Elhanan Winchester: The Gospel Preached by the Apostles (1788)

In this sermon Baptist preacher Elhanan Winchester argued that Paul teaches both particular and general atonement and redemption.

“Both Calvinists and Arminians, are right–in many things: and, perhaps, both are under mistakes, in some things: and in nothing do they both mistake more, than in supposing, (as both of them do) that the doctrines of particular and general redemption, are contrary the one to the other”

Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797)

In this sermon Baptist preacher Elhanan Winchester argued that Paul taught both particular and general redemption. The verses in Paul’s letters expressing particular election have to do with the special role and task of the Church, and does as such not contradict the verses that teach the redemption and salvation of all, Winchester argues.

“Both Calvinists and Arminians, are right–in many things: and, perhaps, both are under mistakes, in some things: and in nothing do they both mistake more, than in supposing, (as both of them do) that the doctrines of particular and general redemption, are contrary the one to the other”

The full title is: The Gospel Preached by the Apostles and Especially St. Paul Being a Discourse, Chiefly Drawn From His Writings, Proving That This great Apostle held, and taught, both Particular and General Redemption and Salvation.

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Elhanan Winchester

The Gospel Preached by the Apostles

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8)

In this discourse, I shall endeavor to show, what that gospel was which St. Paul and the Apostles preached, and which their converts believed; which, if we can certainly discover by their writings, we shall have an infallible rule, whereby we may always know, what to receive, and what to reject. I shall, therefore, entirely confine myself, at this time, to what they taught and wrote, touching this grand subject.

The Gospel signifies good news, glad tidings of great joy; and it is, a dispensation of grace and mercy, made known to sinners through Jesus Christ.

The Apostles asserted the universal depravity of human nature, and that both Jews and Gentiles were all under sin. In St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, is a complete summary of all the truths which they taught, and the duties which they recommended. And we find in the first chapter, that the Apostle asserted, and proved, that the Gentiles had sinned and corrupted themselves, by falling into idolatry; and that, in consequence, they were given up to all manner of iniquity. In the second chapter, we find that the Jews, notwithstanding their superior and advantages, and though they judged, censured, and condemned the Gentiles, were themselves guilty of similar, or greater, and more aggravated crimes and, therefore, stood self-condemned. Having thus proved, that both Gentiles and Jews are sinners, he concludes the whole race of men are naturally so:

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10-18)

This is a sad and melancholy picture of man, in his fallen, unrenewed state, but it is a just and true representation of his condition. This, however, cannot be called the gospel, or good news. It is bad news, but necessary to be known, in order to render the gospel acceptable. For until we are sensible that we are undone, and in a most deplorable condition, we never cordially embrace the salvation of God.

From this view of fallen man, it evidently appears, that he cannot be justified by his own works, or by the deeds of the law ; but is condemned in the presence of God, and in his own conscience, as a law-breaker. Every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God, since all have sinned, and come short of his glory, have broken his holy law, and, therefore, cannot have any legal claim to justification, upon the foundation of their own obedience.

Alas, for men! They stand guilty and polluted before God; are under the sentence of condemnation, and the reigning power of sin; and in themselves, and of themselves, are wholly lost. But O, what good news the Apostles preached to them, which is called the gospel, in the words of my text!

Hear St. Paul’s account of the gospel which he preached:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Here the death and resurrection of Christ, are declared and set forth, as the great pillars of the church. Destroy the truth of these facts, and our hope is gone. Salvation and free justification are now proclaimed to men, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Rom. 3:25).

When the Apostles preached Christ, this was their language:

“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38-39).

That faith, by which we apprehend and lay hold of Christ revealed in the gospel, is not a bare notional, or vain speculative faith; but the faith which is of the operation of God (Col. 2:12); Which purifies the heart (Acts 15:9); Which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6); And, that overcometh the world (1 John 5:4-5).

Thus, it is a lively, operative faith, that is spoken so highly of in the gospel: for St. Paul says; “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are found sinners; is therefore Christ the minister of sin ? God forbid.” For this would be the way to build again the kingdom of darkness, which, by believing in Christ, we sought to destroy.

Why should we fly to Christ at all, unless we wish to be saved from the love, reigning power, guilt, and pollution of sin ? Christ is a Saviour, because, he shall save his people from their sins. The true believer in Jesus, desires both pardon and holiness: and as God hath joined these together, let no man ever put them asunder. This true, saving, precious faith, is accompanied with that godly sorrow, which worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of: It causes carefulness in the soul, that it should not offend against God anymore; and indignation against its former sins: yea, a godly, holy fear, which tends to preserve the mind from folly; and a vehement desire after conformity to God; yea, and a zeal, and revenge against its lusts and passions (2 Cor. 7:10-11).

A good hope through grace, is founded upon the glorious gospel of Christ: the believing soul rests here. The hope of the true believer is like an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered (Heb. 6:19-29). It purifieth those that have it, as he is pure who gave it (1 John 3:3). This hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us (Rom. 5:5).

True love to God and men, attends this heavenly grace of faith divine; that charity which suffereth long, and is kind, which envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but in the truth; is a constant companion of true and living faith (1 Cor. 8:4-6).

It is evident that Christ died for us, and that the gospel is preached unto us, that we might be delivered from all iniquity, and might be purified from sin, and made a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Tit. 2:14).

“He gave himself for us, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4). The gospel which the Apostles preached, contains a declaration, that the love and grace of God is free and unmerited; and that he loved us when we were sinners, and gave the greatest possible proofs of his abundant love towards us, in giving his Son to die for us.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

Here we may see, that God’s love was towards us while we were sinners; and he that denies this, brings another gospel, and is to be rejected. God hath commended his love exceedingly; not only in giving his Son to die for us; but at such a time, when we were going astray from him, and were enemies to his crown and dignity. Oh, how admirable is the love of God, revealed to us in the gospel! and how wondrous is the plan of redemption, which God hath made known!

It will be readily granted by all, that Christ died for sinners; that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, etc. But whether he came to save some, or all, whether he died for few, many, or everyone, is yet to be enquired into: and it must be determined by the apostolic writings. And let us candidly search, that we may know what is the mind of the Spirit in this matter.

Many may be of the opinion, that St. Paul held particular redemption, because he says,

“Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it: that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word: that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy, and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)

I freely grant, that he believed in particular redemption, and salvation; yea, and in particular election also. But does that exclude general redemption? May not both be true? Some say: ‘Well, I believe particular election and redemption, and, therefore, as I know that this view of the matter must be right, I am certain that general redemption, and the universal restoration, must be wrong.’ But if they are asked, why they argue in that manner? they will answer:

St. Paul says, that God “hath chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good-pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved: in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:4-7).

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then fay to these things ? If God be for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right-hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:29-34)

“Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” (1 Thess. 1:4-5)

These passages, and many others, so evidently favour particular election and redemption, that I scruple not to say, I firmly believe it to be so. But is there anything here, or anywhere else, against general redemption? Where is the passage that says, Christ died for us, and for us only? Surely we must not infer, that because Christ died for those whom he had chosen, that, therefore, he did not die for all: For it would be just as reasonable to argue from St. Paul’s words, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20), that St. Paul, and he only, lived by the faith of the Son of God, that Christ loved him only, and gave himself for him, to the exclusion of all others.

It is not enough, to overthrow the doctrine of general redemption, to prove that Christ died for his saints, people, church, elect, etc. but the Scriptures must add, “and for them only” or else, all such proofs are nothing to the purpose. I have, however, freely granted to you all that you can reasonably desire. I have allowed these texts in favor of particular election and redemption, to stand as they are, and have not attempted to explain them away; nor do I wish to evade their force. I consider the doctrine of election, as one of the most glorious links in the chain of God’s dispensations; but it is so far from being the least objection to the general restoration, that it is designed for that very purpose – as shall be considered presently.

Now, as I have acknowledged, that particular redemption is found in the New Testament, and especially in the writings of St. Paul, will you, my brethren, that have hitherto doubted of the doctrine of general redemption, freely, and without prejudice, examine whether it be not as plainly declared by him, and the other Apostles, as even the doctrine of election; or God’s special favor to some, and their particular redemption and salvation, in consequence of the same. I can assure you, that I am no party-man; nor do I wish to establish one, and destroy the other.

The grand question here is, are you a Calvinist, or an Arminian? I say that I never mean to take up either of their names into my lips, in matters of religion, nor call myself after them, or any other man, but Christ alone. I have never read the works of either of those good men, and cannot say, how far their sentiments and mine coincide. I never mean to inlist under either of their standards: the Bible I have read, more than all other books; and what I there find written, I endeavor to hold forth to others, both as to matters of faith and practice: and if I may be worthy to be called a Christian, I am not desirous of any other name.

Both Calvinists and Arminians, are right – in many things. And, perhaps, both are under mistakes, in some things. And in nothing do they both mistake more, than in supposing (as both of them do), that the doctrines of particular and general redemption, are contrary the one to the other; and that if one be right, the other must certainly be wrong. Whereas, general redemption, undoubtedly includes particular; and though particular redemption does not certainly include general, yet neither does it contradict it: and both must be received as the gospel, if the Apostles declared both. By this rule let the matter be determined.

We have already seen, that St. Paul hath declared redemption in the most particular sense, by saying, that Christ loved him, and gave himself for him, but did not limit his death to himself alone; but in other places hath declared, that he gave himself for the church; and yet hath never said, for the church only: therefore, there is an open door left to search father into his writings, and see if the death of Christ is not more extensive still. This door would have been wholly shut, if the Apostle, or any of the sacred writers, had added an excepting, or confining clause, when speaking of the death of Christ.

When St. Paul said, “Christ loved me, and gave himself for me”, if he had added, “and for me only”, our hopes must have expired, and we should not have expected to find, that he gave himself for the church. But as the Apostle, when speaking of himself, did not exclude others (though in that expression, he did not include any but himself) we are encouraged to search farther; and we find with pleasure, that Christ gave himself for others, besides Paul, yea, for the whole church. We rejoice at this, but do not find the door shut yet, and, therefore, we are still encouraged to go on, trembling lest we should find ourselves excluded, yet, hoping to find the death of Christ more extensive than it appears in the texts before mentioned.

And as we did not dispute the truth of the Apostle’s words, when he said, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it,” etc., because he had before said, “He loved me, and gave himself for me”, so, by the same rule, if we should find in any other parts of his writings, that “Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”, we must not dispute the truth of this declaration, because he had before said, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it”, nor cavil and find fault with the expressions, neither seek to evade their plain literal import, but rather rejoice exceedingly, at the joyful, soul-reviving news !

But some, perhaps, will say, (for what will not the prejudice of education cause men to say?) that if they should find any passages in St. Paul’s writings, which in the letter declare, that Christ died for all, and tasted death for every man, that even in that case, they would not believe that Christ died for any more than his elect, or church, because the word all, is frequently limited. But, why must it be so here? Only because it is contrary to your system and way of thinking. By the same rule that you will contend, that the word all, is limited in these texts, others will limit it in other passages, and some will limit here, and others there, till every truth of the Bible is evaded. The word all, is never used in a limited sense in the Scriptures, where there is any danger of being led astray by the use of it. There is always something in the context, or in the nature of the thing, or in some other passage, by which we may certainly tell in what sense the word is used.

But in this case, what is there in the nature of things, that forbids the idea of Christ’s dying for all? Surely he might die for all, if he pleased. He claims a right to do his will, or the will of the Father; and who shall forbid him, or dare to murmur at the universality of his death? None could have been saved, unless Christ had shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death; and he could die for all, as easily as for one, or a few. This reasonable argument is sufficient to convince any person, that he died for all, unless the Scriptures declare the contrary; and if they do, let the passage be pointed out, and I have done. But after many public and private challenges to produce one, that declares, he did not die for all, none has been found. Why, then, do any maintain, contrary to reason, and the letter of Scripture, that he died for a part only, and not for the whole? But let us remember, that St. Paul was not only an excellent orator, but an exact logician; and if the word was ambiguous in itself, he, by defining the extent of it, and letting us know in what sense he used it, has reduced it to a certainty.

“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” (Heb. 2:8)

Here he lays down the rule, by which we must understand him in his writings, when speaking of these great matters. It is evident, that he uses the word all mathematically; as the whole, consisting of, and being equal to all the parts. Now should St. Paul use the expression, all things, in a limited sense, after telling us, that nothing could be left out, where all things were included, without letting us know in the context, that he used the word all, in an improper, or limited sense, what must we think of his character, either as a divine or a logician? He mentions the same universal subjection, in 1 Cor. 15:27. But there he expressly makes one exception to the rule, and by making that one, which must be self-evident, he hath for ever put it out of our power to make another. “For he hath put all things under his feet.” But when he saith, “all things are put under him”, it is manifest, that He is excepted, who did put all things under “him”. That is, God the Father is excepted, and he alone, nothing else in heaven above, nor on the earth beneath, nor throughout the vast dominion of Jehovah.

With this rule before us, we will examine St. Paul’s writings, and see if we can find how extensive the death of Jesus was. And, glory to God! We find, that while the Apostle had the rule that he had laid down, immediately in his view, when he had just declared, that all things, intended ALL without exception, and that nothing was left out (but God the Father, as in another place, and the same must neceslarily be understood here), he directly asserts, that though we do not yet see all things put under him, that is, brought into a willing subjection to him, for in every other sense they are now put under him: “But we see Jesus, (says he); who was made a little lower than the angels, (or, for a little time, lower than the angels) for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for παντὸς, all.” (Heb. 2:9).

Our translators have rendered the word, every man; but why, I know not; for the same word is used here, that is rendered all things, in the foregoing verse. And in an ancient manuscript, mentioned by very respectable authorities the words were, for all things, God excepted.1 And there is little doubt of its being genuine, if we consider, that he is the only exception of all things, which are, or shall be put under Christ, and that Christ tasted death for all things, that now are, or ever shall be put under him; which are all things, God the Father excepted.

Our translators, therefore, in rendering the word παντὸς, every man, have been so far from extending the word beyond its plain, evident meaning, that they have rendered it in the most limited sense that the text would bear, since they could not but see, that the Apostle made use of the word in the same unlimited sense in the ninth verse, that he did in the eighth, because he goes on with the sentence that he had begun, and does not give us the smallest intimation, of any design to limit the word παντὸς, in the ninth, which he had declared, included all things, without anything being left, in the eighth verse. Upon this single passage, thus situated, we might venture the whole cause – nor fear deception – since the Spirit has never in any place denied, but has here plainly affirmed, that “Christ hath tasted death for all things”, and nothing is left out. Oh, how astonishing is the love of Christ! It is as high as heaven, as deep as hell, longer than the earth, broader than the sea! And how extensive is his death! Boundless in sufficiency, design, and efficacy!

But this is not the only text, wherein the vast and boundless extent of the death of Christ is mentioned, by this inspired Apostle. In the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established. He mentions it expressly to Timothy, in these words:

“For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).

Nothing less than all men, can be here intended, according to the plain, grammatical construction of the words, Christ being called the Mediator between God and men, and it being immediately declared, that he gave himself a ransom for all; Men must certainly be understood, as there is no other antecedent to the relative, in the text. But there is another passage in St. Paul’s writings, exceedingly to my purpose, in this respect, which is this:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and he died for all, that they who live, should not henceforth live unto themselves; but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15)

By this passage we perceive, that in the Apostle’s days, the idea of the Savior’s dying for all, was universally acknowledged. And, therefore, St. Paul reasons from it, as from premises already established, that certainly all were dead, since Christ died for all, and that he died for all, that they who live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.

Thus, have I proved, from the writings of St. Paul, that as he, in many places, speaks of particular redemption, so, in others, he speaks of general redemption; and that as he declares in Rom. 8:32, that God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, evidently those whom he did foreknow, predestinate, call, justify, and glorify, or all his elect; so, in 1 Tim. 2:5-6, he as plainly and fully assures us, that he gave himself a ransom for all men, and in Heb. 2:8, for all things, nothing excepted, or left out, but God only, all other things being put under him, and included in his vast, his infinite purchase. From 2 Cor. 5:14-15, I have proved that this truth, (i.e. that Christ died for all) was so universally acknowledged when St. Paul wrote, that he reasons from it as a first principle, and he says to the Corinthian church: “For we write none other things unto you, than what you read or acknowledge; and I trust you shall acknowledge, even to the end” (2 Cor. 1:13). So that this great and glorious foundation of faith, had been from the beginning laid by the Apostles, and acknowledged by the churches.

I might here take my leave of this part of my subject: But there is one remarkable text in St. John’s first epistle, which I will notice, because in that, both particular and general redemption, are spoken of in the plainest manner:

“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2)

Here is particular redemption for the believers, and the elect of God, in distinction from the world of wicked men, which, according to St. John, lieth in wickedness, or in the wicked one. Now had the Apostle said, and for ours only, and not for the whole world, the point would have been for ever settled. Only transpose the little word Not (which, perhaps, some wish to be done) and the general redemption plan must fall to the ground. But St. John was a scribe, too well instructed in the kingdom of heaven, to write contrary to his master’s will, and, to our great comfort, he has said:

“And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Here is general redemption, asserted in the plainest terms. I need not, therefore, scruple to say, that the Gospel which the Apostles preached, contained both what may be called, particular and general redemption; and let who will teach the contrary, they are not to be received.

Now as to the doctrine of election, though it is evidently taught by St. Paul and the Apostles, yet, if we do not understand the design of God, in setting apart some of the human race, by so glorious a purpose, from the foundation of the world, we shall be apt to draw wrong conclusions from this blessed doctrine.

Why, then, hath God chosen us to be his peculiar people? The Apostle tells us why. For, says he,

“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9)

And is it not evident, that the people of God ought to walk in this manner, that through their means, others may be brought to the knowledge and obedience of the truth? Thus, they are not chosen for their own sake, but for the sake of others, to be the instruments of bringing them to God. And accordingly, St. James says: “Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” (Jam. 1:18), so that our being chosen as a peculiar people, is so far from implying, that God hath eternally rejected, and given up to Satan, all the rest of his creatures, that, directly the contrary is intended.

If the king has chosen one woman to be his queen, doth it imply that he hath the utmost abhorrence for all other women, and that he is determined to put every female in his kingdom to death, because they were not chosen? If he has, in his court, a number of courtiers, who are his peculiar favorites, does that suppose, that he abandons all his other subjects to their enemies, without regarding their welfare in the least? Does he hate them, and seek occasion against them, because he did not choose them as his court-favorites? Because a nobleman chooses one part of his estate to build a palace upon, and another spot for his garden, does that suppose that he has no regard for any other part of his inheritance, and that he intends to abandon all the rest to the first usurper that shall take possession of it? Does it not rather imply the contrary, and that he, by taking actual possession of a part, claims the whole as his right? Nay, if a part of it was given up to, and covered with briars and thorns, the fruits of the curse, though he should think proper to set it on fire, and burn it, would any argue from that, that he had no regard for such a piece of land, and that he never intended to make it useful? Surely not !

Thus, God hath chosen and set apart some – not because he intended to give up the rest, but the contrary. He hath abounded, in the riches of his grace towards us, in all wisdom and prudence.

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one, (or re-head) all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him: in whom we have obtained an inheritance; being predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things according to the council of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (Eph. 1:8–12)

It appears by this beautiful passage, that God hath chosen a peculiar people from the foundation of the world, for very important purposes. Among which is this: That he might reveal to them that great mystery of his will, which, according to his good pleasure, he hath fully purposed in himself, in the final dispensation of the fullness of the ages, or times, to re-head all things, that are now disjointed, in one, even in our glorious head, Christ Jesus; whether things in heaven, or things on earth, even in him. And this he hath purposed, with the fame certainty, as he hath predestinated the first-fruits to an inheritance in himself. And as it is his will so to do, and he worketh all things according to the council of his own will, what, then, can hinder the accomplishment of this most glorious purpose?

You that hold particular election, let me freely ask you these questions; answer them to God, and your own consciences: Do you find the following marks of your being the elect of God? Are you holy, and without blame before him in love? Have you obtained gospel redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of your sins? Have you firmly trusted in Christ, and believed in his name? Have you been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? Do you so live, as to be to the praise of his glory? Do you put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, as Christ forgave you ? Have you put on charity, that bond of perfection? Does the peace of God rule in your hearts ? Are you thankful? Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom? Can you answer these scriptural questions in the affirmative? If so, give me leave to ask you one more: Has God’s grace so abounded towards you, in all wisdom and prudence, as that you can say, that he hath made known to you this glorious mystery of his will, and his grand design, which according to his own good pleasure, he hath purposed in himself, to gather together in one, or to re-head, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on earth ?

These are the scriptural marks of God’s elect. Happy is the man who bears them all! Let not those, therefore, that hold themselves as the elect, reject the doctrine of the universal restoration, or the idea of God’s reheading all things in Christ; for he has as certainly determined to do this, as he has predestinated them, or any of the human race, to be holy and without blame before him in love. And this doctrine is asserted by the same Apostle, upon the same authority, and in the very same chapter, as that of predestination. And, therefore, if you will not receive the general re-heading of all things, as a truth, you must, by the same rule, give up your being chosen in Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world. But my advice is: If God hath not yet made known to you this mystery of his will – do not fight against it; but wait upon him, till he shall reveal it unto you, which he can do, in his own time. And, in the meanwhile, walk in love, for, “He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10).

Neither let those who believe that Christ died for all, without exception, reject this divine council and mystery of God’s will; since he hath purposed, in his good time and way, to re-head all things in Christ, both in heaven and on earth. If you say, that by all things, only some things, or some of all sorts of things are intended, you will, and must, give up the ground on which you hold general redemption. For, by the same rule that you will limit the expression, all things, in this and many other passages, where the final salvation and deliverance of fallen creatures are spoken of, others will limit the word all, where the death of Christ is spoken of, and you can give no just reason, why it should be limited in one place, more than in the other.

And, remember, that St. Paul faith, that prayer for all men, “is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, (or Restorer) who will have all men to be saved, (or restored) and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Here God’s will is declared, and for the accomplishment of this, men ought to “Pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (1 Tim. 2:8). As this is the will and council of God, it must stand. His pleasure shall be done, for, he “worketh all things after the council of his own will.” (Eph. 1:11).

“For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared: Teaching us, that, denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12)

See the marginal reading. The Apostles believed, and, therefore, they spake of “The times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets, since the world began.” (Acts 3:21). St Paul fays:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach.” (1 Tim. 4:9-11)

We are commonly taught, that God is only the Saviour of believers; but Paul told Timothy, that he was the Saviour of all men; but especially believers. Some, as Mr. Sandiman, and others, get over this very plain text, by saying, that God is the preserver of all men, but especially of those that believe. But the Greek word σωτὴρ, here rendered Saviour, intends much more than barely a preserver; it intends a Restorer, and plainly holds forth, that God will restore all men to their original purity, but especially those who believe: they shall bear the image of the heavenly, in the most glorious degree, and shall shine like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. The Apostle did not shun to hold forth this glorious truth, though he suffered reproach for holding it – as those must at present expect, who are followers of him.

‘But how can these things be?’, say some. This question hardly seems proper for a Christian, who ought to know, that “he is faithful who hath promised”, and should be like Abraham, the father of the faithful, “Who against hope, believed in hope: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform.” (Rom. 4:18-21).

Let anything appear ever so impossible to us, if God hath promised to do it, let us not dispute, but believe: Thus shall we give our Creator the highest possible honor, and enjoy peace in our own minds. And how ought we not only to believe, but greatly to rejoice, that our precious Saviour, who hath suffered so much shame, sorrow, and contempt, is now advanced to glory and honor, and shall be adored by all intelligences! For this glorious truth is declared by St. Paul to the Philippians, in these express terms: after speaking of his amazing humiliation, and his bitter, shameful, and cruel death, he adds:

“Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name; that at (or in) the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

Here we see, there is no exception of any intelligent being, throughout the universe: all in heaven, and earth, and under the earth, shall bow in the name of Jesus, and shall confess him Lord, to the glory of God the Father: which none can do, but by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 7:3).

If bowing the knee in the name of Jesus, does not imply subjection, worship, and adoration, and if confessing him Lord, to the glory of God the Father, by the Holy Ghost, without which no man can do it, does not imply love, respect, and willing obedience; and if every knee, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue, does not evidently mean all rational intelligences in the universe, without exception: then I must confess, I know nothing of the signification of words or language. And I really question, whether it is possible to conceive more suitable expressions, to set forth the total subjection and restoration of all lapsed beings, than those which St. Paul hath here used. For, by all in heaven – angels, authorities, powers, etc., must be understood; by all on earth – all living persons must be intended; and by every thing under the earth – all the dead must evidently be meant. So that no words can be more general. And it also appears, that all shall worship in the fame manner, bow the knee in the fame name of Jesus, and shall every one confess the same truth, that he is Lord; and to the fame end and design, even to the glory and praise of God the Father. Therefore, by the very rule that one would object to the hearty willing obedience of one of these classes, another might to the others; and so might it come to pass, that no cheerful worship or willing obedience should be allowed to God, from any of all his creatures. But, I am sure I need say no more upon this.

The great Apostle could scarcely write a short epistle to any person or church, but he mentions not only the glorious character of Christ, his sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, etc., but also this grandest of all scenes, the universal subjection, reconciliation, and obedience of all creatures to him. Hence, in writing to the Colossians, a church that he had never seen in the flesh, he treats upon these grand and glorious subject, in a most wonderful manner. The epistle to this church is an admirable composition, as indeed are all his epistles. He is generally plain, perspicuous, and yet elevated and sublime, yet withal, easy and flowing. He seems like a fountain, from whence the pure water of life issues out naturally and freely. All his letters are full of truth and love, and are weighty and powerful, as even his adversaries confess. In this epistle, though it does not contain an hundred sentences, there is a complete body of doctrinal, experimental, and practical religion. In the first chapter, having mentioned Jesus Christ, and redemption through him, he goes on to tell the church, who Jesus was, what he had done, and would do, in these words:

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead: that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell: and having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:15-20)

If the Apostle had known, that the intention of God, actually to reconcile all things to himself by Jesus Christ, who had made peace through the blood of his cross, would have been disputed, he could hardly have expressed himself, in a manner more calculated to destroy the very foundation of the dispute for ever. He informs us plainly, what he means by all things, viz. all the things or beings that were created by Christ, whether in heaven, or in earth; whether to us visible or invisible; whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all these being created by him, were also created for him, for his glory and praise; he was head over them all. Some of them fell; thereby the whole glorious chain and connection was broken: God’s wrath was revealed against sin, his just indignation burned as a fire. Fallen creatures hated God and goodness, as also all those of their fellow creatures, who were still attached to their Creator. Consequently, a fierce war was waged, between the two armies that before were one. In order to lay the foundation of a firm and eternal peace, Christ came and suffered, and hath made peace by the blood of his cross, and hath opened a way for actual reconciliation to take place. He is now engaged in the great work of subduing his foes, which he will finally complete, and thus reconcile all things again to God; both celestial, or those that were created in heaven; and terrestrial, or those that were created on earth. And as they shall all be reconciled to God, so also to each other; and thus all shall be restored to their original harmony, beauty, and perfection.

Now, who does not plainly see, that the final extent of this reconciliation must be as large as creation itself, since the Apostle evidently uses the same form of expression in describing the one as the other? And this idea is never contradicted. Now, by the same rule that you will say, that the all things that shall be reconciled to God by Christ, both in heaven and in earth, are only some things, one may tell you, that he only created some things, and have just the same reason for his assertion. And besides, what are those things in heaven, that need reconciling to God – if they are not the very things that the Lord Jesus created in heaven, and who kept not their first estate? It is plain then, that St. Paul, without giving us the least notice of any design that he had of varying the meaning of the expression, all things, hath applied it both to the creation and reconciliation of intelligences, without the smallest apparent difference. And can any rational person suppose, that a man of his character as a writer, and divinely inspired with the Holy Ghost, should deal so unfairly in a matter of such infinite importance, as to use an expression in an unlimited sense, four or five times, as though he would fix that idea in our minds ; and then, in a moment, without giving the smallest hint, should make use of it in a very different and partial manner, and condemn all as heretics, that should not understand that he did so, even though it was impossible for anyone to perceive, either by the subject or manner of expression, that he used it in a different sense, and that he would never condescend to explain it ? – They that can think so, must. I cannot.

In the epistle to the Romans, St. Paul insists upon the general redemption and salvation of mankind, and of the final restoration of all things. In chapter five he takes up the subject, as though he meant for ever to prevent all disputes about it, and speaks of Adam and Christ as universal heads of the human race; that sin, misery, and death, came by one; and righteousness, happiness and eternal life, in the fame manner, to all, by the other. The offense of one, and the obedience of the other, the ruin brought upon ail mankind by the first, and the grace, life, and gifts of righteousness, bestowed and brought to all by the last, are set in opposition and contrast one to the other, with these two differences:

1) That the grace of God, and the gift by grace, by Jesus, hath much more abounded to the multitude, to give life to those who were dead, than the offense and sin of Adam did to destroy them.

2) That, whereas man was ruined and condemned by one offense, our Saviour’s obedience and sacrifice justifies us from many, or the multitude of our offenses; being set forth as a gift of righteousness for that purpose.

These two great differences St. Paul makes, between the offense and free gift, but never gives the least hint of the ruin being more extensive than the recovery, but quite the reverse. For he says:

“Therefore, as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men, to condemnation; even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men, to justification of life.” (Rom. 5:18)

Here is general provision plainly spoken of. But the Apostle does not stop there, but goes on to show, that the application shall be as extensive, and as certainly efficacious for the recovery of man, as ever it was really provided.

“For, as by the offense of one, many were made sinners; so, by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19)

The same term of many, is used in both members of the sentence. And if it does not intend, the same persons in both, the comparison does not exactly hold. They were positively made sinners, and shall just as certainly and positively be made righteous. And as sin and corruption came upon all men, through the disobedience of Adam, who was the fountain-head of the human race, so, through the obedience of Christ, who is the head of every man, shall all be made righteous, and shall finally derive both righteousness, strength, a new nature, and holiness, from him.

The Apostle goes on to confirm this meaning, by saying:

“Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:20-21)

We all know that sin has abounded, to the ruin and destruction of all mankind; but how grace can be said, with any propriety, to abound much more, and yet eternally to leave most of the human race under the power of sin and misery, is a mystery to me! If grace abounds more than sin, it must be equally extensive, and more powerful. And if the universal recovery of man is a truth, then shall grace abound much more than sin, and reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord; even as sin has reigned unto death.

Then may we sing,

“Sin reign’d to death; but over sin,
And death, with more imperial sway,
Grace spreads her more extensive reign,
And doth eternal life convey !”

But if general restoration be not a truth, the words should be reversed, and it should be said, that sin hath abounded more than grace. In that case, there could be no comparison between them, far less could grace claim the superior sway. But enough has been said, to prove that St. Paul held and taught general, as well as particular redemption, and universal restoration, as well as the doctrine of election. And if you can find in the ninth and eleventh of Romans, some, even a remnant of Israel chosen, and the rest rejected, forsaken, and cast off: I can find, in the latter chapter, that they shall be received again, and grafted in again (for God is able to graft them in again); that all Israel shall be saved; that ungodliness shall be turned away from Jacob; that God shall make a new covenant with them, and take their sins away; that they are still beloved for the fathers sake, and shall obtain mercy.” For God hath concluded them “All in unbelief” – For what? Why hath he shut them up together in unbelief so long, or so many hundreds of years? Common systems will tell me, that they might be damned to eternity, but St. Paul says: “That he might have mercy upon all.” (Rom. 11:32).

No wonder that, with this view in his mind, he cried out,

“O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or, who hath been his counsellor? Or, who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: To whom be glory for ever, Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36)

In this fame epistle to the Romans, chapter eight, he says:

“For the earnest expectation of the creature, (or the creation) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature (or the creation) was made subject to vanity; not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the fame in hope : because the creature (or the creation) itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now: and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit; even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.’ (Rom. 8:19-23)

I would observe, on this text:

1. That it is evident, that the whole creation stands here distinguished from the sons or children of God, who are spoken of apart.

2. That the creation is now subject unto vanity, misery, pain, death, and destruction; that under this burden it groaneth and travaileth, in pain to be delivered from the same.

3. That the creation is only subjected to this state of misery for a time, and hath hopes of deli verance; and, therefore, waiteth for the manifestation of the fons of God, with earnest expectation.

4. That a time shall certainly come, when the creature itself (or the whole creation) shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption ; from sin, with all its concomitants and consequences, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; which cannot imply less than a total and final deliverance from sin, guilt, pain, sorrow, misery, destruction, and death of every kind; for all these the sons of God are freed fiom.

5. If the whole creation is thus delivered, the souls and bodies of all men (the children of God excepted, who are spoken of apart, and are the patterns and first-fruits) must be necessarily included; as also all intelligences. For who can rationally suppose, that the inferior parts of the creation shall be delivered, and the more noble and valuable parts, be left under the power and bondage of sin and corruption, while God exists?

6. We evidently see, that the children of God, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, who now bitterly groan for deliverance from sin and its consequences, for perfect and complete redemption, both of soul and body, which none can attain till the morning of the resurrection; shall be first delivered, and be the patterns and first-fruits of that general deliverance and liberty, which shall be finally given to the whole creation.

Thus, if the whole creation shall at length be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God, we that have the first-fruits of the Spirit, may draw consolation from that source: For surely, if God designs to deliver the whole creation, much more will he deliver us, to whom he hath already given his Spirit, and we shall become a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.

Lastly, We may observe, that those who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption, resurrection, or change of this earthly body. As the Apostle fays to the Philippians:

“For our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

St. Paul, in his discourses and epistles, taught the believers to wait for the second coming of Christ from heaven, when the dead faints shall be raised, and the living faints changed, and altogether caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, to be always with him. But some, in his day, denied the resurrection of the dead; and others said that it was past already, by which they overthrew the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:18). This the Apostle called, erring concerning the truth; and we have many in our day, who either totally deny the resurrection of the dead, or spiritualize it till the substance is lost. But the Apostles were always particularly careful, to hold up, in the plainest manner, the proper resurrection of the dead from their graves. And St. Paul declares, that the whole truth of the gospel depends upon this fact:

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then is not Christ risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rife not, then is not Christ raised. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.” (1 Cor. 15:13-18)

These are some of the dreadful consequences of denying the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. But the Apostle asserted the truth of it, saying;

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and is become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

The design of the Apostle, in this wonderful chapter, seems to be to give a summary of the gospel which he preached, and especially to defend the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and the final subduing of all enemies, by Jesus our Lord. And these important truths he improves practically, as he never fails to do, exhorting and commanding Christians, to continue and abound in practical holiness.

He speaks of the resurrection, in such words as abundantly show, that he meant, that the dead bodies which are laid in the grave, shall rise gain.

“It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44)

Here we may observe, that the Apostle four times declares, that the same that is sown is raised. But, O how changed from what it was, when sown! It is sown, etc., it is raised, etc., are his expressions; and if these words do not infallibly declare the proper resurrection of the body, I must confess I know not of any form of expression that would convey that idea.

Though these words are sufficiently plain, yet, as the doctrine of the resurrection is much denied and evaded, I shall just observe, that our Saviour’s resurrection is both a proof and pattern of ours. Now it was evident to those who beheld him (on whose faithful testimony we receive it), that his body was the same numerical, identical, substantial body, in which he suffered. His pierced hands, feet, and side, as well as many other circumstances, proved this. At his resurrection, several dead bodies of saints that slept, arose – came out of their graves, and shewed themselves to many – whereby a proper resurrection was abundantly proved, in opposition to all figurative senses of the word.

The doctrine of the resurrection, therefore, is not only good news in itself, but with its truth the whole gospel stands connected. If the resurrection be true, the gospel of Christ is so, and, vice versa. Thus, “Be not deceived: Evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not: for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” (1 Cor. 15:33-34).

There is one glorious piece of information more, that St. Paul gives us in this chapter, which I do not find anywhere but in his writings: “Behold, I show you a mystery.” This is something wonderfully glorious, which before was unknown to them: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” That is, the saints, as a body, shall not all sleep; for both St. Paul, and all to whom he wrote, fell asleep in Jesus; but those who are found alive, and remain on earth at the coming of our Lord, shall not sleep, but shall all be changed: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye: at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).

Much the same language does this blessed Apostle write to the Thessalonians:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again; even so them also, who sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever (or always) be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (Thes. 4:13-18)

And if anything is worthy of the name of good news, surely this is; and Oh, what sources of comfort are here! But I cannot now enlarge, and shall, therefore, hasten to a conclusion.

I have endeavored to give you a summary view of the Gospel which the Apostles and to which they command us to adhere. And though the greatest names on earth, or even angels from heaven, should seek to pervert this glorious system of grace, truth, and love, they are to be rejected. It is plain from what we have heard, that the blessed Apostles held forth the depravity of human nature. That we cannot be justified in the sight of God, by our own works. That Christ is set forth as a Saviour, exactly suitable to all our needs. That he, out of love, died for St. Paul, for the church, for all who believe – and for all mankind, without exception. That faith, repentance, hope, love, and willing obedience, are necessary qualifications for entering into the kingdom of heaven. That God hath an elect people, chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world, that they should be holy, etc., and to whom he makes known his glorious designs of gathering all things under one head, and reconciling all things, whether in heaven or earth, to himself. That, as the whole creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God, they themselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, and who sleep in Jesus, shall come with him: When he shall descend from heaven, their bodies shall be raised from the dust, glorious and immortal, and they, together with all the saints that are found alive on earth, (who shall be changed in a moment) shall be caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air, and shall be always with him, and shall be like him; for they shall see him as he is, and shall have the sublime pleasure to reign with him, and to behold all things made subject to his authority.


“Every creature who is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are, now, in the sea, and all that are in them, shall say,

‘Blessing and honor,

And glory and power,

Be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne,

And unto the Lamb,

For ever and ever.’”


1St. Ambrose, in his Treatise, De Fide ad Gratianum, Lib. II, 4, says; The original reading of this text was not what we now have it, in our Greek Testaments, that Christ, χάριτι θεοῦ, by the Grace of God, tasted death for all; but, χωρὶς θεοῦ, for All, excepting God. The Triumvirate, Grotius, Beza and Cornelius a Lapide, three leading and capital authorities, unite in the same testimony. And several ancient copies, as well as the Syriac Testament, bring in their verdict here, and say, this is the true reading. And when we read, 1 Cor. 5:27, that He is excepted, that did put all things under Christ; shall we fay, this reading is contrary to the analogy of faith, and receives no additional strength and countenance from it? For further information on this point, the reader is referred to Bengelius’s Gnomon, or Various Readings.