William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Home
Sermons
 
Back
 
Of The True, Real, And Safe Grounds Of Encouragement To Believe In


Jesus Christ; Or, Upon What Warrants A Sinner May Adventure To Rest
And Rely Upon Christ For Salvation.
by George Gillespie


Scottish Commissioner To the Assembly of Divines At Westminster.

There are some divines abroad who, condemning Arminianism (and much
more Pelagianism), yet have not adhered to the orthodox doctrine
asserted by the most approved protestant writers, and received by
the best reformed churches, against the Arminians, in the article
concerning the death of Christ. These have found out a middle and a
singular way of their own, that Christ died for all men
conditionally, viz., if they shall believe in him, that he hath
redeemed all upon condition of faith. One of their arguments is,
because otherwise we cannot encourage sinners to believe, nor
satisfy a troubled conscience, nor keep it from despairing. Upon the
like ground, that all may be comforted (every man being assured that
Christ died for all men, and so for himself), Mr. Moore hath written
a tract of the universality of God's grace, and of Christ's dying
for all men, as himself expresseth in the title of his book. It is
also one of Mr. Saltmarsh's encouragements which he gives to
sinners, that Christ died for sinners as sinners, as he speaks,
whereupon it followeth (according to the rule, a quatenus ad omne)
that he died for all sinners.

Surely this is not the way (as is pretended) to case and encourage
the troubled and terrified conscience; neither can they, by their
principles, minister solid comfort to a sinner tempted to despair of
mercy. All the scrupulosity and unsatisfaction of conscience which
they object against our doctrine (that Christ died not for all, but
for the elect only, whom the Father gave him) followeth as much, yea
more (as I shall show afterwards) upon their own way. First of all,
when they give comfort and encouragement to sinners upon this
ground, that Christ hath died for all upon condition of faith, it is
to be remembered that, conditio nihil ponit in re, the generality of
men can draw no result from the death of Christ (as it is set forth
by their doctrine) but that Christ hath, by his death, made sure
this proposition, that whosoever believes on him shall be saved, or
that all men shall be saved, if all men believe, Now a conditional
proposition is true in the connection of one thing to another (if
this be that shall be), although neither the one nor the other shall
ever have an actual existence. If Satan and wicked men get their
will, Christ shall have no church on earth; if the elect fall away
from faith and obedience, they shall perish; if the damned in hell
had place and grace to repent and to believe in Christ, they should
be saved, or the like. So what solid comfort can the soul have from
that conditional proposition (which is all the encouragement they do
or dare give from the death of Christ to all men), - all men shall
be saved by Christ if they believe on him. Is it not as true and as
certain (may a sinner think within himself) that no man on earth
shall be saved, if no man on earth believe; and, for my part, if I
believe not I shall be damned? If all this hang upon the condition
of my believing (saith the troubled conscience), why, then, hath not
Christ merited to me, and will he not give me, the grace of
believing? That new doctrine answereth, that Christ hath merited
faith, and gives the grace of believing not to all, but to the elect
only; that God hath, in his eternal decree, intended to pass by, in
the dispensation of his grace, the greatest part of mankind, and to
keep back from them that grace without which, he knows, they cannot
believe on Jesus Christ; that though Christ meant that all men
should have some sort of call to believe on him, and should be saved
upon condition of their believing, yet he had no thought or
intention, by his death, to procure unto all men that grace without
which they cannot believe. This doctrine of theirs, while it
undertaketh to comfort all men, and to encourage all to believe, it
tells them withal upon the matter, that all cannot be saved because
all cannot believe, that God will not give faith, and so not
salvation either, unto millions of sinners. What comfort is it,
then, to know that all shall be saved if all believe, when men are
told withal, that all shall not, cannot believe, and so shall not be
saved? This latter they hold as well as we, therefore their
universal comfort taken from Christ's dying for all men upon
condition of faith, amounts to as much as nothing.

The true and safe grounds of encouragement to faith in Christ are
these: First, Christ's all-sufficiency, - if he will he can. He is
able to save to the uttermost, Heb. vii. 25. Art thou a sinner to
the uttermost? his plaister is broad enough to cover the broadest
sore. As God's mercy, so Christ's merit is infinite; and the reason
is, because the blood is the blood of God as well as of man, Acts
xx. 28. This is a good strong foundation of comfort, if a soul,
convinced of its own sinful estate, and of the vanity of creature
comforts, doth so far settle its thoughts upon Christ, that as he is
the only Saviour, so an all-sufficient Saviour. Then is the sinner
so far encouraged (which is no small encouragement) as to resolve,
There is virtue enough in the blood of Christ to cleanse my crimson
sins, even mine. There is no help for me out of Christ, but in him
there is help for all that come unto God by him. It is a great part
of true faith to believe that Christ is able and all-sufficient.
Therefore he himself said to the blind men, Matt. ix. 28, 29,
"Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea,
Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be
it unto you." He that said, "Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me
clean," was not rejected by Christ as an unbeliever, but he got a
good answer from him, "I will, be thou clean," Matt, viii. 2, 3; so
every poor sinner that comes unto Christ as sufficient, and
believing that Christ, and Christ only, can purge him from all sin,
and save his soul, hath a true, though imperfect faith, and is in a
fair way for salvation. There is many a true believer whose faith
cannot as yet rise so high as to stay and rest upon the good-will
and love of Jesus Christ to him in particular; but the soul believes
the all-sufficiency of Christ, and that he only is the Saviour, and
so cometh and draweth near unto God, by and in Christ, as the summum
bonum, which he values above all things; and thus his faith,
although it hath not yet attained to a particular recumbency on the
love of Christ to him, is a true faith, which Christ will not
despise.

Secondly, Christ's intention to die for all men and for the whole
world, that is, for all sorts of sinners in the world, and so for
sinners of my kind, may every poor sinner in particular think within
himself. Here is an universal encouragement unto all from a true and
real ground, and drawn from the will and intention, as well as from
the power and all-sufficiency of Christ, which I shall make good
from Scripture; for he hath died for all sorts of persons; there is
no condition excluded. For this I take 1 Tim. ii. 6, "Who gave
himself a ransom for all;" so, ver. 4, "Who will have all men to be
saved." The meaning must needs be of all sorts, not of all persons;
for besides that the Apostle's all can be no more than Christ's
many, - Matt, xx. 28, "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom
for many," - this very text hath abundance of light to give itself,
if we look to the context either before or behind: before, there is
an exhortation to pray "for all men," ver. 1; which, although the
Arminians make an argument that all men is meant of all persons, and
not only of all sorts, both in that verse and vet. 4, 6, because,
say they, we ought to pray for all men universally pro singulis
generum, and not only for all sorts; yet it is indeed an argument
for the contrary. For to pray for all men, without exception of any
person, is not commanded, but we find the contrary commanded.
Jeremiah was forbidden to pray or make intercession for the
obstinate, incorrigible Jews, Jer. vii. 16; xi. 14; xiv. 11. God
would not have Samuel to mourn for Saul after he was rejected of the
Lord, 1 Sam. xvi. 1; and we ought not to pray for such as sin unto
death, i.e., the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, 1 John v.
16. Paul is so far from praying for Alexander the coppersmith, that
he imprecates the vengeance of God upon him, 2 Tim. iv. 14. We may
not pray for the Pope, who is the great antichrist and son of
perdition; neither may we pray for, but against Babylon, especially
after the people of God are out of her. We are bidden pray for our
enemies, but not for the malicious, incorrigible enemies of Christ.
Wherefore, when the Apostle bids us pray "for all men," his meaning
is, that we should not exclude no degree nor kind of men, great or
small, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, &c.; and so he doth upon the
matter explain himself in the very next words, "For kings and for
all in authority." He saith not for "all kings," but he will not
have us exclude kings nor queens, as such, from our prayers, nor any
other subordinate rulers. When he saith "All that are in authority,"
he means any kind of lawful authority; for we may not pray for those
who are in any unlawful or usurped authority in the church, -
archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, &c., which prayer were an
approbation of their unlawful callings in the church. I do not say
that we may not pray for the persons of any archbishops, bishops,
&c., but we may not pray for them as clothed with such an office or
authority; as we are there bid pray for kings quatenus kings, that
we may live under them a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness
and honesty; so that a king or emperor, as he is clothed with such
authority, may not be excluded from our prayers; but if we look upon
all kings and emperors personally, individually, or numerically, so
it cannot hold true that we ought to pray for all that are in
authority, otherwise the ancient church had been bound to pray for
Julian the apostate.

Again, If we look to that which in that place follows, we find, ver.
8, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere (or in every place),
lifting up holy hands." What means he by en panti topw? He means not
in every individual place without exception, for this were neither
possible (because there are many places in which there are not,
neither can be, any to pray) nor fit, because we ought not to pray
with lifted-up hands in the streets or in the market-places: there
are fit places both for public and private prayer, and there are
also unfit places either for private or public prayer. The meaning
therefore is, that the worship of God is not restricted to Jerusalem
now under the New Testament, John iv. 21, 23, but that any place,
being otherwise convenient and fit for prayer, is sanctified for
prayer, and that prayer made in any such place is no less acceptable
to God than the prayer which was made in the temple of Jerusalem.
And now why should we not understand pantas anqrwpous, ver. 4, and
uper pantwn, ver. 6, even as en panti topw, ver. 8, and the rather
if we consider what is interlaced; for the text runs thus: "Who gave
himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I
am ordained a * * teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I
will therefore that men pray everywhere." Whereby it appears that
the Apostle's plain scope is to take away that difference between
Jew and Gentile, and to intimate that we must pray for all sorts of
persons, because Christ died for all sorts of persons, and will be
worshipped in every nation under the heaven. So that Beza did fitly
express the sense when he rendered ver. 1, 2, 6, pro quibusvis, ver.
4, quosvis, and ver. 8, in quovis loco, to note an universality of
kinds, not of individuals. Grotius, also, on Mark ix. 49, noteth the
same thing, that pas is used for quivis, not only in the New
Testament, but by Aristophanes and Sophocles. Lastly, I know no
reason but our translators should have rendered 1 Tim. ii. 4, "Who
will have all manner of men to be saved," and, ver. 6, "Who gave
himself a ransom for all manner of men, as well as Matt. iv. 23,
they render pasan noson, all manner of sickness, Matt. xii. 31, pasa
amartia, all manner of sin, and Acts x. 12, panta ta tetrapoda, all
manner of four-footed beasts.

In the same sense I understand Heb. ii. 9, "That he, by the grace of
God, should taste death for every man, uper pantos, - which phrase
the Apostle rather useth to the Hebrews to wear out that common
opinion of the Jews, that the Messiah was only to be a Saviour to
them, as, under the law, the sacrifices were offered only for the
sins of the congregation of Israel Howbeit I may further add, for
clearing this text, 1. Seeing the text hath no more but uper pantos,
that is (as the Tigurine rightly rendereth the letter of the text)
pro omni, we may well supply it thus: uper pantos uiou, - pro omni
filio, not for every man (which, though it be the expression of the
English translators, cannot be necessarily drawn from the original),
but for every son, whether Jew or Gentile, i.e., for every one
predestinated to the adoption of children, which I confirm from the
two next verses (both of them having a manifest connection with ver.
9); for these all for whom Christ tasted death, are called "many
sons," ver. 10; and "they who are sanctified," also "brethren," ver.
11. See the like phrase, Mark ix. 49, pas gar, - "for every one
shall be salted with fire," i.e., every one who shall enter into
life; for this sense is to be gathered from verses 43-47; and when
it is said, 3 John 12, "Demetrius hath good report of all men," we
must either understand all the brethren, or make some such
restriction of that universal expression, upo pantwn, for most men
in the world knew not Demetrius. So Luke xvi. 16, Since that time
the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it," kai
pas eis authn biazetai. Now, therefore, there can be no farther use
of uper pantos in that text to the Hebrews than in these other texts
here cited. 2. It may be also supplied thus, uper pantos eqnous or
laou; and it is in itself true that Christ tasted death for every
nation, or for every people, for in him are all the nations and
kindreds of the earth blessed, Acts iii. 25; Gal. iii. 8; that is,
the elect of all the nations, which, upon the matter, comes to one
and the same thing with the former sense, although the former
expression suiteth better to the context; yea, although it had been
said that Christ tasted death uper pantos anqrwpou, - for every man
(which is not said), yet every man could be here no more than all
men; Rom. v. 18, "As by the offence of one judgment came upon all
men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free
gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Wherein the
second branch, all men, - eis pantas anqrwous is no more, and can be
no more, but all who are in Christ, or all regenerate and justified
persons; for 1. By these all men the Apostle understands (as is
manifest by comparing this with the preceding verse) "they which
receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness;" and
he addeth concerning them, "That they shall reign in life by one,
Jesus Christ." 2. The comparison between Christ and Adam clears it;
for they are both set forth as public persons. All who are in Adam
are actually involved into the sentence of condemnation, and all who
are in Christ are actually translated from the state of condemnation
into the state of justification. But I proceed.

Another scripture which hath been understood for Christ's dying for
all men, being indeed meant of all sorts, is 1 John ii. 2, "And he
is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also
for the sins of the whole world," which is to be expounded by that
promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all the families or
kindreds of the earth should be blessed, Acts iii. 25; Gal. iii. 8;
and by Rev. v. 9, "Thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by
thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and
nation." So Rev. vii. 9, after the sealing of an hundred and forty
and four thousand out of all the tribes of Israel, it is added,
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could
number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood
before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes,
and palms in their hands." For which cause also the news of a
Saviour are called good tidings "to all people," or to "every
people," Luke ii. 10. So the apostle John, who was of the Jews,
tells us there that Christ is a propitiation, not only for the sins
of himself and of others of his nation, who were then believers, but
likewise for the elect of all nations and all the world over.

To the same purpose it is said, John iii. 16, "For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Where o kosmos
is of no larger extent than o pisteuwn, which the Tigurine rendereth
omnis qui credit, not quisquis, "that every one who believeth in him
should not perish;" so that "every one who believeth" is an exegesis
or explanation of the word world. Howbeit, if any like better the
ordinary reading, "that whosoever believeth," it comes in the issue
to the same thing; for it is a great mistake to think that the world
here is a genus, which is divided in believers and unbelievers, and
that the word whosoever is added in reference not to the world
before mentioned, but only to one kind or sort of the world, which,
by the way, is also inconsistent with their principles who hold that
Christ died for all, to purchase life to all, upon condition of
believing; for if so, there can be no partition here of the world,
but the latter branch as large as the first. But if there be any
partition here of the world, I say if there be, for the text may be
understood exegetice, not partitive; as I have showed already, it is
not partitio in generis species, but totius in partes; that is, the
world which God loved is not divided into believers and unbelievers,
but, by the world, is meant the elect of all nations, and this whole
world is subdivided into its parts by the word whosoever; that is,
whether Jew or Gentile, whether Barbarian or Scythian, whether bond
or free, &c. For this the Apostle explaineth the very same words,
pas o pisteuwn, Rom. x. 11, 12, "Whosoever believeth on him shall
not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the
Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon
him;" so Gal. iii. 28; Col. iii. 11; Acts x, 34, 35. And though some
have, with much scorn, set at nought that expression, "The world of
the elect," i.e. the elect of all the world, yet it will puzzle them
to give any other sense to John vi. 33, where it is said that Christ
"giveth life unto the world;" or to John xvi. 8, where the Spirit is
said to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and judgment; or
John xvii. 21, where Christ prayeth "that the world may believe;"
and the Father heareth him always, as in other petitions, so in
this.

The third encouragement to believing is, that Jesus Christ hath
died, as for persons of all sorts and conditions, so for the
expiation of all sorts and all manner of sins, and hath plainly
assured us, that "all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven
unto men," Matt. xii. 13; he excepteth only one kind, "but the
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men."
Where exceptio firmat regulam in non exceptis, this being the sole
exception, maketh the general promise the surer, that not some sorts
only, but all sorts of sin, yea of blasphemies, not only may, but
shall be forgiven unto men. Now to be clear concerning that one sin
excepted, 1. It is not properly any sin of the second table, but of
the first, and is therefore called blasphemy. 2. It is not every
blasphemy, for any other blasphemy is declared in that text to be
pardonable. 3. It is a willful blasphemy, contrary to the
illumination of the Holy Ghost and knowledge of the truth once
received, Heb. vi. 4; x. 26. For which reason Paul's sin when he
blasphemed the name of Christ, and was exceedingly mad against it,
was not the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, because he did it
ignorantly. If Peter had at that time sinned Paul's sin it had been
the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and so unpardonable, for it
wanted nothing but knowledge and illumination to make it that
unpardonable sin which the Apostle himself, 1 Tim. i. 13, doth
intimate. 4. Neither is it every blasphemy against knowledge, but
such as is joined with a hatred of Christ, so far that if they could
they would pull him down from heaven and crucify him again. There
was mercy for those who crucified Christ ignorantly, but no mercy to
those who would do it knowingly. Moreover, although they cannot get
Christ himself again crucified, yet they revile, reproach, disgrace
and persecute him in his members, ministers, ordinances, and all the
ways they can put him to shame and dishonour. Now there are two
sorts of those who sin by blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Some do
not profess Christ and the truth of the gospel, yet maliciously, and
against their knowledge, reproach or persecute it. So the Pharisees,
Mark iii. 28-30, in saying that Christ had an unclean spirit, did
blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. Others do profess Christ and his
gospel and truth, yet fall away to be malicious enemies thereunto,
against their knowledge; such an one was Judas: neither is there
anything to move us to think that Judas did not blaspheme the Holy
Ghost, except that he repented himself afterward. But there is
nothing in Scripture against the possibility of a desperate
repentance in those who blaspheme the Holy Ghost, but only that they
can never so repent as to be renewed again, Heb. vi. 6. That all
sin, 1 John i. 7, i.e., all manner of sin, is purged away by the
blood of Christ, and atonement made for all sorts of sinners, was
also signified both by Christ's healing all manner of diseases among
the people, Matt. iv. 23, and by Peter's vision of all manner of
four-footed beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air," let
down as it were in a sheet from heaven, to be killed and eaten, Acts
x. 11, 12.

So that as the promise of mercy and free grace comes home not only
to thy nation and to persons of thy condition, state and degree,
yea, to thy kindred and family, but also to thy case in respect of
sin, it comes fully home to sinners of thy kind or case, it
tendereth Christ even to such a sinner as thou art.

Fourthly, Christ receiveth all who come unto him, and excludeth none
but such as by their unbelief exclude themselves, John vi. 37.

Fifthly, It is an encouragement to believing that we are commanded
to believe, 1 John iii. 23, "And this is his commandment, that we
should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one
another, as he gave us commandment."

Observe the same authority that commands us to love one another
enjoins also that we believe on Christ.

But if any shall say, I cannot believe, I have no strength nor grace
to believe, I answer (and let this be the sixth encouragement to
believing), That God sets forth himself to be the giver of faith,
Eph. ii. 8; Phil. i. 29; and his Son to be "the Author and Finisher
of our faith," Heb. xii. 2.

If it be objected, I know it is so indeed; but God works faith only
in the elect, and I know not whether I be elected or not. I answer,
thou art discharged (in this case) to run back to election (which is
God's secret), and art commanded to obey the revealed command,
according to that of Deut. xxix. 29, "The secret things belong unto
the Lord our God, but these things which are revealed belong unto us
and to our children, that we may do all the words of this law." And,
therefore, seeing ye are commanded to believe in God, and hear that
he is the Author and Finisher of faith, say with Augustine, Da
domine quod jubes et jube quod vis; and with the disciples, "Lord,
increase our faith," Luke xvii. 5; or with that man in the gospel,
"Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief," Mark ix. 94; and request
Him who hath promised to give the spirit of grace and supplications,
that ye may look on him whom you have pierced, Zech. xii. 10; to
lighten your eyes, lest ye sleep unto death, Psal. xiii. 3; for this
looking on Christ (promised in Zechariah) is nothing else than
believing on him. As the looking on the brazen serpent, which was
the type of Christ, is accomplished when we believe in Christ, who
was typified thereby; as is to be gathered by comparing John iii.
14, 15, with Num. xxi. 8.


 

Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas