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My first statement I find you disapprove, and likewise the use of the texts, I adduced to substantiate it. The idea that it is "the design of God to raise the whole human family from their defectible state, ultimately, to a state of felicity and true holiness," you think is not true. Then if God have any design at all, in relation to our argument, his design must be that the whole human family should not be raised to felicity and true holiness! Having no design that they should be the partakers of felicity and true holiness, it argues that he designs some at least should be made the subjects of endless misery. If such design may be called good, you will, in this way, understand the Psalmist when he says, "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."* But as the term good, by the most approved lexicographers, is explained as having desirable qualities, I conclude no man has a right to pronounce that good, which, on rational principles, he is unwilling to enjoy himself, and which would not be salutary to any living being. Neither is it easy to reconcile the design of endless misery with the exercise of tender mercies over all the Creator's works.
It will be a vain thing in this place to argue that men are moral agents, and that the offer of salvation is free to all, which they may accept if they will; that the atone ment has laid a foundation for all, when the design of Dei ty is against a part of the whole. For you acknowledge in your letter, "that the scriptures clearly prove, that all God's designs will certainly be accomplished."
Relative to the design of God, one of three things, I think must be true; 1st. That it is his design to make all men holy, in a saved state. 2d. It is his design to save a part, and eternally damn the remainder. Or, 3d, He has no design about it. The first of these you disapprove. The second precludes even the possibility of all being saved. It is, therefore, only on the last, that you can argue that salvation is free for all, who will accept. If you say God designs to save all that choose to come and no others, this cannot be considered as a statement by itself; for it makes the design of God, as relating to the salvation of an individual, posterior to his coming; of course there could be no * Ps. cxlv. 9.
previous design, relative to that person. This makes the last mentioned idea evidently appear to be included in the third thing proposed, that God has no design either for or against the salvation of men. This idea, however, indicates apathy in Deity, if it be not an approximation to Atheism.
You inform me that you acknowledge the doctrine inculcated in the first text I quoted to prove my first statement; but still it remains, that you and I disagree about what that doctrine is. The text, "For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved," I thought, was sufficient evidence that it was God's design to save the world; but you The object of Christ's mission, when he came upon the e earth in the flesh, was to make an atonement for the sins of lost men." Now as you deny the design of God to save all lost men, it ought to be fairly understood, what may be the meaning of making "an atonement for the sins of lost men;" or, "for the sins of the whole world," as you express in another place of your letter. If the design of God by the atonement, was not to take away the sins of all lost men, it is difficult to determine for what purpose the atonement was made for all; unless to consecrate their sins, that they might never depart, unto lost men for ever
You conclude I have done violence to the aforementioned text in St. John; and from a want of due attention to the context. Sir, if this business have been too much neg lected, we will attend to it now. You have not said a word of my argument from the text; but a considerable portion of your letter is occupied in pointing out the absurdity of not considering the connexion in which texts stand; "and building a scheme solely on a very few such passages, in manifest violation of all the plain meaning of all the rest of scripture." This amounts to an acknowledgement that what I have said of the text, in a detached sense, is correct; but that the text detached does not express the same meaning that it does in connexion with the context, by which it is explained, and to which I ought to have attended. All, therefore, that is necessary to maintain my ground, is to show that the text means the same in connex
ion with the context as it does by itself.
I should have been happy, if you had quoted some text in the context to correct me; but seeing you have not, I will endeavour to clear myself of the charge of inattention to the context. The verse immediately preceding is, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Here we are told that God loved the world; and can any person suppose this is inconsistent with a design to save the world? We are told that he so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son;-what a remarkable testimony! But for what? That whosoever believeth in him, might not perish. Can you see any thing here, inconsistent with God's design to save the world, according to his love? To be sure you may infer that it is not the design of God that men should have eternal life in unbelief. But this effects nothing to your purpose, unless you can make it appear God designs some should be unbelievers eternally. Immediately after this, follows the text I chose to support my first statement. It is completely explanatory of God's design, in sending his only begotten Son into the world; containing meaning complete in itself, and serving rather to explain the preceding text, than the preceding text does that. This is plain by its being introduced by the causal conjunction for. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him, might be saved.”
At the close of your labour, relative to my first statement, you say you do not see, as I have advanced a single inch toward proving my first proposition. You, therefore, conclude the above text in connexion with the context, does not authorize a belief, that it is the design of God to raise one soul from defectibility to felicity and true holiness. For it is evident, that if the text goes to prove God's design to save a part, or even one soul, although it be not full poof of my statement, it goes in proportion to the number towords it. But you do not see as it goes one inch; of course, you cannot see a design of God in the text to save one! If the text read, For God sent not his Son into the world to save the world; but that the world through him might be condemned, it seems that with your present optics, in
connexion with the context, you might see that it was full proof of my first statement! If this be your best sight, I confess, brother Laberee, you are very excusable for telling me, you do not see as I have advanced a single inch towards proving my first proposition.
You tell me you think the second passage I quoted is equally foreign to my purpose. There appears to remain as great a difference of sentiment between us now as ever; for I yet view it to be equally adequate; and wish for no stronger evidence of it, than what you have written, admitting your ideas of atonement to be correct. My argument was, the design must be as extensive as the foundation of the work to be accomplished. This is so evident, that I hardly thought you would attempt to evade it. To suppose the contrary, would be to suppose a waste of labour, and a want of proper economy.
You write that you "firmly believe, that Christ made an infinite atonement for the sins of the whole world." But do you believe, that God designed to take the sins of the whole world by that atonement? No;- not an inch towards this design will you admit. It is plain by your letter, that Deity was at the infinite expense of sacrificing his infinite Son, to make an infinite atonement, to fulfil his infinite law, which was infinitely violated, by the infinite crimes of finite creatures, that God might be just. and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. And all this is done, not to effect a single inch towards a design to save the whole world!
But if Christ have fulfilled the divine law, then the divine law has no more demands against the offender. This certainly must be something of an advancement towards saving the whole.
You observe, "God could not, consistent with his perfections, pardou sin without a propitiation." As I must be brief, I can only remark here; I think it a pity his imbecility should be assisted by an infinite atonement to take away all sin, unless he has a design to do it. It would be
a great expense to no purpose. Perhaps you may think I blaspheme in the use of the phrase, his imbecility; but I speak according to your representation. After the manner of men St. Paul said, “The weakness of God is stronger than men."
I find an exhortation to listen to what our Saviour said in Mark xvi. 15, 16; but as you have made no remarks, I see no necessity of any remarks from me. Immediately connected with this passage, I find a very remarkable confidential expression, in these words; "Read, if you please, Christ's description of the last judgment; Matthew, 25th chapter, from the 31st verse to the end; and then say, does this favour your idea of the universal raising up of the finally impenitent, from their 'defectible state,' to eternal fe licity." This must be acknowledged more than an approximation to an ironical challenge. When our Saviour was blindfolded, a challenge was given him, indicted in a similar manner. This will appear by comparing them together. See Luke xxi. 64. "Prophecy; Who is it that smote the e?" "And then say, does this favour your idea?” The most material difference that relates to the two expressions, is, one came from the soldiery, and the other from a minister. And I am far from supposing that in this instance the minister has a "just claim to originality," as he thought in one instance his opponent had; for he has but studiously imitated the diction of his ancient precur sors. Whether the minister was as confident that he had shut the mouth of his opponent and put an end to all dispute as the poor ignorant soldiers were, that they had silenced the great prophet, can only be decided by relative circumstances. But as it was a matter of no valuable consequence, for Jesus to answer his opposers, so I shall not undertake to show at this time that the subject of this challenge particularly favours my statement. At another opportunity, however, I think I shall attempt to show that it is not against it.
In your letter some things are found different from what could be reasonably wished. I looked for candid reasoning, and behold irony; I sought for calm deliberations, and behold a challenge. The follower of the Lord Jesus was anciently under the necessity of opposing prejudices of a hurtful and magisterial nature. Hence it was necessary that those weapons of warfare that are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, should be exercised in vindication of the truth; nor does it appear the time is yet arrived when these should be whol. laid aside as useless in this respect.