Gospel of Grace Alone 33

Romans 4:16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,

They who call on penitent sinners to believe, mistake both repentance and faith; and that which they teach is no glad tidings to the sinner. Horatius Bonar

This is a huge mistake on Bonar’s part in one context, but of course he may have been speaking of a certain group and painted with too large a brush. Christ called on those who were weary and heavy-laden to come to Him. Are impenitent sinners called to come to Christ? It is also true that sinners have faith (Christ) come to them rather than working up faith in their own strength. Bonar, at least in this chapter, makes it appear that sinners have the strength in them to believe though according to his creed he did not believe that. When Jesus said that a person must be turned and become like a child to enter the kingdom, that is what He meant. A person must indeed be turned. In the context, He is speaking of the humble being the greatest in the kingdom. What is so wrong about calling those who are broken for their sin to believe while telling those who are not broken that they need to be convicted by the Spirit? The Holy Spirit convicts sinners for a reason and it is His work to do so.

To the better class of sinners (if such there be), who have by laborious efforts got themselves sufficiently humbled, it may be glad tidings; but not to those who are without strength, the lost, the ungodly, the hard-hearted, the insensible, the lame, the blind, the halt, the maimed. Horatius Bonar

The efforts of men in seeking the Lord to humble them are one and the same as those who are “without strength, the lost, the ungodly, the hard-hearted, the insensible, the lame, the blind, the halt, the maimed.” These are the spiritually poor and these are the humbled and the contrite. Christ came to these types of people to proclaim the Gospel (Luke 4:18-19). Some of those who are seeking humility from the hand of the Lord are those who will become truly humbled and as such they will see themselves to be without spiritual strength and utterly lost. Those taught of the Lord will see themselves as ungodly and hard of heart. But those who are not taught of the Lord these things will never be broken from pride and self by His hand that graciously works these thing in souls.

“It is not sound doctrine,” says Dr. Colquhoun, “to teach that Christ will receive none but the true penitent, or that none else is warranted to come by faith to him for salvation. The evil of that doctrine is that it sets needy sinners on spinning repentance, as it were, out of their own bowels, and on bringing it with them to Christ, instead of coming to him by faith to receive it from him. If none be invited but the true penitent, then impenitent sinners are not bound to come to Christ; and cannot be blamed for not coming.” Horatius Bonar

But contrary to Dr. Colquhoun, though again it may be in a different context, Christ will receive none but those that are truly penitent. Christ came for real sinners and the really bad ones. Christ came to save those who see themselves as broken and without hope in themselves. No, they don’t earn anything by becoming penitent and seeing the damnation that they so richly deserve, but the heart that sees its sin and has its eyes opened by Christ will be drawn to Christ. The Lord Jesus does not call the impenitent sinner to Himself. But this is quite a different thing than saying that sinners start trying to spin their own repentance, but instead it is those who seek true repentance from Christ that will see that they must be granted repentance. They will also see that they must be granted a new heart to believe.

It does not follow that if only penitent sinners are invited then impenitent sinners are not bound to come to Christ and have no blame. No, it just means that they have not sought Christ to get a penitent heart. The impenitent sinner is full of pride and self and has no real desire for Christ, but that just shows how hard his heart is. This also shows how glorious the grace of God is in the Gospel of grace alone. It is by grace that sinners will begin to seek the Lord for grace. It is by grace that sinners have their eyes opened to see their sin. It is by grace that sinners are drawn to Christ. Bonar’s system seems to leave sinners in their own pride until they decide to believe while the old way of the Puritan’s and Edwards leaves sinners totally at the mercy and grace of God from beginning to end. The Gospel is of grace alone and Bonar’s system fails at this point. Sinners should seek the Lord according to the means of grace and look to His hand to give a new heart, repentance, and faith.

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