God’s Hearty Invitation to Sinners
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
16 Sep, 2016

Someone has estimated that God gives an invitation with the word “come” 642 times in the Bible. Whether or not that is the case, they are certainly frequent. Some of the most attractive invitations are found in Isaiah chapter 55. It was often a passage children were given to memorise for this very reason. The offers made in this passage are based on the everlasting mercies of a covenant God.

William Guthrie said that Isaiah 55 proclaims a market such as was never heard of before. It is the most attractive, important and glorious market that there ever was. The most glorious and precious wares are on sale.  They were bought at the dearest price but now sold more cheaply than any wares ever were. “Here we have the most free and lawful invitation to all sorts of persons to come and have them. They shall get them and pay nothing for them”.

Another attractive exposition of this chapter is contained in The Sum of Saving Knowledge. This document was written by James Durham and David Dickson during the time of the Second Reformation in Scotland. The Sum had a prominent place in Scotland in previous generations as a way of expressing saving truth.  Many have found it helpful in gaining personal assurance of salvation. The following has been extracted and updated from a document called The Sum of Saving Knowledge.

Isaiah chapters 53 and 54 relate the precious ransom of our redemption by the sufferings of Christ, together with the rich blessings it has purchased to us.  In chapter 55 the Lord offers Christ and his grace openly. In free grace He proclaims a market of righteousness and salvation to be obtained through Christ. This is for every soul, without exception, that truly desires to be saved from sin and wrath.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth”, He says. He invites all sinners that for any reason stand at a distance from God to come and take from him riches of grace which run in Christ as a river, in order to wash away sin and to extinguish wrath. “Come ye to the waters,” he says. Lest any should stand back conscious of his own sinfulness or unworthiness, and inability to do any good, the Lord especially calls upon such saying, “He that hath no money, come.”

 

1. God’s Free Riches

He desires nothing more of the buyer, but that he should be pleased with the wares offered; which are grace, and more grace. That he should also give hearty consent in embracing this offer of grace, so that he may conclude the deal and make a formal covenant with God. “Come, buy without money, (He says) come, eat”. This means agree to have and take for yourself all saving graces; make the wares your own, possess them, and make use of all blessings in Christ. Use and enjoy freely whatsoever makes for your spiritual life and comfort, without paying any thing for it: “Come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price,” He says.

The Lord knows how much we are inclined to seek righteousness and life by our own achievements and presumed ability to pay; to have righteousness and life as it were by our works. He knows how unwilling we are to embrace Christ Jesus and to take life by free grace through Jesus Christ on the terms in which it is offered to us. The Lord, therefore, lovingly calls us away from our unlawful and doomed way with a gentle and timely admonition, making us understand that our labour will be lost. “Wherefore do ye spend your money (he says) for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?”

The Lord promises to us solid satisfaction (true contentment and fulness of spiritual pleasure) through taking ourselves to the grace of Christ. He says, “Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”

 

2. God’s Everlasting Covenant

Because faith comes by hearing, he calls for us to listen to the explanation of the offer and for us to believe and hasten towards the truth, which is able to produce the application of saving faith, and to draw the soul to trust in God. “Incline your ear, and come unto me,” He says.

The Lord promises that this offer being received shall make alive the dead sinner. He will conclude an unbreakable covenant of perpetual reconciliation and peace with the man that consents to it and welcomes this offer: “Hearken, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” He declares that this covenant will in substance assign and make over all the saving graces which David (who is Jesus Christ – see Acts 13:34) has bought for us in the covenant of redemption: “I will make a covenant with you, (he says) even the “sure mercies of David.” By sure mercies, he means saving graces. These include righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost, adoption, sanctification, and glorification and whatever belongs to godliness and eternal life.

 

3. God’s Gift of the Son

The Father has made a fourfold gift of his eternal and only begotten Son in order to confirm and assure us of the real grant of these saving mercies, and also to persuade us of the reality of the covenant between God and those who believe:

1. He has given him to be incarnate and born for our sake, of the seed of David. David was a type of Christ and this is why the Lord is called David, the true and everlasting King of Israel, here and in Acts 13:34. This is the great gift of God to man (John 4:10). And here God says, “I have given him to be David (or born of David) to the people”.

2. He has given Christ to be a witness to the people of the sure and saving mercies granted to the redeemed in the covenant of redemption. He also bears witness of the Father’s willingness and purpose to apply these mercies, and to make them firm in the covenant of grace and reconciliation made with those who embrace the offer: “I have given him (says the Lord here) to be a witness to the people.” Christ is a truly sufficient witness in this matter in many respects, because:

  • He is one of the blessed Trinity, and contractor for us, in the covenant of redemption, before the world was.
  • He is, as the Mediator also the Messenger of the Covenant and has been commissioned to reveal it.
  • He began to reveal it in Eden, where he promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
  • He revealed before His coming in the sacrifices and ceremonies types and figures of his own death and sufferings, and the great benefits that should come to us by that.
  • He gave more and more light about this covenant, speaking by His Spirit, from age to age, in the holy prophets.
  • He came Himself, in the fulness of time, and bore witness of everything belonging to this covenant, and of God’s willing mind to take believers into it. He did this partly, by uniting our nature in one person with the divine nature; partly, by preaching the good tidings of the covenant with his own mouth; partly, by paying the price of redemption on the cross; and partly, by dealing still with the people, from the beginning to this day, to draw and keep in the redeemed within this covenant.

3. God has made a gift of Christ, as a leader to the people, to bring us through all difficulties, all afflictions and temptations, unto life, by this covenant. It is he indeed, and no other, who leads his own to the covenant and, in the covenant, all the way unto salvation:

  • By the direction of his word and Spirit.
  • By the example of his own life, in faith and obedience, even to the death of the cross.
  • By his powerful working, bearing his redeemed ones in his arms, and causing them to lean on him, while they go up through the wilderness.

4. God has given Christ to his people, as a commander. He faithfully exercises this office, by giving to his Church and people laws and ordinances, pastors and governors, and all necessary officers. He also maintains courts and assemblies among them in order to see that his laws are obeyed. He subdues his people’s corruptions by his word, Spirit, and discipline, and guards them by his wisdom and power against all of their enemies of whatever kind.

 

4. The Sinner’s Believing Conclusion

The weak believer can strengthen his faith, by reasoning in this way:

Anyone that heartily receives the offer of free grace made to sinners, thirsting for righteousness and salvation has Christ, the true David, with all his sure and saving mercies by an everlasting covenant.

But (the weak believer can say):

do heartily receive the offer of free grace made here to sinners, thirsting for righteousness and salvation:

Therefore, Christ Jesus with all his sure and saving mercies belongs unto me by an everlasting covenant.

Find out more about David Dickson and read other articles featuring his work.

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