« PreviousContinue »
4. We are commanded to pray for all men, 1 Tim. "ii. 1-8.* Observe, the apostle recommends prayer "for all men and wills that men should pray every "where at all times, and in all places, lifting up holy "hands, without wrath and doubting. O what a word is "this! May we, ought we, to pray for the salvation of all men without doubting? Surely God would never have "commanded us to do this, unless it was his purpose to "restore all men in his own time !"
Mr. Fisher has given an answer to this argument. "As the will of God," says he, "is the alleged reason
why we are to pray for all; if the devils also will be "saved, the same reason will equally apply to them also; "and by a parity of argument, prayers, supplications, "and giving of thanks, should be made for the prince "of devils and all his infernal associates. But we have "not heard whether the advocates for Universal Resto"ration are perfectly consistent in this matter."
This brought from Mr. Vidler an avowal, that they do not pray for devils, nor for those men who have sinned the sin unto death. Now is it not very singular after this, to hear him saying, "And upon the common "parentage of Deity, and proof of it by the gift of Christ, "he founds his proof of God's determined good will to "all men, in that he will have all men to be saved, by "coming to the knowledge of the truth; and upon the "whole of this he gives the precept to pray for all, as "before noted, and confirms it again, ver. 8. I will therefore, that men pray every where, lifting up holy "hands, without wrath and doubting?" "+
* If what Mr. Wright says be true, namely, "That God cannot act "towards any creature, at any time, but from a principle of love," I cannot see what end can be answered by our praying for other people, or even for ourselves. If God be necessarily impelled to acts of love, what necessity for prayer? We might as well pray to him to be omnipotent, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, &c. as to be gracious unto us.
+ Dialogues, p. 110-112.
God's Love, p. 42.
I wish Mr. V. and his friends to observe, that the apostle does not say, "I will that a few Universalists pray in faith for the salvation of all the world ;" but “I will that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands "without wrath and doubting." Now to come to matter of fact; Do men pray every where in faith? Do men every where lift up holy hands? Any person of the least observation knows they do not. The natural inference is, that the will of God, upon this subject, as expressed by the apostle, is in thousands of instances awfully resisted. But if the will of God respecting the devotion and holiness of all men may be effectually resisted, then his will respecting their salvation may be effectually resisted also; for no man can be saved without personal prayer and holiness.
But if it be still insisted on, that one man ought to pray in faith for the salvation of another, and that God is determined to save all men, I wish the Universalists to answer me a few questions. Will God save all men, whether we pray in faith for their salvation or not? Or are believers necessarily led to pray in faith for the salvation of all men? If it be the duty of believers to pray in faith for the salvation of all men, would it not be best to exercise that faith for them while they are in this world, and so prevent their going to hell at all? But if some men are now in hell, and the Universalists are praying for the salvation of all men, are they not, like the Papists, praying for the dead? If the Universalists do not pray for the damned, how can their restoration be inferred from this passage? It will not surely be asking too much, to request these gentlemen to be very explicit when they write again upon this subject.
Ver. 1, 2. the apostle exhorts to prayer for all men, for kings and all in authority, not that all may be saved, as the Universalists pretend, but "that we may lead a "quiet and peaceable life." He proceeds to remark that
dis willing all men should be saved, having provided a
Saviour for them. He then commands "that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." The obvious meaning is, that since God is willing to save every man, every man ought to pray in sincerity and faith for his own salvation.-The Jews, believing that the favour of God was confined to themselves, could not bear that the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles. On the other hand, when the Gentiles saw the enormity of their lives, and considered that hitherto the Jews had been dealt with as a peculiar people, and that the Jews called them dogs, &c. it is not surprising that they should doubt of their being admitted to the privileges of the Christian religion, in common with the Jews. The apostle asserts, that Christ gave himself a ransom for all, and infers from it, that the Jews ought to pray for the Gentiles, without wrath against them; and that the Gentiles ought to pray for salvation, without doubting the willingness of God to give it. But what has all this to do with the doctrine of Universal Restoration ?
Having shown that the Christian's duty affords no support to the restoration contended for by our opponents, I will now proceed to show that their doctrine has a pernicious influence upon the Christian's duty, in some important particulars.
1. On our love to God. This will be in proportion to the quantum of misery from which we believe we are are saved. Our Lord has laid it down as an incontrovertible truth that, "To whom little is forgiven, the 66 same loveth little." Of course a man who is saved from sins which he believes deserved only limited punishment, will not love God so much as a man who is saved from sins which he believes deserved endless punishment.
2. On our obedience. "This is" (the effect of) "the love of God, that we keep his commandments." But we have seen above, that the Restoration scheme will not inspire us with so strong an affection for God as
the belief of having merited endless misery; it will not therefore inspire us with that zeal in the practice of piety and virtue.
3. On our zeal for the salvation of sinners. This will be regulated by our views of their future condition. No man will be so anxious to preserve his friend from the bite of a fly, as from the sting of a scorpion. I once heard a Universalist minister tell his congregation, that one use of his doctrine to the saints was, It tended to relieve the mind of that extreme anxiety, which is occasioned by the thought of our friends being lost for ever. He informed us that when he believed the doctrine of endless punishment, his mind was so affected with it, that, through excess of grief, his body was worn nearly to a skeleton; but he assured us that the Restoration-scheme had afforded him considerable relief; and indeed few of his hearers, I believe, felt themselves disposed to dispute it, since he then looked as fat and jolly as a king's beef-eater. This use of the doctrine, and of course the doctrine itself, appears to have been unknown to God's ancient saints. Instead of losing all concern about the salvation of sinners, they sighed and mourned over them day and night. Ps. cxix. 136. Jer. ix. 1. Ezek. ix. 4.
The influence of the Restoration system on hardened sinners, has been considered under Sect. IX.
On the whole, since it cannot be shown that the belief of this doctrine is calculated to improve a single virtue, and since it has been proved to have a pernicious influence in many respects, on both saints and sinners, it may be presumed that it is destitute of Divine authority.
On the Intermediate State.
THE Universalists are agreed that 1 Pet. iii. 18, 19,
relates to Christ's preaching to spirits in the intermediate state; but they differ as to the time when He made them this gracious visit. Mr. Winchester thinks that "the "soul of Christ, in its disembodied state," went and preached to the spirits in prison.* Mr. Weaver, who wrote since Mr. Winchester, says, that "Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, went and preached to the spirits "in prison." The reason of this change is sufficiently obvious to those who have studied this controversy. Christ's local descent into hell cannot be proved from this passage on any other supposition, than that the apostle is here relating events in the order of time in which they happened: for if this be not insisted upon, the time of our Lord's preaching must be collected from circumstances; and we find from Gen. vi. that the Spirit of God strove with them, or by Noah preached to them, while the ark was preparing. To cut off the force of this reply, it has been asserted, that the apostle regarded the order of time in relating the events. Now in this order, 1. He was "put to death in the flesh." 2. He was "quickened," or raised, " by the Spirit." 3. “He "went and preached unto the spirits in prison." Hence his visit to hell has been supposed to have been made since His resurrection. It is not pretended, however, that the Sacred writers always regarded the order of time in relating events, and till proof be given that that was the case in this instance, I proceed to observe,
*Dialogues, p. 66.
+ Endless Misery Overthrown, p, 29.