Archive for the ‘Limited Satisfaction and the Free Offer of the Gospel’ Category


3. The things which have been said may help us to see, that there is really an universal door of mercy opened to sinners, and a glorious hope set before all without exception, for which they have infinite reason to glorify God and to be thankful; the limitation in the text notwithstanding. Had no sufficient provision been made for the salvation of but only a remnant of mankind; or, were the terms of obtaining an interest in the covenant of grace naturally impossible to men, without that special divine influence which is given only to an elect number, it would indeed seem, as some have objected, that the offers of mercy could not, with any sincerity, be made to the non-elect; and that it could not be their fault that they are not saved. But neither of these is truly the case. Christ hath tasted death for every man, so that no man need taste the second death, because of any want of sufficiency in his atonement. He is the propitiation for the sins of every one that believes; and not for theirs only, "but also for the sins of the whole world." He hath rendered all that obedience, and endured all that suffering which the law made necessary, in order to the eternal redemption of every individual of the human race. By his righteousness the free gift may come upon all men unto justification, unless it be because they will not, or do not, "come unto him that they might have life." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; the chief of sinners." And what doth the Lord our God require of us, in order to an interest in Christ and in his salvation? Nothing naturally impossible, surely. Nothing which would be hard, were it not for an evil heart. It is but to understand what is most plainly revealed, to love that which is obviously most excellent, and to do that which is evidently most reasonable. As to knowing what we are to believe, so far as is necessary in order to eternal life, were men willing to come to the knowledge of the truth, there would be no difficulty. A very little serious attention to the Bible would be sufficient. There is no necessity of ascending high, or diving deep, to find the infallible truth; the word is in all your hands, in which it is fully made known. Nor would it be any harder to perceive the things of the spirit of God, as they are spiritually discerned, than to understand them in speculation, were it not for the blindness of men’s hearts; their selfishness, pride, and other corrupt passions. To see the hatefulness of sin, the desirableness of salvation, and the universal loveliness of the Lord Jesus Christ, would be the easiest things in the world, were it not for a totally vicious taste, whence wicked men "call evil good, and good evil; put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." And as to doing what is required, being willing to be followers of Christ, denying ourselves and taking up the cross; nothing in this is impracticable, or arduous, provided we have any real inclination to be good. "His yoke is easy, his burden is light, his commandments are not grievous." "What God said to Cain, he may most justly say to every murmurer against the terms of the gospel, as hard and impossible: "Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou does well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou does not well, sin lies at the door." If doing at all well be our duty, or if doing not well in any case be our sin, it must lie at our own door if we perish, or fail of eternal life. No unbeliever can dispute this, unless he will assert, that despising and rejecting Christ, making light of the gospel, and neglecting so great salvation, is doing well. A door of salvation is set open to all men. Whosoever will, is heartily bid welcome to take of the water of life freely.

John Smalley, The Law in All Respects Satisfied by Our Saviour, in Regard to Those Only, Why Belong to Him, Or, None but Believers Saved, Through the All-Sufficient Satisfaction of Christ: A Second Sermon, Preached at Wallingford, With a View to the Universalists. (Hartford: Printed by Hudson and Goodwin, 1886), 24-26. [Some spelling modernized and underlining mine.]

[This Sermon was also published in, The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises (Boston: Congregational Board of Publication, 1859), 65-85.]

Ralph Wardlaw

1) 3. The hypothesis [a limitation of sin to Christ] renders the salvation of any besides the elect a natural impossibility. We are accustomed to say, and we say truly and scripturally, to sinners of mankind, that if they are not saved, the fault is entirely their own, lying solely in their own unwillingness to have the salvation offered them, or to accept it on the terms on which it is presented. But on the supposition of limitation in the atonement, this is not the case. There is, indeed, indisposition on their part; and it is their sin. But if the atonement be limited in its sufficiency, it is, in the nature of the thing, absurd and contradictory so much as to imagine any, beyond the number to the amount of whose sins it is restricted, deriving any benefit from it. To call on any others to believe in Christ for salvation, is to call them, in as far as they are concerned, to believe in a non-entity. There would be nothing in the Savior for them. They are excluded by the limitation of the remedy. For them to seek salvation would be to seek an impossibility. Were they ever so desirous of it, they could not obtain it; for the impossibility would, in this case, arise, not from their own impotence,–(their moral impotence, which is the same thing as their proud and unholy aversion, and constitutes their guilt,)–but from the very nature and constitution of the plan of redemption. If the atonement made has been equivalent to only a limited amount of sin, and if atonement be necessary to forgiveness,–then beyond the limited amount, no sin can possibly be forgiven. There is no provision for it.

4. This being the case, it will be difficult, on such a hypothesis, to vindicate, in any way, the sincerity of those divine addresses by which sinners universally are called upon to believe and be saved. If there do not exist, in the atonement or propitiation made, what has appropriately been termed an objective sufficiency for all–there really exists no ground on which sinners in general can be invited to trust. Such invitation becomes no better than a tantalizing of perishing creatures, with the offer of what has no existence. There is nothing which it is, in the nature of the thing, possible for them to receive, unless a new atonement were to be made. There is no fund from which their debts can be paid. They are invited to a feast; but there is no provision made for them. They are called to the wells of salvation; but to them they are "wells without water." An all-sufficient Saviour, becomes, in addressing sinners indiscriminately, a designation destitute of truth, a mere "great swelling word of vanity.” Ralph Wardlaw, Two Essays: On Assurance and On the Extent of the Atonement (Glasgow, 1830), p. 193-194.1 [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; underlining mine.]

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It has been objected, though not by Mr. B[ooth], “how does the sufficiency of Christ’s death afford ample ground for general invitations, if the design was confined to the elect people? If the benefits of his death were never intended for the non-elect, is it not just as inconsistent to invite them to partake of them as if there were a want of sufficiency!

This explanation seems to be no other than shifting the difficulty.”

To this I answer:

1. It is a fact that the Scriptures rest the general invitation of the gospel upon the atonement of Christ–2 Cor. v. 19, 21; Matt. xxii. 4; John iii. 16.

2. If there were not a sufficiency in the atonement for the salvation of sinners, and yet they were invited to be reconciled to God, they must be invited to what is naturally impossible. The message of the gospel would in this case be as if the servants who went forth to bid the guests had said, “Come,” though, in fact, nothing was ready, if many of them had come.

3. If there be an objective fullness in the atonement of Christ sufficient for any number of sinners, were they to believe in Him, there is no other impossibility in the way of any man’s salvation to whom the gospel comes than what arises from the state of his own mind. The intention of God not to remove the impossibility, and so not to save him, is only a resolution to withhold, not only that which he was not obliged to give, but that which is never represented as necessary to the consistency of exhortations and invitations to a compliance. I do not deny that there is a difficulty; but it belongs to the general subject of reconciling the purposes of God and the agency of man; whereas, in the other case, God is represented as inviting sinners to partake of that which does not exist, and which therefore is naturally impossible. The one, while it ascribes the salvation of the believer, in every stage of it, to mere grace, renders the unbeliever inexcusable, which the other, I conceive, does not.

Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of Rev. Andrew Fuller with a Memoir of his Life, By Andrew Gunton Fuller in two Volumes (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1836), 1:674 // Andrew Fuller, “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland Respecting The Controversy with the Rev. A. Booth: Letter III on Substitution,” in The Works of Andrew Fuller (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 2:709. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernised; bracketed insert mine; and underlining mine.]


There is, however, something more than this. The gospel is not simply an offer of mercy, it is a law. It has its own duties, and prescribes its own penalties. It does not simply make it the privilege, but the duty of all men, without exception, to embrace Jesus Christ, and to accept the offer of forgiveness which is made to them. It makes the question of eternal. life or eternal death to every hearer of the gospel to hinge upon his acceptance of proffered mercy, coming to him on the ground and through the provisions of the atonement of Christ. “This is the commandment of God, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” He is set before us, before every one of us, in all his fullness and freeness, and it is at our peril if we reject or neglect him. With these views of the gospel offer, I cannot advocate a limited atonement; I cannot put a restriction of the provision which I do not find in the offer; I cannot believe that God would make to a sinner in his wants and his woes the tender of a relief which did not exist, or which he did not wish him to embrace; I cannot believe that God would command his creatures to embrace a provision which had never been made for them, or sanction by the peril of one’s everlasting interests a commandment which he never meant should be obeyed, and which itself precluded the possibility of obedience.

It does not at all meet the difficulty of the case to say, at this point, that we are required thus indiscriminately to offer the gospel and thus to enforce its acceptance upon all, because we do not know the persons for whom the provision is made, and whom God designs shall accept it. The offer is not ours; we are but the channel through which it comes. God himself makes the offer; we but take up God’s words, and announce them as he has given them to us. We are ambassadors of Christ, not speaking in our own name, but according to our instructions, which bind us to say to each and every one of our hearers, “Come, for all things are now ready.” In this matter we have no responsibility beyond the simple utterance of the message, “This is the will of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent;” and the question returns upon us, how can we reconcile a universal offer with a limited provision? How can we acquit God of the charge of insincerity in making to men a tender, and enforcing upon them by the high sanctions of eternity the acceptance of that which not only was never designed for them in any sense, but which, in fact, has never been provided?

And yet it is said, at this point, “the Lord knows them that are his; it is not a matter of doubtfulness to him, who sees the end from the beginning, who shall and who shall not be saved through the atonement; he has his all-wise purposes in reference to this subject, and the final result will not vary one hair’s breadth from his purpose;” and while the truth of this principle is claimed from us, and cheerfully admitted by us, the difficulty of the subject is supposed to be thrown over upon ourselves, as the question is retorted upon us, how can we reconcile a universal offer with God’s secret purpose; an unrestricted provision with a well-known definite and limited result? Why should God make a provision to an extent he knew would be unnecessary, and be guilty of an expenditure beyond what the well-known circumstances of the case required? If he knew that in many cases the atonement would be rejected, why for such cases provide an atonement? If he saw distinctly that there would be some, and knew who they were, who would treat the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, where the honesty of pressing it upon their acceptance, and bringing such mighty sanctions to bear upon them to enforce obedience?

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