MUCH is said about them, and spirited controversy is often raised in deciding whether they are made to the world indiscriminately or only to the children of God. Few have paused to inquire at the sacred oracle, whether there be invitations of any kind in the gospel or not. If there are invitations in the gospel, where are they? What are they? And unto whom are they addressed? These are questions which naturally enough arise, and which the reader may feel but little doubt that he is able to answer satisfactorily; but before he attempts the task let him duly consider what it is that constitutes an invitation. Take for example any message that God has ever communicated to man, whether in the law or in the gospel, and to make of it an invitation, the compliance with the message must rest entirely on the volition of the person or persons addressed. Nothing beyond the simple issuing of the invitation can depend on the will of him from whom it proceeds. Is this the case in regard to any thing which God has spoken in the gospel? Or has God in any case in the law or in the gospel sent a message concerning the result of which his will has nothing to do? Impossible; for he "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," and it is God that worketh in his children, both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.
The difference between a call or command, and an invitation, may be illustrated thus: A man may say to his neighbor, "Will you oblige me with your company," &c. Here it is plain to see that the will of the individual alone is to determine whether the other party shall be gratified. But if a magistrate issues his warrant or summons, and in the name of the people of the state or nation commands the immediate attendance or personal appearance of a person, the will of the summoned person is not consulted, and therefore the message is not an invitation, but a summons with authority. Even the character of a message expressed in the same words takes the form of an invitation or a command, according to the will that governs it. A man may say, Come unto me, all ye that thirst, and I will give you drink. This would be an invitation, because the man supposed to give the invitation has no power to compel a compliance; all the power to determine is with the person addressed. But when God speaks the word, it stands fast; when he commands, it is done. His words are clothed with omnipotent power, as when he commanded, saying, "Let there be light." He did not invite light, for no will but his own was consulted, and he said, Let it be, and it was. Jesus our Lord did not invite Lazarus to come forth from his grave, although the same words, if spoken to a living person and left optional with such person, whether to comply or not, would have been but an invitation; but, spoken as they were by Christ, and addressed to one who had neither power to will nor to do, could imply nothing like invitation.
When Jesus stood and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink," he no more invited the thirsty, than he invited the light when he said, Let there be light. In the first place there is not a soul on the earth that does or can thirst for the living waters which flow from him, until he quickens it, and makes it thirst, and when made to feel its thirst, and even when the tongue faileth for thirst , it can no more approach the living fountain than it can make a world, until Jesus applies, not the invitation, but the word, "Come unto me." His words are spirit and they are life; and his sheep hear them, and they know his voice, and they follow him; because they have no power or even disposition to resist their Shepherd's voice. The calling of the saints is no where in the scriptures denominated an invitation. he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. If he only invited them they would have to get out themselves, or stay behind. But when he calls, the dead hear his voice (not his invitation,) and they that hear shall live. How would it suit the condition of a poor, lost, helpless soul, one that feels his poverty, inability and impotence, to read the word thus: The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall be invited to live, and they who accept the invitation shall live. And when he inviteth forth his own sheep he goeth before them, provided they accept the invitation. It is perfectly in keeping with every feature of arminianism for workmongers to talk of invitations of the gospel, because the very term implies the willing and the doing power to be in the creature. But it is neither in harmony with the doctrine or experience of the saints of God to so speak of his communications to them as to imply that he has yielded up the government to them; that he has hinged the effect and result of his communications on their will instead of his own will. It is derogatory to his character, it reflects on his wisdom, power, and grace, and the term should be expunged from the vocabulary of Bible Baptists.