Another excerpt from Ralph Erskine, the eighteenth century Scottish minister, following on from the previous.
“The person to whom Christ is offered in the gospel is no other than a lost sinner. Christ came to seek and to save them that were lost: I mean not only these who are sensible of [ie are conscious of, have a sense of] their lost state, but these in a lost state, whether they be sensible of it or not. If the gospel come to them, the offer of Christ comes to them. ‘To you, O men, do I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.’ We are warranted to preach the gospel to every rational creature. The offer of Christ comes to you.
Why, may not sin exclude us from the offer? By no means, for Christ came to save sinners, 1 Tim 1 v 15. If sinners were excepted, all mankind would be excepted, for all have sinned.
Is it to gross sinners? Yes, to gross sinners. ‘Come let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,’ Isa 1 v 18. To murderers of the Lord of glory was the offer made, Acts 2 v 41.
But are mockers and scorners under the offer? Yes: as you may see, Prov 1 v 22-23.
But what if a person cares not for the offer, and thinks himself happy enough without Christ? is Christ offered to such a person as this? Certainly he is. ‘Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness,’ Isa 55 v 1-2.
But if a man be convinced neither of sin, nor of misery, nor see any need of Christ, is Christ offered to him? Yes, undoubtedly he is. Rev 3 v 18. ‘I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed.’
Let them venture to shut the door of the gospel offer who will, we must open it in God’s name to all who hear this gospel, and tell them that Christ is offered to them, that he may be received by them; and if there were no offer, it would not be their duty to receive, and so unbelief would not be their sin. I say to lost souls, Christ is offered to those who are spoiled by the sentence of the law, arraigned, convicted and condemned, and accursed; the hand of the gospel promise holds out Christ to you, for, where Moses leaves you, there Joshua finds you; where the law ends, there the gospel begins; the law ends in the shipwreck of the sinner, in splitting him upon the rock of its terrors, and drowning him in the ocean of divine wrath, and sinking him to the depths of despair; and just there the gospel begins; it comes to the bottom of the pit of sin and misery, and offers a Christ, a Saviour! …
The soul that is shipwrecked by the law, and as it were all to pieces, to such an one the gospel offer is most welcome; for the hand of grace holds forth Christ, like a plank after shipwreck, a plank to swim ashore on. Such a soul is encouraged to see no other qualification required of him to come to Christ and receive him, but just that he is lost, which he finds himself to be; and there is no other condition or qualification required, but that you be a lost man, a sinful miserable person. Some will offer Christ on such and such terms, saying, You must be so and so humbled, so and so penitent, before Christ can be offered to you; so that a man that finds himself a lost, sinful, unhumbled, impenitent, wretched creature, can never come to their hand, or meddle with what they offer; just like a man holding out a cup of excellent wine to his friend and offering him a drink, but in the meantime he hath made the wine scalding hot upon the fire, so as the man to whom the offer is made dare not touch it with his lips; even so many offer Christ and hold forth the cup of salvation to the people, but they heat the gospel liquor as it were red hot upon the fire of the law, I mean with so many legal terms, conditions, and qualifications, that the poor soul that finds himself a lost sinner, every way sinful, destitute of all good qualifications, dare not come near, and thinks he may not, he ought not to come near with his lips to taste it. We need be at no pains to hinder sinners from coming to Christ to receive the offer, for they are unwilling enough of themselves. Besides that, they will never have a good qualification till they come to him, and receive him, and all good in him …”