An entrance to the answer unto particular arguments.
Now we come to the consideration of the objections wherewith the doctrine we have, from the word of God, undeniably confirmed is usually, with great noise and clamour, assaulted; concerning which I must give you these three cautions, before I come to lay them down: —
The first whereof is this, that for mine own part I had rather they were all buried than once brought to light, in opposition to the truth of God, which they seem to deface; and therefore, were it left to my choice, I would not produce any one of them: not that there is any difficulty or weight in them, that the removal should be operose or burdensome, but only that I am not willing to be any way instrumental to give breath or light to that which opposeth the truth of God. But because, in these times of liberty and error, I suppose the most of them have been objected to the reader already by men lying in wait to deceive, or are likely to be, I shall therefore show you the poison, and withal furnish you with an antidote against the venom of such self-seekers as our days abound withal.
Secondly, I must desire you, that when ye hear an objection, ye would not be carried away with the sound of words, nor suffer it to take impression on your spirits, remembering with how many demonstrations and innumerable places of Scripture the truth opposed by them hath been confirmed, but rest yourselves until the places be well weighed, the arguments pondered, the answers set down; and then the Lord direct you to “prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.”
Thirdly, That you would diligently observe what comes near the stress of the controversy, and the thing wherein the difference lieth, leaving all other flourishes and swelling words of vanity, as of no weight, of no importance.
Now, the objections laid against the truth maintained are of two sorts; — the first, taken from Scripture perverted; the other, from reason abused.
We begin with the first, the OBJECTIONS TAKEN FROM SCRIPTURE; all the places whereof that may any way seem to contradict our assertion are, by our ‘strongest adversaries, in their greatest strength, referred to three heads: — First, Those places that affirm that Christ died for the world, or that otherwise make mention of the word world in the business of redemption. Secondly, Those that mention all and every man, either in the work of Christ’s dying for them, or where God is said to will their salvation. Thirdly, Those which affirm Christ bought or died for them that perish. Hence they draw out three principal arguments or sophisms, on which they much insist. All which we shall, by the Lord’s assistance, consider in their several order, with the places of Scripture brought to confirm and strengthen them.
I. The first whereof is taken from the word “world,” and is thus proposed by them, to whom our poor pretenders are indeed very children: —
“He that is given out of the love wherewith God loved the world, as John iii. 16; that gave himself for the life of the world, as John vi. 51; and was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, as 1 John ii. 2” (to which add, John i. 29, iv. 42; 2 Cor. v.19, cited by Armin. pp. 530, 531, and Corv. ad Molin. p. 442, chap. 29); “he was given and died for every man in the world; — but the first is true of Christ, as appears by the places before alleged: therefore he died for all and every one,” Remon. Act. Synod. p. 300. And to this they say their adversaries have not any colour of answer.
But granting them the liberty of boasting, we flatly deny, without seeking for colours, the consequent of the first proposition, and will, by the Lord’s help, at any time, put it to the trial whether we have not just cause so to do. There be two ways whereby they go about to prove this consequent from the world to all and every one; — first, By reason and the sense of the word; secondly, From the consideration of the particular places of Scripture urged. We will try them in both.
First, If they will make it out by the way of reasoning, I conceive they must argue thus: —
The whole world contains all and every man in the world; Christ died for the whole world: therefore, etc.
Ans. Here are manifestly four terms in this syllogism, arising from the ambiguity of the word “world,” and so no true medium on which the weight of the conclusion should hang; the world, in the first proposition, being taken for the world containing; in the second, for the world contained, or men in the world, as is too apparent to be made a thing to be proved. So that unless ye render the conclusion, Therefore Christ died for that which contains all the men in the world, and assert in the assumption that Christ died for the world containing, or the fabric of the habitable earth (which is a frenzy), this syllogism is most sophistically false. If, then, ye will take any proof from the word “world,” it must not be from the thing itself, but from the signification of the word in the Scripture; as thus: —
This word “world” in the Scripture signifieth all and every man in the world; but Christ is said to die for the world: ergo, etc.
Ans. The first proposition, concerning the signification and meaning of the word world is either universal, comprehending all places where it is used, or particular, intending only some. If the first, the proposition is apparently false, as was manifested before; if in the second way, then the argument must be thus formed: —
In some places in Scripture the word “world” signifieth all and every man in the world, of all ages, times, and conditions; but Christ is said to die for the world: ergo, etc.
Ans. That this syllogism is no better than the former is most evident, a universal conclusion being inferred from a particular proposition. But now the first proposition being rightly formed, I have one question to demand concerning the second, or the assumption, — namely, whether in every place where there is mention made of the death of Christ, it is said he died for the world, or only in some? If ye say in every place, that is apparently false, as hath been already discovered by those many texts of Scripture before produced, restraining the death of Christ to his elect, his sheep, his church, in comparison whereof these are but few. If the second, then the argument must run thus: —
In some few places of Scripture the word “world” doth signify all and every man in the world; but in some few places Christ is said to die for the world (though not in express words, yet in terms equivalent): ergo, etc.
Ans. This argument is so weak, ridiculous, and sophistically false, that it cannot but be evident to any one; and yet clearly, from the word world itself it will not be made any better, and none need desire that it should be worse. It concludes a universal upon particular affirmatives, and, besides, with four terms apparently in the syllogism; unless the some places in the first be proved to be the very some places in the assumption, which is the thing in question. So that if any strength be taken from this word, it must be an argument in this form: —
If the word “world” doth signify all and every man that ever were or shall be, in those places where Christ is said to die for the world, then Christ died for all and every man; but the word “world,” in all those places where Christ is said to die for the world, doth signify all and every man in the world: therefore Christ died for them.
Ans. First, That it is but in one place said that Christ gave his life for the world, or died for it, which holds out the intention of our Saviour; all the other places seem only to hold out the sufficiency of his oblation for all, which we also maintain. Secondly, We absolutely deny the assumption, and appeal for trial to a consideration of all those particular places wherein such mention is made.
Thus have I called this argument to rule and measure, that it might be evident where the great strength of it lieth (which is indeed very weakness), and that for their sakes who, having caught hold of the word world, run presently away with the bait, as though all were clear for universal redemption; when yet, if ye desire them to lay out and manifest the strength of their reason, they know not what to say but the world and the whole world, understanding, indeed, neither what they say nor whereof they do affirm, And now, quid dignum tanto? what cause of the great boast mentioned in the entrance? A weaker argument, I dare say, was never by rational men produced in so weighty a cause; which will farther be manifested by the consideration of the several particular places produced to give it countenance, which we shall do in order: —
1. The first place we pitch upon is that which by our adversaries is first propounded, and not a little rested upon; and yet, notwithstanding their clamorous claim, there are not a few who think that very text as fit and ready to overthrow their whole opinion as Goliath’s sword to cut off his own head, many unanswerable arguments against the universality of redemption: being easily deduced from the words of that text. The great peaceable King of his church guide us to make good the interest of truth to the place in controversy which through him we shall attempt; — first, by opening the words; and, secondly, by balancing of reasonings and arguments from them. And this place is John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This place, I say, the Universalists exceedingly boast in; for which we are persuaded they have so little cause, that we doubt not but, with the Lord’s assistance, to demonstrate that it is destructive to their whole defence: to which end I will give you, in brief; a double paraphrase of the words, the first containing their sense, the latter ours. Thus, then, our adversaries explain these words: — “‘God so loved,’ had such a natural inclination, velleity, and propensity to the good of ‘the world,’ Adam, with all and every one of his posterity, of all ages, times, and conditions (whereof some were in heaven, some in hell long before), ‘that he gave his only-begotten Son,’ causing him to be incarnate in the fulness of time, to die, not with a purpose and resolution to save any, but ‘that whosoever,’ what persons soever of those which he had propensity unto, ‘believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ should have this fruit and issue, that he should escape death and hell, and live eternally.” In which explication of the sense of the place these things are to be observed: — First, What is that love which was the cause of the sending or giving of Christ; which they make to be a natural propensity to the good of all. Secondly, Who are the objects of this love; all and every man of all generations. Thirdly, Wherein this giving consisteth; of which I cannot find whether they mean by it the appointment of Christ to be a recoverer, or his actual exhibition in the flesh for the accomplishment of his ministration. Fourthly, Whosoever, they make distributive of the persons in the world, and so not restrictive in the intention to some. Fifthly, That life eternal is the fruit obtained by believers, but not the end intended by God.
Now, look a little, in the second place, at what we conceive to be the mind of God in those words; whose aim we take to be the advancement, and setting forth of the free love of God to lost sinners, in sending Christ to procure for them eternal redemption, as may appear in this following paraphrase:
In which enlargement of the words, for the setting forth of what we conceive to be the mind of the Holy Ghost in them, these things are to be observed: —
First, What we understand by the “love” of God, even that act of his will which was the cause of sending his Son Jesus Christ, being the most eminent act of love and favour to the creature; for love is velle alicui bonum, “to will good to any.” And never did God will greater good to the creature than in appointing his Son for their redemption. Notwithstanding, I would have it observed that I do not make the purpose of sending or giving Christ to be absolutely subordinate to God’s love to his elect, as though that were the end of the other absolutely, but rather that they are both coordinate to the same supreme end, or the manifestation of God’s glory by the way of mercy tempered with justice; but in respect of our apprehension, that is the relation wherein they stand one to another. Now, this love we say to be that, greater than which there is none.
Secondly, By the “world,” we understand the elect of God only, though not considered in this place as such, but under such a notion as, being true of them, serves for the farther exaltation of God’s love towards them, which is the end here designed; and this is, as they are poor, miserable, lost creatures in the world, of the world, scattered abroad in all places of the world, not tied to Jews or Greeks, but dispersed in any nation, kindred, and language under heaven.
Thirdly, Ina pas o pisteuwn, is to us, “that every believer,” and is declarative of the intention of God in sending or giving his Son, containing no distribution of the world beloved, but a direction to the persons whose good was intended, that love being an unchangeable intention of the chiefest good.
Fourthly, “Should not perish, but have life everlasting,” contains an expression of the particular aim and intention of God in this business; which is, the certain salvation of believers by Christ. And this, in general, is the interpretation of the words which we adhere unto, which will yield us sundry arguments, sufficient each of them to evert the general ransom; which, that they may be the better bottomed, and the more clearly convincing, we will lay down and compare the several words and expressions of this place, about whose interpretation we differ, with the reason of our rejecting the one sense and embracing the other: —
The first difference in the interpretation of this place is about the cause of sending Christ; called here love. The second, about the object of this love; called here the world. Thirdly, Concerning the intention of God in sending his Son; said to be that believers might be saved.
For the First; By “love” in this place, all our adversaries agree that a natural affection and propensity in God to the good of the creature, lost under sin, in general, which moved him to take some way whereby it might possibly be remedied, is intended. We, on the contrary, say that by love here is not meant an inclination or propensity of his nature, but an act of his will (where we conceive his love to be seated), and eternal purpose to do good to man, being the most transcendent and eminent act of God’s love to the creature.
That both these may be weighed, to see which is most agreeable to the mind of the Holy Ghost, I shall give you, first, some of the reasons whereby we oppose the former interpretation; and, secondly, those whereby we confirm our own.
First, If no natural affection, whereby he should necessarily be carried to any thing without himself; can or ought to be ascribed unto God, then no such thing is here intended in the .word love; for that cannot be here intended which is not in God at all. But now, that there neither is nor can be any such natural affection in God is most apparent, and may be evidenced by many demonstrations. I shall briefly recount a few of them: — First, Nothing that includes any imperfection is to be assigned to Almighty God: he is God all-sufficient; he is our rock, and His work is perfect. But a natural affection in God to the good and salvation of all, being never completed nor perfected, carrieth along with it a great deal of imperfection and weakness; and not only so, but it must also needs be exceedingly prejudicial to the absolute blessedness and happiness of Almighty God. Look, how much any thing wants of the fulfilling of that whereunto it is carried out with any desire, natural or voluntary, so much it wanteth of blessedness and happiness. So that, without impairing of the infinite blessedness of the ever-blessed God, no natural affection unto any thing never to be accomplished can be ascribed unto him, such as this general love to all is supposed to be.
Secondly, If the Lord hath such a natural affection to all, as to love them so far as to send his Son to die for them, whence is it that this affection of his doth not receive accomplishment? whence is it that it is hindered, and doth not produce its effects? why doth not the Lord engage his power for the fulfilling of his desire? “It doth not seem good to his infinite wisdom,” say they, “so to do.” Then is there an affection in God to that which, in his wisdom, he cannot prosecute. This among the sons of men, the worms of’ the earth, would be called a brutish affection.
Thirdly, No affection or natural propensity to good is to be ascribed to God which the Scripture nowhere assigns to him, and is contrary to what the Scripture doth assign unto him. Now, the Scripture doth nowhere assign unto God any natural affection whereby he should be naturally inclined to the good of the creature; the place to prove it clearly is yet to be produced. And that it is contrary to what the Scripture assigns him is apparent; for it describes him to be free in showing mercy, every act of it being by him performed freely, even as he pleaseth, for “he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.” Now, if every act of mercy showed unto any do proceed from the free distinguishing will of God (as is apparent), certainly there can be in him no such natural affection. And the truth is, if the Lord should not show mercy, and be carried out towards the creature, merely upon his own distinguishing will, but should naturally be moved to show mercy to the miserable, he should, first, be no more merciful to men than to devils, nor, secondly, to those that are saved than to those that are damned: for that which is natural must be equal in all its operations; and that which is natural to God must be eternal. Many more effectual reasons are produced by our divines for the denial of this natural affection in God, in the resolution of the Arminian distinction (I call it so, as now by them abused) of God’s antecedent and consequent will, to whom the learned reader may repair for satisfaction. So that the love mentioned in this place is not that natural affection to all in general, which is not But, —
Secondly, It is the special love of God to his elect, as we affirm, and so, consequently, not any such thing as our adversaries suppose to be intended by it, — namely, a velleity or natural inclination to the good of all. For,—
First, The love here intimated is absolutely the most eminent and transcendent love that ever God showed or bare towards any miserable creature; yea, the intention of our Saviour is so to set it forth, as is apparent by the emphatical expression of it used in this place. The particles “so,” “that,” declare no less, pointing out an eximiousness peculiarly remarkable in the thing whereof the affirmation is [made], above any other thing in the same kind. Expositors usually lay weight upon almost every particular word of the verse, for the exaltation and demonstration of the love here mentioned. “So,” that is, in such a degree, to such a remarkable, astonishable height: “God,” the glorious, all-sufficient God, that could have manifested his justice to eternity in the condemnation of all sinners, and no way wanted them to be partakers of his blessedness: “loved,” with such an earnest, intents affection, consisting in an eternal, unchangeable act and purpose of his will, for the bestowing of the chiefest good (the choicest effectual love): “the world,” men in the world, of the world, subject to the iniquities and miseries of the world, lying in their blood, having nothing to render them commendable in his eyes, or before him: “that he gave,” did not, as he made all the world at first, speak the word and it was done, but proceeded higher, to the performance of a great deal more and longer work, wherein he was to do more than exercise an act of his almighty power, as before; and therefore gave “his Son;” not any favourite or other well-pleasing creature; not sun, moon, or stars; not the rich treasure of his creation (all too mean, and coming short of expressing this love); but his Son: “begotten Son,” and that not so called by reason of some near approaches to him, and filial, obediential reverence of him, as the angels are called the sons of God; for it was not an angel that he gave, which yet had been an expression of most intense love; nor yet any son by adoption, as believers are the sons of God; but his begotten Son, begotten of his own person from eternity; and that “his only-begotten Son;” not any one of his sons, but whereas he had or hath but one only-begotten Son, always in his bosom, his Isaac, he gave him: — than which how could the infinite wisdom of God make or give any higher testimony of his love? especially if ye will add what is here evidently included, though the time was not as yet come that it should be openly expressed, namely, whereunto he gave his Son, his only one; not to be a king, and worshipped in the first place, — but he “spared him not, but delivered him up” to death “for us all,” Rom. viii. 32. Whereunto, for a close of all, cast your eyes upon his design and purpose in this whole business, and ye shall find that it was that believers, those whom he thus loved, “might not perish,” — that is, undergo the utmost misery and wrath to eternity, which they had deserved — “but have everlasting life,” eternal glory with himself; which of themselves they could no way attain; and ye will easily grant that “greater love hath no man than this.” Now, if the love here mentioned be the greatest, highest, and chiefest of all, certainly it cannot be that common affection towards all that we discussed before; for the love whereby men are actually and eternally saved is greater than that which may consist with the perishing of men to eternity.
Secondly, The Scripture positively asserts this very love as the chiefest act of the love of God, and that which he would have us take notice of in the first place: Rom. v. 8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and fully, 1 John iv. 9, 10, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In both which places the eminency of this love is set forth exceeding emphatically to believers, with such expressions as can no way be accommodated to a natural velleity to the good of all.
Thirdly, That seeing all love in God is but velle alicui bonum, to will good to them that are beloved, they certainly are the object of his love to whom he intends that good which is the issue and effect of that love; but now the issue of this love or good intended, being not perishing, and obtaining eternal life through Christ, happens alone to, and is bestowed on, only elect believers: therefore, they certainly are the object of this love, and they alone; — which was the thing we had to declare.
Fourthly, That love which is the cause of giving Christ is also always the cause of the bestowing of all other good things: Rom. viii. 32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Therefore, if the love there mentioned be the cause of sending Christ, as it is, it must also cause all other things to be given with him, and so can be towards none but those who have those things bestowed on them; which are only the elect, only believers. Who else have grace here, or glory hereafter?
Fifthly, The word here, which is hgapho", signifieth, in its native importance, valde dilexit, — to love so as to rest in that love; which how it can stand with hatred, and an eternal purpose of not bestowing effectual grace, which is in the Lord towards some, will not easily be made apparent. And now let the Christian reader judge, whether by the love of God, in this place mentioned, be to be understood a natural velleity or inclination in God to the good of all, both elect and reprobate, or the peculiar love of God to his elect, being the fountain of the chiefest good that ever was bestowed on the sons of men. This is the first difference about the interpretation of these words.
SECONDLY, The second thing controverted is the object of this love, pressed by the word “world;” which our adversaries would have to signify all and every man; we, the elect of God scattered abroad in the world, with a tacit opposition to the nation of the Jews, who alone, excluding all other nations (some few proselytes excepted), before the actual exhibition of Christ in the flesh, had all the benefits of the promises appropriated to them, Rom. ix. 4; in which privilege now all nations were to have an equal share. To confirm the exposition of the word as used by the Universalists, nothing of weight, that ever yet I could see, is brought forth, but only the word itself; for neither the love mentioned in the beginning, nor the design pointed at in the end of the verse, will possibly agree with the sense which they impose on that word in the middle. Beside; how weak and infirm an inference from the word world, by reason of its ambiguous and wonderful various acceptations, is, we have at large declared before.
Three poor shifts I find in the great champions of this course, to prove that the word world doth not signify the elect. Justly we might have expected some reasons to prove that it signified or implied all and every man in the world, which was their own assertion; but of this ye have a deep silence, being conscious, no doubt, of their disability for any such performance. Only, as I said, three pretended arguments they bring to disprove that which none went about to prove, — namely, that by the world is meant the elect as such; for though we conceive the persons here designed directly men in and of the world, to be all and only God’s elect, yet we do not say that they are here so considered, but rather under another notion, as men scattered over all the world, in themselves subject to misery and sin. So that whosoever will oppose our exposition of this place must either, first, prove that by the world here must be necessarily understood all and every man in the world; or, secondly, that it cannot be taken indefinitely for men in the world which materially are elect, though not considered under that formality. So that all those vain flourishes which some men make with these word; by putting the word elect into the room of the word world; and then coining absurd consequences, are quite beside the business in hand. Yet, farther, we deny that by a supply of the word elect into the text any absurdity or untruth will justly follow. Yea, and that flourish which is usually so made is but a bugbear to frighten weak ones; for, suppose we should read it thus, “God so loved the elect, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,” what inconvenience will now follow? “Why,” say they, “that some of the elect, whom God so loved as to send his Son for, may perish.” Why, I pray? Is it because he sent his Son that they might not perish? or what other cause? “No; but because it is said, that whosoever of them believeth on him should not perish; which intimates that some of them might not believe.” Very good! But where is any such intimation? God designs the salvation of all them in express words for whom he sends his Son; and certainly all that shall be saved shall believe. But it is in the word whosoever, which is distributive of the world into those that believe and those that believe not. Ans. First, If this word whosoever be distributive, then it is restrictive of the love of God to some, and not to others, — to one part of the distribution, and not to the other. And if it do not restrain the love of God, intending the salvation of some, then it is not distributive of the fore-mentioned object of it; and if it do restrain it, then all are not intended in the love which moved God to give his Son. Secondly, I deny that the word here is distributive of the object of God’s love, but only declarative of his end and aim in giving Christ in the pursuit of that love, — to wit, that all believers might be saved. So that the sense is, “God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved.” And this is all that is by any (besides a few worthless cavils) objected from this place to disprove our interpretation; which we shall now confirm both positively and negatively: —
First, Our first reason is taken from what was before proved concerning the nature of that love which is here said to have the world for its object, which cannot be extended to all and every one in the world, as will be confessed by all. Now, such is the world, here, as is beloved with that love which we have here described, and proved to be here intended: — even such a love as is, first, the most transcendent and remarkable; secondly, an eternal act of the will of God; thirdly, the cause of sending Christ; fourthly, of giving all good things in and with him; fifthly, an assured fountain and spring of salvation to all beloved with it. So that the world beloved with this love cannot possibly be all and every one in the world.
Secondly, The word world in the next verse, which carries along the sense of this, and is a continuation of the same matter, being a discovery of the intention of God in giving his Son, must needs signify the elect and believers, at least only those who in the event are saved; therefore so also in this. It is true, the word world is three times used in that verse in a dissonant sense, by an inversion not unusual in the Scripture, as was before declared. It is the latter place that this hath reference to, and is of the same signification with the world in verse 16, “That the world through him might be saved,” — ina swqh, “that it should be saved.” It discovers the aim, purpose, and intention of God, what it was towards the world that he so loved, even its salvation. Now, if this be understood of any but believers, God fails of his aim and intention, which as yet we dare not grant.
Thirdly, It is not unusual with the Scripture to call God’s chosen people by the name of the world, as also of all flesh, all nations, all families of the earth, and the like general expressions; and therefore no wonder if here they are so called, the intention of the place being to exalt and magnify the love of God towards them, which receives no small advancement from their being every way a world. So are they termed where Christ is said to be their Saviour, John iv. 42; which certainly he is only of them who are saved. A Saviour of men not saved is strange. Also John vi. 51, where he is said to give himself for their life. Clearly, verse 33 of the same chapter, he “giveth life unto the world:” which whether it be any but his elect let all men judge; for Christ himself affirms that he gives life only to his “sheep,” and that those to whom he gives life “shall never perish,” chap. x. 27, 28. So Rom. iv. 13, Abraham is said by faith to be “heir of the world;” who, verse 11, is called to be father of the faithful. And Rom. xi. 12, the fall of the Jews is said to be “the riches of the world;” which world compriseth only believers of all sorts in the world, as the apostle affirmed that the word bare fruit “in all the world,” Col. i. 6. This is that “world” which “God reconcileth to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” 2 Cor. v.19; which is attended with blessedness in all them to whom that non-imputation belongeth, Rom. iv. 8. And for divers evident reasons is it that they have this appellation; as, — First, to distinguish the object of this love of God from the nature angelical, which utterly perished in all the fallen individuals; which the Scripture also carefully doth in express terms, Heb. ii. 16, and by calling this love of God filanqrwpia, Titus iii. 4. Secondly, To evert and reject the boasting of the Jews, as though all the means of grace and all the benefits intended were to them appropriated. Thirdly, To denote that great difference and distinction between the old administration of the covenant, when it was tied up to one people, family, and nation, and the new, when all boundaries being broken up, the fulness of the Gentiles and the corners of the world were to be made obedient to the sceptre of Christ. Fourthly, To manifest the condition of the elect themselves, who are thus beloved, for the declaration of the free grace of God towards them, they being divested of all qualifications but only those that bespeak them terrene, earthly, lost, miserable, corrupted. So that thus much at least may easily be obtained, that from the word itself nothing can be opposed justly to our exposition of this place, as hath been already declared, and shall be farther made manifest.
Fourthly, If every one in the world be intended, why doth not the Lord, in the pursuit of this love, reveal Jesus Christ. to every one whom he so loved? Strange! that the Lord should so love men as to give his only-begotten Son for them, and yet not once by any means signify this his love to them, as to innumerable he doth not! — that he should love them, and yet order things so, in his wise dispensation, that this love should be altogether in vain and fruitless! — love them, and yet determine that they shall receive no good by his love, though his love indeed be a willing of the greatest good to them!
Fifthly, Unless ye will grant, — first, Some to be beloved and hated also from eternity; secondly, The love of God towards innumerable to be fruitless and vain; thirdly, The Son of God to be given to them who, first, never hear word of him; secondly, have no power granted to believe in him; fourthly, That God is mutable in his love, or else still loveth those that be in hell; fifthly; That he doth not give all things to them to whom he gives his Son, contrary to Rom. viii. 32; sixthly, That he knows not certainly beforehand who shall believe and be saved; — unless, I say, all these blasphemies and absurdities be granted, it cannot be maintained that by the world here is meant all and every one of mankind, but only men in common scattered throughout the world, which are the elect.
The THIRD difference about these words is, concerning the means whereby this love of the Father, whose object is said to be the world is made out unto them. Now, this is by believing, ina o pisteuwn, — “that whosoever believeth,” or “that every believer.” The intention of these words we take to be, the designing or manifesting of the way whereby the elect of God come to be partakers of the fruits of the love here set forth, — namely, by faith in Christ, God having appointed that for the only way whereby he will communicate unto us the life that is in his Son. To this something was said before, having proved that the term whosoever is not distributive of the object of the love of God; to which, also, we may add these following reasons:— First, If the object be here restrained, so that some only believe and are saved of them for whose sake Christ is sent, then this restriction and determination of the fruits of this love dependeth on the will of God, or on the persons themselves. If on the persons themselves, then make they themselves to differ from others; contrary to 1 Cor. iv. 7. If on the will Of God, then you make the sense of the place, as to this particular, to be, “God so loved all as that but some of them should partake of the fruits of his love.” To what end, then, I pray, did he love those other some? Is not this, “Out with the sword, and run the dragon through with the spear?”
Secondly, Seeing that those words, that whosoever believeth, do peculiarly point out the aim and intention of God in this business, if it do restrain the object beloved, then the salvation of believers is confessedly the aim of God in this business, and that distinguished from others; and if so, the general ransom is an empty sound, having no dependence on the purpose of God, his intention being carried out in the giving of his Son only to the salvation of believers, and that determinately, unless you will assign unto him a nescience of them that should believe.
These words, then, whosoever believeth, containing a designation of the means whereby the Lord will bring us to a participation of life through his Son, whom he gave for us; and the following words, of having life everlasting, making out the whole counsel of God in this matter, subordinate to his own glory; it followeth, — That God gave not his Son, — 1. For them who never do believe; 2. Much less for them who never hear of him, and so evidently want means of faith; 3. For them on whom he hath determined not to bestow effectual grace, that they might believe.
Let now the reader take up the several parts of these opposite expositions, weigh all, try all things, especially that which is especially to be considered, the love of God, and so inquire seriously whether it be only a general affection, and a natural velleity to the good of all, which may stand with the perishing of all and every one so beloved, or the peculiar, transcendent love of the Father to his elect, as before laid down; and then determine whether a general ransom, fruitless in respect of the most for whom it was paid, or the effectual redemption of the elect only, have the firmest and strongest foundation in these words of our Saviour; withal remembering that they are produced as the strongest supportment of the adverse cause, with which, it is most apparent, both the cause of sending Christ and the end intended by the Lord in so doing, as they are here expressed, are altogether inconsistent.
This article is taken from John Owen's magnificent work The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, (Book IV., Chapter II) of the Banner of Truth edition: London, 1963. This edition also includes the now heralded "Introductory Essay" by Dr. J.I. Packer, which as been reproduced and distributed separately by several publishers in booklet form.
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