Thomas Ridgeley on the Free Offer

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in The Well-Meant Offer


5. This Mediator being provided for man, without his desert or expectation, we proceed to consider him as offered to him, and, together with him, life and salvation. The great design of the gospel is to discover or make an overture of Christ and his salvation to man. Without this, the gospel could not be preached, nor a visible publication made of the grace of the covenant which it contains. But as the overture of grace, or the call of God to accept of and embrace Christ as offered in the gospel, is more particularly considered un&r a following Answer, shall reserve the farther consideration of this matter to that place. Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 1:454.


The doctrine of particular redemption is supposed then, to be inconsistent with the goodness of God, as it renders salvation impossible to the greater part of mankind, and their state irretrievable by any means which can be used, and so has a tendency to lead them to despair. Now, it must be owned that they for whom Christ Did not die cannot be saved, and that, had God described any persons by name, or given some visible character by. which it might be certainly concluded that they were not redeemed, it would follow that their state would be desperate. But this is not his usual method of dealing with mankind. He might, indeed, have done it ; and then such would, have been thereby excluded from the means of grace, and not encouraged to attend them. But he has, in wisdom and sovereignty; concealed from the world the event of things, with respect to the individuals who were redeemed. There is hence a vast difference between men’s concluding that a part of the world are excluded from redemption, and that they themselves are included in that number. We have no warrant to say the latter concerning either ourselves or any others, especially so long as we are under the means of grace. There is, indeed, one character of persons in the gospel which gives ground to conclude that Christ did not die for them ; and that is what respects those who had committed the unpardonable sin. I shall not, at present, enter into the dispute whether that sin can now be committed or not, since we may have occasion to insist on the subject under another Head. But there seems to be sufficient ground to determine, either that this cannot be certainly known, since the extraordinary gift of discerning of spirits is now ceased; or, at least, that it cannot be applied to any who attend on the means of grace with a desire of receiving spiritual advantage thereby. Again, if Christ’s not dying for the whole world be a means to lead men to despair, as salvation is hereby rendered impossible, this consequence may, with equal evidence, be deduced from the supposition that all mankind shall not be saved, which they who defend universal redemption pretend not to deny. But will any one say, that this supposition leads men to despair? Or ought it to be reckoned a reflection on the divine goodness, that so many are left to perish in their fallen state by the judicial hand of God, which might have applied salvation to all, as well as purchased it for all mankind?

The doctrine of particular redemption is farther supposed to be inconsistent with the preaching of the gospel, which is generally styled a door of hope. The doctrine, it is said, is such that the dispensation that we are under cannot be called a day of grace ; and it renders all the overtures of salvation made to sinners illusory, and contains a reflection, not only on the grace of God, but on his holiness. In order to our replying to this, something must be premised to explain what we mean by a day of grace, and the hope’ of the gospel which accompanies it. Now, by calling the state of things under which we live ‘day of grace,’ we do not mean a dispensation in which all men might repent and believe, and obtain salvation by their own power, without the special influences of the Holy Ghost, for this would be to ascribe that to man which is peculiar to God; nor do we mean that God will give special grace to all who sit under the sound of the gospel, for this is contrary to common observation and experience, since many make a profession of religion who are destitute of saving grace. As for the hope of the gospel, or that door of hope which is opened in it to sinners, we cannot understand any thing else by it, but that all without distinction are commanded and encouraged to wait on God in his instituted means of grace, while the event must be left to him who gives or withholds success to them as he pleases. All have this encouragement, that, peradventure, they may obtain grace, under the means of grace; nor is the encouragement inconsistent with these means being styled a door of hope. God is not obliged to grant sinners a greater degree of hope than this, to encourage them to wait on him in his ordinances; though, indeed, there is a farther motive to induce us, namely, that this is the ordinary way in which ho works grace. Or, if God is pleased to give us desires after the efficacy of his grace, or any degree of conviction of sin and misery, this is still a farther ground of hope, though it falls short of that grace of hope which accompanies salvation.-As to the preaching of the gospel, and its overtures of salvation to all, being, on the supposition of Christ’s not dying for all men, alleged to be illusory, and repugnant to the holiness of God, we do not deny that, in preaching the gospel, Christ is offered to the chief of sinners, or that the proclamation of grace is made public to all, without distinction. This, however, will not overthrow the doctrine of particular redemption, if we rightly consider what is done in offering Christ to sinners. Let it be observed, then, that God has given us no warrant to enter into his secret determinations respecting the event of things, or to give any persons ground to conclude that they are redeemed, and have a warrant to apply to themselves the promise of salvation, or any blessings which accompany it, while in an unconverted state. Ministers are not to address their discourses to a mixed multitude of professing Christians, in. such a way as if they knew that they were all effectually called and chosen of God. Our Saviour compares them to ‘ the faithful and wise steward,’ whose business it is ‘ to give to all their portion of meat in due season.’” They are, therefore, consistently with what is contained in scripture, to tell their hearers that salvation is purchased for a part of mankind, that they know not but they may be of the number, and that therefore they must be importunate with God for that grace which will be an evidence to them that they are so. Again, Christ’s being offered to sinners, in the preaching of the gospel, is his being set forth therein as a most desirable object, altogether lovely, worthy to be embraced and submitted to ; and not only so, but that he will certainly save all whom he effectually calls, inasmuch as he has purchased salvation for them. Further, the preaching of the gospel includes an informing of sinners, that it is their indispensable duty and interest to believe in Christ, and that, as a means to this, they are commanded and encouraged to ‘wait on him for that grace which can enable them to believe. Also as a farther encouragement, the gospel lets them know that there is a certain connection between grace and salvation ; so that none who are enabled by faith to come to Christ, shall be cast out and rejected by him. This is the preaching and the hope of the gospel; and in this sense, the overtures of salvation are made. But this is not in the least inconsistent with the doctrine of particular redemption. Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 1:528-529 .


They who express some regard to this call, are generally said to have common, grace, as distinguished from others who are under the powerful and efficacious influence of the Spirit, which is styled special. The former are often under some impressive influences by the common work of the Spirit, under the preaching of the gospel, and, notwithstanding, are in an unconverted state. Their consciences are sometimes awakened, and they bring many charges and accusations against themselves; and from a dread of consequences, they abstain from many enormous crimes, as well as practise several duties of religion. They are also said to be made partakers of’ some great degrees of restraining grace. These results all arise from no other than the Spirit’s common work of conviction; as he is said to ‘reprove the world of sin.’ They are styled, in this Answer, the common operations of the Spirit.’ They may be called operations, inasmuch as they include something more than God’s sending ministers to address themselves to sinners, in a way of persuasion or arguing ; for, the Spirit of God deals with their consciences under the ministry of the word. It is true, this is no more than common grace; yet it may be styled the Spirit’s work. For though the call is no other than common; and though the Spirit is considered as an external agent, inasmuch as he never dwells in the hearts of any but believers; yet the effect produced is internal in the mind and consciences of men, and, in some degree, in she will, which is almost persuaded to comply. These operations are sometimes called “the Spirit’s striving with man.” But as many of these internal motions are said to be resisted and quenched,-when persons first act contrary to the dictates of their consciences, and afterwards wholly extinguish them, the Spirit’s work in those whom lie thus calls, is not effectual or saving. These are not united to Christ by his Spirit or by faith; and the grace which they possess is generally styled common grace.

Here let us consider that there are some things presented to us in an objective way, which contain the subject of the gospel, or that call which is given to sinners to pursue those methods which, by divine appointment, lead to salvation. As ‘faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; so do common convictions, and whatever carries the appearance of grace in the unregenerate. In this respect God deals with men as intelligent creatures, capable of making some such improvement of those instructions and intimations as may tend, in many respects, to their advantage. This must be supposed, else the preaching of the gospel could not, abstractedly from those saving advantages which some receive by it, be reckoned an universal blessing to those who are favoured with it. This is here called the grace which is offered to those who are outwardly called by the ministry of the word. Offers of grace, and invitations to come to Christ, are words used by almost all who have treated on this subject. Of late, indeed, some have been ready to conclude that these modes of speaking tend to overthrow the doctrine we are maintaining; for they argue that an overture, or invitation, supposes a power in him to whom it is given to comply with it. Did I think this idea necessarily contained in the expressions, I would choose to substitute others in the room of them. However, to remove prejudices or unjust representations which the use of them may occasion, either here or elsewhere, I shall briefly give an account of the reason why I use them, and what I understand by them. If it be said that such expressions are not to be found in scripture, the circumstance of their not being there should make us less tenacious of them. Yet they may be used without just offence given, if explained agreeably to scripture. Let it be considered, then, that the presenting of an object, whatever it be, to the understanding and, is generally called an ‘offering‘ of it. Thus Gad says to David, from the Lord, ‘I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them,” &c. So, if God sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing, and bids us choose which we will have, his doing so is equivalent to hat is generally called an offer of grace. As for invitations to come to Christ, it is plain that there are many scriptures which speak to that purpose. Thus it is wid, ‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.’ And, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’” And elsewhere Christ says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ And, ‘Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever mill let him take the water of life freely.’ Moreover, when an offer or invitation to accept of a thing, thus objectively presented to us, is made, the offer of it always supposes that it is valuable, that it would be greatly our interest to accept it, and that it is our indispensable duty to do so. Now, these are the principal ideas which I include in my sense of the word, when I speak of offers of grace in the gospel, or of invitations to come to Christ. Yet understanding the offers in this sense, does not necessarily infer a power in us to accept them, without the assistance of divine grace. Thus it may be said that Christ came into the world to save sinners; that he will certainly apply the redemption which he has purchased, to all for whom the price was given; that a right to salvation is inseparably connected with faith and repentance; that these and all other graces are God’s gifts; that we are to pray, wait, and hope for them, under the ministry of the word; that, if we be, in God’s own time and way, enabled to exercise these graces, our being so will be to our unspeakable advantage; and that, therefore, it cannot but be our duty to attend upon God in all his holy institutions, in hope of saving blessings:–these things may be said, and the gospel may he thus preached, without supposing that grace is in our own power. Now this is what we principally intend by gospel overtures or invitations. At the same time, we cannot approve of some expressions subversive of the doctrine of special redemption, how moving and pathetic soever they may appear to be; as when any one, to induce sinners to come to Christ, says, “God is willing; and Christ is willing, and has done his part; and the Spirit is ready to do his; and shall we be unwilling, and thereby destroy ourselves? Christ has purchased salvation for us; the Spirit offers his assistance to us; and shall we refuse these overtures? Christ invites us ‘to come to him, and leaves it to our free will, whether we will comply with or reject these invitations. He is, as it were, undetermined whether he shall save us or not, and leaves the matter to our own conduct. We ought, therefore, to be persuaded ‘to comply with the invitation.” This method of explaining offers of grace, and invitations to come to Christ, is not what we intend when we make use of these expressions. 2. We are now to consider the persons to whom this common call is given. It is indefinite, not directed to the elect only, or those with respect to whom God designs to make it effectual to their salvation ; for, according to the commission which our Saviour gave to his apostles, the gospel was to be preached to all nations, or to every creature in those places to which it was sent. The reason is obvious; the counsel of God concerning election is secret, and not to be considered as the rule of human conduct; nor are they whom God is pleased to employ in preaching the gospel, supposed to know whether he will give success to their endeavours, by enabling those who are called to comply with it. Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 2:49-51.

A short bio-entry from Richard Muller on Ridgeley:

Thomas Ridgley (ca. 1667-1734); studied for the ministry in Wiltshire at Trowbridge with John Davidson. In 1695 he was called as assistant to Thomas Gouge in the independent church at Three Cranes, Thames Street, London. When Gouge died in 1700, Ridgley succeeded him as pastor of the congregation, a post he held until his death. In 1712, Ridgley was appointed tutor in divinity at the Fund Academy, Tenter Alley, Moorfields. He was viewed as a defender of orthodoxy against Arianism and Arminianism. He was granted the D.D. by the University of Aberdeen for his A sody of Divinity (1731). Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 51. [old edition]

This entry was posted on Friday, April 11th, 2008 at 7:11 am and is filed under The Well-Meant Offer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed at this time.