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An unfolding of the remaining texts of Scripture produced for the confirmation of the first general argument for universal redemption.
Next to the place before considered, that which is urged with most confidence and pressed with most importunity, for the defence of the general ransom, in the prosecution of the former argument, is, —
2. 1 John ii. 1, 2, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Now, these words, and the deductions from thence, have been set out in various dresses, with great variety of observations, to make them appear advantageous to the cause in hand. The weight of the whole hangs upon this, that the apostle affirms Christ to be the “propitiation for the sins of the whole world;” “which,” say they, “manifestly appears to be all and every one in the world,” and that, —
First, “From the words themselves without any wresting; for what can be signified by the whole world, but all men in the world?”
Secondly, “From the opposition that is made between world and believers, all believers being comprised in the first part of the apostle’s assertion, that Christ is a propitiation for our sins; and therefore by the world, opposed unto them, all others are understood.” If there be any thing of moment farther excepted, we shall meet with it in our following opening of the place.
Before I come to the farther clearing of the mind of the Holy Ghost in these words, I must tell you that I might answer the objection from hence very briefly, and yet so solidly as quite to cut off all the cavilling exceptions of our adversaries, — namely, that as by the world, in other places, men living in the world are denoted, so by the whole world in this can nothing be understood but men living throughout the whole world, in all the parts and regions thereof (in opposition to the inhabitants of any one nation, place, or country, as such), as the redeemed of Christ are said to be, Rev. v. 9. But because they much boast of this place, I shall, by God’s assistance, so open the sense and meaning of it, that it shall appear to all how little reason they have to place any confidence in their wrested interpretation thereof.
To make out the sense of this place, three things are to be considered:— (1.) To whom the apostle writes. (2.) What is his purpose and aim in this particular place. (3.) The meaning of these two expressions, — [1.] Christ being a “propitiation;” [2.] “The whole world.” Which having done, according to the analogy of faith, the scope of this and other parallel places, with reference to the things 331and use of the words themselves, we shall easily manifest, by undeniable reasons, that the text cannot be so understood (as by right) as it is urged and wrested for universal redemption.
(1.) A discovery of them to whom the epistle was peculiarly directed will give some light into the meaning of the apostle. This is one of those things which, in the investigation of the right sense of any place, is exceeding considerable; for although this and all other parts of divine Scripture were given for the use, benefit, and direction of the whole church, yet that many parts of it were directed to peculiar churches, and particular persons, and some distinct sorts of persons, and so immediately aiming at some things to be taught, reproved, removed, or established, with direct reference to those peculiar persons and churches, needs no labour to prove. Now, though we have nothing written expressly denominating them to whom this epistle was primarily directed, to make an assertion thereof infallibly true and de fide, yet, by clear and evident deduction, it may be made more than probable that it was intended to the Jews, or believers of the circumcision; for, —
First, John was in a peculiar manner a minister and an apostle to the Jews, and therefore they were the most immediate and proper objects of his care: “James, Cephas, and John gave to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that they should go unto the heathen, and themselves unto the circumcision,” Gal. ii. 9. Now, as Peter and James (for it was that James of whom Paul there speaks who wrote the epistle, the brother of John being slain before), in the prosecution of their apostleship towards them, wrote epistles unto them in their dispersion, James i. 1, 1 Pet. i. 1; as Paul did to all the chief churches among the Gentiles by him planted; so it is more than probable that John, writing the epistle, directed it, chiefly and in the first place, unto them who, chiefly and in the first place, were the objects of his care and apostleship.
Secondly, He frequently intimates that those to whom he wrote were of them who heard of and received the word from the beginning; so twice together in this chapter, verse 7, “I write an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning, … which ye heard from the beginning.” Now, that the promulgation of the gospel had its beginning among the Jews, and its first entrance with them, before the conversion of any of the Gentiles, — which was a mystery for a season, — is apparent from the story of the Acts of the Apostles, chap. i.–v., x., xi. “To the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” was the order divinely appointed, Rom. i. 16.
Thirdly, The opposition that the apostle makes between us and the world in this very place is sufficient to manifest unto whom he wrote. As a Jew, he reckoneth himself with and among the believing Jews to whom he wrote, and sets himself with them in opposition 332to the residue of believers in the world; and this is usual with this apostle, wherein how he is to be understood, he declares in his Gospel, chap. xi. 51, 52.
Fourthly, The frequent mention and cautions that he makes and gives of false teachers, seducers, antichrists (which in those first days were, if not all of them, yet for the greatest part, of the Circumcision, as is manifest from Scripture and ecclesiastical story; of whom the apostle said that “they went out from them,” 1 John ii. 19), evidently declare that to them in especial was this epistle directed, who lay more open, and were more obnoxious to, the seducements of their countrymen than others.
Now, this being thus cleared, if withal ye will remind what was said before concerning the inveterate hatred of that people towards the Gentiles, and the engrafted opinion they had concerning their own sole interest in the redemption procured and purchased by their Messiah, it will be no difficult thing for any to discern the aim of the apostle in this place, in the expression so much stuck at. “He,” saith he, “is the propitiation for our sins,” — that is, our sins who are believers of the Jews; and lest by this assertion they should take occasion to confirm themselves in their former error, he adds, “And not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world,” or, “The children of God scattered abroad,” as John xi. 51, 52, of what nation, kindred, tongue, or language soever they were. So that we have not here an opposition between the effectual salvation of all believers and the ineffectual redemption of all others, but an extending of the same effectual redemption which belonged to the Jewish believers to all other believers, or children of God throughout the whole world.
(2.) For the aim and intention of the apostle in these words, it is to give consolation to believers against their sins and failings: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins.” The very order and series of the words, without farther enlargement, proves this to be so. That they were believers only to whom he intended this consolation, that they should not despair nor utterly faint under their infirmities, because of a sufficient, yea, effectual remedy provided, is no less evident: for, — First, They only have an advocate; it is confessed that believers only have an interest in Christ’s advocation. Secondly, Comfort, in such a case, belongs to none but them; unto others in a state and condition of alienation, wrath is to be denounced, John iii. 36. Thirdly, They are the “little children” to whom he writes, 1 John ii. 1; whom he describes, verses 12, 13, to have “their sins forgiven them for his name’s sake,” and to “know the Father.” So that the aim of the apostle being to make out consolation to believers in their failings, he can speak of none but them only. And if he should extend that whereof he speaks, namely, — that Christ was a propitiation to all 333and every one, — I cannot conceive how this can possibly make any thing to the end proposed, or the consolation of believers; for what comfort can arise from hence to them, by telling them that Christ died for innumerable that shall be damned? Will that be any refreshment unto me which is common unto me with them that perish eternally? Is not this rather a pumice-stone than a breast of consolation? If you ask how comfort can be given to all and every one, unless Christ died for them? I say, If by all and every one you mean all believers, Christ is, as in the text asserted, a propitiation and an advocate for them all. If all others, reprobates and unbelievers, we say that there is neither in the death of Christ nor in the word of God any solid spiritual consolation prepared for them; the children’s bread must not be cast to dogs.
(3.) The meaning and purport of the word “propitiation,” which Christ is said to be for “us,” and “the whole world,” is next to be considered:—
First, The word in the original is ἱλασμός, twice only used in the New Testament, — here, and chap. iv. 10 of this same epistle. The verb also, ἱλάσκομαι, is as often used; — namely, Heb. ii. 17, translated there (and that properly, considering the construction it is in) “to make reconciliation;” and Luke xviii. 13, it is the word of the publican, Ἱλάσθητί μοι, “Be merciful to me.” There is also another word of the same original and a like signification, namely, ἱλαστήριον, twice also used; — Rom. iii. 25, there translated “a propitiation;” and Heb. ix. 5, where it is used for, and also rendered, “the mercy-seat:” which will give some light into the meaning of the word. That which, Exod. xxv. 17, is called capporeth, from caphar, properly to cover, is here called ἱλαστήριον, that which Christ is said to be, Rom. iii. 25. Now, this mercy-seat was a plate of pure gold, two cubits and a half long, and a cubit and a half broad, like the uppermost plate or board of a table; that was laid upon the ark, shadowed over with the wings of the cherubim. Now, this word כַּפֹּרֶת comes, as was said, from כָּפַר, whose first native and genuine sense is “to cover,” (though most commonly used [for] “to expiate.”) This plate or mercy-seat was so called because it was placed upon the ark, and covered it, as the wings of the cherubim hovered over that; the mystical use hereof being to hide, as it were, the law or rigid tenor of the covenant of works which was in the ark, God thereby declaring himself to be pacified or reconciled, the cause of anger and enmity being hidden. Hence the word cometh to have its second acceptation, even that which is rendered by the apostle ἱλαστήριον, “placamen,” or “placamentum,” — that whereby God is appeased. This that did plainly signify, being shadowed with the wings of the cherubim, denoting God’s presence in power and goodness; which were made crouching over it, as the wings of a hen over her chickens. Hence 334that prayer of David, to be “hid under the shadow of God’s wings,” Ps. xxxvi. 7, lvii. 1, lxi. 4, lxiii. 7, xci. 4 (and perhaps that allusion of our Saviour, Matt. xxiii. 37), intimating the favourable protection of God in mercy, denoted by the wings of the cherubim covering the propitiatory, embracing that which covered the bill of accusation; which, typically, was that table, or golden plate or covering, before described; truly and really Jesus Christ, as is expressly affirmed, Rom. iii. 25.
Now, all this will give us some light into the meaning of the word, and so, consequently, into the sense of this place, with the mind of the Holy Ghost therein. Ἱλασμός and ἱλαστήριον, both translated “a propitiation,” with the verb of the same original (the bottom of them all being ἱλάω, not used in the New Testament, which in Eustathius is from ἵεμαι λάειν, “intently and with care to look upon any thing,” like the oracle on the mercy-seat), do signify that which was done or typically effected by the mercy-seat, — namely, to appease, pacify, and reconcile God in respect of aversation for sin. Hence that phrase, Heb. ii. 17, Ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ, which the Latinists render “Expiare peccata populi,” “To expiate the sins of the people.” (“Expiare” is, in this business, to turn away anger by an atonement. So the historian, “Solere reges ostenta cœlestia cæde aliquâ illustri expiare, atque a semet in capita procerum depellere,” Suet. in Neron. 36.) We render it, “To make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” The word will bear both, the meaning being, to appease, or pacify, or satisfy God for sin, that it might not be imputed to them towards whom he was so appeased. Ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ is as much as Ἱλάσκεσθαι τὸν Θεὸν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, “To pacify God concerning sin.” Hence the word receiveth another signification, that wherein it is used by the publican, Luke xviii. 13, Ἱλάσθητί μοι, “Be merciful to me;” that is, “Let me enjoy that mercy from whence flows the pardon of sin, by thy being appeased towards me, and reconciled unto me.” From all which it appeareth that the meaning of the word ἱλασμός, or “propitiation,” which Christ is said to be, is that whereby the law is covered, God appeased and reconciled, sin expiated, and the sinner pardoned; whence pardon, and remission of sin is so often placed as the product and fruit of his blood-shedding, whereby he was a “propitiation,” Matt. xxvi. 28; Eph. i. 7; Col. i. 14; Heb. ix. 22; Rom. iii. 25, v. 9; 1 John i. 7; 1 Pet. i. 2; Rev. i. 5.
From that which hath been said, the sense of the place is evident to be, that Christ hath so expiated sin, and reconciled to God, that the sinner is pardoned and received to mercy for his sake, and that the law shall never be produced or brought forth for his condemnation. Now, whether this can be tolerably applied to the whole world (taking it for all and every man in the world), let all the men in the world that are able judge. Are the sins of every one expiated? Is God reconciled to every one? Is every sinner pardoned? Shall no one 335have the transgression of the law charged on him? Why, then, is not every one saved? Doubtless, all these are true of every believer, and of no one else in the whole world. For them the apostle affirmed that Christ is a propitiation; that he might show from whence ariseth, and wherein chiefly, if not only, that advocation for them, which he promiseth as the fountain of their consolation, did consist, — even in a presentation of the atonement made by his blood. He is also a propitiation only by faith, Rom. iii. 25; and surely none have faith but believers: and, therefore, certainly it is they only throughout the world for whom alone Christ is a propitiation. Unto them alone God says, Ἵλεως ἔσομαι, “I will be propitious,” — the great word of the new covenant, Heb. viii. 12, they alone being covenanters.
Secondly, Let us consider the phrase ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου, — “of the whole world.” I shall not declare how the word world is in the Scripture πολύσημον, of divers significations; partly because I have in some measure already performed it; partly because it is not in itself so much here insisted on, but only with reference to its general adjunct, whole, “the whole world:” and, therefore, we must speak to the whole phrase together. Now, concerning this expression, I say, —
First, That whereas, with that which is equivalent unto it, all the world, it is used seven or eight times in the New Testament, it cannot be made appear, clearly and undeniably, that in any place (save perhaps one, where it is used in re necessariâ) it compriseth all and every man in the world; so that unless some circumstance in this place enforce that sense (which it doth not), it will be a plain wresting of the words to force that interpretation upon them. Let us, then, briefly look upon the places, beginning with the last, and so ascending. Now, that is, Rev. iii. 10, “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκουμένης ὅλης,” — “upon all the world,” (the word world is other in the original here than in the place we have before us, there being divers words to express the same thing, considered under several notions); where that it cannot signify all and every one is evident, because some are promised to be preserved from that which is said to come upon it. Passing the place of which we treat, the next is, Col. i. 6, “Which is come unto you καθὼς καὶ ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ,” — “as in all the world.” Where, — 1. All and every man cannot be understood; for they had not all then received the gospel. 2. Only believers are here signified, living abroad in the world; because the gospel is said to “bring forth fruit” in them to whom it comes, and there is no true gospel fruit without faith and repentance. Another place is Rom. i. 8, “Your faith is spoken of ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ,” — “throughout the whole world.” Did every one in the world hear and speak of the Roman faith? You have it also Luke ii. 1, “There went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην,” — “that all the world should be taxed;” which yet was 336but the Roman empire, short enough of comprising all singular persons in the world. It were needless to repeat the rest, being all of the same indefinite importance and signification. If, then, the expression itself doth not hold out any such universality as is pretended, unless the matter concerning which it is used and the circumstances of the place do require it (neither of which enforcements has any appearance in this place), there is no colour to fasten such an acceptation upon it; rather may we conclude that all the world, and the whole world, being in other places taken indefinitely for men of all sorts throughout the world, the same words are no otherwise here to be understood. So that ὅλος ὁ κόσμος is here no more than ἐκκλησία καθολική.
Secondly, The whole world can signify no more than all nations, all the families of the earth, all flesh, all men, all the ends of the world. These surely are expressions equivalent unto, and as comprehensive of particulars as the whole world; but now all these expressions we find frequently to bear out believers only, but as of all sorts, and throughout the world. And why should not this phrase also be affirmed to be, in the same matter, of the same and no other importance? We may instance in some places: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God,” Ps. xcviii. 3; “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee,” Ps. xxii. 27; “All nations shall serve thee,” Ps. lxxii. 11; — which general expressions do yet denote no more but only the believers of all the several nations of the world, who alone see the salvation of God, remember and turn to him and serve him. So Joel ii. 28, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh;” as the words are again repeated on the accomplishment of the promise, Acts ii. 17; — Luke using the same expression, as part of a sermon of John Baptist, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” What a conquest should we have had proclaimed, if it had been anywhere affirmed that Christ died for all flesh, all nations, all kindreds, etc.! which yet are but liveries of believers, though garments as wide and large as this expression, the whole world. Believers are called “all nations,” Isa. ii. 2, lxvi. 18; yea, “all men,” Tit. ii. 11: for to them alone the salvation bringing grace of God is manifest. If they, then, the children of God, be, as is apparent in the Scripture phrase, all flesh, all nations, all kindreds, all the ends of the world, all the ends of the earth, all men, why not also the whole world?
Thirdly, The whole world doth sometimes signify the worser part of the world; and why may it not, by a like synecdoche, signify the better part thereof? Rev. xii. 9, “The Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, is cast out;” that is, the wicked and reprobate in the whole world, others rejoicing in his overthrow, verse 10. 3371 John v. 19, Ὁ κόσμος ὅλος, “The whole world lieth in wickedness;” where “the whole world” is opposed to them which are “of God,” in the beginning of the verse. The contrary sense you have Col. i. 6.
This, then, being spoken, to clear the signification of the expression here insisted on, will make it evident that there is nothing at all in the words themselves that should enforce any to conceive that all and every man in the world are denoted by them, but rather believers, even all that did or should believe, throughout the whole world, in opposition only to believers of the Jewish nation: which, that it is the meaning of the place, besides what hath been clearly demonstrated, I prove by these reasons:—
First, This place treateth not of the ransom of Christ in respect of impetration, but of application; for it affirms Christ to be that by his death which he is only by faith, as was manifested from Rom. iii. 25. Also, from application only ariseth consolation; now, never any said that the application of the death of Christ was universal: therefore, this place cannot have regard to all and every one.
Secondly, Christ is here said to be a propitiation only for such as are intended in the place, which is apparent; but now believers only are here intended, for it is to give them consolation in their failings (in which case consolation belongeth to them alone): therefore, it is believers only, though of all sorts, times, places, and conditions, for whom Christ is said to be a propitiation.
Thirdly, This kind of phrase and expression in other places cannot possibly be tortured to such an extension as to comprehend all and every one, as was apparent from the places before alleged; to which add, Matt. iii. 5, “Then went out to him πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία, καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου,” — “all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan;” among whom, notwithstanding, the Pharisees rejected his baptism. Why, then, should it be so understood here, especially all circumstances (as hath been showed) being contrary to such an interpretation?
Fifthly, If the words are to be understood to signify all and every one in the world, then is the whole assertion useless as to the chief end intended, — namely, to administer consolation to believers; for what consolation can arise from hence unto any believer, that Christ was a propitiation for them that perish? Yea, to say that he was a sufficient propitiation for them, though not effectual, will yield them no more comfort than it would have done Jacob and his sons to have heard from Joseph that he had corn enough, sufficient to sustain them, but that he would do so was altogether uncertain; for had he told them he would sustain them sufficiently, though not effectually, they might have starved notwithstanding his courtesy. “The 338whole world,” then, in this place, is the whole people of God (opposed to the Jewish nation), scattered abroad throughout the whole world, of what nation, kindred, tongue, or family soever, who are some of all sorts, not all of every sort. So that this place makes nothing for general redemption.
Some few objections there are which are usually laid against our interpretation of this passage of the apostle, but they are all prevented or removed in the explication itself; so that it shall suffice us to name one or two of them:—
Obj. 1. “It is the intention of the apostle to comfort all in their fears and doubts; but every one in the world may be in fears and doubts: therefore, he proposeth this, that they all may be comforted.”
Ans. The all that may be in fears and doubts, in the business of consolation, must of necessity be restrained to believers, as was before declared.
Obj. 2. “All believers are comprehended in the first branch, ‘For our sins;’ and, therefore in the increase and extension of the assertion, by adding, ‘For the sins of the whole world,’ all others are intended.”
Ans. 1. In the first part, the believing Jews alone are intended, of whom John was one; and the addition is not an extending of the propitiation of Christ to others than believers, but only to other believers. 2. If it might be granted that in the first branch all believers then living were comprehended, who might presently be made partakers of this truth, yet the increase or accession must be, by analogy, only those who were to be in after ages and remoter places than the name of Christ had then reached unto, — even all those who, according to the prayer of our Saviour, John xvii. 20, should believe on his name to the end of the world. And thus the two main places produced for the confirmation of the first argument are vindicated from the false glosses and violent wrestings of our adversaries; the rest will be easily cleared.
3. The next place urged in the argument is John vi. 51, where our Saviour affirms that he will give his “flesh for the life of the world.” This giving of himself was the sanctifying and offering up of himself an acceptable oblation for the sins of them for whom he suffered; his intention being, that they for whom in dying he so offered himself might have life eternal thereby: which, because it was not for the Jews only, but also for all the elect of God everywhere, he calleth them “the world.” That the world here cannot signify all and every one that ever were or should be, is as manifest as if it were written with the beams of the sun; and that because it is made the object of Christ’s intendment, to purchase for them, and bestow upon them, life and salvation. Now, I ask, Whether any man, not bereaved of all spiritual and natural sense, can imagine that Christ, in 339his oblation, intended to purchase life and salvation for all them whom he knew to be damned many ages before, the irreversible decree of wrath being gone forth against them? Or who dares once affirm that Christ gave himself for the life of them who, notwithstanding that, by his appointment, do come short of it to eternity? So that if we had no other place to manifest that the word world doth not always signify all, but only some of all sorts, as the elect of God are, but this one produced by our adversaries to the contrary, I hope with all equitable readers our defence would receive no prejudice.
4. Divers other places I find produced by Thomas More, chap. xiv. of the “Universality of Free Grace,” to the pretended end in hand; which, with that whole chapter, shall be briefly considered.
The first insisted on by him is 2 Cor. v. 19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
Ans. 1. Really he must have no small confidence of his own strength and his reader’s weakness, who from this place shall undertake to conclude the universality of redemption, and that the world doth here signify all and every one therein. They who are called the “world,” verse 19, are termed “us,” verse 18, “He hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ;” as also verse 21, where they are farther described by Christ’s being “made sin for them,” and their being “made the righteousness of God in him.” Are these things true of all in the world? If this text may receive any light from what is antecedent and consequent unto it, — if the word any interpretation from those expressions which are directly expository of it, — by the world here can be meant none but elect believers. 2. God’s reconciling the world unto himself is described evidently either to consist in, or necessarily to infer, a non-imputation of sin to them, or that world; which is farther interpreted to be an imputation of the righteousness of Christ, verse 21. Now, in these two things consisteth the blessedness of justification in Christ, Rom. iv. 6, 7; therefore this whole world, which God in Christ reconcileth to himself, is a blessed, justified world, — not all and every one of the sons of men that ever were, are, or shall be in the world, the greatest part of whom lie in evil. 3. This God in Christ reconciling, holdeth out an effectual work of reconciliation. Now, this must be either an absolute reconciliation or a conditionate. If absolute, why are not all actually and absolutely reconciled, pardoned, justified? If conditionate, then, — First, How can a conditionate reconciliation be reconciled with that which is actual? Secondly, Why is no condition here mentioned? Thirdly, What is that condition? Is it faith and believing? Then the sense of the words must be either, — first, “God was in Christ, reconciling a believing world unto himself,” of which there is no need, for believers are reconciled; or, secondly, “God was in Christ reconciling 340an unbelieving world unto himself, upon condition that it do believe;” that is, upon condition that it be not unbelieving; that is, that it be reconciled. Is this the mind of the Holy Spirit? Fourthly, If this reconciliation of the world consist (as it doth) in a non-imputation of sin, then this is either of all their sins, or only of some sins. If of some only, then Christ saves only from some sins. If of all, then of unbelief also, or it is no sin; then all the men in the world must needs be saved, as whose unbelief is pardoned. The world here, then, is only the world of blessed, pardoned believers, who are “made the righteousness of God in Christ.”
That which Thomas More bringeth to enforce the opposite signification of the word is, in many words, very little. Much time he spends, with many uncouth expressions, to prove a twofold reconciliation intimated in the text, — the first of God to us by Christ, the other of us to God by the Spirit; which we also grant, though we do not divide them, but make them several parts of the same reconciliation, the former being the rule of the latter: for look, to whomsoever God is reconciled in and by Christ, they shall certainly every one of them be reconciled to God by the Spirit; — God’s reconciliation to them consisting in a non-imputation of their sins; their reconciliation unto him, in an acceptance of that non-imputation in Jesus Christ. And as it is the rule of, so is it the chief motive unto, the latter, being the subject or matter of the message in the gospel whereby it is effected. So that the assertion of this twofold reconciliation, or rather two branches of the same complete work of reconciliation, establisheth our persuasion that the world can be taken only for the elect therein.
But he brings farther light from the context to strengthen his interpretation. “For,” saith he, “those of the world here are called ‘men,’ verse 11; men that must ‘appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,’ verse 10; that were ‘dead,’ verse 14; that ought to live unto Christ, verse 15: therefore, all men.” Now, “homini homo quid interest?” How easy is it for some men to prove what they please! Only let me tell you, one thing more is to be done that the cause may be yours, — namely, a proving that the elect of God are not men; that they must not appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that they were not dead; that they ought not to live to Christ. This do, or ye lose the reward.
But he adds, — First, “Of these, some are reconciled to God,” verse 18. Ans. Most false, that there is any limitation or restriction of reconciliation to some of those concerning whom he treats; it is rather evidently extended to all of them. Secondly, “But some are not reconciled,” verse 11. Ans. Not a word of any such thing in the text, nor can the least colour be possibly wrested thence for any such assertion. “Many corrupt the word of God.”
A second place he urgeth is John i. 9, “That was the true Light, 341which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” “This world,” saith he, “is the world of mankind, verse 4, made by Christ, verse 3; which was his own by creation, mercy, and purchase, yet ‘received him not,’ verses 5, 10, 11: therefore, it is manifest that there is life, and that Christ died for all.”
Ans. That by the world here is meant, not men in the world, all or some, but the habitable part of the earth, is more apparent than can well admit of proof or illustration. The phrase of coming into the world cannot possibly be otherwise apprehended. It is as much as born, and coming to breathe the common air. Now, among the expositions of this place, that seems most consonant and agreeable to the discourse of the apostle, with other expressions here used, which refers the word ἐρχόμενον, “coming,” unto φῶς, “light,” and not to ἄνθρωπον, “man,” with which it is vulgarly esteemed to agree; so that the words should be rendered, “That was the true Light, which, coming into the world, lighteth every man.” So John iii. 19, “Light is come into the world;” and chap. xii. 46, “I am come a light into the world;” — parallel expressions unto this. So that from the word world nothing can hence be extorted for the universality of grace or ransom. The whole weight must lie on the words “every man,” which yet Thomas More doth not at all insist upon; and if any other should, the word, holding out actual illumination, can be extended in its subject to no more than indeed are illuminated.
Christ, then, coming into the world, is said to enlighten every man, partly because every one that hath any light hath it from him, partly because he is the only true light and fountain of illumination; so that he doth enlighten every one that is enlightened: which is all the text avers, and is by none denied. But whether all and every one in the world, before and after his incarnation, were, are, and shall be actually enlightened with the knowledge of Christ by his coming into the world, let Scripture, experience, reason, and sense determine. And this, in brief, may suffice to manifest the weakness of the argument for universal redemption from this place; waiving for the present, not denying or opposing, another interpretation of the words, rendering the enlightening here mentioned to be that of reason and understanding, communicated to all, Christ being proposed as, in his divine nature, the light of all, even the eternal wisdom of his Father.
A third place is John i. 29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;” and this, saith he, is spoken of the world in general.
Ans. 1. If it should be spoken of the world in general, yet nothing could thence be inferred to a universality of individuals. 2. That Christ is he, ὁ αἴρων, that taketh away, beareth, purgeth, pardoneth, as the word is used, 2 Sam. xxiv. 10 (taketh away by justification that it should not condemn, by sanctification that it should not reign, 342by glorification that it should not be), τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, “the sin,” great sin, original sin, τοῦ κόσμου, “of the world,” common to all, is most certain; but that he taketh it away from, beareth it for, pardoneth it unto, purgeth it out of, all and every man in the world, is not in the least manner intimated in the text, and is in itself exceeding false.
John iii. 17 is by him in the next place urged, “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
Ans. A notable ἀντανάκλασις, or eminent inversion of the word world in this place was before observed; like that of chap. i. 10, “He was in the world,” or on the earth, a part of it, “and the world was made by him,” the whole world, with all things therein contained, “and the world knew him not,” or the most of men living in the world. So here, by the world, in the first place, that part of the world wherein our Saviour conversed hath the name of the whole assigned unto it. In the second, you may take it for all and every one in the world, if you please (though from the text it cannot be enforced); for the prime end of our Saviour’s coming was not to condemn any, but to save his own, much less to condemn all and every one in the world, out of which he was to save his elect. In the third place, they only are designed whom God sent his Son on purpose to save, as the words eminently hold out. The saving of them who then are called the world was the very purpose and design of God in sending his Son. Now, that these are not all men, but only believers of Jews and Gentiles throughout the world, is evident:— 1. Because all are not saved, and the Lord hath said “he will do all his pleasure, and his purpose shall stand.” 2. Because the most of men were at the instant actually damned. Did he send his Son that they might be saved? 3. Because Christ was appointed for the fall of some, Luke ii. 34, and, therefore, not that all and every one might be saved. 4. The end of Christ’s actual exhibition and sending in the flesh is not opposite to any of God’s eternal decrees, which were eternally fixed concerning the condemnation of some for their sins. Did he send his Son to save such? Doth he act contrary to his own purposes, or fail in his undertakings? The saved world is the people of God scattered abroad throughout the world.
Ans. Christ is said to be the Saviour of the world, either, first, because there is no other Saviour for any in the world, and because he saves all that are saved, even the people of God (not the Jews only), all over the world; or, secondly, because he doth actually save all the world, and every one in it. If in this latter way, vicisti, Mr More; if in the former, μένομεν ὥσπερ ἐσμέν, — “we are still where we were.”
343The urging of John xii. 46, “I am come a light into the world,” in this business, deserves to be noted, but not answered. The following places of John iii. 16, 17, 1 John ii. 1, 2, have been already considered. Some other texts are produced, but so exceedingly wrested, strangely perverted, and so extremely useless to the business in hand, that I dare not make so bold with the reader’s patience as once to give him a repetition of them.
And this is our defence and answer to the first principal argument of our opposers, our explication of all those texts of Scripture which they have wrested to support it, the bottom of their strength being but the ambiguity of one word. Let the Christian reader “Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.”
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