It is said in Amos 4:7, "God caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city." So the Lord sendeth His gospel wheresoever it pleaseth Him: His grace is poured out upon all the world; yet it cannot be but He worketh otherwise with those whom He draweth to Himself, for all of us have our ears stopped, and our eyes hoodwinked. We are deaf and blind, unless He prepareth us to receive His Word. When the gospel is preached to us, it is as much as if God reached out His hand (as He saith in Isa. 65:2) and said to us, come unto Me. It is a matter which ought to touch us to the heart when we perceive that God cometh to seek us. He doth not wait till we come to Him, but He showeth us that He is ready to receive us, although we were His deadly enemies. He wipeth away all our faults, and maketh us partakers of that salvation, which was purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus we see how worthy the gospel is to be esteemed, and what a treasure it is! As St. Paul saith to the Romans. "It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth:" it is the kingdom of heaven; and God openeth the door, that we, being taken out of the bottomless pit wherein we were sunk by nature, may enter into His glory. We must remember that it is not enough for us to receive the Word that is preached to us by the mouth of man, but after we have heard it, God must speak to us inwardly by His Holy Spirit; for this is the only means to bring us to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, when God hath dealt so mercifully with us, as to give us the light of faith, let us hold it fast, and pray Him to continue it, and bring His work to perfection.
Let us not lift ourselves proudly above other men, as though we were more worthy than they are, for we know that it is our God that hath chosen us, and setteth us apart from others, by His mere goodness and free mercy. We must know, moreover, that men are very faulty, when God offereth them His Word, and they receive it not. This is spoken that unbelievers and rebels might have their mouths stopped, that they might not blaspheme the name of God, as though He had been wanting on His part; and to the end that all the faithful should, in humbleness of heart, glorify God for His grace and mercy toward them: for we see how He calleth all those to whom His Word is preached, to salvation.
If men reply by saying they cannot come to God, we cannot stand to plead here, for we shall always find ourselves in fault. If a man say, it resteth only in the hands of God, and if He would give me repentance, could He not do it! If I remain stiff-necked in my hardness and malice, what can I do in this case, seeing God will not give me repentance to turn to Him? This is not in any wise to be allowed; for God calleth us sufficiently to Him, and we cannot accuse Him of cruelty; even if we had not His Word, we must needs confess that He is just, although we know not the cause that moved Him to deprive us of it.
When we are called to come to God, and know that He is ready to receive us, if we do not come, can we deny that we are unthankful? Let us not separate salvation from the knowledge of the truth; for God doth not mean to lie, nor deceive men, when He saith, when they come to the knowledge of the truth they shall be saved. God will have all men to be saved; but how? If they will come to the knowledge of the truth. Every man would be saved, but no man will draw nigh to God. The Scripture informeth us that if we desire salvation, we must attend to the means which God hath appointed; that is, we must receive His Word with obedience and faith.
The Scripture saith this is everlasting life: to wit, to know God the Father, and to receive Christ as our only Savior. Therefore let us learn, as it is here set forth, not to doubt of the certainty of our salvation; for the kingdom of God is within us. If we wish God to receive us, we must receive the doctrine given us by St. Paul. How are we called to the hope of salvation? By the influence of the grace of God, which maketh known to us His love and favor. Thus we may see what St. Paul’s meaning is when he saith, God will have His grace made known to all the world, and His gospel preached to all creatures. Therefore, we must endeavor, as much as possible, to persuade those who are strangers to the faith, and seem to be utterly deprived of the goodness of God, to accept of salvation.
Jesus Christ is not only a Savior of few, but He offereth Himself to all. As often as the gospel is preached to us, we ought to consider that God calleth us to Him: and if we attend to this call, it shall not be in vain, neither shall it be lost labor. But can we come to Him without any assistance, except what we derive from our own nature? Alas, we cannot! "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). When God dealeth so graciously with us as to touch our hearts with His Holy Spirit, then He causeth His gospel to work profitably to our salvation; then He maketh a display of the virtue spoken of by St. Paul.
Again, we must remember when the gospel is preached to us, that it is to make us more void of excuse. Seeing God hath already shown us that He was ready to receive us to mercy, if we would come unto Him, our condemnation will no doubt be increased, if we be so wicked as to draw back, when He calleth so mildly and lovingly. Notwithstanding, (as we are here exhorted), let us not leave off praying for all men in general; for St. Paul showeth that God will have all men to be saved; that is to say, men of all people and nations.
Although we see a great diversity among men, yet we must not forget that God hath made us all in His own image and likeness, and that we are the workmanship of His hand; therefore He extends His goodness to those who are afar off, of which we have had sufficient proof: for when He drew us unto Him, were we not His enemies? How then cometh it to pass that we are now of the household of faith, the children of God, and members of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it not because He hath gathered us to Himself? And is He not the Savior of the whole world, as well as of us? Did Jesus Christ come to be the mediator of two or three men only? No, no; but He is the mediator between God and men.
Therefore, we may be so much the more assured that God taketh and holdeth us for His children, if we endeavor to bring those to Him who are afar off. Let us comfort ourselves, and take courage in this our calling: although there be at this day a great forlornness, though we seem to be miserable creatures, utterly cast away and condemned, yet we must labor as much as possible to draw those to salvation who seem to be afar off. And above all things, let us pray to God for them, waiting patiently till it please Him to show His good will toward them, as He hath shown it to us.