The Lord knows full well that men’s hearts are so full of enmity, that they will never seek for reconciliation first, though they have good cause, because they have offered the wrong, and therefore he stands not upon terms, but offers love first,, without which he knows they are forever undone! O therefore receive it, accept of it when it is offered to you, and lose thy life rather than his love.

For the farther opening of this point, I shall show three things.

1. That Christ does offer his love in the gospel.
2. Upon what terms.
3. Motives.

3. Motives to accept it, and answer objections accepting of it.

First, that the Lord does offer, and how he does offer his love in the gospel: and this I shall clear, because nothing can draw a soul to accept of love but this. For the better understanding of which, you must conceive that the love of Christ in the gospel, is diversely manifested unto men; either to men after they be in Christ, and are brought home by it, and this is a love of delight in them. Psal. 45:10-11. Or it is the love of good-will to men not brought home, as it is husbands before their affections be set upon any, they make love; as it is, 2 Thess. 2:10, “The received not the love of the truth,” because the truth made love to them. Luke 2:14, “Good-will towards men,” and this love, I say, is offered, this love makes unto you, stand amazed at it, that after all your sins, wrongs done him, nothing but love is offered, even his dearest love, for though there is patience, power to help, wisdom to guide, though there is terror in him, yet, “Take my love,” says he, John 3:17. And hence, Heb. 2:3, it is called “Great salvation,” or love. It is offered, else how could men be said to reject it or neglect, which he warns them of? A man may as well question whether there be a gospel, as whether love be offered there, for as the law is nothing but the manifestation of sin, the hand-writing of death unto all men, writ with the finger of God; the gospel is the manifestation of grace, the hand-writing of grace and peace to all men, written with the blood of God, and hence the gospel is that which brings “live and immortality to light,” 2 Tim. 1:10. Not that there is life absolutely for al, but there it is for all that shall by faith accept it. More particularly.

First, it is offered universally to all wherever it comes, and therefore personally to every man, the words are plain, Mark 16:15, “Preach the gospel to every creature;” and not only to them that do belong Christ, and shall believe; for though it is offered with power of it effectually to these, yet offered it is also unto those that never shall have God, and hence, Luke 14, the Lord of the feast invited those that never came in; and Christ himself, 1 John 11, “He came to his own, and they received him not;” “he would have gathered them under his wings and they would not;” not only to them that be humbled (though none will care for the gospel but such) but to them that be unhumbled, Rev. 3:18,20, does the gospel come. There be many object, “Yes the Lord offers love to them that are his, but not to me?,” yes to thee; there is not a man here, that can exempt himself. And I would make no doubt to go to every man particularly, and say, “The Lord entreats thee to be reconciled, nay if there be one man worse than another, though his hands have been imbrued in the blood of the prophets, and is soul stained with the most crying guilt of the most hideous sins that ever the earth bore, or sun saw, yet the Lord makes love to him; the price is paid for him, if he will accept it, and the Lord would have him so do; neither does this universal offer infer universal redemption; for the gospel, in the offer of it, does not speak absolutely that Christ has died for all, and therefore for thee, as the Arminians maintain; but it speaks conditionally, it is for thee, if ever the Lord gives thee a heart to receive that grace there, therefore consider of it, there is not one here present, but the Lord would have you receive his love, and consider this one reason, thou shalt be condemned for refusing it; hence it is God’s command, and Christ’s desire you should receive it, John 3:19. If not thy duty to receive it, it is not thy sin to refuse it; but it is such a sin, that all men that perish under the sound of the Gospel, are principally damned for.

Secondly, it is offered really: I put in this because men cannot see the reality of this; because not Christ but ministers (they think) only make it, and so the offer is only external and ministerial; the Lord himself they think is not of that mind.

Ans. 1. What any minister according to the gospel does, that Christ would do if he were here present, hence, 2 Cor. 5:20, “We beseech you in his stead;” as ambassadors speak what the king himself would do, and no more, and himself would speak what they do if he was present, and hence Christ did not only preach the gospel to his elect, that should receive him, but to them who did reject him also, which made his blessed heart and eyes also break forth into tears, “O that thou had known,” &c.

2. It is Christ in them which does speak, Heb. 12:25, “Him that speaks from Heaven;” and hence Eph. 2:17, “He came an preached peace,” when he was gone into heaven; and hence receiving these ministers and ambassadors of Christ, is receiving of Christ, despising of them, is despising of Christ, and the look as the bowels of God the Father’s love are opened in Christ, so the bowels of Christ’s love are opened in those he sends. Never did thou see any minister pity thy condition, and offer peace to thee, but because Christ put it in his heart; and in rejecting gospel, you shall not sad their spirits so much as Christ’s Spirit in them; so in accepting, e contra.

3. Your life and salvation, and certainty of mercy from Christ hangs upon your receiving their word; for men will say, if Christ were here I dare believe his word; I tell you, the Lord hangs thy life upon believing his word; John 17:20, “I pray for them that shall believe in me through their word,” why not through my word? Ans. These may stand well together, my word as the foundation, their word as building upon it, their word in the external administration and view of man, but my word indeed, my word in their mouths, and so their word as instruments under that principal agent, so that if an angel, or one rise from the death, I should not look for more certainty of life by believing these, than them. Christ will speak no more, till he shakes down heaven and earth with his voice, but their word he honors, and faith. Believe it, their word is not, Christ has loved thee, but believe, that you may be beloved of Christ.

4. The Lord is so real here, that he punishes more for this, and if he was present. Christ lived among the Jews, and preached, they crucified him, and rejected him in his person, yet this cast them not off , till (Luke 13:46) they put away the offers of grace by the servants of Christ from them, and now the apostles are to shake the dust off their feet against as those.

Thirdly, it is offered with vehement desires to accept of it, 2 Cor. 6:1, Psal. 83:11, “We beseech you, receive not God’s grace in vain,” for you may say, “There is some offer, but the Lord desires it not in good earnest: never did man desire to get affection of another most beautiful, as the Lord does thee that has none; we use to judge of the affection of another to a thing, by what he is willing to part with for it, as he that sold all for the pearl and bought it, so the Lord is content to part with all he has to thee, the dearest thing he has, is his precious blood, and all the fruits and benefits of it, his Spirit to comfort, himself to dwell in thee, his Father to love, his kingdom to receive thee, his sweetest promises to assure and establish, all things, except his glory: it is not fit that you should receive that, but for him to receive it from thee, and giving it to him, is better than having of it to thyself. To thee, I say, that art like an incarnate devil, dead, and damned, and undone for every, unless thou accept of this grace, is all this mercy of the gospel tendered.

Fourthly, it is offered freely, Isa., 60: 1,2, For this makes many stand and wonder, why should the Lord make love to me so vile, so unworthy, good for nothing but to si! dry bones! or what need has the Lord of me? what can I do for him? what can I add to him? why goes he not into the palaces of princes to call in them! but that he should deal thus with me that have sinned worse than Paul before conversion! not ignorantly; I have known the grace of Christ, yet rejected it, and have gone on desperately, have been mad in following my lovers, forsaking the Lord, true, I know no cause, but only his free love, because he has compassion on thee, and because it is for this grace sake: hence he desires it vehemently, for that is worthy to be honored, received, embraced of thee. Me thinks it is in this case, as it is with poor mariners, whose ship is wrecked, many drowned, and they cast upon the shore, one comes to them, and offers them house and meat, and home, they tell him, “We are poor men, have nothing to pay,” true, I know that, but I have compassion upon you, because I see you are distressed men, so it is hear with the Lord Jesus, I know thou have nothing to requite me, but I have compassion upon you, accept my grace, take it, live upon, because thou art a distressed soul, God has shown wondrous mercy in giving life, now I offer more, one would think, now surely men should be glad to accept of this grace.

Thomas Shepard, The Parable of the Ten Virgins Opened and Applied: Being the Substance of Divers Sermons on Matthew xxv. 1-14. The Difference between the Sincere Christian and the most refined Hypocrite, the Nature and Character of Saving and Common Grace (Falkirk: Printed by T. Johnson, For R. Johnson, the Publisher, 1797), 1:306-311. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

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