose battlements there wave the signals of welcome, and whose gates are widely opened to receive you. We would bring this plain word of salvation nigh unto every conscience, and knock with it at the door of every heart; and commissioned as we are to preach the gospel not to a chosen few, while we keep it back from the hosts of the reprobate, but to preach it to every creature under heaven, we again entreat that none here present shall forbid themselves – for most assuredly God has not forbidden them. But come unto Christ all of you who labour and are heavy-laden, and ye shall have rest. Look unto Him, all ye ends of the earth; and though now placed at the farthest outskirts of a moral distance and alienation, even look unto Him and ye shall be saved.”[Romans Vol. 3 P. 392]

Chalmers based these offers on what he found in the Bible, especially the ‘universal language’ that was used there, the ‘whosoevers’ and such like. Speaking to his students he told them they ought to offer Christ to all:

“This you are fully warranted to do by the terms in which the message of the gospel is conceived – by words, for example, of such universal and at the same time of such pointed and specific application, as ‘whosoever’, and ‘all’, and ‘any’, and ‘every’ being associated with the calls and invitations of the New Testament.”[Prelections P. 167. Chalmers says much the same thing in the Institutes]

What was more, Chalmers insisted that this offer was to be made not just to a congregation in the mass, but to every individual to whom the minister spoke. The offer in the Scriptures, “though expressly addressed to no one individual, yet by the wide sweep of a ‘whosoever will’ makes it as pointed a message to all and to any as if the proprietor of each Bible had received it under cover with the inscription of his name and surname from the upper sanctuary.”[Romans Vol. 1 P. 145] He exemplified this himself in his preaching, as we see from his Romans:

“There is not one here present to whom the gospel does not hold forth a warrant for so hoping [that they may be saved]. It declares the remission of sins to all who put faith in the declaration. By its sweeping term ‘whosoever’ it makes as pointed an offer of eternal life to each, as if each had gotten a special intimation by an angel sent to him from heaven.”[Romans Vol. 1 P. 284-5]

In view of this it should come as no surprise to find that Chalmers had a high opinion of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen’s book on The Freeness of the Gospel. “Dr. Chalmers said over and over again that he thought Mr. Erskine’s ‘Freeness’ one of the most delightful books ever written. It seems to me that the Gospel had never appeared to him in any very different light from that in which Mr. Erskine represents it,” a friend of his wrote.[Quoted in Hanna Vol. 2 P. 194] Not that Chalmers liked the hints of universal salvation he found in Erskine. They came from ignoring certain other passages of Scripture that plainly indicate all shall not be saved, but some will be damned.

As to what is offered in the gospel, Chalmers said without hesitation, “Christ is offered.”[Romans Vol. 1 P. 412]



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