Thomas Boston’s Offer—Grace is a Right Even for the Non-Elect But God won’t Enable Them to Accept It

Two peculiar doctrinal statements were especially at the heart of the Marrow controversy. The first concerns the preaching of the gospel to all men indiscriminately—what the Marrow men describe as the “offer” (rather than the “call”). According to the Marrow theology, in the preaching of the gospel God in Jesus Christ, “God moved with nothing but his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life” .

As confusing as the language is, specifically, the phrase, “deed of gift and grant,” it is evident that the statement intends to teach God’s would-be love to all humans who hear the preaching on the condition that they believe. Implied in this statement is the doctrine that Christ died for all humans without exception. The church must “go and tell every man, without exception, that here is good news for him! Christ is dead for him! and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him”.

The language is odd . “Christ is dead”? And Christ is dead for every human who hears the gospel? Not: “Christ died for every human.” But: “Christ dead for every human.” Contrast this confusing statement concerning the extent of the atoning death of Christ the clear language of the Canons of Dordt— For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father, etc. (Canons of Dordt, 2.8).

If what orthodox Reformed theology regards as the external call of the gospel is, in fact, a gracious deed of gift and grant of Jesus Christ to every human who hears the gospel, , Christ must have died for all mankind lost, for every human without exception.

This fundamental statement of the Marrow theology is false on its very face. Christ is not dead! He is not dead in relation to anyone, including the elect. He died, in the past. But Christ is NOT dead. Christ is alive, having risen from the dead. In order to introduce into Reformed churches the doctrine of universal atonement (in support of their heretical teaching of the “offer”), without exposing themselves to the charge of teaching universal atonement, as would have been the case had they explicitly stated that the church may say to every human, “Christ died for you,” the Marrow men resorted to linguistic subterfuge: “Christ is dead for you.” This is despicable theology,

The Canons of Dordt make plain that the “offer” does not mean a gracious effort on God’s part to save all who hear, in view of a love of God for all hearers and with the desire to save them all. Head one of the Canons confesses the eternal non-election of some humans in a
hatred of God for them. Head two confesses that Christ died for the elect alone, according to God’s lasting love for them. Heads three and four confess that the saving call of the gospel, that which has its source in God’s election, is for some hearers of the gospel, not for all without exception.

With regard to the Marrow’s assertion that the gospel is a deed of gift and grant to all who hear, head two of the Canons teaches that Christ “purchased” for the elect, not only forgiveness and eternal life, but also faith itself (Canons 2.8).

The non-elect unbeliever does not have a warrant to believe in Jesus Christ. He does not have the ability. But neither does he have the right. Faith in Jesus Christ is a privilege, a right earned for the elect by the death of Jesus. “Warrant” implies right. The non-elect hearer
of the gospel has the DUTY to believe in Jesus, but he lacks both the ability and the right. This truth demolishes the theology of the Marrow.

If God in the gospel lovingly offers salvation to all humans without exception, on the ground of Christ’s death for everyone, Christ is not the whole savior. But the sinner himself, by his acceptance of the offered Christ, is instrumental in his own salvation. Indeed, the whole Christ is dependent upon the sinner’s acceptance. The Arminians call this acceptance “free will.” And the Marrow Calvinists call this acceptance “regeneration followed by instrumental faith”. But in both cases, Christ is not the savior because what God does to make the sinner accept Christ is the most fundamental part of salvation.

According to Thomas Boston. the offer is God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ to all who hear the gospel, including those who are not saved by the gospel. It is not a gift to effectually save anybody, but in such a way as to make Jesus available to all those God predestined to be in the same room with gospel preaching. . Boston uses the example of the gift of money to a poor man: “Even as when one presents a piece of gold to a poor man saying, ‘Take it, it is yours’; the offer makes the piece really his in a sense nevertheless, while the poor man does not accept or receive it, it is not his in possession, nor hath he the benefit of it; but, on the contrary, must starve for it all, and that so much the more miserably, that he hath slighted the offer and refused the gift”

Boston comments— This giving, which in light of I John 5:11 is certainly gracious on God’s part, does not, however, put anyone in possession of eternal life. It merely makes it possible for humans to take possession”of eternal life. This giving of eternal life by God in the offer is not to and for the elect, but to and for all who hear the gospel, including those who may be reprobate, and perish. The party to whom eternal life is given by the offer is not the election only, but mankind lost.” In the offer, there is a giving of Christ and salvation to many where there is no receiving, for a gift may be refused.”


Explore posts in the same categories: atonement, election, faith

Tags: , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

One Comment on “Thomas Boston’s Offer—Grace is a Right Even for the Non-Elect But God won’t Enable Them to Accept It”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Rutherford—he commands all, whom he exhorts to repent, to be baptized

    mark—do you have to be baptized to be commanded? Are some sinners baptized into a conditional covenant?

    Rutherford—The word of the Covenant is preached to you, an offer of Christ is made in the preached Gospel to you. The promises are to all the Reprobate in the Visible Church whether they believe or not, for the promises of the Covenant are Preached to Judas and all the Hypocrites who stumble at the word.

    mark: And how are the promises to those externally in the covenant in any way different from the promises to those not externally in the covenant?

    Rutherford—But in the New Testament, it must have this meaning, I will be your God, 2. Cor. 6. 16. that is, you are all predestinate to life, and the sons, by promise, and the spiritual seed, to whom I say, I will be your God: But so it may well be said, there were no internal Covenanters in the Old Testament, and there be none but only internal Covenanters in the New Testament

    mark—The promise is not that anybody is already justified, because the promise of the gospel is that all those who believe the gospel will be justified. The promise is not that anybody will believe the gospel, because the promise of the gospel is that all those who believe will be justified, not because they believe, but when they believe.

    Rutherford—-If these words, The promise is to you, and to your Children, be limited, to as many as the Lord shall effectually call, either fathers or children, then there is no more a Covenant-favour to their children, then to the children of Pagans; because the children of Pagans, if God effectually call them, have the promises made to them.


    Rutherford—To these men external Covenant-holiness,ceremonial holiness is now out of date; to them external calling the only means of effectual calling.


    Rutherford—To them children not believing, though chosen to life, are excommunicated from visible Adoption, for there is no covenanting now under the New Testament, but only internal covenanting of the Elect.

    Mark–Amen, all visible Israel is now excommunicated, and visible NT churches are only for those who profess faith in the gospel.

    Rutherford—Children of believing Parents have no more right than pagans to hear the preached Gospel, before they believe

    Mark: Amen. No sinner has any right to grace. No sinner has any right to hear the gospel.

    Rutherford—They can have no command of God to hear the Gospel, nor any covenant warrant, until they be believers, for if there were no conditional promise made to hearing and considering the word, if they shall believe, while as yet they believe not, and until they be effectually called, there can be no command, and no Law, to hear the Gospel and the covenant offer made in Christ. It shall then be no more sin for unconverted persons to turn away their ears from the Gospel.

    Mark—–The command to believe the gospel does not depend on any promise that a sinner will believe the gospel. The promise of the gospel is not that any will will believe the gospel, because the promise of the gospel is that those who believe will be justified, not because they believed, but not before and without believing the gospel. It is no more (and no less) sin for a sinner outside a visible church to not believe the gospel than it is for a sinner inside a visible church.

    Rutherford—-It were nonsense to say to men under the externally proposed covenant, repent, hear the Gospel, and yet you have no right to hear, nor have we any warrant to baptize you, until ye believe; for there is no promise made to you until first you believe.

    Mark–We don’t have rights, but there is no need to water a sinner before promising that sinner justification when they believe the gospel. Amen, there is no promise of grace made to those who do not believe the gospel.

    Rutherford. If there can be no baptism before faith, then there could be no threatening to Adam before he sinned, and no promise to Adam nor to any now, to do and live, until Adam first obeyed the covenant.

    Mark: Why not? Adam was under law before sin. The promise to keep living if Adam keeps from sinning is not a promise to immortality. The promise to keep living if Adam keeps from sinning is not a promise of time off probation for obedience.

    Rutherford—A conditional covenant agreed unto and accepted, is a covenant, and we ought to distinguish between a covenant broken or fulfilled, as Adam accepted the threatening, Gen. 2. 17. by silence, and Professors within the visible Church, by their receiving of the Seals are under the covenant of Grace, and engage themselves to obey commands, promises, threatenings, and therefore promises are as properly made to them, But the Anabaptists ignorantly confound the promise, and the thing promised; they confuse the covenant and the benefits covenanted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: