« PrécédentContinuer »
glory of God, as explaining his holy laws, and preaching the gospel of his grace.
Next to glorifying God, doing good to men, is the best of all offices. Many callings are good in this view they are very useful and necessary in regard to the life which now is. But the life to come is more than meat or clothing for a few days: more than healing the diseases of a frail body, which after all must soon die: more than preserving the peace of earthly societies, that will presently pass away and be dissolved. To convert sinners from the error of their way, that their souls may be saved from death; and to assist them, when converted, in running the race set before them, "that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory;" is, beyond comparison, the kindest of all offices. Nor will so good a work, fail of receiving a suitable reward, if performed with fidelity. When all of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake: then "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
3. Let the hearers of the gospel be hence admonished to take heed how they hear. It is a great thing to have the grace of God which bringeth salvation sent to a people; and it will be a fearful thing to have received this grace of God in vain. "Wherefore," as saith the apostle James, "lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your soms: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
HOW THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN, IS AGREEABLE TO THE WILL OF GOD.
1 TIMOTHY II. 4.
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
THIS was said by the apostle to enforce
the duty of praying for all men; and more especially for civil rulers. See the preceding context: "I exhort, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty: For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved," &c.
Whether the second person in the Trinity, is here to be understood by God our Saviour; or the Supreme Being without distinction of persons, may perhaps admit of some doubt. God, however, is certainly meant; and this is sufficient for my present purpose. Our text then contains two assertions; the explanation of which is now proposed.
I. That God will have all men to be saved; and,
II. That, in order to this, he will have them come to the knowledge of the truth.
I. That God will have all men to be saved, is here asserted.
But how is this to be understood! Does the apostle mean, that it is the absolute purpose of God, to effect the salvation of every individual of mankind ! If so, we have in this text a decisive scripture proof, of the disputed doctrine of universal salvation. For God is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." Many designs in a man's heart are altered or frustrated; "but the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand." If therefore it were ever the real intention of God, that the whole human race should be recovered to holiness and happiness, then every child of Adam will infallibly be thus saved.
But there are so many other texts which plainly teach the reverse of this doctrine, that these words, like many scripture assertions expressed in universal terms, must be understood with some limitation.
That men of certain descriptions, will be miserable in the world to come, we are often most explicitly assured. It is said, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." The Saviour of sinners hath told them, " Except ye repent, ye shall perish :" and, "He that believeth not, shall be damned." And afterwards, in the book of Revelation; "The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all lyars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."
Nor is it only said, that all who continue to be of those characters here, shall be thus miserable here
after; without asserting that there will actually be any such. Our Saviour says, "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way which leadeth to destruction, and many go in thereat." He hath also told us, that after the door shall be shut, (6 many will stand without and knock, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us :" to whom he shall say, "I know you not; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." And he adds, "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."
Nor is it a mere temporary exclusion from the happiness of heaven, and condemnation to the pains of hell, that impenitent sinners are taught to expect after death and at the last day. See Mark ix, 43, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched." And Matt. v. 26, "Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." Of him by whom our Saviour should be betrayed, he said, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born," which surely could not be true, were he finally to obtain salvation, and be happy to all eternity. Christ hath told us that in the day of judgment, he shall say to the righteous, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" and to the wicked, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,-And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." In the parable of Lazarus, Abraham in heaven is represented as saying to the rich man in hell," Between us and you a great gulph is fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from thence." And in the close of the Revelation it
is said, "The time is at hand: He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still." That is, in the view of Him who inhabits eternity, the final period of changes in the characters of men is not far distant; when every one will be fixed unalterably in holiness or sin, and in happiness or misery, as his moral state shall then be found.
From these and many similar representations, it must be believed, if we believe the scriptures, not only that every one of mankind will not be recovered to holiness and happiness in this life, nor at death, nor at the day of judgment; but that they never will to all eternity. And, consequently, that it neither is, was, or ever will be, the absolute intention of God, that mankind should thus universally be saved.
And as the text we are now upon, if so construed, would flatly contradict the general evident current of scripture; so there are other constructions which it will very naturally bear,
1. The meaning of it may be, that God absolutely designs the salvation of all sorts of men: men of all nations, conditions and characters.
With as much limitation as this, the phrase all men, is frequently used. In this sense, or certainly not with more universality than this, we must understand our Saviour, when he says to his disciples, Matt. x. 22, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name sake.” And the evangelist, when he relates what was said of Jesus, John iii. 26, "The same baptizeth, and all men come unto him." And the historian of the apostles, when he says, Acts vi. 21, “All men glorified God for what was done. No more can be meant by all men, in these and many other places, than mankind generally. And in our text, considering the connection and occasion of it, to understand by all men, men of all conditions, and of all nations only, is no unnatural construction. The particular