John Owen (1616-1683)


The following selection is part of Owen’s discussion of chapter 20 of Thomas More’s The Universality of God’s Free Grace. It is one of the finest statements anywhere of the doctrine of limited atonement. Owen takes almost every conceivable objection to the doctrine and convincingly refutes it from Scripture. He discusses such objections as these: at least some Biblical phrases concerning those for whom Christ died are unlimited; salvation is to be preached to the whole world; all will confess that Christ is Lord; God desires that none should perish; God is merciful to all men. Owen’s replies are relevant both to conservative non-Calvinists who object that limited atonement is unfair, and to those neo-orthodox theologians who teach that, because atonement is universal and because ultimately all creatures will acknowledge Christ, salvation is universal.

Owen’s strongest arguments are that More assumes indefinite expressions to be universal and that he fails to prove that the universal offer of salvation necessitates a universal atonement. As a true scholar, Owen challenges the Christian reader to evaluate both the arguments for and those against the doctrine of limited atonement.

It should be noted that no one ever attempted to refute Owen
as thoroughly as he had refuted More.


The title [The title here referred to is The Universality of God’s Free Grace . . . , a book written by Thomas More and published in 1643. Ed.] pretends satisfaction to them who desire to have reason satisfied: which, that it is a great undertaking, I easily grant; but for the performance of it, “hic labor, hoc opus.” That ever Christian reason, rightly informed by the word of God, should be satisfied with any doctrine so discrepant from the word, so full of contradiction in itself and to its own principles, as the doctrine of universal redemption is, I should much marvel. Therefore, I am persuaded that the author of the arguments following (which, lest you should mistake them for others, he calleth reasons), will fail of his intention with all that have so much reason as to know how to make use of reason, and so much grace as not to love darkness more than light. The only reason, as far as I can conceive, why he calls this collection of all the arguments and texts of Scripture which he had before cited and produced at large so many reasons, being a supposal that he hath given them a logical, argumentative form in this place, I shall briefly consider them; and, by the way, take notice of his skill in a regular framing of arguments, to which here he evidently pretends. His first reason, then, is as followeth:—

I. “That which the Scripture oft and plainly affirmeth in plain words is certainly true and to be believed, Prov. 22:20, 21; Isa. 8:20; II Peter 1: 19, 20;

“But that Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom, and by the grace of God tasted death for every man, is oft and plainly affirmed in Scripture, as is before shown, chap. 7-13: “Therefore, the same is certainly a truth to be believed, John 20:31; Acts 26:27.”

First, the proposition of this argument is clear, evident, and acknowledged by all professing the name of Christ; but yet universally with this caution and proviso, that by the Scripture affirming any thing in plain words that is to be believed, you understand the plain sense of those words, which is clear by rules of interpretation so to be. It is the thing signified that is to be believed, and not the words only, which are the sign thereof; and, therefore, the plain sense and meaning is that which we must inquire after, and is intended when we speak of believing plain words of the Scripture. But now if by plain words you understand the literal importance of the words, which may perhaps be figurative, or at least of various signification, and capable of extension or restriction in the interpretation, then there is nothing more false than this assertion; for how can you then avoid the blasphemous folly of the Anthropomorphites, assigning a body and human shape unto God, the plain words of the Scripture often mentioning his eyes, hands, ears, etc., it being apparent to every child that the true importance of those expressions answers not at all their gross carnal conception? Will not also transubstantiation, or its younger brother consubstantiation, be an article of our creed? With this limitation, then, we pass the proposition, with the places of Scripture brought to confirm it; only with this observation, that there is not one of them to the purpose in hand,—which, because they do not relate to the argument in consideration, we only leave to men’s silent judgments.

Secondly, The assumption, or minor proposition, we absolutely deny as to some part of it; as that Christ should be said to give himself a ransom for every man, it being neither often, nor once, nor plainly, nor obscurely affirmed in the Scripture, nor at all proved in the place referred unto: so that this is but an empty flourishing. For the other expression, of “tasting death for every man,” we grant that the words are found Heb. 2:9; but we deny that every man doth always necessarily signify all and every man in the world. Nouqetounte" panta anqrwpon didaskonte" panta anqrwpon, Col. 1:28—”Warning every man, and teaching every man.” Every man is not there every man in the world; neither are we to believe that Paul warned and taught every particular man, for it is false and impossible. So that every man, in the Scripture, is not universally collective of all of all sorts, but either distributive, for some of all sorts, or collective, with a restriction to all of some sort; as in that of Paul, every man, was only of those to whom he had preached the gospel. Secondly, in the original there is only uper panto", for every, without the substantive man, which might be supplied by other words as well as man,—as elect, or believer.

Thirdly, That every one is there clearly restrained to all the members of Christ, and the children by him brought to glory, we have before declared. So that this place is no way useful for the confirmation of the assumption, which we deny in the sense intended; and are sure we shall never see a clear, or so much as a probable, testimony for the confirming of it.

To the conclusion of the syllogism, the author, to manifest his skill in disputing in such an argumentative way as he undertaketh, addeth some farther proofs. Conscious, it seems, he was to himself that it had little strength from the propositions from which it is enforced; and, therefore, thought to give some new supportments to it, although with very ill success, as will easily appear to any one that shall but consult the places quoted, and consider the business in hand. In the meantime, this new logic, of filing proofs to the conclusion which are suitable to neither proposition, and striving to give strength to that by new testimony which it hath not from the premises, deserves our notice in this age of learned writers. “Heu quantum est sapere.” Such logic is fit to maintain such divinity. And so much for the first argument.

II. “Those whom Jesus Christ and his apostles, in plain terms, without any exception or restraint, affirm that Christ came to save, and to that end died, and gave himself a ransom for, and is a propitiation for their sin, he certainly did come to save, and gave himself a ransom for them, and is the propitiation for their sins, Matt. 26:24; John 6:38; I Cor. 15:3, 4; Heb. 10:7; John 8:38, 45; II Peter 1:16; Heb. 2:3,4;

“But Jesus Christ and his apostles have, in plain terms, affirmed that ‘Christ came to save sinners,’ I Tim. 1 15; the ‘world,’ John 3:17; that he died for the ‘unjust,’ I Peter 3:18; the ‘ungodly,’ Rom. 5:6; for ‘every man,’ Heb. 2:9; ‘gave himself a ransom for all men,’ I Tim 2:6; and is the ‘propitiation for the sins of the whole world,’ I John 2:2; and every one of these affirmations without any exception or restraint, all being unjust, ungodly, sinners, and men, and of the world, Rom. 3:10, 19, 20, 23; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3; John 3:4, 6: “Therefore, Jesus Christ came to save, died, and gave himself a ransom for all men, and is the propitiation for their sins, John 1:29.”

To the proposition of this argument I desire only to observe, that we do not affirm that the Scripture doth, in any place, lay an exception or restraint upon those persons for whom Christ is said to die, as though in one place it should be affirmed he died for all men, and in another some exception against it, as though some of those all men were excluded,—which were to feign a repugnancy and contradiction in the word of God; only, we say, one place of Scripture interprets another, and declares that sense which before in one place was ambiguous and doubtful. For instance: when the Scripture showeth that Christ died or gave himself a ransom for all, we believe it; and when, in another place, he declares that all to be his church, his elect, his sheep, all believers,—some of all sorts, out of all kindreds, and nations, and tongues, under heaven; this is not to lay an exception or restraint upon what was said of all before, but only to declare that the all for which he gave himself a ransom were all his church, all his elect, all his sheep, some of all sorts: and so we believe that he died for all. With this observation we let pass the proposition, taking out its meaning as well as the phrase whereby it is expressed will afford it, together with the vain flourish and pompous show of many texts of Scripture brought to confirm it, whereof not one is any thing to the purpose; so that I am persuaded he put down names and figures at a venture, without once consulting the texts, having no small cause to be confident that none would trace him in his flourish, and yet that some eyes might dazzle at his super-numerary quotations. Let me desire the reader to turn to those places, and if any one of them be any thing to the purpose or business in hand, let the author’s credit be of weight with him another time. O let us not be as many, who corrupt the word of God! But perhaps it is a mistake in the impression, and for Matt. 26:24, he intends verse 28, where Christ is said to shed his blood for many. In John 6, he mistook verse 38 for 39, where our Saviour affirms that he came to save that which his Father gave him,—that none should be lost; which certainly are the elect. In I Cor. 15:3, 4, he was not much amiss, the apostle conjoining in those verses the death and resurrection of Christ, which he saith was for us; and how far this advantageth his cause in hand, we have before declared. By Heb. 10:7, I suppose he meant verse 10 of the chapter, affirming that by the will of God, which Christ came to do, we are sanctified, even through the offering of the body of Jesus,—ascribing our sanctification to his death, which is not effected in all and every one; though perhaps he may suppose the last clause of the verse, “once for all,” to make for him. But some charitable man, I hope, will undeceive him, by letting him know the meaning of the word efapax. The like may be observed of the other places,—that in them is nothing at all to the proposition in hand, and nigh them at least is enough to evert it. And so his proposition in sum is:—”All those for whom the Scripture affirms that Christ did die, for them he died”; which is true, and doubtless granted.

The assumption affirms that Christ and his apostles in the Scriptures say that he died to save sinners, unjust, ungodly, the world, all; whereupon the conclusion ought barely to be, “Therefore Christ died for sinners, unjust, ungodly, the world, and the like.” To which we say,—First, That this is the very same argument, for substance, with that which went before, as also are some of those that follow; only some words are varied, to change the outward appearance, and so to make show of a number. Secondly, That the whole strength of this argument lies in turning indefinite propositions into universals, concluding that because Christ died for sinners, therefore he died for all sinners; because he died for the unjust, ungodly, and the world, that therefore he died for every one that is unjust, or ungodly, and for every one in the world; because he died for all, therefore for all and every one of all sorts of men. Now, if this be good arguing, I will furnish you with some more such arguments against you have occasion to use them:—First, God “justifieth the ungodly,” Rom. 4:5; therefore, he justifieth every one that is ungodly. Now, “whom he justifieth, them he also glorifieth”; and therefore every ungodly person shall be glorified. Secondly, When Christ came, “men loved darkness rather than light,” John 3:19; therefore, all men did so, and so none believed. Thirdly, “The world knew not Christ,” John 1:10; therefore, no man in the world knew him. Fourthly, “The whole world lieth in wickedness,” I John 5:19; therefore, every one in the world doth so. Such arguments as these, by turning indefinite propositions into universals, I could easily furnish you withal, for any purpose that you will use them to. Thirdly, If you extend the words in the conclusion no farther than the intention of them in the places of Scripture recited in the assumption, we may safely grant the whole,— namely, that Christ died for sinners and the world, for sinful men in their several generations living therein; but if you intend a universality collective of all in the conclusion, then the syllogism is sophistical and false, no place of Scripture affirming so much that is produced, the assignation of the object of the death of Christ in them being in terms indefinite, receiving light and clearness for a more restrained sense in those places where they are expounded to be meant of all his own people, and the children of God scattered throughout the world. Fourthly, For particular places of Scripture urged, I Tim. 1:15; I Peter 3:18; Rom. 5:6, in the beginning of the assumption, are not at all to the purpose in hand. John 3:17; Heb. 2:9; I John 2:2, have been already considered. Rom. 3:10, 19, 20, 23; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3; John 3:4, 6, added in the close of the same proposition, prove that all are sinners and children of wrath; but of Christ’s dying for all sinners, or for all those children of wrath, there is not the least intimation. And this may suffice in answer to the first two arguments, which might easily be retorted upon the author of them, the Scripture being full and plain to the confirmation of the position which he intends to oppose.

III. ‘That which the Scripture layeth forth as one end of the death of Christ, and one ground and cause of God’s exalting Christ to be the Lord and Judge of all, and of the equity of his judging, that is certainly to be believed, Ps. 12:6; 18:130; 119:4;

“But the Scripture layeth forth this for one end of the death and resurrection of Christ, that he might be the Lord of all, Rom. 14:9; II Cor. 5:14, 15. And for that cause (even his death and resurrection) hath God exalted him to be the Lord and Judge of all men, and his judgments shall be just, Rom. 14:9, 11, 12; II Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:7-11; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16:

“Therefore, that Christ so died, and rose again for all, is a truth to be believed, I Tim. 2:6.”

First, The unlearned framing of this argument, the uncouth expressions of the thing intended, and failing in particulars, by the by, being to be ascribed to the person and not the cause, I shall not much trouble myself withal; as,—First, To his artificial regularity in bringing his minor proposition, namely, Christ being made Lord and Judge of all, into the major; so continuing one term in all three propositions, and making the whole almost unintelligible. Secondly, His interpreting, “For this cause God exalted Christ,” to be his death and resurrection, when his resurrection, wherein he was “declared to be the Son of God with power,” Rom. 1:4, was a glorious part of his exaltation. To examine and lay open the weakness and folly of innumerable such things as these, which everywhere occur, were to be lavish of precious moments. Those that have the least taste of learning or the way of reasoning do easily see their vanity; and for the rest, especially the poor admirers of these foggy sophisms, I shall not say, “Quoniam hic populus vult decipi, decipiatur,” but, “God give them understanding and repentance, to the acknowledgment of the truth.”

Secondly, To this whole argument, as it lies before us, I have nothing to say but only to entreat Mr. More, that if the misery of our times should be calling upon him to be writing again, he would cease expressing his mind by syllogisms, and speak in his own manner; which, by its own confusion in innumerable tautologies, may a little puzzle his reader. For, truly, this kind of arguing here used,—for want of logic, whereby he is himself deceived, and delight in sophistry, whereby he deceiveth others,—is exceedingly ridiculous; for none can be so blind but that, at first reading of the argument, he will see that he asserts and infers that in the conclusion, strengthening it with a new testimony, which was not once dreamed of in either of the premises; they speaking of the exaltation of Christ to be judge of all, which refers to his own glory; the conclusion, of his dying for all, which necessarily aims at and intends their good.

Were it not a noble design to banish all human learning, and to establish such a way of arguing in the room thereof? “Hoc Ithacus velit et magno mercentur Atridae.”

Thirdly, The force and sum of the argument is this:—“Christ died and rose again that he might be Lord and Judge of all; therefore, Christ died for all.” Now, ask what he means by dying for all, and the whole treatise answers that it is a paying a ransom for them all, that they might be saved. Now, how this can be extorted out of Christ’s dominion over all, with his power of judging all committed to him, which also is extended to the angels for whom he died not, let them that can understand it rejoice in their quick apprehension; I confess it flies my thoughts.

Fourthly, The manner of arguing being so vain, let us see a little whether there be any more weight in the matter of the argument. Many texts of Scripture are heaped up and distributed to the several propositions. In those out of Ps. 12:6; 18:30 (as I suppose it should be, not 130, as it is printed); 119:4, there is some mention of the precepts of God, with the purity of his word and perfection of his word; which that they are any thing to the business in hand I cannot perceive. That of II Tim. 2:6, added to the conclusion, is one of those places which are brought forth upon every occasion, as being the supposed foundation of the whole assertion, but causelessly, as hath been showed oft. [Among] those which are annexed to the minor proposition, [is] II Cor. 5:14, 15: as I have already cleared the mind of the Holy Ghost in it, and made it manifest that no such thing as universal redemption can be wrested from it, so unto this present argument it hath no reference at all, not containing any one syllable concerning the judging of Christ and his power over all, which was the medium insisted on. Phil. 2:7-11; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16, mention, indeed, Christ’s exaltation, and his judging all at the last day; but because he shall judge all at the last day, therefore he died for all, will ask more pains to prove than our adversary intends to take in this cause.

The weight, on the whole, must depend on Rom. 14:9, 11, 12; which being the only place that gives any colour to this kind of arguing, shall a little be considered. It is the lordship and dominion of Christ over all which the apostle, in that place, at large insists on and evidenceth to believers, that they might thereby be provoked to walk blameless, and without offence one towards another, knowing the terror of the Lord, and how that all men, even themselves and others, must come to appear before his judgment-seat, when it will be but a sad thing to have an account to make of scandals and offences.

Farther to ingraft and fasten this upon them, he declares unto them the way whereby the Lord Christ attained and came to this dominion and power of judging, all things being put under his feet, together with what design he had, as to this particular, in undertaking the office of mediation, there expressed by “dying, rising, and reviving,”— to wit, that he might have the execution of judging over all committed to him, that being part of the “glory set before him,” which caused him to “endure the cross and despise the shame,” Heb. 12:2.

So that all which here is intimated concerning the death of Christ is about the end, effects, and issue that it had towards himself, not any thing of what was his intention towards them for whom he died. To die for others does at least denote to die for their good, and in the Scripture always to die in their stead. Now, that any such thing can be hence deducted as that Christ died for all, because by his death himself made way for the enjoyment of that power whereby he is Lord over all, and will judge them all, casting the greatest part of men into hell by the sentence of his righteous judgment, I profess sincerely that I am no way able to perceive. If men will contend and have it so, that Christ must be said to die for all, because by his death and resurrection he attained the power of judging all, then I shall only leave with them these three things:—First, That innumerable souls shall be judged by him for not walking according to the light of nature left unto them, directing them to seek after the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator, without the least rumour of the gospel to direct them to a Redeemer once arriving at their ears, Rom. 2:12; and what good will it be for such that Christ so died for them? Secondly, That he also died for the devils, because he hath, by his death and resurrection, attained a power of judging them also. Thirdly, That the whole assertion is nothing to the business in hand; our inquiry being about them whom our Saviour intended to redeem and save by his blood; this return, about those he will one day judge: “quaestio est de alliis, responsio de cepis.”

IV. “That which the Scripture so sets forth in general for the world of mankind, as a truth for them all, that whosoever of the particulars so believe as to come to Christ and receive the same shall not perish, but have everlasting life, is certainly a truth to be believed, Acts 5:20;

“But that God sent forth his Son to be the Saviour of the world is in Scripture so set forth in general for all men, that whosoever of the particulars so believe as they come to Christ and receive the same, they shall not perish, but have everlasting life, John 3:16-18, 36; 1:4, 11, 12:

“Therefore, that God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world is a certain truth, I John 4:14.”

I hope no ingenuous man, that knows any thing of the controversy in hand, and to what head it is driven between us and our adversary, or is in any measure acquainted with the way of arguing, will expect that we should spend many words about such poor flourishes, vain repetitions, confused expressions, and illogical deductions and argumentations, as this pretended new argument (indeed the same with the first two, and with almost all that follow), will expect that I should cast away much time or pains about them. For my own part, I were no way able to undergo the tediousness of the review of such things as these, but that “eundum est quo trahunt fata ecclesiae.” Not, then, any more to trouble the reader with a declaration of that in particulars which he cannot but be sufficiently convinced of by a bare overlooking of these reasons,—namely, that this author is utterly ignorant of the way of reasoning, and knows not how tolerably to express his own conceptions, nor to infer one thing from another in any regular way, I answer,—First, That whatsoever the Scripture holds forth as a truth to be believed is certainly so, and to be embraced. Secondly, That the Scripture sets forth the death of Christ, to all whom the gospel is preached [unto], as an all-sufficient means for the bringing of sinners unto God, so as that whosoever believe it and come in unto him shall certainly be saved. Thirdly, What can be concluded hence, but that the death of Christ is of such infinite value as that it is able to save to the utmost every one to whom it is made known, if by true faith they obtain an interest therein and a right thereunto, we cannot perceive. This truth we have formerly confirmed by many testimonies of Scripture, and do conceive that this innate sufficiency of the death of Christ is the foundation of its promiscuous proposal to elect and reprobate. Fourthly, That the conclusion, if he would have the reason to have any colour or show of an argument, should at least include and express the whole and entire assertion contained in the proposition,—namely, “That Christ is so set forth to be the Saviour of the world, that whosoever of the particulars believe,” etc. And then it is by us fully granted, as making nothing at all for the universality of redemption, but only for the fulness and sufficiency of his satisfaction. Of the word world enough hath been said before.

V. “That which God will one day cause every man confess to the glory of God is certainly a truth, for God will own no lie for his glory, John 3:33; Rom. 3:3, 4;

“But God will one day cause every man to confess Jesus (by virtue of his death and ransom given) to be the Lord, even to the glory of God, Phil. 2:7-11; Isa. 45:22, 23; Rom. 14:9, 11, 12; Ps. 86:9:

“Therefore, it is certainly a truth that Jesus Christ hath given himself a ransom for all men, and hath thereby the right of lordship over them; and if any will not believe and come into this government, yet he abideth faithful, and cannot deny himself, but will one day bring them before him, and cause them to confess him Lord, to the glory of God; when they shall be denied by him, for denying him in the days of his patience, II Tim. 2:12-14; Matt. 10:32, 33; II Cor. 5: 10.”

Ans. The conclusion of this argument ought to be thus, and no otherwise, if you intend it should receive any strength from the premises: “Therefore, that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and to be confessed to the glory of God, is certainly a truth.” This, I say, is all the conclusion that this argument ought to have had, unless, instead of a syllogism, you intend three independent propositions, every one standing upon his own strength. That which is inserted concerning his giving himself a ransom for all, and that which follows of the conviction and condemnation of them who believe not nor obey the gospel, confirmed from II Cor. 5:10; II Tim. 2:12-14, is altogether heterogeneous to the business in hand. Now, this being the conclusion intended, if our author suppose that the deniers of universal redemption do question the truth of it. I wonder not at all why he left all other employment to fall a-writing controversies, having such apparent advantages against his adversaries as such small mistakes as this are able to furnish his conceit withal. But it may be an act of charity to part him and his own shadow,—so terribly at variance as here and in other places; wherefore, I beseech him to hear a word in his heat, and to take notice,—[First,] That though we do not ascribe a fruitless, ineffectual redemption to Jesus Christ, nor say that he loved any with that entire love which moved him to lay down his life, but his own church, and that all his elect are effectually redeemed by him, yet we deny not but that he shall also judge the reprobates,—namely, even all them that know not, that deny, that disobey and corrupt the truth of his gospel,—and that all shall be convinced that he is Lord of all at the last day: so that he may spare his pains of proving such unquestionable things. Something else is extremely desirous to follow, but indignation must be bridled. Secondly, For that clause in the second proposition, “By virtue of his death and ransom given,” we deny that it is anywhere in the Scripture once intimated that the ransom paid by Christ in his death for us was the cause of his exaltation to be Lord of all: it was his obedience to his Father in his death, and not his satisfaction for us, that is proposed as the antecedent of this exaltation; as is apparent, Phil. 2:7-11.

VI. “That which may be proved in and by the Scripture, both by plain sentences therein and necessary consequences imported thereby, without wrestling, wrangling, adding to, taking from, or altering the sentences and words of Scripture, is a truth to be believed, Matt. 22:29, 32; Rom. 11:2, 5,6;

“But that Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom for all men, and by the grace of God tasted death for every man, may be proved in and by the Scripture, both by plain sentences therein and necessary consequences imported thereby, without wresting, wrangling, adding, or taking away, or altering the words and sentences, as is already showed, chap. 7, 13,, which will be now ordered into several proofs:

“Therefore, that Jesus Christ gave himself for all men, and by the grace of God tasted death for every man, is a truth to be believed, Mark 1:15; 16:15, 18; I John 4:14.

Ans. First, The meaning of this argument is, that universal redemption may be proved by the Scripture; which, being the very thing in question, and the thesis undertaken to be proved, there is no reason why itself should make an argument, but only to make up a number: and, for my part, they should pass without any other answer, namely, that they are a number, but that those who are the number are to be considered.

Secondly, Concerning the argument itself (seeing it must go for one), we say,—First, To the first proposition, that laying aside the unnecessary expressions, the meaning of it I take to be this: “That which is affirmed in the Scripture, or may be deduced from thence by just consequence, following such ways of interpretation, of affirmation, and consequences, as by which the Spirit of God leadeth us into the knowledge of the truth, is certainly to be believed”; which is granted of all, though not proved by the places he quoteth, Matt. 22:29, 32; Rom. 11:2, 5, 6, and is the only foundation of that article of faith which you seek to oppose. Secondly, To the second, that Christ gave himself a ransom uper panton for all, and tasted death uper panto" for all, is the very word of Scripture, and was never denied by any. The making of all to be all men and every man, in both the places aimed at, is your addition, and not the Scripture’s assertion. If you intend, then, to prove that Christ gave himself a ransom for all, and tasted death for all, you may save your labours; it is confessed on all hands, none ever denied it. But if you intend to prove those all to be all and every man, of all ages and kinds, elect and reprobate, and not all his children, all his elect, all his sheep, all his people, all the children given him of God,—some of all sorts, nations, tongues, and languages only, I will, by the Lord’s assistance, willingly join issue with you, or any man breathing, to search out the meaning of the word and mind of God in it; holding ourselves to the proportion of faith, essentiality of the doctrine of redemption, scope of the places where such assertions are, comparing them with other places, and the like ways,—labouring in all humility to find the mind of the Lord, according to his own appointment. And of the success of such a trial, laying aside such failings as will adhere to my personal weakness, I am, by the grace of God, exceedingly confident; having, by his goodness, received some strength and opportunity to search into and seriously to weigh whatever the most famous assertors of universal redemption, whether Lutherans or Arminians, have been able to say in this cause. For the present, I address myself to what is before me; only desiring the reader to observe, that the assertion to be proved is, “That Jesus Christ, according to the counsel and will of his Father, suitable to his purpose of salvation in his own mind and intention, did, by his death and oblation, pay a ransom for all and every man, elect and reprobate,— both those that are saved and those that perish,—to redeem them from sin, death, and hell, [and] to recover salvation, life, and immortality for them; and not only for his elect, or church, chosen to an inheritance before the foundation of the world.” To confirm this we have divers proofs produced; which, by the Lord’s assistance, we shall consider in order.

Proof 1 of argument 6. “God so loved the world, that he gave his Son to be the Saviour of the world, I John 4:14; and sends his servant to bear witness of his Son, that all men through him might believe, John 1:4, 7; that whosoever believes on him might have everlasting life, John 3:16, 17. And he is willing that all should come to the knowledge of the truth, I Tim. 2:4, and be saved, I Tim. 1:15. Nor will he be wanting in the sufficiency of helpfulness to them, if, as light comes, they will suffer themselves to be wrought on and to receive it, Prov. 1:23; 8:4, 5. And is not this plain in Scripture?”

Ans. First, The main, yea, indeed, only thing to be proved, as we before observed, is, that those indefinite propositions which we find in the Scripture concerning the death of Christ are to be understood universally,—that the terms all and world do signify in this business, when they denote the object of the death of Christ, all and every man in the world. Unless this be done, all other labour is altogether useless and fruitless. Now, to this there is nothing at all urged in this pretended proof, but only a few ambiguous places barely recited, with a false collection from them or observation upon them, which they give no colour to.

Secondly, I John 4:14, God’s sending his Son to be the “Saviour of the world,” and his servant to testify it, is nothing but to be the Saviour of men living in the world; which his elect are. A hundred such places as these, so clearly interpreted as they are in other places, would make nought at all to the purpose. The next thing is from John 1:4, 7. Verse 4 is, that Christ was the “life of men”; which is most true, no life being to be had for any man but only in and through him. This not being at all to the question, the next words of verse 7 [are], “That all men through him might believe”; which words being thrust in, to piece-up a sense with another fraction of Scripture, seem to have some weight, as though Christ were sent that all men through him might believe. A goodly show! seeming no less to make for universal redemption than the Scripture cited by the devil, after he had cut off part of it, did for our Saviour’s casting himself from the pinnacle of the temple. But if you cast aside the sophistry of the old serpent, the expression of this place is not a little available to invalidate the thesis sought to be maintained by it. The words are, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.” Now, who do you think is there meant by di autou “through him”? Is it Christ, think you, the light? or John, the witness of the light? Certainly John, as almost all expositors do agree, except certain among the Papists, and Grotius,— that Ishmael. So the Syriac interpreter, reading, “By his hand or ministry.” So the word infers; for we are not said to believe dia Cristou “by Christ,” or, as it should be here, dia tou foto" “by the light”; but eis to fw" John 12:36, “in the light,” not by it. And epi ton Kurion Acts 9:42, “believed in the Lord”; so also, Rom. 9:33, Kai pas o pisteuwn ep’ autw, “Every one that believeth on him.” So env Cristw in divers places, in him; but no mention of believing by him, which rather denotes the instrument of believing, as is the ministry of the word, than the object of faith, as Christ is. This being apparent, let us see what is affirmed of John, why he was sent “that all through him might believe.” Now, this word all here hath all the qualifications which our author requireth for it, to be always esteemed a certain expression of a collective universality, that it is spoken of God, etc. And who, I pray you, were these all, that were intended to be brought to the faith by the ministry of John? Were they not only all those that lived throughout the world in his days, who preached (a few years) in Judea only, but also all those that were dead before his nativity, and that were born after his death, and shall be to the end of the world in any place under heaven? Let them that can believe it enjoy their persuasion, with this assurance that I will never be their rival; being fully persuaded that by all men here is meant only some of all sorts, to whom his word did come. So that the necessary sense of the word all here is wholly destructive to the proposition.

For what, thirdly, is urged from John 3:16, 17, that God so sent his Son, that “whosoever believeth on him might have everlasting life,” as far as I know is not under debate, as to the sense of it, among Christians.

Fourthly, For God’s willingness that all should be saved, from I Tim. 2:4 (to which a word is needlessly added to make a show, the text being quite to another purpose, from I Tim. 1:15), taking all men there for the universality of individuals, then I ask,—First, What act it is of God wherein this his willingness doth consist? Is it in the eternal purpose of his will that all should be saved? Why is it not accomplished? “Who hath resisted his will?” Is it in an antecedent desire that it should be so, though he fail in the end? Then is the blessed God most miserable, it being not in him to accomplish his just and holy desires. Is it some temporary act of his, whereby he hath declared himself unto them? Then, I say, Grant that salvation is only to be had in a Redeemer, in Jesus Christ, and give me an instance how God, in any act whatsoever, hath declared his mind and revealed himself to all men, of all times and places, concerning his willingness of their salvation by Jesus Christ, a Redeemer, and I will never more trouble you in this cause. Secondly, Doth this will equally respect the all intended, or doth it not? If it doth, why hath it not equal effects towards all? what reason can be assigned? If it doth not, whence shall that appear? There is nothing in the text to intimate any such diversity. For our parts, by all men we understand some of all sorts throughout the world, not doubting but that, to the equal reader, we have made it so appear from the context and circumstances of the place, the will of God there being that mentioned by our Saviour, John 6:40. That which follows in the close of this proof, of God’s “not being wanting in the sufficiency of helpfulness to them who, as light comes, suffer themselves to be wrought upon and receive it,” is a poisonous sting in the tail of the serpent, wherein is couched the whole Pelagian poison of free-will and Popish merit of congruity, with Arminian sufficient grace, in its whole extent and universality; to neither of which there is the least witness given in the place produced.

The sum and meaning of the whole assertion is, that there is a universality of sufficient grace granted to all, even of grace subjective, enabling them to obedience, which receives addition, increase, degrees, and augmentation, according as they who have it do make use of what they presently enjoy; which is a position so contradictory to innumerable places of Scripture, so derogatory to the free grace of God, so destructive to the efficacy of it, such a clear exaltation of the old idol free-will into the throne of God, as any thing that the decaying estate of Christianity hath invented and broached. So far is it from being “plain and clear in Scripture,” that it is universally repugnant to the whole dispensation of the new covenant revealed to us therein; which, if ever the Lord call me to, I hope very clearly to demonstrate: for the present, it belongs not immediately to the business in hand, and therefore I leave it, coming to—

Proof 2. “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save the world, John 12:47; to save sinners, I Tim. 1:15; to take away our sins, and destroy the works of the devil, I John 3:5, 8; to take away the sins of the world, John 1:29; and therefore died for all, II Cor. 5:14, 15; and gave himself a ransom for all, I Tim. 2:6; to save that which was lost, Matt. 18:11. And so his propitiation was made for the world, II Cor. 5:19; the whole world, I John 2:2. And all this is full and plain in Scripture.”

Ans. Those places of this proof where there is mention of all or world, as John 12:47; 1:29; II Cor. 5:14, 15; I Tim. 2:6; II Cor. 5:19; I John 2:2, have been all already considered, and I am unwilling to trouble the reader with repetitions. See the places, and I doubt not but you will find that they are so far from giving any strength to the thing intended to be proved by him, that they much rather evert it. For the rest, I Tim. 1:15; Matt. 18:11; I John 3:5, 8, how any thing can be extracted from them to give colour to the universality of redemption I cannot see; what they make against it hath been declared. Pass we then to—

Proof 3. “God in Christ doth, in some means or other of his appointment, give some witness to all men of his mercy and goodness procured by Christ, Ps. 19:4; Rom. 10:18; Acts 14:17; and there-through, at one time or other, sendeth forth some stirrings of his Spirit, to move in and knock at the hearts of men, to invite them to repentance and seeking God, and so to lay hold on the grace and salvation offered: and this not in a show or pretence, but in truth and good-will, ready to bestow it on them. And this is all fully testified in Scripture, Gen. 6:3; Isa. 45:22; Acts 17:30, 31; John 1:19.”

Ans. First, “Parvas habet spes Troja, si tales habet.” If the universality of redemption have need of such proofs as these, it hath indeed great need and little hope of supportment. Universal vocation is here asserted, to maintain universal redemption. “Manus manum fricat,” or rather, “Muli se mutuo scabiunt”; this being called in of ten-times to support the other; and they are both the two legs of that idol free-will, which is set up for men to worship, and when one stumbles the other steps forward to uphold the Babel. Of universal vocation (a gross figment) I shall not now treat; but only say, for the present, that it is true that God at all times, ever since the creation, hath called men to the knowledge of himself as the great Creator, in those things which of him, by the means of the visible creation, might be known, “even his eternal power and Godhead,” Rom. 1:19, 20; Ps. 19:1, 2; Acts 14:17. Secondly, That after the death of Christ, he did, by the preaching of the gospel extended far and wide, call home to himself the children of God, scattered abroad in the world, whereas his elect were before confined almost to one nation; giving a right to the gospel to be preached to “every creature,” Mark 16:15; Rom. 10:18; Isa. 45:22; Acts 17:30, 31. But, thirdly, That God should at all times, in all places, in all ages, grant means of grace or call to Christ as a redeemer, or to a participation of his mercy and goodness in him manifested, with strivings and motions of his Spirit for men to close with those invitations, is so gross and groundless an imagination, so opposite to God’s distinguishing mercy, so contradictory to express places of Scripture and the experience of all ages, as I wonder how any man hath the boldness to assert it, much more to produce it as a proof of an untruth more gross than itself. Were I not resolved to tie myself to the present controversy, I should not hold from producing some reasons to evert this fancy; something may be done hereafter, if the Lord prevent not. In the meantime, let the reader consult Ps. 147:19, 20; Matt. 11:25; 22:14; Acts 14:16; 16:7; Rom. 10:14, 15. We pass to—

Proof 4. “The Holy Ghost, that cometh from the Father and the Son, shall reprove the world of sin (even that part of the world that refuseth now to believe that they are under sin), because they believe not on Christ, and that it is their sin that they have not believed on him. And how could it be their sin not to believe in Christ, and they for that cause [be] under sin, if there were neither enough in the atonement made by Christ for them, nor truth in God’s offer of mercy to them, nor will nor power in the Spirit’s moving in any sort sufficient to have brought them to believe, at one time or other? And yet is this evident in Scripture, and shall be by the Holy Spirit, to be their great sin, that fastens all other sins on them, John 3:18, 19; 8:24; 12:48; 15:22, 24; 16:7-11.

Ans. The intention of this proof is, to show that men shall be condemned for their unbelief, for not believing in Christ; which, saith the author, cannot be unless three things be granted,—First, That there be enough in the atonement made by Christ for them. Secondly, That there be truth in God’s offer of mercy to them. Thirdly, That there be sufficient will and power given them by the Spirit, at some time or other, to believe. Now, though I believe no man can perceive what may be concluded hence for the universality of redemption, yet I shall observe some few things: and to the first thing required do say, That if, by “Enough in the atonement for them,” you understand that the atonement, which was made for them, hath enough in it, we deny it; not because the atonement hath not enough in it for them, but because the atonement was not for them. If you mean that there is a sufficiency in the merit of Christ to save them if they should believe, we grant it, and affirm that this sufficiency is the chief ground of the proposing it unto them (understanding those to whom it is proposed, that is those to whom the gospel is preached). To the second, That there is truth, as in all the ways and words of God, so in his offer of mercy to whomsoever it is offered. If we take the command to believe, with the promise of life upon so doing, for an offer of mercy, there is an eternal truth in it; which is, that God will assuredly bestow life and salvation upon all believers, the proffers being immediately declarative of our duty; secondly, of the concatenation of faith and life, and not at all of God’s intention towards the particular soul to whom the proffer is made: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, and who hath been his counsellor?” To the third, the Spirit’s giving will or power, I say,—First, That ye set the cart before the horse, placing will before power. Secondly, I deny that any internal assistance is required to render a man inexcusable for not believing, if he have the object of faith propounded to him, though of himself he have neither power nor will so to do, having lost both in Adam. Thirdly, How a man may have given him a will to believe, and yet not believe, I pray, declare the next controversy ye undertake. This being observed, I shall take leave to put this proof into such form as alone it is capable of, that the strength thereof may appear, and it is this: “If the Spirit shall convince all those of sin to whom the gospel is preached, that do not believe, then Christ died for all men, both those that have the gospel preached unto them and those that have not; but the first is true, for their unbelief is their great sin: ergo, Jesus Christ died for all.” Which, if any, is an argument “a baculo ad angulum,” “from the beam to the shuttle.” The places of Scripture, John 3:18, 19; 8:24; 12:48; 15:22, 24, prove that unbelief is a soul-condemning sin, and that for which they shall be condemned in whom it is privative, by their having the gospel preached to them. But quid ad nos?

One place is more urged, and consequently more abused, than the rest, and therefore must be a little cleared; it is John 16:7-11. The words are, “I will send the Comforter to you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not in me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” First, It is uncertain whether our author understands the words of the Spirit in and with Christ at the last day, or in and with the ministry of the word now in the days of the gospel. If the first, he is foully mistaken; if the latter, then the conviction here meant intends only those to whom the gospel is preached,—and what that will advantage universal redemption, which compriseth all as well before as after the death of Christ, I know not. But, secondly, It is uncertain whether he supposeth this conviction of the Spirit to attend the preaching of the gospel only, or else to consist in strivings and motions even in them who never hear the word of the gospel; if he mean the latter, we wait for a proof. Thirdly, It is uncertain whether he supposeth those thus convinced to be converted and brought to the faith by that conviction and that attending effectualness of grace, or no.

But omitting those things, that text being brought forth and insisted on, farther to manifest how little reason there was for its producing, I shall briefly open the meaning of the words. Our Saviour Christ intending, in this his last sermon, to comfort his apostles in their present sad condition, whereto they were brought by his telling them that he must leave them and go to his Father,—which sorrow and sadness he knew full well would be much increased when they should behold the vile, ignominious way whereby their Lord and Master should be taken from them, with all those reproaches and persecutions which would attend them so deprived of him,—bids them not be troubled, nor filled with sorrow and fear, for all this; assuring them that all this loss, shame, and reproach should be abundantly made up by what he would do for them and bestow upon them when his bodily presence should be removed from them. And as to that particular, which was the head of all, that he should be so vilely rejected and taken out of the world as a false teacher and seducer, he telleth them he will send them allon paraklaton, John 14:16, “another Comforter,” one that shall “vicariam navare operam,” as Tertul.,—be unto them in his stead, to fill them with all that consolation whereof by his absence they might be deprived; and not only so, but also to be present with them in other greater things than any he had as yet employed them about. This again he puts them in mind of, chap. 16:7. Now, oJ paraklato", who is there promised, is properly “an advocate,”—that is, one that pleadeth the cause of a person that is guilty or accused before any tribunal,—and is opposed tw kathgorw/ Rev. 12:10; and so is this word by us translated, I John 2: 1. Christ, then, here telleth them, that as he will be their advocate with the Father, so he will send them an advocate to plead his cause, which they professed, with the world; that is, those men in the world, which had so vilely traduced and condemned him as a seducer, laying it as a reproach upon all his followers. This, doubtless, though in some respect it be continued to all ages in the ministry of the word, yet it principally intended the plentiful effusion of the Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost, after the ascension of our Saviour; which also is made more apparent by the consideration of what he affirmeth that the advocate so sent shall do, namely,—1. “He shall reprove,” or rather, evidently, “convince, the world of sin, because they believed not on him”; which, surely, he abundantly did in that sermon of Peter, Acts 2, when the enemies themselves and haters of Christ were so reproved and convinced of their sin, that, upon the pressing urgency of that conviction, they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?” Then was the world brought to a voluntary confession of the sin of murdering Jesus Christ. 2. He shall do the same of “righteousness, because he went to his Father”;— not of its own righteousness, to reprove it for that, because it is not; but he shall convince the men of the world, who condemned Christ as a seducer, of his righteousness,—that he was not a blasphemer, as they pretended, but the Son of God, as himself witnessed: which they shall be forced to acknowledge when, by the effusion and pouring out of the Spirit upon his apostles, it shall be made evident that he is gone to and received of his Father, and owned by him, as the centurion did presently upon his death. 3. He shall “convince the world of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged”; manifesting to all those of whom he speaketh, that he whom they despised as the carpenter’s son, and bade come down from the cross if he could, is exalted to the right hand of God, having all judgment committed to him, having beforehand, in his death, judged, sentenced, and overcome Satan, the prince of this world, the chief instigator of his crucifiers, who had the power of death. And this I take to be the clear, genuine meaning of this place, not excluding the efficacy of the Spirit, working in the same manner, though not to the same degree, for the same end, in the majesty of the word, to the end of the world. But what this is to universal redemption, let them that can understand it keep it to themselves, for I am confident they will never be able to make it out to others.

Proof 5. “God hath testified, both by his word and his oath, that he would that his Son should so far save as to work a redemption for all men, and likewise that he should bring all to the knowledge of the truth, that there-through redemption might be wrought in and upon them, I Tim. 2:4, with John 3:17. So he willeth not, nor hath any pleasure in, the death of him (even the wicked) that dieth, but rather that he turn and live, Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11. And dare any of us say, the God of truth saith and sweareth that of which he hath no inward and serious meaning? O far be such blasphemy from us!”

Ans. First, This assertion, “That God testifieth, by his word and oath, that he would that Christ should so far save us,” etc., is a bold calling of God to witness that which he never affirmed, nor did it ever enter into his heart; for he hath revealed his will that Christ should save to the utmost them that come to him, and not save so far or so far, as is boldly, ignorantly, and falsely intimated. Let men beware of provoking God to their own confusion; he will not be a witness to the lie of false hearts. Secondly, “That Christ should so bring all to the knowledge of the truth, that there-through redemption might be wrought in and upon them,” is another bold corruption of the word, and false-witness-bearing in the name of God. Is it a small thing for you to weary and seduce men? will you weary our God also? Thirdly, For places of Scripture corrupted to the sense imposed: In John 3:17, God is said to “send his Son, that the world through him might be saved”; not be saved so far or so far, but saved “from their sins,” Matt. 1:21, and “to the uttermost,” Heb. 7:25: so that the world of God’s elect, who only are so saved, is only there to be understood, as hath been proved. In I Tim. 2:4, there is something of the will of God for the saving of all sorts of men, as hath been declared; nothing conducing to the bold assertion used in this place. Fourthly, To those are added that of Ezek. 18:23, that God hath no “pleasure at all that the wicked should die”; and, verse 32, “no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” Now, though these texts are exceeding useless to the business in hand, and might probably have some colour of universal vocation, but none possibly of universal redemption, there being no mention of Christ or his death in the place from whence they are cited; yet because our adversaries are frequently knitting knots from this place to inveigle and hamper the simple, I shall add some few observations upon it to clear the meaning of the text, and demonstrate how it belongs nothing at all to the business in hand.

First, then, let us consider to whom and of whom these words are spoken. Is it to and of all men, or only to the house of Israel? Doubtless these last; they are only intended, they only are spoken to: “Hear now, O house of Israel,” verse 25. Now, will it follow that because God saith he delights not in the death of the house of Israel, to whom he revealed his mind, and required their repentance and conversion, that therefore he saith so of all, even those to whom he never revealed his will by such ways as to them, nor called to repentance, Ps. 147:19, 20? So that the very ground-work of the whole conclusion is removed by this first observation. Secondly, “God willeth not the death of a sinner,” is either, “God purposeth and determineth he shall not die,” or, “God commandeth that he shall do those things wherein he may live.” If the first, why are they not all saved? why do sinners die? for there is an immutability in the counsel of God, Heb. 6:17; “His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure,” Isa. 46:10. If the latter way, by commanding, then the sense is, that the Lord commandeth that those whom he calleth should do their duty, that they may not die (although he knows that this they cannot do without his assistance); now, what this makes to general redemption, I know not. Thirdly, To add no more, this whole place, with the scope, aim, and intention of the prophet in it, is miserably mistaken by our adversaries, and wrested to that whereof there is not the least thought in the text. The words are a part of the answer which the Lord gives to the repining Jews, concerning their proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Now, about what did they use this proverb? Why, “concerning the land of Israel,” verse 2, the land of their habitation, which was laid waste by the sword (as they affirmed) for the sins of their fathers, themselves being innocent. So that it is about God’s temporal judgments in overturning their land and nation that this dispute is; wherein the Lord justifieth himself by declaring the equity of these judgments by reason of their sins, even those sins for which the land devoured them and spewed them out; telling them that his justice is, that for such things they should surely die, their blood should be upon them, verse 13,—they shall be slain with the sword, and cut off by those judgments which they had deserved: not that the shedding of their blood and casting out of their carcasses was a thing in itself so pleasurable or desirable to him as that he did it only for his own will, for let them leave their abominations, and try whether their lives were not prolonged in peace. This being the plain, genuine scope and meaning of this place, at the first view presenting itself to every unprejudiced man, I have often admired how so many strange conclusions for a general purpose of showing mercy to all, universal vocation and redemption, have been wrested from it; as also, how it came to be produced to give colour to that heap of blasphemy which our author calleth his fifth proof.

Proof 6. “The very words and phrases used by the Holy Ghost in Scripture, speaking of the death of Christ, and the ransom and propitiation, to whom it belongs, and who may seek it, and in believing find life, implies no less than all men. As to instance: “All nations,” Matt. 28:19, 20; “the ends of the earth,” Isa. 45:22; 49:6; “every creature,” Mark 16:15; “all,” II Cor. 5:14, 15; I Tim. 2:6; “every man,” Heb. 2:9; “the world,” John 3:16, 17; II Cor. 5:19; “the whole world,” I John 2:2; “that which was lost,” Luke 19:10; “sinners,” Matt. 9:13; “unjust,” I Peter 3:18; “ungodly,” Rom. 5:6; and that whosoever of these repent and believe in Christ shall receive his grace, John 3: 16, 18; Acts 10:43. Now, all these so often and indifferently used, were it not pride and error to devise glosses to restrain the sense the Scripture holdeth forth, so full and large for all men?”

Ans. First, This argument, taken from the words and phrases whereby the object of the death of Christ is in the Scripture expressed, is that which filleth up both pages of this book, being repeated, and most of the places here cited urged, a hundred times over; and yet it is so far from being any pressing argument, as that indeed it is nothing but a bare naked repetition of the thing in debate, concluding according to his own persuasion; for the main quaeie between us is, whether the words all and the world be to be taken universally? He saith so, and he saith so; which is all the proof we have, repeating over the thing to be proved instead of a proof. Secondly, For those places which affirm Christ to die for “sinners,” “ungodly,” “that which was lost,” etc.,—as Luke 19:10; Matt. 9:13; I Peter 3:18; Rom. 5:6,—I have before declared how exceedingly unserviceable they are to universal redemption. Thirdly, For those places where the words “all,” “every man,” “the world,” “the whole world,” are used, we have had them over and over; and they likewise have been considered. Fourthly, For those expressions of “all nations,” Matt. 28:19, 20, “every creature,” Mark 16:15, used concerning them to whom the gospel is preached, I say,—First, That they do not comprise all individuals, nay, not all nations at all times, much less all singular persons of all nations if we look upon the accomplishment and fulfilling of that command; neither, de facto, was the gospel ever so preached to all, although there by a fitness and a suitableness in the dispensation thereof to be so preached to all, as was declared. Secondly, The command of preaching the gospel to all doth not in the least manner prove that Christ died with an intention to redeem all; but it hath other grounds and other ends, as hath been manifested. Thirdly, That the ransom belongs to all to whom it is proposed we deny; there be other ends of that proposal; and Christ will say to some of them that he never knew them: therefore, certainly, he did not lay down his life for them. Fourthly, “The ends of the earth,” Isa. 45:22, are those that look up to God from all parts, and are saved; which surely are not all and every one. And Christ being given to be a “salvation unto the end of the earth,” chap. 49:6, is to do no more among the Gentiles than God promiseth in the same place that he shall do for his own people,—even “gather the preserved of Israel”; so shall he bear forth the salvation of God, and gather the preserved remnant of his elect to the ends of the earth.

And now, I hope, I need not mind the intelligent reader that the author of these collections could not have invented a more ready way for the ruin of the thesis which he seeks to maintain than by producing those places of Scripture last recounted for the confirmation of it, granting that all and the world are no more than “all the ends of the earth,” mentioned in Isa. 45:22; 49:6; it being evident beyond denial that by these expressions, in both these places, only the elect of God and believers are clearly intimated: so that, interpreting the one by the other, in those places where all and the world are spoken of, those only are intended. “If pride and error” had not taken full possession of the minds of men, they could not so far deny their own sense and reason as to contradict themselves and the plain texts of Scripture for the maintenance of their false and corrupt opinions.

Proof 7. “That whereas there are certain high and peculiar privileges of the Spirit contained in the New Testament, sealed by the blood of Christ, which belong not to all men, but only to the saints, the called and chosen of the Lord, and when they are alone distinctly mentioned, they are even so spoken of as belonging to them only, Matt. 13:11; John 14:17, 21-23; 16:13-15; 17:19, 20; Acts 2:38, 39; I Cor. 2:9, 14; Heb. 9:15; 8; I Peter 2:3, 9; yet many of these peculiar privileges are so spoken of as joined together with the ransom and propitiation, which belongs to all. Then are they not spoken of in such a restraining and exclusive manner, or with such appropriating words, but so, and with such words, as room is left to apply the ransom to all men, in speech; and withal, so hold out the privileges to them that believe that are proper to them, that they may both have their comfort and especial hope, and also hold forth the ransom and keep open the door for others, in belief and receipt of the propitiation, to come in and partake with them. And so it is said for his “sheep,” and for “many”; but nowhere but only for his sheep, or but only for many: which is a strong proof of the ransom for all men, as is shown, chap. 3, 10.”

Ans. The strength of this proof, as to the business in hand, is wholly hid from me; neither do I perceive how it may receive any such tolerable application as to deserve the name of a proof, as to the main thesis intended to be maintained. The force which it hath is in an observation which, if it hath any sense, is neither true nor once attempted to be made good; for,—First, That there are peculiar high privileges belonging to the saints and called of God is a thing which needs no proof. Amongst these is the death of Christ for them, not as saints, but as elect, which, by the benefit of that death and blood-shedding, are to be made saints, and accounted to be the holy ones of God: for “he redeemed his church with his own blood,” Acts 20:28; he “loved and gave himself for it,” Eph. 5:25; even “us,” Titus 2:14;—even as divers of those [privileges] here intimated are expressly assigned unto them, as elect, such as those, John 17:19, 20; amongst which also, as in the same rank with them, is reckoned Jesus’ “sanctifying himself for their sakes,” that is to be an oblation, verse 19. In a word, all peculiar saving privileges belong only to God’s elect, purchased for them, and them alone, by the blood of Jesus Christ, Eph. 1:3, 4. Secondly, For the other part of the observation, that where mention is made of these together with the ransom, there is room left to extend the ransom to all, I answer,—First, This is said, indeed, but not once attempted to be proved. We have but small cause to believe the author, in any thing of this importance, upon his bare word. Secondly, For the “leaving of room for the application,” I perceive that if it be not left, ye will make it, though ye justle the true sense of the Scripture quite out of its place. Thirdly, I have already showed that where “many” are mentioned, the ransom only (as ye use to speak) is expressed, as also where “sheep” are spoken of; the like is said where the word “all” is used;—so that there is not the least difference. Fourthly, in divers places the ransom of Christ and those other peculiar privileges (which indeed are fruits of it) are so united together, as it is impossible to apply the latter to some and the other to all, being all of them restrained to his saved ones only, Rev. 5:9, 10. The redemption of his people by the ransom of his blood, and their making kings and priests, are united, and no room left for the extending of the ransom to all, it being punctually assigned to those saved crowned ones, distinguished from the rest of the nations and languages from among whom they were taken, who were passed by in the payment of the ransom; which is directly opposite to all the sense which I can observe in this observation. Fifthly, Of “sheep, and sheep only,” enough before.

Proof 8. “The restoration wrought by Christ in his own body for mankind is set forth in Scripture to be as large and full for all men, and of as much force, as the fall of the first Adam, by and in himself, for all men; in which respect the first Adam is said to have been a figure of Christ, the second Adam, Rom. 3:22-25; 5:12, 14, 18; I Cor. 15:21, 22, 45-47: as is before shown, chap. 8.”

Ans. First, It is most true that Christ and Adam are compared together (in respect of the righteousness of the one, communicated to them that are his, and the disobedience and transgression of the other, in like manner communicated to all them that are of him) in some of the places here mentioned, as Rom. 5:12, 18. But evidently the comparison is not instituted between the righteousness of Christ and the disobedience of Adam extensively, in respect of the object, but intensively, in respect of the efficacy of the one and the other; the apostle asserting the effectualness of the righteousness of Christ unto justification, to answer the prevalency of the sin of Adam unto condemnation,—that even as the transgression of Adam brought a guilt of condemnation upon all them that are his natural seed, so the righteousness of Christ procured the free gift of grace unto justification towards all them that are his, his spiritual seed, that were the children given unto him of his Father.

Secondly, I Cor. 15:21, 22, speaketh of the resurrection from the dead, and that only of believers; for though he mentions them all, verse 22, “In Christ shall all be made alive,” yet, verse 23, he plainly interprets those all to be all that are “Christ’s”: not but that the other dead shall rise also, but that it is a resurrection to glory, by virtue of the resurrection of Christ, which the apostle here treats of; which certainly all shall not have.

Thirdly, The comparison between Christ and Adam, verse 45 (to speak nothing of the various reading of that place), is only in respect of the principles which they had, and were intrusted withal to communicate to others: “Adam a living soul,” or a “living creature”; there was in him a principle of life natural, to be communicated to his posterity;—”Christ a quickening Spirit,” giving life, grace, and spirit to his. And here I would desire that it may be observed, that all the comparison that is anywhere instituted between Christ and Adam still comes to one head, and aims at one thing,—namely, that they were as two common stocks or roots, communicating to them that are ingrafted into them (that is, into Adam naturally, by generation; into Christ spiritually, by regeneration) that wherewith they were replenished;—Adam, sin, guilt, and disobedience; Christ, righteousness, peace, and justification. [As] for the number of those that do thus receive these things from one and the other, the consideration of it is exceedingly alien from the scope, aim, and end of the apostle in the places where the comparison is instituted.

Fourthly, It is true, in Rom. 3:23, it is said, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” which the apostle had at large proved before, thereby to manifest that there was no salvation to be attained but only by Jesus Christ; but if ye will ask to whom this righteousness of Christ is extended, and that redemption which is in his blood, he telleth you plainly, it is “unto all and upon all them that believe,” verse 22, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, “for there is no difference.”

Proof 9. “The Lord Jesus Christ hath sent and commanded his servants to preach the gospel to all nations, to every creature, and to tell them withal that whoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved, Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16: and his servants have so preached to all, II Cor. 5:19; Rom. 10:13, 18. And our Lord Jesus Christ will make it to appear one day that he hath not sent his servants upon a false errand, nor put a lie in their mouths, nor wished them to dissemble, in offering that to all which they knew belonged but to some, even to fewest of all, but to speak truth, Isa. 44:26; 61:8; I Tim. 1:12.”

Ans. The strength of this proof is not easily apparent, nor manifest wherein it lieth, in what part or words of it: for,—First, It is true, Christ commanded his apostles to “preach the gospel to all nations and every creature,”—to tell them “that whosoever believeth shall be saved,” Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16; that is, without distinction of persons or nations, to call all men to whom the providence of God should direct them, and from whom the Spirit of God should not withhold them (as from them, Acts 16:6, 7), warning them to repent and believe the gospel. Secondly, It is also true, that, in obedience unto this command, his servants did beseech men so to do, and to be reconciled unto God, even all over the nations, without distinction of any, but where they were forbidden, as above, labouring to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and not to tie it up to the confines of Jewry, II Cor. 5:19, 20; Rom. 10:18. Most certain also it is, that the Lord Jesus Christ sent not his servants with a lie, to offer that to all which belonged only to some, but to speak the truth; of which there needs no proof. But now, what can be concluded from hence for universal redemption is not easily discernible.

Perhaps some will say it is in this, that if Christ did not die for all to whom the word is preached, then how can they that preach it offer Christ to all? A poor proof, God wot! For,—First, The gospel was never preached to all and every one, nor is there any such thing affirmed in the places cited; and ye are to prove that Christ died for all, as well those that never hear of the gospel as those that do. Secondly, What do the preachers of the gospel offer to them to whom the word is preached? Is it not life and salvation through Christ, upon the condition of faith and repentance? And doth not the truth of this offer consist in this, that every one that believeth shall be saved? And doth not that truth stand firm and inviolable, so long as there is an all-sufficiency in Christ to save all that come unto him? Hath God intrusted the ministers of the gospel with his intentions, purpose, and counsels, or with his commands and promises? Is it a lie, to tell men that he that believeth shall be saved, though Christ did not die for some of them? Such proofs as these had need be well proved themselves, or they will conclude the thing intended very weakly.

Proof 10. “The Lord willeth believers to pray even for the unjust and their persecutors, Matt. 5:44, 48; Luke 6:28; yea, even ‘for all men’; yea, even ‘for kings and all in authority,’ when few in authority loved Christianity. Yet he said not, some of that sort, but, ‘For all in authority’; and that on this ground,—it is good in the sight of God, ‘who will have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth,’ Luke 10:5; I Tim. 2:1-4. Surely there is a door of life opened for all men, II Tim. 1: 10; for God hath not said to the seed of Israel, ‘Seek ye me in vain,’ Isa. 44:19. He will not have his children pray for vain things.”

Ans. The strength of this proof lieth in supposing,—First, That indefinite assertions are to be interpreted as equivalent to universal; which is false, Rom. 4, 5. Secondly, That by “all,” I Tim. 2:1, is not meant all sorts of men, and the word all is not to be taken distributively, when the apostle, by an enumeration of divers sorts, gives an evident demonstration of the distribution intended. Thirdly, That we are bound to pray for every singular man that he may be saved; which,—I. We have no warrant, rule, precept, or example for; 2. It is contrary to the apostolical precept, I John 5:16; 3. To our Saviour’s example, John 17:9; 4. To the counsel and purpose of God, in the general made known to us, Rom. 9:11, 12, 15; 11:7, where evidently our praying for all is but for all sorts of men, excluding none, and that those may believe who are ordained to eternal life. Fourthly, It supposeth that there is nothing else that we are to pray for men but that they may be saved by Christ; which is apparently false, Jer. 29:7. Fifthly, That our ground of praying for any is an assurance that Christ died for them in particular; which is not true, Acts 8:22, 24. Sixthly, It most splendidly takes for granted that our duty is to be conformed to God’s secret mind, his purpose and counsel. Until every one of these supposals be made good, (which never a one of them will be very suddenly), there is no help in this proof nor strength in this argument, “We must pray for all; therefore God intends by the death of Christ to save all and every one,” its sophistry and weakness being apparent. From our duty to God’s purpose is no good conclusion, though from his command to our duty be most certain. . . .

And these are the proofs which this author calls “plain and according to Scripture,” being a recapitulation of almost all that he hath said in his whole book; at least, for the argumentative part thereof, there is not any thing of weight omitted: and therefore this chapter I fixed on to return a full and punctual answer unto. Now, whether the thing intended to be proved, namely, The paying of a ransom by Christ for all and every man, be plainly, clearly, and evidently from the Scripture confirmed, as he would bear us in hand; or whether all this heap of words, called arguments, reasons, and proofs, be not, for their manner of expression, obscure, uncouth, and ofttimes unintelligible,—for their way of inference, childish, weak, and ridiculous,—in their allegations and interpretations of Scripture, perverse, violent, mistaken, through ignorance, heedlessness, and corruption of judgment, in direct opposition to the mind and will of God revealed therein,— is left to the judgment of the Christian reader that shall peruse them, with the answers annexed.


John Owen was unquestionably one of the greatest Puritan divines. He was born at Stradhampton, Oxfordshire, the son of a country minister. At the age of twelve he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, receiving a B.A. in 1632 and M.A. in 1635. He was ordained in the Anglican church while still at Oxford, but he later refused to submit to William Laud’s High Church discipline. He left Oxford in 1637 and was a private chaplain for the next six years.

He went to Fordham, Essex, in 1643 when he was still Presbyterian (cf. his Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished [1643]). Soon after taking the Presbyterian congregation at Coggeshall, Essex, Owen introduced and espoused independent church government. At about the same time (1646), he preached before Long Parliament, clearly advocating his Independent and Parliamentarian views. He continued to preach before Parliament, and at its request he preached there in 1649, the day after Charles I was executed. Owen eventually became the chaplain of Cromwell.

During these stormy years, Owen was actively involved in political affairs, and during the Protectorate he was at the head of Oxford University, appointed dean of Christ Church in 1651 and vice chancellor of the university in 1652. In 1653 he was awarded the D.D. by Oxford. In 1658, however, he separated from Cromwell, opposing Cromwell’s desire for kingship, and left Oxford to take a leading role in the Savoy Assembly. His contribution to the university had been the improvement of its scholarship and discipline.

During these years Owen poured forth volumes of sermons, tracts, controversial pamphlets, commentaries, and doctrinal studies. The value and significance of Owen’s writings is unsurpassed. After the Restoration in 1660, he was greatly respected by the royal government and became the leader of the Independents. After declining a call to the pastorate in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as an offer to be president of Harvard College, Owen became pastor in 1673 of a large congregation at Leadenhall Street Chapel and remained there until his death in 1683.

Among Owen’s main works were Display of Arminianism (1642), The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1648), The Doctrine of the Saint’s Perseverance (1654), Vindiciae Evangelicae (1655), On the Mortification of Sin (1656), A Primer for Children (1660), the four-volume Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews (1668-1684), Discourse on the Holy Spirit (1674), Christology (1679), Vindication of the Nonconformists (1680), and True Nature of a Gospel Church (1689). Owen’s entire works were edited by William Orme and published in twenty-three volumes in 1820. A twenty-four-volume edition, edited by William Goold, was published in 1850 and reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust of London from 1965 to 1968.

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