Each period in the history of the Church has its controversies. It is part of the Kingdom of Heaven exerting itself against the powers of darkness. God in His grace gives succeeding ages special glimpses of His Word so that these controversies may be resolved and settled. Since the Reformation, men who believe in the doctrines of grace have found themselves united in the common cause against Arminianism. Doctrinal differences amongst themselves have scarcely arisen except for matters relating to church order and baptism. Nowadays most Reformed men feel that the battle against Arminianism has been won clearly and Scripturally. Consequently they feel themselves ´at ease in Zion` regarding Free-willers never with fear and hardly ever with suspicion.

     Where Christian warriors are at ease, the enemy finds it easier to infiltrate their ranks. This is obvious to see in the present debate on the place of the Law and sanctification in the life of the Christian. Whereas the Reformers, the Puritans and the pioneers of the Evangelical Awakening emphasised that grace was the determining factor in salvation, by the end of the 18th century a new doctrine, with its roots in Arminianism, was worming its way into Reformed thinking. As a result it became more and more common for certain bodies of professing Calvinists to stress salvation by God`s grace alone but look upon righteousness and sanctification as the product of the saved-sinners co-operation with God in fulfilling the works of the Law. Those who strove to nip this new teaching in the bud and stressed that ´all is of grace` are looked back upon as outsiders by those modern evangelicals who reject the Five Points of traditional Calvinism yet, nevertheless, call themselves ´moderate` or ´evangelical` Calvinists.

     It was therefore a pleasure for me to review the new publication of John Rusk`s The Universal Invitation of the Gospel, last published in 1855. Rusk is the very man to deal with the present infiltration of Arminian sentiments into Reformed theology. His works, written almost in secret at the end of the 18th century when the first onslaughts of Arminianism developed within the Calvinist ranks, are now coming into their own just when the time is ripe. Malcolm Pickles of Coventry who, in the providence of God, has been publishing private editions of Rusk`s writings for some years, has recognised Rusk`s message to our present generation . It has also been seen by Pietan Publications of New Hampshire who have taken the cue from Mr Pickles. Rusk`s importance is now also being demonstrated by pastors James North and Henry Sant who have produced the booklet under review. We have not heard the last of John Rusk, the sailmaker.

     When one considers John Rusk`s absolute poverty and lack of education, it is a wonder itself that this man was able to write some 48 long essays and books in such beautiful English and of such spiritual depth. This was done on odd scraps of paper whilst often suffering from unemployment, hunger and illness and, at times, not having enough clothing to enable him to mix with his fellow men. The fact that he sat under the ministry of William Huntington was an enormous encouragement to him, as he often testifies. Rusk`s works have slept for over a hundred years but now God, in His providence, is waking them up to arouse lame Christians to an awareness that everything which has to do with faith is not of ourselves but it is a gift of God.

     Rusk`s work is an exposition of Isaiah 55:1 “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” There are three ways of looking at this text. One can see it as a general appeal to all men everywhere to come to Christ to have their natural, material desires and longing for happiness satisfied. This is the teaching of Andrew Fuller. Others such as Dr Daniel Whitby, on whose teaching in his Discourse (1710) John Wesley built much of his theology, say that here is a general appeal to right reason amongst dead sinners, offering them and calling them to life. Rusk has quite a different understanding of the text, and, in this reviewers opinion, the only one that treats passage in its correct context and with its correct application.

     Rusk maintains and proves that the entire passage from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah onwards describes the life of Christ and His complete work of salvation on the cross for His Bride. This finished work is now made available to His Beloved-Elect by Christ`s calling her to partake of the blessings prepared for her before the foundations of the world. Far from making an appeal to natural desires and abilities or even to a rational longing for a better life, Rusk presents the text as highly spiritual and soteriological being directed to those who have been granted an awareness of their lost state and been moved to find their righteousness in Christ. The call to come is clearly for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

     In moving words, Rusk shows how the sinner, made sensible of his need by the One who loves him, thirsts for holiness, longing to be rid of his filthiness and be given a clean heart and a right spirit. This is because he is love-sick for the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and for whom he was created and for whom he is now being re-created as a new creature in Christ who has become his Righteousness. This love, salvation and sanctification is for those who are bankrupt in themselves and have nothing to bring and nothing, not even promises of improvement, to offer. It is for the spiritual penniless – and those who have been given grace to admit it!

     Rusk`s descriptions of sin and an awareness of sin in this brief work are so vivid and so true to life, yet so revealing, that an unconverted soul would react violently against believing that such descriptions applied to him. “There is such a power in sin,” Rusk tells us, “and the love of it is so strong, that were instant damnation to follow, and you knew it, still you would commit it.” Telling, too, is Rusk`s own testimony. Here is no theoretician at work. Rusk constantly reminds us by such words as ,”I know what I am writing about by experience,` that he has gone through the fires of temptation and learnt the need for the cooling waters of Christ`s forgiveness.

     Rusk distinguishes markedly between those who are coming sinners and those who have come. Though the former are only accepted without money, the latter are given money enough in the form of God`s everlasting love in Christ. a full and free atonement, a living faith and the eternal indwelling of the Spirit backed up with the milk and solid food of the Word. These are the purchased and purchasing means of the Christian.

     Coupled with the modern aversion against accepting that holiness and sanctification are free-gifts of God, is the modern denial of the two natures in man. Rusk teaches how the old man, the body of sin, is born in Adam and condemned with Adam and his new man is in Christ, the Second Adam but both remain in the converted soul until death is followed by a perfect resurrection. Rusk tells us that when he first sought the Lord, he thought that he would be rid of the ´stinking, filthy, putrid carcase` of the old man and be an entirely new creature both in flesh and spirit. Now, as a converted man, he realises that indwelling sin and an old man in whom there is no good thing, is there to exercise and strengthen the hope that is within him all his earthly days. A life of faith is a life fighting against the world, the flesh and the devil and indeed against the old man in oneself. Those who have been given grace will have that grace tried to the quick that the man of God may be purged with fire and come out reflecting the Lord his Righteousness. But the Lord has promised to feed His flock with all they need to stabilise and equip them for the task. Again, Rusk knows what he is taking about as he has suffered and triumphed more than many a man and thus proved the trustworthiness of God who, in spite of all, leads him by the still waters and restores his soul.

     This is but a glimpse of the wholesome food contained in the 32 pages this booklet. I read it, as I always read Rusk, half afraid that it would come to an end too quickly as I was caught up in the sheer edifying expressiveness of the language and the wholesome taste of the pure Word of God. Reading Rusk is pure spiritual enjoyment as one is drawn nearer and nearer to the Saviour through his pages.

     After reading Rusk, one cannot but ask with wonder concerning this body of flesh, ´Can ever God dwell here?` Rusk, shows, however, how, because it is all of grace and not of ourselves, God can and will dwell in sinful man and transform him from glory into glory until he is fit to be presented before the Great White Throne as the purified Bride of Christ in the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

     I know of five works of Rusk in print. There are forty-three still awaiting publication. We are in for a whole series of feasts!