SHOWING A DOOR OF MERCY IS OPENED BY JESUS CHRIST FOR A
I COME now to another thing proposed, namely,
III. To show more particularly what way to life has been opened, by what Christ, our Mediator, has done and suffered. In general, from what has been said, we may see that the mighty bar which lay in the way of mercy is removed by Jesus Christ; and now a door is opened, and a way provided, wherein the great Governor of the world may, consistently with the honor of his holiness and justice; his law and government, and sacred authority, and to the glory of his grace, put in execution all his designs of mercy towards a sinful, guilty, undone world. But to be more particular,
1. A way is opened, wherein the great Governor of the world may, consistently with his honor, and to the glory of his grace, pardon, and receive to favor, and entitle to eternal life, all and every one of the human race, who shall cordially fall in with the gospel design; believe in Christ, and return home to God through him.
What Christ has done, is, in fact, sufficient to open a door for God, through him, to become reconcilable to the whole world. The sufferings of Christ, all things considered, have as much displayed God’s hatred to sin, and as much secured the honor of his law, as if the whole world had been damned; as none will deny, who believe the infinite dignity of his divine nature. God may now. therefore, through Jesus Christ, stand ready to pardon the whole world. There is nothing in the way. And the obedience of Christ has brought as much honor to God, and to his law, as the perfect obedience of Adam, and of all his race, would have done; the rights of the Godhead are as much asserted and maintained. So that there is nothing in the way, but that mankind may, through Christ, be received into full favor, and entitled to eternal life. God may stand ready to do it, consistently with his honor. What Christ has done is every way sufficient. “All things are now ready.”
And God has expressly declared that it was the design of Christ’s death to open this door of mercy to all. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.1 That whosoever, of all mankind, whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, rich or poor, without any exception, though the chief of sinners, that believes, should be saved.” For this end, God gave his only-begotten Son. “He set him forth to be a propitiation for sin, that he might be just, and the justifier of him,–without any exception, let him be who he will,–that believes in Jesus.”
Hence, the apostles received a universal commission–“Go, teach all nations.” “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Accordingly, the apostles proclaimed the news of pardon and peace to every one; offered mercy to all without exception, and invited all without distinction. “He that believes shall be saved;” “Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” were declarations they made to all in general. To the Jewish nations they were sent to say, in the name of the King of heaven, “I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage.” And as to the Gentile nations, their orders ran thus, “Go ye, therefore, into the highways, and as many as ye find, bid to the marriage.” To the Jewish nation God had been used to send his servants the prophets, in the days of old, saying, “Turn ye, turn ye: why will ye die.” “Ho, every one that thirsts. come.” “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.” And now orders are given that the whole world be invited to a reconciliation to God through Christ. “Whosoever will, let him come; and he that comes shall in no wise be cast out.” Thus Christ has opened a door; and thus, the great Governor of the world may, consistently with his honor, be reconciled to any that believe and repent. And thus he actually stands ready.
And now, all things being thus ready on God’s side, and the offers, invitations, and calls of the gospel being to every one, without exception; hence, it is attributed to sinners themselves, that they perish at last, even to their own voluntary conduct. “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” And they are considered as being perfectly inexcusable. “Now they have no cloak for their sin.” And all because a way is opened, in which they might be delivered from condemnation ; but they will not comply therewith. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” And therefore, in Scripture account, they stand exposed to a more aggravated punishment in the world to come. “Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida, etc. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell, etc. It shall be more tolerable for Tyre, and Sidon, and Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for these cities; because they repented not.”
And now, because the door of mercy is thus opened to the whole world by the blood of Christ, therefore, in Scripture, he is called the Savior of the world. “The Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” “A propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” “That gave himself a ransom for all.” “And tasted death for every man.” The plain sense of all which expressions may, I think, without any danger of mistake, be learned from John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And, indeed, was not the door of mercy opened to all, indefinitely, how could God sincerely offer mercy to all? Or heartily invite all? Or justly blame those who do not accept? Or righteously punish them for neglecting so great salvation?
Besides, if Christ died merely for the elect, that is, to the intent that they, only upon believing, might, consistently with the divine honor, be received to favor, then God could not, consistently with his justice, save any besides, if they should believe, “For without shedding of blood, there can be no remission.” If Christ did not design, by his death, to open a door for all to be saved conditionally, that is, upon the condition of faith, then there is no such door opened: the door is not opened wider than Christ designed it should be; there is nothing more purchased by his death than he intended: if this benefit was not intended, then it is not procured; if it be not procured, then the non-elect cannot any of them be saved, consistently with divine justice. And, by consequence, if this be the case, then, first, the non-elect have no right at all to take any, the least encouragement, from the death of Christ, or the invitations of the gospel, to return to God through Christ, in hopes of acceptance; for there are no grounds of encouragement given. Christ did not die for them in any sense. It is impossible their sins should be pardoned consistently with justice; as much impossible as if there had never been a Savior: as if Christ had never died; and so there is no encouragement at all for them; and therefore it would be presumption in them to take any; all which is apparently contrary to the whole tenor of the gospel, which every where invites all, and gives equal encouragement to all. “Come, for all things are ready,” said Christ to the reprobate Jews….
And now, if Christ’s atonement and merits be thus sufficient for all, and if God stands ready to be reconciled to all, and if all are invited to return and come, hence, then, we may learn that it is safe for any of the poor, sinful, guilty, lost, undone race of Adam to return to God in this way. They shall surely find acceptance with God: they may come “without money, without price; and he that comes shall in no wise be cast out.”
And hence we may see upon what grounds it is that the poor, convinced, humbled sinner is encouraged and emboldened to venture his all upon Christ, and return to God through him. It is because any poor, sinful, guilty, hell-deserving wretch may come; any in the world; the worst in the world; the vilest and most odious and despicable; for such he actually takes himself to be. And if he did not see that there was an open door for such, for any such, for all such, he would doubt, and that with good reason, too, whether he might safely come. But when he understands and believes the gospel revelation, and so is assured that it is safe for any, for all, the vilest and the worst,–now the peculiar vileness and unworthiness which he sees in himself ceases to be an objection. He sees it safe for any, and therefore for him; and hence takes courage, and is emboldened to venture his all upon the free grace of God, through Jesus Christ, and so returns in hopes of acceptance. Now, does this poor sinner venture upon a safe foundation, or does he not ? He takes it for granted, that the supreme Governor of the world can, consistently with his honor, show mercy to any that come to him through Christ; and he takes it for granted that he stands ready to do so, even to the vilest and worst; that the door of mercy stands wide open, and whosoever will may come. And, upon these principles, he takes encouragement to return to God, in hopes of acceptance, and, from a sense of his own wants, and of the glory and all sufficiency of the divine nature, of the blessedness there is in being the Lord’s, devoted to him, and living upon him, he does return with all his heart; and to God he gives himself, to be forever his; and if the gospel be true, surely he must be safe. The truth of the gospel is the foundation of all; for upon that, and that only, he builds; not upon works of righteousness which he has done, not upon any immediate revelation of pardon, or the love of Christ to him in particular; but merely upon gospel principles. If they, therefore, prove true in the coming world, then will he receive the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul.
Joseph Bellamy, “True Religion Delineated,” The Works of Joseph Bellamy (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1853), 1:292-295, and 297. [Some spelling modernized; footnote values modernized; and underlining mine.]
[Notes: 1) Bellamy is touching upon a critical point of which so many advocates of limited expiation appear to be quite oblivious. If the necessary legal barriers between God and any given man have not been removed, such that it not possible for that man to legally be saved then no salvation can be offered to that man, for no legal provision has been made for this person. Thus, all speak of a conditional truth statements passed off as o conditional offers, are intellectually bankrupt. By that, I mean, the rejoinder to this objection naively argues that it is true that “if any man will believe, he will find a sufficient provision for himself.” While this is true as an abstracted comment, this is not an “offer,” but a bare conditional truth statement. Furthermore, it fails to recognize that some alleged conditional statements may be false. For example, if I only have $100 and yet if I were to say to a group of 100 men, “if any man come to me I will give him $100,” then I am speaking a falsehood. Or again, if I have a artifact which has a value set in the millions, but is only marked for 5 men, my offer of this to a group of 100 men is again a falsehood: it will never be true that if any of the 100 come to me I will give them this invaluable artifact. It is also incredible to suggest that if any man were to come, it would turn out that the artifact was marked for him. Such mental gymnastics have no place in serious conversation: An extrinsically limited provision, even though having an infinite intrinsic value, can never ground an unlimited extrinsic offer of that provision. For more on this, see my, The Offer of the Gospel and Limited Imputation of Sin. 2) It is highly probable that Bellamy here is citing Experience Mayhew’s use of the same comment from Twisse.]
1” I am ready to profess,” says the famous Dr. Twisse, “and that, I suppose, as out of the mouths of all our divines, that every one who hears the gospel, (without distinction between elect or reprobate), is bound to believe that Christ died for him, so far as to procure both the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul, in case he believes and repents.” Again, “As Peter could not have been saved, unless he had believed and repented, so Judas might have been saved, if he had done so.” Again, “John iii. 16, gives a fair light of exposition to those places where Christ is said to have died for the sins of the world; yea, of the whole world, to wit, in this manner; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” — Dr. Twisse, on “The Riches of God’s Love to the Vessels of Mercy,” etc.