Christ's Suretyship: Part IV

Robert Riccaltoun


The other charge is indeed of more consequence, and, so far as I can judge, has likewise more foundation in the author's words, than most others have. It is, that he maintains an universal redemption as to purchase;(6) but after all that has been said upon it, I think it has never yet been made appear, that this was the author's real sentiment; or, at least, not with such evidence, as that one needs be suspected of that error, who cannot condemn him on that account. A few observations will set this, I think, in a pretty clear light.

And, in the first place, it is observable, that the author makes use of terms and expressions in discoursing upon this subject (I mean the hints he gives about it, for nowhere does he speak directly upon it), such as none of these do, who set up for any degree of universal redemption; such I take these to be, "That Jesus Christ entered into covenant with God for all the elect, that is, all such, as have, or shall believe in his name;(7) that he took upon him the sins of all the faithful,"(8) with others of the same import. It is very true, that some of those who maintain an universal redemption as to purchase, maintain also a particular redemption, wherein the salvation of a certain set of men is secured to them. But it is as true, that when they speak of Christ's undertaking, they never confine it unto these, as the author of the Marrow does. The account he gives of the persons whom he designs by the elect, and whom he describes a posteriori, all "who have or shall believe"; and, "all the faithful," is so far from weakening this, as the Reviewer of the Conference would have us believe it does, that it very much strengthens it. For, let it pass for true, that Arminians would go into this definition of election; unless they will also agree, that these are the persons whom Christ undertook for, and whose sins he took upon him, they say nothing at all of what he does. And tis well known, how not only they, but all the patrons of universal redemption are obliged stiffly to maintain, that, in purchasing redemption, at least, our Lord took no particular person's sins upon him, but suffered for the world in general: But, that none may think, this was all the notion that author had of election, we are further to notice, how he describes these same elect, whom the second Adam had included in him in his undertaking, as all orthodox divines use to do; "the first-born, whose names are written in heaven,"(9) and these "whom God has chosen before the foundation of the world."(10) Now, if any of these gentlemen will bring any one Universalist, speaking of the elect, in this sense, as the persons for whom Christ purchased salvation, good; but, until this is done, it is, one should think, but reasonable to put a difference between him and them. The Reviewer, as keen as he is, for having the Marrow condemned, touches this very tenderly; and yet even thus cannot clear himself of it, without asserting a notorious untruth, that, viz. Arminians will grant this, I say it is a notorious untruth; as all, who know anything of these gentlemen's way, know also, that ascertaining the number, and the names of the elect, would subvert their whole scheme, and especially this part of it.

But further, I find in the Marrow, not only such expressions, as no Universalist can make use of; but the manner of Christ's undertaking so explained, that it is utterly impossible for any to have the least part in it, unless they are, in the event, actually saved. I had occasion but just now to observe, how he maintains, that Christ came under the same covenant with man, and actually fulfilled it, and that as a public person and surety, in the name and behalf of those whom he represented; the manner of this, as he lays it, is remarkable,(11) that what he did and suffered, they are reckoned to have done also, in the same manner, as what Adam did, was reckoned done by all these whom he represented. And, as all the elect, formerly described, were in him, and no other besides them; so they, and no other, must be the persons, who are thus reckoned to have fulfilled the law in him. And, as nothing can be more evident, than that they must have this same performance of his, in due time, imputed unto them, and that, by this, they are in the same case touching righteousness, as if they had perfectly kept the law: it must be every whit as clear, that all whom Christ represented, must, in the event, be actually saved. This pulls up universal redemption by the roots, and destroys at once all the foundations, upon which that scheme is built; as was more fully cleared in the foregoing part of this discourse.

And, as the author, in his avowed and fixed sentiments, destroys this notion; so we find he makes no use of it in the only place where it can be useful in practice; I mean, for encouraging a poor desponding soul to believe in Christ: I know some are of another mind, and their reasons for it shall be considered by and by.

In the meantime, let us consider the method he takes with Neophytus, and I think this will be as evident, as almost anything can be. Had this been the man's real opinion, what should have hindered him upon this perplexed question? Has such an one as I any warrant to believe in Christ? To have told his convert roundly, and at once, that Christ died for all men alike; and therefore all have the same warrant to believe, that he died for them. But he not at all regarding this, which notwithstanding would have at once removed all difficulties of this kind, takes a quite other method, and founds all his encouragements to believe upon the general offers, invitations and calls of the gospel, directed unto all who hear the same, to believe in him, and thereby to receive pardon and forgiveness. Which, are on purpose contrived not only so, as to exclude none, but, on the contrary, to warrant, yea, and bind and oblige all unto this, both as a privilege and duty.

All that I find alleged against this, and to prove that he makes use of universal redemption here, may be reduced to these three, that he speaks of an universal deed of gift and grant; that he makes the gospel to say to every one of the hearers of it, Christ died for you; and that he makes God to have pardoned all their sins. And, if it can be made appear, that none of these, no, nor altogether, as explained and applied by the author, will bear any universal redemption; it will appear also, that he makes no use of it in this place; and that the Principal was a little too forward, when he makes this the mystery of faith in the opinion of the Marrow.(12)

For the first of these expressions, which related to the "deed of gift and grant," we find there has been no small stir about it; and the asserters thereof roundly charged with the same error, which they blame the Marrow for. Whatever is in this, it appears to me evident, that the author designed it not so, since he immediately explains it in a sense quite opposite to this, that, viz. the gift runs thus, "That whosoever of all mankind shall believe in the name of the Son of God, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." As this is the very voice of the gospel, and the result of that covenant, which is proclaimed there, the only question about it must be, whether this can, in any tolerable propriety of speech, be called "a deed of gift"? which, as it concerns not the present business, we shall leave to its own place.

But say some, though thus far the Marrow might be excused, yet, when he comes to explain himself further upon this head, he plainly bewrays his opinion: for thus he paraphrases upon our Savior's command, which he makes the foundation of this deed, "Go preach the gospel to every creature"; that is, says he, "Go teach every man without exception, here is good news for him, Christ is dead for him,"(13) to which one may easily answer by reading out the sentence, "Christ is dead for him," but how? Was it to purchase salvation for him whether he believes or not? No such thing; but so far as no man shall ever perish for want of a Savior to die for them: "If he will take him," dead as he is, "and accept of his righteousness," which by his death he has wrought out, he shall have him. And this he illustrates farther, by a comparison taken from an obvious case, and thereby opens to us how safely a man they venture his soul upon the strength of this grant, which is made in the gospel of Christ and his benefits to all, who will accept of him.(14) "Suppose some good and holy king should cause a proclamation be made through his kingdom, that all rebels and banished men, shall safely return to their own houses, because that at the suit and desert of some dear friend of theirs, it hath pleased the king to pardon them; certainly none of these rebels ought to doubt, but that he shall obtain true pardon," etc. One cannot help observing here, what sort of a pardon this here spoken of is, when he says it pleased the king to pardon them, and which he tells us, they may be sure of obtaining; implying no more than a pardon proclaimed and offered unto all that come in upon it. And it is upon the strength of this proclamation and the king's faithfulness there interposed, that these, who come home to their own dwellings, venture their safety; and not that they are fully assured, that their friend obtained the pardon for them in particular, and every one of them. Nor indeed does this part of the proclamation contribute anything at all to their safety, unless it is, that the mentioning of this makes it more credible, that such a pardon should be offered in good earnest, and thereby influences them to venture home with more confidence, than otherwise they could have done. The reddition therefore of the simile must have the same scope; and the pardon there mentioned must be the same with that which is proclaimed in the gospel, the import of which, as he expresses it, is, "that everyone may safely return to God in Jesus Christ."

This case is so plain, and withal so very agreeable unto the ordinary way of speaking, where a pardon offered is called simply a pardon; that I should have been ashamed to spend so many words upon it, had it not been again and again insisted on, to prove the author a patron of universal redemption; and therefore the reader must not take it ill, if we insist a little further for the clearing of it. That it is indeed the author's design, thus to set before his convert the proclamation, offer and promise of the gospel, as the ground and warrant of his believing in Christ, and not that Christ died for every man, and for him among the rest, appears fully from the sense in which Neophytus takes it, which I believe must be owned the author's own. For thus we find he excepts against what had been urged by Evangelista on this head; not that he did not know that Christ died for him, which would have been most proper, had that been the scope of the foregoing discourse; but that he is not satisfied of his own interest in this proclamation; and the ground of his doubting we find is taken from a principle, which flatly contradicts that pretended opinion of his: It is, that God does not design to pardon all unto whom this proclamation is made, and that notwithstanding of these offers and calls made in the gospel, yet possibly he might be none of these who are chosen, but of these who are ordained to condemnation. What does Evangelista answer to this; does he tell him, as Universalists use to do, of God's readiness to pardon all mankind, or of his general good-will to mankind? Does he object anything against a decree reprobating particular persons? or does he so much as mention Christ's shedding his blood, or purchasing pardon for all mankind. Nothing like it. On the contrary, he plainly grants him what he had advanced,(15) that it is true some men are ordained to condemnation; and for removing his discouragement takes the same course, which all orthodox divines use in the like case, by drawing off from the consideration of these things which God has nowhere revealed, whether it be one's own election, or anything else, as none of these things which our faith is concerned about; and directs him unto the revelation God has made of his will in his word, where pardon is offered generally to all without any respect either to election or reprobation; that therefore this can be no good objection against one's believing, when he sees the pardon held forth unto him as well as to others, as it is much better reasoning to say, the pardon is offered to me, therefore I will accept of it, and come in upon it, than to stand it out, and refuse the offer, because they know not whether they are elected or not, that is, to make that the ground of one's refusing the offer, which can never be certainly known any other way, than by one's accepting it, and believing. That God has not only held forth pardon unto us in the offers and promises of the gospel; but has directed his commands unto us to embrace them, and thereby bound every particular person to a compliance. That these together, the offer, and the command to receive it, are at once warrant and encouragement enough to believe, and that with the strongest and most particular faith, which, if rightly exercised, one may thereby safely apply unto himself Christ's redeeming love, and all the blessed fruits and effects of it. This bottom he reckons so good, that he judges it needless to say anymore upon the head of general warrants, but proceeds to answer the objections taken from felt unworthiness.

There is yet another observation we have to make for clearing the author's sense upon this head, that is, his own comment or paraphrase upon our Savior's injunction to his disciples, "Go preach the gospel unto every creature," and which, after what has been said, may, I think, satisfy any reasonable person, that in alleging the former from Dr. Preston, he had no mind to espouse universal redemption. I shall give it, as himself has laid it, in his own words, and which I think must be owned the best evidence one can have of his real sentiments upon this head; "Go and tell every man without exception, whatsoever his sins be, whatever his rebellions be, go and tell him these glad tidings, that if he will come in, I will accept of him, his sins shall be pardoned, and he shall be saved; if he will come in and take me and receive me, I will be his loving husband, and he shall be my spouse."(16) I need not I think tell the reader, that this is the author's drought of that proclamation which he had formerly spoke of, and therefore lets us see clearly how he designs the pardon of sins there spoken of.

There is only one expression more, that I know of, applied with any color to infer this charge, that, viz. He should say "Christ hath taken upon him the sins of all men."(17) But if we consider this, as himself has laid it in his book, I am well satisfied we shall find no more ground for charging him, than the Scriptures themselves, with universal redemption, upon this account. And truly, were there no more than this, that it is but an incidental expression, and if taken in this sense, contrary unto his express and declared sentiments, charity should oblige us to cover it: But not only is it contrary to his declared sentiments, but freighted with so many senseless absurdities, if interpreted this way, that it is not to be imagined any man, in his wits would have advanced it. It is notorious, that with him the phrase of Christ's taking one's sins upon him, signifies no less than representing their persons before God, and fulfilling the law so in their room and stead, that what he does and suffers is reckoned so to them, as that they shall be in the same condition with respect to right to life, as if themselves had fulfilled it; so, that the man must not only maintain universal redemption but universal salvation. But the truth is, he had immediately before prevented any such abuse of his words, as anyone may see, who will give himself the trouble of reading with any tolerable judgment, what he had said of Christ's coming under the covenant, as man's surety, but two or three lines before; whereby he put himself in the room and place of all the faithful, according to that of Isaiah, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all"; which us, he, with all orthodox divines restricts unto, believers. It is this Scripture phrase gives him occasion to bring in the law speaking as he does, "I find him such an one, as hath taken upon him the sins of all men." All which considered, I think one cannot, without a plain injustice, extend the words any further.

But there is another sort of evidence, or, to speak more properly, a prejudice rather, which I find much insisted on to this purpose; that, viz. the author's scheme requires something of universal redemption to support it. As this surmise is founded entirely upon his notion of faith, and that, I am well satisfied, very much mistaken; this is not a proper place for discoursing it. But let us even grant, for once, that his definition of faith must be meant, as they would have us believe it should; it must at the same time with as much reason infer, that these who defined faith in the same terms must have means so likewise. And as it needs no proof, that the generality at least of our old divines did so, this same reasoning, if it has any strength against the Marrow, must be allowed to have the same against them, to conclude them patrons of universal redemption: a thing so notoriously false, that it is strange how any way of reasoning, which has such an odd tendency, should receive any countenance from men of thought and reflection. And I believe we may safely conclude, that one many be a very honest man who yet cannot condemn the Marrow, as guilty of this error.

(6) Review of a Conference, pp. 40ff., Doctrine and Practice, p. 34.
(7) Marrow of Modern Divinity preface, p. 1.
(8) Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 108.
(9) Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 29.
(10) Ibid., p. 147.
(11) Ibid., pp. 28, 29, compared with pp. 110ff.
(12) Antinomianism of the Marrow of Modern Divinity Detected, p. 34.
(13) Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 120, Doctrine and Practice, p. 32, Review of a Conference, pp. 47ff.
(14) Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 120.
(15) Marrow of Modern Divinity, pp. 121-22.
(16) Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 132.
(17) Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 108.