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John Ball (1585-1640) on the Free Offer of the Gospel

March 10, 2009

Ball:

The use of faith, which is as large as the Word of God, must be distinguished according to the parts and several branches of it, promises, Commandments, threatenings. By promises understand all those declarations of God’s will, wherein he signifies in the Gospel what good he will freely bestow. And these be either Spiritual or Temporal; concerning this life, or the life to Come; of things simply necessary to salvation, or of things good in themselves, but not always good for us: all which received, possessed, and enjoyed by faith, according as they promised of God, either with, or without limitation.

The promises of
forgiveness of sins
Deut. 39:1,2.
1 Reg. 8:35.

Among spiritual promises absolutely necessary, without which there can be no salvation, the first and chief is concerning pardon or forgiveness of sins and Justification. God of his rich grace and mercy in Jesus Christ does make offer of free and full forgiveness of all sins to ever burdened, thirsty, and penitent soul.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to our God for he will abundantly pardon [Isa. 55:7.]. Return though back-sliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep mine anger for ever [Jer. 3:12.]. I will cleanse them from al their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me, and I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and where they have transgressed against me [Jer. 33: 8 & 31:34.].

This promise is
free.
Isa. 43:25.
& 44:22.

This promise is made of free and undeserved mercy, not for any merit that is, or possibly could be in us.

I, even I am hee that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake and I will not remember thy sins. I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him [Hos. 14:4.]. Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniqutity and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy [Hos. 14:4.]. I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou has redeemed [Deut. 21:8; Heb. 8:12; Jer. 32:34.].

Yet obtained
through Christ
only.

But when we hear of grace, we must remember Christ, in and through whom God is gracious unto us. Christ is the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,” [John 1:29.]: and this great benefit of forgiveness of sin is plentifully proclaimed unto us miserable sinners, in and through him.

Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the death the third day, and that repentance and Remission of sins should be preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem [Luk. 24:46, 47.]. Be it known unto you therefore, Men and brethren, that through this Man, (meaning Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins [Acts 13:38.]. Now then we are Amabassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God [2 Cor. 5:20.]

Hereunto agrees that invitation of our Saviour: “Come unto me all ye that labor, and are hearts laden, and I will give you rest,” Mat. 11:28.].

John Ball, A Treatise of Faith (London: Printed for Edward Brewster, and are to be sold at his shop at the signe of the Crane in Pauls Church-yard, 1657), 209-211. [Some spelling modernized, some reformatting; underlining mine.]

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2009 11:14 am

    “God of his rich grace and mercy in Jesus Christ does make offer of free and full forgiveness of all sins to ever burdened, thirsty, and penitent soul.”

    Sounds like He’s offering to ‘sensible sinners’ according to that quote. They’re “penitent.” This Ball quote does nothing to combat those who think God is only graciously and/or mercifully offering to the elect. Bottom line: This Ball quote is very weak under the heading of the ‘Well-Meant Offer.’

  2. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 10, 2009 12:57 pm

    Hey there,

    I can see why one might say that about Ball. I am inclined to think he is:

    1) Following the standard line of thought that sees the invitation to the weary, as an invitation to those sensitive to their sin and seeking salvation. Is is not exactly the same as the “sensible sinner” theology that plagued many Puritans in the 1650s and onewards.

    2) I am inclined to think that he means the offer is not properly made to those who have no sense or need of salvation. For the offer is conditional. There are hints of this in Calvin as you know.

    3) I think, too, the other reference to “miserable sinners,” along with the Scripture quotations he gives (which in themselves preclude a “sensible sinner” reading) suggests he means also to say that the offer is made to all, freely and graciously.

    Having said that, Ball is not one of my favourites. His reasoning is very artificial in many places. Compare to Howe, Charnock, Musculus, Sclater, et al, he is nowhere near as good.

    Thanks,
    David

  3. March 10, 2009 6:27 pm

    David said:

    “Following the standard line of thought that sees the invitation to the weary, as an invitation to those sensitive to their sin and seeking salvation.”

    “I am inclined to think that he means the offer is not properly made to those who have no sense or need of salvation. For the offer is conditional.”

    Me now:

    1) First, I think the invitation is to the objectively weary, and not merely to those who subjectively sense that they are in fact weary. All sinners are weary due to their enslavement to sin, whether they realize it or not. Consequently, the invitation goes out to all those in chains, whether they feel/sense the chains or not. Ball’s “invitation”/”offer,” at least in this quote, is to those ACTUALLY penitent.

    2) Second, I do think the offer is made properly to all that hear the gospel, even those who have no sense of their need of salvation. The granting of the gift that is offered is conditional, but NOT the making of the offer itself. If the offer-making itself is conditional, in the sense you’re saying above, then it is only to those who feel their sense of sin and need of salvation. I think that’s an error.

    While you may, perhaps rightly, think that the unregenerate can feel their sense of sin and need of salvation, but, as you know, the classic hypers thought that only the regenerate could truly sense that. These were the sensible sinners.

    Ball may not have that same kind of theology at work, but the above quote does nothing, as far as I can see, to combat that error. It can be EASILY “decretalized.” At best, I think ONLY your third point can bring out Ball’s true sense, but it is at best implicit.

    Basically, I don’t think “Ball” has the testicular fortitude to speak out against higher forms of Calvinism, and it shows.

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