« PreviousContinue »
judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” He exhorts Timothy to pray and give thanks for all men, because God will have all men to be saved, and as a reason for this he says, that the one Mediator gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Having presented the hearer with this very limited sketch of the divine testimony in favor of the universal goodness of God to mankind, a humble desire is felt that we may now look with enlightened eyes and candid minds, to see how this doctrine agrees with the works and ways of God which are visible.
Can we see in all the works of God, any instance where the Creator has discovered any want of goodness to the creature which he has made ? Is there any thing that we can point out in his universal providence that is a proof of a design to harm the works of his hands ? Every animal, every fish, every bird, every reptile and every insect speaks forth the goodness of its Creator. Is there a nation on the earth who are so treated by the divine Being, that they can say to the world, we have never received a favor from our Creator? Is there an individual among men who will stand forth and protest against all the doings of God, and say, I have received nothing but evil from the hand that formed me? Is there a son or a daughter of sorrow in the hearing of this humble voice, who will assure us that “ these light afflictions, which are but for a moment,” will not work for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" and that God is not good unto all, and that his tender mercies are not over all his works?
Much has been said in the christian church, and much has been maintained by the prejudices of the ignorant against the universal goodness of God, and in favor of a partial system of salvation ; but after all, the great question is, has God furnished those who limit his favor, with sufficient proof that they are right in so doing? In his sun-shine and in his rain does the Father of our spirits inform us, that he has elected a
few only of his rational offspring to be heirs of his grace, and that the remainder are doomed to everlasting wo? No! the blessed rays of the sun which makes our day, and warms the earth, the rain from heaven, which waters our fields and our orchards and our gardens, preach the doctrine of universal impartial goodness ;, and so do all the elements in the infinite variety of their productions. The water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we receive, the raiment we wear, the strength of our bodies, the abilities of our minds, our health, the sweets of friendship, the beauties our eyes behold, the charms of music, the flavor of fruits, in short every subject of thought agrees in declaring the impartial goodness of God.
The enemies of this doctrine, would persuade us to believe that it tends to licentiousness, and removes all restraint necessary to prevent the grossest immortality. But have they ever attempted to show that the universal promise of grace in the seed of Abraham, ever tended to make that friend of God, who believed it licentious? Will they undertake to show that the united testimony of all God's holy prophets since the world began, who have spoken of the restitution of all things, has made the believers of the faithful word perverse and sinful? Can you, my friends, see any thing licentious in the sun-shine or in the rain, of which all are made to share in rich abundance ? Is the vital air licentious because it is free grace to every living being? Are the cooling springs and limpid streams lasivious in their impartial favor? In all these things God preaches every day, and his auditors rejoice in
Having noticed the universality of this promised grace of the gospel covenant, it may be proper to inquire something concerning what is promised. “A feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." This is surely a description, of a most sumptuous feast.
Here are no indications of poverty and want. This feast too is made for all people! I cast my eyes around, I rejoice, my heart swells with joy. This feast is made for you all! Can it be possible that this God of universal mercy should have any enemies ? Yes, men are enemies to God by wicked works; yet for these very enemies he has made this feast of fat things. But of what does this feast consist? Answer, it is composed of the fruit of the spirit which is “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
This is the river, “ the streams whereof make glad the city of our God.”
What is richer, what is sweeter, what is more nourishing than love? Love to God and love to man is life, it is peace, it is joy, it is long-suffering, it is gentleness it is goodness; it believeth all things, it hopeth all things, it endureth all things; it is meekness, it is temperance, it is the fulfilling of the law, it is everlasting righteousness. This is the milk and honey of spiritual Canaan. This is the feast of which we read in the 9th of Proverbs; “ Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beast ; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table ; she hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon the high places of the city, whoso is simple, let him turn in hither; as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, come eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mingled, forsake the foolish and live : and go in the way of understanding." By the Prophet Isaiah we are invited to this feast in the following language: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat: yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread ? and your labor for that which satisfieth not ? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat of that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” And the blessed Jesus, in the great day of the feast, stood and cried, “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink.” By such language as the foregoing, from the prophet and from the Saviour, we are assured that this feast is made for "all people.” If this were not the case the Holy
Ghust would not use general and universal terms in calling on people to come to it. Should one of our wealthy citizens make a public entertainment, and send his servants into the streets to invite the people in such language as is used in scripture to invite sinners to the gospel feast, every person who heard such invitations would either believe that he was welcome, or that the man who made the feast was a hypocrite. To talk about general calls and special calls in this case would never satisfy common sense.
Our brother, who holds to conditional salvation may be admitted to bring his objection against the final salvation of all men, and say, that the feast is made for all who will come, and the invitation is to whosoever will. Reply : We grant his premises, but disallow his consequences. We will ask him whether he would be concerned for fear his children would starve to death, if he had bread enough to give them? Would any person be concerned for their children or friends, for fear they would starve, when they had enough to eat ? It is true there may be difficulties to be removed ; there may be a case in which though there be a plenty of provision, the children may not know where it is. In this case the parent would certainly use means to inform them. Again, children may be plagued with disobedient hearts, they may wander from home, they may, from being displeased, refuse to come to the parental table, but hanger will cure all these difficulties.--Let the child that wilfully refuses to eat, be indulged in its own way, how soon will hunger humble its spirit. How came the brethren of Joseph all to prostrate themselves before him? These men who were so determined that the dreams of Joseph should never be fulfilled, who despised the thought of falling on their knees to their brother, were humbled by famine. The stout hearted, haughty prodigal was humbled, brought to himself, and made willing to return to his father's house by the force of hunger. Was there ever any uncertainty respecting the reduction of Joseph's brethren to a state of humility? Was there any uncertainty about the final return
of the prodigal ? No, nor is there any uncertainty that “ All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord.”
That law by which all creatures are governed renders it certain that all people will feed on the best provisions they can procure, especially if it cost them nothing
If Ephraim of old, fed on wind, and followed after the east wind, it was because he knew of nothing better. And if people now are as much deceived as Ephraim was, they may endeavor to feed on every wind of doctrine that blows from the high places of spiritual wickedness; but it is because they know of nothing better. God says, by the mouth of the Prophet Hosea; “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” This situation of mankind seems to invite us to the consideration of another important subject in our text, expressed in the following words; “ And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations."
This vail or face of covering which has been spread over all nations is the ignorance and unbelief of which St. Paul speaks in Romans 11th, “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” And the same Apostle has more on the same subject in his ad Epistle to the Corinthians; “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech; and not as Moses which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded : for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in reading the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away."
The gospel dispensation and ministry were designed for the enlightening and instructing of mankind. Jesus was a teacher sent from God; the Apostles