Part 1

Section 28óJohn 1:7.

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.

A considerable argument in favor of the extent of Christ's death to all men is thought to arise from the obligation which is, and always was, upon all persons to whom the Gospel is or was revealed, to believe in Christ, that he came to save them, and died for them; for if he died not for them, they are bound to believe a lie; and if condemned for not believing, they are condemned for not believing an untruth.[1] I observe,

1. That the argument is most miserably lame and deficient. The thing to be proved is, that Christ died for every individual man and woman that have been, are, or shall be in the world. The medium by which this is attempted to be proved is, the obligation that lies on such to whom the Gospel is revealed, to believe that Christ died for them; and the conclusion is, that therefore Christ died for all men. Now the Gospel has not been nor is it revealed to all men, only to some; wherefore was there any truth in the medium, the conclusion would not follow. The argument stands thus: all men to whom the Gospel is revealed are bound to believe that Christ died for them; some men have the Gospel revealed to them, therefore Christ died for all men. The weakness and fallacy of such an argument must be seen by every one; a most miserable argument this, which proceeds upon a partial revelation of the Gospel to an universal redemption. I observe,

2. That the obligation to believe in Christ, and so the faith to which men are obliged are in proportion, and according to the nature of the revelation of the Gospel, which obliges them Now the Gospel revelation is either external or internal: the external revelation is by the word, and the ministry of it; which respecting Christ, lies in these things, that he is really and properly God, and truly man; that he is the Son of God, and the Mediator between God and men; that he is the Messiah, who is actually come in the flesh; that he died and rose again the third day; is ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, and will come a second time to judge the world in righteousness; and that by his obedience, sufferings, and death, he is become the Savior of sinners, and that none can be saved but by him. Now let it be observed, that this revelation is general and not particular, and does not necessarily oblige persons to whom it comes to believe that Christ is their Redeemer and Savior, and that he died for them particularly, though the Spirit of God may and does bless it to many for the begetting special faith; and it may and does lay a general foundation for special and appropriating acts of that grace, yet it only requires an historical faith, or bare assent to the truth of the said propositions. Now such a faith is not saving; men may have this, and yet be damned; yea, the devils themselves have it. It follows that men may be obliged to believe, and yet not to the saving of their souls, or that Christ died for them. Besides, this revelation is not made to all men; and therefore all men, such as Indians, and others, are not obliged to believe in Christ, nor even to give a bare assent to the truth of the above said things, much less to believe that Christ died for them; and indeed, How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:14). And perhaps all are not obliged to believe who live in a land where this revelation does come; as those who have not their natural reason and hearing, or the due and proper use and exercise of the same, such as infants, idiots, madmen, and those who are entirely deaf; only such to whom this revelation is made, and are capable of hearing and understanding it, are obliged to have faith in Christ by it, as were the Jews of old, who were condemned for their unbelief, not because they did not believe that Christ died for them, to which they were not obliged, but because they did not believe him to be God, the Son of God, the true Messiah, and Savior of sinners. The internal revelation of the Gospel, and of Christ through it, is by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;whereby a soul is made sensible of its lost state and condition, and of its need of a Savior; is made acquainted with Christ as the alone Savior, both able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him; whence it is encouraged to venture on him, rely upon him, and believe in him to the saving of it: now such an one ought to believe, and none but such, that Christ died for them. This faith all men have not; it is the faith of God's elect, the gift of God, the operation of his Spirit, and the produce of almighty power.

Now, according to the revelation is the faith men are obliged to, and what is produced by it: if the revelation is external, or the Gospel comes in word only, the faith men are obliged to is only an historical one, nor can any other follow upon it; and that Christ died for every individual man is no part of the revelation. If the revelation is internal, a special spiritual appropriating faith is the result of it; but then this revelation is not made to all men, nor are God's elect themselves, before conversion, bound to believe that Christ died for them; and when they are converted, to believe that Christ died for them is not the first act of special faith; it is the plerophory, the full assurance of faith, to say, He hath loved me, and hath given himself for me (Gal. 2:20). Hence,

3. Since there is not a revelation of the Gospel made to all men, and all men are not bound to believe in Christ, much less to believe that Christ died for them; it follows that no such absurdity can attend the denial of universal redemption, that some more are bound to believe a lie; nor will it be the condemnation of the heathens that they believe not in Christ, but that they have sinned against the light, and broken the law of nature; nor will any persons enjoying a revelation be condemned for not believing that Christ died for them, but for the breach of God's laws, and neglect and contempt of his Gospel; nor is there any danger of any one believing a lie, since all those who believe in Christ, and that he died shall certainly be saved, which is the fullest proof that can be of his dying for them. Christ dying for an unbelieving Christian, and a Christian being under a condemnatory decree, are unintelligible phrases, mere paradoxes, and contradictions in terms.[2]

4. John the Baptist's bearing witness of Christ, the light, and true Messiah, that all men through him might believe,respects not all the individuals of human nature, since millions were dead before he began his testimony, and multitudes since, whom it never reached; nor can it design more than the Jews, to whom alone he bore witness of Christ; the faith which he taught, and required by his testimony, was not to believe that Christ died for them, who as yet was not dead, but an assent unto him as the Messiah. This was the work,will, and command of God, that they should believe on him,in this sense, whom he had sent.This is what Christ often called for from them, declaring, that if they believed not that he was the Messiah, they should die in their sins; and this was what the Spirit of God reproved the world of the Jews for, by bringing down the wrath of God in temporal ruin and destruction, upon their persons, nation, city, and temple. Since then this text, with multitudes of others, which speak of believing in Christ, only regards the people of the Jews, and designs only a bare assent to him as the Messiah, which would have preserved that people and nation from temporal ruin; it does not follow that all men are bound to believe in Christ, that he died for them, and consequently can be of no service to the doctrine of universal redemption.


[1] Ibid., p. 143, 144, 146; ed. 2. 140-142.

[2] Whitby, p. 146; ed. 2. 142.

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