Free Grace

John Saltmarsh, 1612-1647, Minister of the Gospel at Brasted in Kent, and Parliamentarian Army Chaplin, in the Army of Thomas Fairfax, attended Magdalene College, Cambridge. In 1639 he became Rector of Heslerton, Yorks, and in 1640 published his Holy Discoveries and Flames, being spiritual meditations which he dedicated to King Charles I. In 1643 his radical opposition to all empty forms of the Established Church, and his commitment to the Parliamentary Cause became evident. Saltmarsh gave up his living at Heslerton because of his principles against tithe-taking. Early in 1645, he took appointment as Rector of Brasted, in Kent, but refused the income. In the last three years of his life Saltmarsh sold his books exclusively through the London bookseller Giles Calvert, and established himself in positions that made him a favorite target of the Presbyterian supporters who wanted nothing more but to see him imprisoned. He became known as a vigorous advocate of religious toleration and liberty of conscience, of free and sovereign Grace, and a loyal supporter of Cromwell’s New Model Army. About June 1646 Saltmarsh became an Army Chaplain to the forces of General Fairfax, and it’s reported that when the Parliamentary troops took Oxford, that Saltmarsh was appointed to preach at St. Mary’s. In May of 1647, he denied having hindered the disbanding of the regiment of Fairfax, when he stated that, “I never made State-business any Pulpit work, for I never yet preached anything but Christ.” From one source we gather that Richards Baxter was disturbed to find that Saltmarsh was one of the most prominent preachers at this time; for it would seem that he eluded the academics ambiance which so enveloped most University trained preachers of that day, and set about with a determination, as fortified by the Spirit, not to know anything, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Just prior to his death in December of 1647, Saltmarsh rode from his home to the Army Headquarters at Windsor to admonish, {without even removing his hat,} the Council, Fairfax and Cromwell, that God was angry and required obedience to the voice of the LORD, rather than their sacrifice, and admonished them to live up to their promises of toleration and liberty of conscience. He died immediately upon his return home, as he told his wife that he had fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith. II Tim.4:7.

The full title of this book is, “Free Grace or the Flowings of Christ’s Blood Freely to Sinners; being a Display of the Power of Jesus Christ on the Soul of one who had been in the Bondage of a troubled Conscience upwards of Twelve Years; till now upon a clearer discovery of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel; wherein many Divine Mysteries of the Soul, respecting Corruption, Unbelief, Sin, and Temptation, are experimentally opened; together with a Description of a Natural, a Legal and a Mixed State, under Law and Gospel. With a further Revelation of Gospel-glory in its Liberty, Freeness, and Simplicity, for Salvation in Christ.” From the preface, we extract this paragraph, written by Saltmarsh, to give us a taste of the treasures which lay therein, “Free-grace may be there in the notion of it, yet not in the truth of it. The Arminians boast themselves to be as great Patrons of Free-grace as others; and why? Because they teach, that all that is still given to man is for Christ’s sake, and in Christ; and though by Faith and works, yet all is free gift. So the Papists boast of Free-grace, that Christ is given freely from the Father for sinners; and it is of Free-grace that we are accepted, though of works too; so surely there is some other way of carrying Free-grace, than by joining men in the work; for else it is but a Popish or an Arminian Free-grace after all.” This is the Eleventh Edition, revised by William Huntington in 1792.

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Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle
and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. Hebrews 3:1