There is nothing more available for the rectifying of the judgment and understanding of a man in the mysteries of salvation, than a right apprehension and conceit, touching the will of God; to wit, what God is willing to do for him, and what he wills and requires him to do for the obtaining of it. The clear understanding of this, rectifies a man’s faith in matters to be believed, either concerning God, or himself: it regulates his obedience in things to be done, teaching him how to pray aright with confidence to be heard, and that is, when he asks anything according to the will of God,1 directing him to walk aright in the way of life; and that is, when he is neither misled in his way, nor negligent in his work, but applies himself to God in a wise and orderly carriage, suitable to that course of providence that he has taken for his good.

Touching this will of God, there is something delivered in this ensuing treatise, by which every one may take a true scantling of the goodwill and affection that God bears unto him, by those warm expressions of love which he finds in the Gospel. Much more might have been said in this argument, and perhaps in time may.

Meanwhile, for the preventing of all mistakes in that which is said already, be pleased (courteous reader) to take notice, that it is no part of my purpose and intention, in any part of these following discourses and meditations, to enter the lists of that dispute and controversy which is now in agitation among the learned divines of the Reformed churches, touching the will of God in the decree of election. The heat of that contention has already troubled and disquieted the peace of the church too much, and want of moderation in some on both sides, through the indiscreet handling, of that unsearchable depth, does still beget ill blood in the veins of that body, that should grow up unto an holy temple in the Lord. As in all other controversies, so in this, the right stating of the matter in question, helps much for the clearing of the truth; and if that be first done, (I hope) it will fully appear, that the conclusion here maintained touching the will of God, does no way border upon that controversy; for the matter there in question is, whether the decree of election, as it is terminated, and pitched upon particular persons, be absolute, and irrespective, or out of consideration of foreseen faith and perseverance: that is, whether God does equally will the salvation of all, and have no absolute and irrespective purpose of saving one more than another, before he looks at different qualifications in them. It is freely confessed by one that is no stranger to that controversy, nor any ways partially addicted to the Lutheran side, but in his judgment and opinion strong enough against it, that the question of it be rightly stated, is not, whether God does truly, sincerely, and seriously intend the conversion of that man who he outwardly calls, but whether he does equally and indifferently intend and procure the conversion and salvation of all those to whom the Gospel is preached; implying, that both sides agree upon this, that God does seriously will the salvation of all those to whom He makes an offer and tender of it in the ministry of the Word; and that neither part maintains any such decree of purpose in God, touching man’s salvation, as is repugnant and contrary to that will of God which is revealed in the Gospel, but subordinate unto it. And when he [Ames] does positively and professedly set down the position and conclusion which [he] himself and others hold and maintain against their adversaries, he makes this expression of it, namely, that God does not antecedently will the conversion of such as die in their sins, after the same manner, and in the same degree as he does the conversion of others, whom in time he converts; neither does he work equally and indifferently in them both, but that by an antecedent purpose, independent upon anything in the creature, he absolutely intends, and so accordingly effectually procures the conversion of some, leaving others, who lie equally in the same condition with them, and are [in] no ways inferior unto them, save only in that previous purpose of special love, which he is pleased of himself, and for his own sake, to show to one more than to another.

And this seems to be the mind of those learned divines in the Synod of Dort, who speaking of the benefits of Christ’s death and passion, when they come to that distinction of impretration and application, they show, that they do not simply and altogether mislike it; and therefore they qualify their censure thus far, that they do reject it only in this sense, to wit, as it is used to further and lead in this conclusion, that God, in respect of himself, is willing to bestow the benefits purchased by the death of Christ, equally and indifferently upon all; and that the reason why some are made partakers of remission of sins, and eternal life, rather than others, it is not primarily from any greater goodwill in God towards them, nor any special mercy peculiarly showed to them before others, but from their own freedom and liberty, whereby they apply themselves to God more than others, in making after that grace and mercy which is indifferently offered to both. From whence it appears, that the matter in question among the learned, is only touching the decree of election, how man is considered and looked upon, when God passes that decree upon him, whether barely and nakedly, as abstracted from all qualifications and conditions which are required in the covenant of grace, or clothed and invested with such preparatory gifts of grace, as do by virtue of God’s promise, entitle him to eternal life. This question I purposely wave, and meddle not withal in this ensuing treatise, but take that which is generally granted by the more moderate, and best learned on both sides: to wit, that all mankind are capable of salvation, upon such terms and conditions as are expressed in the covenant of grace: that is, if they repent of their sins, and believe in Christ, and that when God offers life and salvation to all and every one in the ministry of the Word, he is truly willing, and does seriously intend to bestow the same upon them, in that way that He has commanded them to seek it, and according to that course of providence that he has taken for their good: that is, if they will apply themselves unto him, and follow the counsel and direction that he gives them. And this, if I mistake not, is the general doctrine of the ancient Fathers, the learned Schoolmen, and many modern divines: both Papists and Protestants, Lutherans and Calvinists, there is none that is well read and versed in their writings, that can much doubt or question the judgment of any of them, save only of those who follow and embrace Mr. Calvin’s way, and build upon his foundation: and yet amongst them (over and besides those that are mentioned in the treatise itself) these two or three testimonies may serve to show that many of very good note among them, are clear in this point:

First, it appears by Musculus in his Common Places, that the redemption which is purchased by Christ, is upon some condition applicable to the whole world, and to every particular man from the first to the last: that is, according to the report made in the general offer of it; for though all be not made partakers of it, yet their ruin and destruction, which is of themselves, does not [in] any way prejudice or impeach the general goodwill of God towards mankind, nor hinder, but that the benefit of redemption may be thus far termed universal, as that it is in some sort intended for all, and upon some conditions applicable unto all: and he illustrates this by two similitudes: First, of the sun, which may be said to send forth a general light and influence into all places, and all creatures, and to make them fruitful though many of them remain barren, because the defect and hindrance is not in the nature of the sun, but in other letts and impediments which hinder the effectual working of it: Even so (he says) it is with the redemption purchased by Christ; that Reprobates and wicked men do not receive it, it is not for want of goodwill in God towards them; nor through the defect of that grace He offers to them, for it is prepared for all, and in the preaching of the gospel are all invited to it: and therefore it is not fit that it should forfeit the title of a general benefit, because the sons of perdition, through their own fault, deprive themselves of it: for as a Medicine may be said to be universal, though it does not actually cure all diseases, because it has such a virtue in it, that it would heal them, if it were rightly and orderly applied unto them: Even so the blood of Christ may be termed an universal medicine, because it has sufficient virtue in it to heal the sins of the whole world, though it do actually cure none, but such only to whom it is applied.

The other similitude which he brings for the illustration of this point, is drawn from a custom which was used among the Jews, who in the year of Jubilee, proclaimed a general liberty to all servants, whosoever would, might go out free, though many remained still in their former bondage, refusing the benefit of liberty when it was freely offered and tendered unto them: even so in the Gospel, there is a Proclamation published of a general pardon purchased by Christ, which is offered and tendered to all and every one, upon such conditions as are expressed in the covenant of grace. The reason why many miss of it, is not for want of mercy in God, but because they are wanting to themselves, and do not seek for it according to his will.

Another [Testard] affirms, that besides that special and particular goodwill which God bears to some, there is a general goodwill which he bears to all, out of which he was moved to send Christ into the world, and out of a consideration, and for that, which Christ has done and suffered, to erect and set up a throne of grace, and from thence to offer grace, and that by means which in themselves are apt, and some ways sufficient to bring a man to life and happiness, if they be not hindered by a careless neglect on his part.

And this is plainly delivered by another author [Ames] mentioned before, when he tells us, that the serious purpose and intention of God, which is required to the outward means, is never to be separated from them; that is, in the administration of the outward means, there is always a virtual purpose in God of doing that, which the means in their own nature lead unto. And again he does freely acknowledge, that those general helps which God affords to the men of this world, and those inferior gifts of the Spirit that he works in them, though they be but common works, and common graces, yet they do in some sort belong to a saving and justifying faith, as previous dispositions preparing and making way for it, and that God’s purpose and intention in the working of them, is to afford them some more general helps, which they ought to make use of, for their furtherance, in the way of their conversion: and therefore God did seriously will their salvation.

I will add but one witness more in this matter, and that is the testimony of a learned professor in one of the universities beyond the sea [John Cameron], who thus comments upon those words of the Apostle, God will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, &.c., so as men are bound to pray for the salvation of all men, so does God will it: that is, not absolutely, but conditionally; for whatsoever God absolutely wills, that is always effected, and cannot be hindered by anything in the creature; but what he wills only upon condition, that may be hindered, because such as fail in the condition by a voluntary neglect, do thereby hinder and keep away good things from them. And thus should everyone pray for the salvation of others, not absolutely that God would bring them to salvation, whether they repent or no, but that he would bless the means unto them, and work grace in them, whereby they may repent and turn unto him, in that way of obedience, that leads to life.

And again, he shows that the Scripture does so describe the antecedent love of God towards mankind, as that there are certain degrees of love to be acknowledged in it, whereof the first is more general, and belongs to all, and out of this love he sends Christ into the world, to pay a sufficient price for the redemption of all, and by that payment to make them capable of salvation, upon such conditions as are expressed in the new covenant: and out of this love it is that he wills the salvation of all, and so accordingly calls them to repentance, that they might be saved. As it is amongst men, he that uses all fitting and convenient means to gain another man’s good opinion of him, and to draw his love and affection towards him, and for that end, makes a signification of the goodwill and affection he bears him, and shows himself ready upon all occasions to do any good office for him; and withal, show him such arguments and reasons, such motives and inducements, as are in their own nature apt to persuade him thereunto, he may be truly said to desire his love and friendship; though he do not prevail with him for the obtaining of it, he has sufficiently managed and officiated his part, without omitting of anything that was fit and requisite for him to do: and the fault and hindrance lies wholly in him that was so inflexible, that no means could prevail with him, or move him to embrace such a friendly motion. Even so the case stands between God and man, in respect of that general goodwill and affection that God bears to him: God speaks unto him, and deals with him, as with a reasonable creature; and if he does not prevail with him, the fault is not in God, or in the means that are used by him, but only in man, who will not apply himself unto God, and serve his providence in that way and course that is taken for his good: and he [Cameron] illustrates this by two similitudes: First of the sun, which affords and sends forth sufficient light to all, and yet gives no light to those that wink with their eyes, and shut those windows against the light, not through any defect, or want of light in the sun, but only through his fault, who will not make use of that benefit which is afforded to him; so it is with the benefits of Christ’s death and passion, which though they be upon some condition applicable unto all; yet are they effectual for the salvation of none, save only those who do embrace and lay hold on them by a lively faith.

The other similitude by uses, is drawn from a captive or bond-slave, who has a friend, who lays down such a sum of money for his ransom, but withal adds this condition, that he shall then come to enjoy the benefit of this ransom, when he comes to acknowledge the kindness that such a friend has done for him, and humbly sues, and seeks that he may enjoy it: but if he value his liberty at so low a rate, that he condemns and despises that which has been done for him, then it is so ordered, that he shall be in the same place and condition with those that are not redeemed at all. Even so it is here, there is a sufficient price laid down by Christ for the redemption of all mankind: now if anyone undervalue this mercy, and make light of it, he may be justly upbraided with this benefit: and though he cavil and quarrel that he is not redeemed, for as much as he still lies in prison, yet will this avail him little, because the reason why he continues still in prison, is not for want of a sufficient ransom to release him thence, but for want of looking after it: even so it is here; all men are by nature captives and bond-slaves: Christ has laid down a sufficient price for their ransom, but with this caution, that the benefit of it shall accrue only to such as do repent of their sins, and believe in him.

The reason why so many miss of that benefit, is, because they will not believe in him, nor lay down their weapons of rebellion, which they have taken up against him.

Now from all these testimonies, it is plain and evident, that amongst those who are most opposite to the Lutherans opinion in the matter of election, yet many of them do so conceive of God’s purpose therein, as that it include nothing in it contrary to that will which is revealed, and generally propounded in the Gospel. All sides grant, that life and salvation is generally offered to all in the new covenant, and that God seriously intends to give it to all and everyone, upon such conditions as are there expressed, and that is all I contend for in this ensuing treatise.

Now that God may be said seriously to will the salvation of any, there are two things necessary:

1. That there be in God a real purpose and intention of giving life unto him.

2. That the conditions required for the obtaining of it, be some ways possible, not by the strength of nature, or the power and ability of his own free will, but by and through those gracious helps which are afforded unto him in the ministry of the Word.

To have made up the treatise full and complete, it had been requisite to have handled this second point, which I could easily have supplied, out of some notes and meditations that lie by me: and it was more than once in my thoughts so to have done; but my second thoughts resolved against it, because the laying open of that point, would require a larger discourse than could well have been concluded within the bounds or limits of a reason or proof, (as here it must have been) as also in regard that the former point only was insisted upon, when that Sermon was preached. If you shall receive any profit or benefit by that which is here delivered, it is that only which I have principally endeavored and aimed at. If I miss of my purpose, and the success be not answerable to my desire, yet let it find that acceptance at your hands, which you are ready to afford to all such as unfeignedly wish your welfare.

And so I rest,

Thine in our Lord and common Saviour,

R. Maden.

Richard Maden, Christs Love and Affection Towards Jerusalem (London: Printed by M.F. for John Clark, and are to be sold at his shop under S. Peters Church in Cornhill, 1637), 11-23 (b3-d). [Some spelling modernized; original italics removed; some reformatting; pages numbered manually from title page; Latin marginal quotations of Ames, Musculus, Testard, and Cameron not included; and underlining mine].

[Credit to Tony for the find.]


1John 5:14.

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