Page images
PDF
EPUB

future punishment at all, should now prevail, and have a wider spread than ever before, it will be doubtless owing to a greater and more general prevalence of blinding moral corruption and the greater power of Satan, which it is foretold he shall have in the world, previous to the flourishing of the kingdom of Christ;* which will produce a remarkable degree of infatuation and error, even strong delusion, in believing that first and most pernicious lie, which the great deceiver told in this world, and has been ever since endeavoring to propagate, Ye shall not surely die ; and it may be justly expected, that the propagation of this delusion will promote to total disregard to divine revelation.

SECTION III.

An Examination of Passages of Scripture supposed by some to

teach another Doctrine.

These Scriptures must be full and express, and most evi. dently opposite to the doctrine of endless punishment; and so worded and in such connection, as not to be capable of a construction consistent with it, in order to have any weight in the mind of an honest inquirer, who has attended to the Scriptures which have been produced, wherein it is so often, so expressly, and in so many ways asserted; and if any such passages are to be found, which can by no means, in à fair and honest way, be reconciled to the future and endless punishment of the wicked, an insuperable difficulty will be introduced, viz., that the Bible is inconsistent with itself, so that one part cannot be reconciled with another.

It is not uncommon for men to appeal to the Scriptures, in order to support the grossest errors, and think they find much in the Bible in their favor; therefore, in the matter before us, it becomes us carefully to examine those Scriptures which are produced as inconsistent with endless punishinent, and whatever plausible gloss has been put upon them, if they appear capable of a natural, fair construction, perfectly consistent with it, we shall have the satisfaction of seeing the consistency and harmony of the Holy Scriptures on this point, and this doctrine will, if possible, be more confirmed.

It would be needless, if it were practicable, to consider every text which has been mentioned by those who plead for universal salvation as favoring their cause. It will be sufficient to attend to those upon which they appear to have the most dependence; and if it can be proved these are nothing to their purpose, the rest will, of course, be given up. To prove that all men will be saved, those passages of Scripture are produced which speak of the sufficiency and designed extent of the atonement made by Christ for the sins of men; such are the following: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John i. 29.) 66 Who

* “ And I saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world,” etc. (Rev. xvi. 13, 14.)

gave

himself a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. ii. 6.) “ That he, by the grace

of God, should taste death for every man.” (Heb. ii. 9.)

6 And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John ii. 2.)

In order to see the true import of these Scripture passages, and a number of others which are to be mentioned, the following observations must be made and kept in view:

1. The atonement which Christ has made for the sins of men, by his obedience unto death, is every way sufficient for the salvation of all men; as sufficient for all as for any one. This has effectually removed the difficulty, the bar which was in the way of the salvation of any one of mankind, and this is as fully removed with respect to all as to one; and there is nothing of that kind which Christ came to remove out of the way by his atonement, in the way of the salvation of the whole world. Had it not been for this atonement, the sins of men had barred the way of their salvation, and mercy could not have been extended to them. Christ, by making atonement for sin, has taken this obstacle out of the way of man's salvation, even the salvation of all men of the whole world. It is in this sense that he has “finished the transgression, and made an end of sin.” (Dan. ix. 24.) In this sense, he has taken away the sin of the world, is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and has “put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. ix. 26.) This observation alone opens an easy, plain, natural, and important meaning to the passages now under consideration, and to others which will be mentioned; a meaning which has no respect to the actual salvation of all men, and is perfectly consistent with those numerous declarations in sacred writ, that multitudes shall, notwithstanding, perish forever. Though sin is, in this true, important sense, taken wholly out of the way of the salvation of all men, yet something further is necessary, in order to their actual salvation, which must take place, or they will die in their sins, and perish forever; and what this is, we find clearly stated and abundantly declared by Christ himself, and his apostles. Our Savior' has fixed it beyond all dispute. “For

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John iii. 16.) The Savior is given to the world, and he has taken away the sin of the world by the sacrifice of himself; nevertheless, they only who believe on him shall be saved, and they who refuse and reject him shall perish; for “he that believeth not shall be damned.” What can be plainer than all this? and how can the Scriptures be consistent, if this interpretation be not admitted ?

2. It follows from the preceding observations, that the salvation procured for man by the atonement of Christ, and opened in the gospel, is a common salvation. There is sufficient provision made for the salvation of all. It is, therefore, for all, proposed and offered to all, without distinction. It is offered to their acceptance, that whosoever is willing and does accept of it shall be saved, and none can fail of this salvation but by a continued neglect and obstinate rejection of it to the end of life. This salvation, therefore, belongs to all, in this sense. It is salvation for all men, the whole world, if they will accept of it, or unless they reject it. It comes to one as well as another, without distinction. This appears, and is expressed, in the orders Christ gave to his disciples, and in them to all who are authorized to preach the gospel

. * Go teach all nations. Go ye into all the world, and preach 'he gospel to every creature." That is, to all men. “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." If the declared will and command of Christ had been properly regarded and executed, and were it not for the inexcusable wickedness of men in opposing or neglecting the gospel and the great salvation it proclaims and offers to all, every son and daughter of Adam on earth would soon have heard this good news, and would have believed unto salvation; and every one of mankind who have lived from that day to this would have been saved, having come to the knowledge of the truth.

This gives a clear and determinate sense to the words of St. Paul: “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. ii. 1, etc.) The apostle knew that it was the express will and command of our Sa. vior, who is God, that the gospel should be preached to all men, that they might come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved; unless they should wickedly reject it when offered to them. And how could this be expressed better, or in more proper and intelligible language, than in the words just quoted ? And if this be the most natural, easy, and consistent sense of the words, then they are perfectly consistent with the eternal destruction of all who, in this life, reject the gospel, or neglect this great salvation. The propriety and importance of such expressions as are now under consideration, will further appear by observing,

3. The Jews had very contracted, unworthy notions of God's designs of mercy to men, and of the work and salvation of the Messiah. They confined this salvation wholly to them. selves, and considered all other nations as outcasts, wholly excluded from God's favor and all benefits in the kingdom of Christ, unless they became Jews by circumcision. This was a fixed and favorite doctrine among the Jews, and it was not easy for them to give it wholly up, and free themselves from all the influence of it, when they embraced Christianity. The apostles themselves, for some time after the resurrection of Christ, formed their notions of salvation by this Jewish prejudice, in which they were educated, and had no thought of offering salvation to the uncircumcised Gentiles. Several miracles were at length wrought in order to convince them that in every nation he that feared God and embraced the gospel was accepted of him, and saved, and that God had also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life, as well as unto Jews.

To make out from this passage that all men will be actually saved, it has been asserted that “God authoritatively wills the salvation of all — wills it as a being of supreme, uncontrollable power, a being that will be obeyed in spite of the corrupt dispositions of men," etc. But this is said without any proof; yea, contrary to the clearest evidence. God our Savior willed and commanded that the gospel should be preached to every creature; so that the whole world might be saved, unless they should perseveringly reject the salvation offered. But this his will has been oppozed by men, so that it has not taken effect, and millions have perished by this neglect. And this is the will spoken of in the text under consideration. Besides, if this meant the efficacious will of God our Savior, a will with which the event is necessarily connected, why has it not taken place in this world ?

God can as easily bring all to the knowledge of the truth and to a state of salvation in this life as in any future time. Why, then, does he not effect it here ; but put it off to a distant period, in the unseen world, with respect to which not a word is said of bringing men to the knowledge of the truth and to salvation who die in their sins? Or, rather, why will any imagine this, when there is not a tittle in this passage to support it, but all is against it?

God our Savior has provided salvation for all men; has formed an institution which comprehends, and will infallibly effect the salvation of all men, if properly regarded and improved by men, and this he hath willed and commanded to be done. It is his express will and command that this gospel be preached to every creature, to all men, and he wills and commands all men every where, upon hearing that gospel, to repent and believe the gospel unto salvation. In this sense he wills that all men should be saved ; but this his will has been resisted by the folly and obstinacy of men; as it was in another instance, of which he himself speaks. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!. (Matt. xxiii/37.) Here is the same word in the original as in the text under consideration translatod will, and in this passage, would might have been rendered how often have I willed to gather thy children. Here he represents himself as willing the salvation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, which they prevented taking effect, by their refusal to accept his offered kindness. He had made full provision for their salvation, and offered to bestow it on them ; so that, had they consented and accepted the offer, they would have been saved ; and this he calls his willing to protect and save them; but notwithstanding this, they perished, because they would not comply with his kind offer.

But more than enough has been said to show how far the words under consideration are from affording the least evidence of the actual salvation of all

men.

And this prejudice remained on the minds of the Jewish Christians for a long time, which the apostle Paul, who was an apostle of the Gentiles, took special care and pains, in his epistles, to oppose and eradicate, by asserting that salvation by Christ was as free and as much for one nation as another; and therefore to be preached and offered to all nations and every man, without distinction. And with this view, the expressions under consideration are evidently used, as well as many others of the like kind, in the New Testament; and their full meaning, design, and importance will not appear without keeping this in view. This observation may be illustrated by reviewing the passage that has been considered. (1 Tim. ii. 1.) The true meaning may be expressed in the following paraphrase: “ I exhort that Christians pray for all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, without making any distinction; for this is certainly acceptable to God our Savior, who is the God and Savior, not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles also, and has provided salvation equally for all nations and all men; and has willed and commanded that the gospel should be preached to all nations, and salvation freely offered to all, without distinction, that they may come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, unless they perish by their own fault; for there is but one God, who is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, whose mediation and atonement, therefore, does not respect one nation only, but is unlimited and universal: and he gave himself a ransom for all, that this gospel might be preached, and salvation offered to all men, which he determined should be testified and made known in due time, how. ever ignorant of it both Jews and Gentiles have been in ages past. This has, indeed, been a mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith; that is, thatówhosoever believeth may be saved.'”

« PreviousContinue »