[comments below]


A[spasio]. But why could not his mercy be glorified in the offer of forgiveness to them, if Christ had not died for them?

P[aulinus]. Could mercy have been glorified in the pardon of sinners, if no atonement had been made?

A. By no means. ” Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” If sinners had been forgiven without an atonement, it would not have been a manifestation of the glorious attribute of mercy, but of a weak and inglorious partiality for the wicked.

P. If, then, where no atonement is made, no forgiveness can be granted, it follows that where no atonement is made, no forgiveness can be offered; at least, there is no manifestation of mercy in such an offer. For if the offer should be accepted, the forgiveness could not be granted. What will the non-elect think in the great day, if they find that forgiveness was offered them on the part of God, with the greatest appearance of compassion for them, and at the same time discover that if they had accepted the offer forgiveness would have been refused? Will their mouths be stopped ? Will they not rather be opened wide? Will they not consider it, and justly too, as so far from being a manifestation of mercy, that it was altogether insincere, and no better than mocking their misery?

A. But you suppose a case that never can happen. “If you suppose a non-elect man may believe, you should suppose, at the same time, that both the decree of election and of redemption correspond with this event; and then all difficulty will be removed.”

P. The non-elect are either able or unable to accept the offer. If they are able, then the case can happen; and the appearance of mercy, expressed in the offer, should be judged of accordingly. If they are unable, then the difficulty is greatly increased; for they are not only tantalized with the offer of forgiveness which cannot be granted, but they are mocked with proposals which they cannot comply with. It is like calling upon a drowning man to take hold of a rope and save himself, when there is not only no rope within his reach, but he has no hands to take hold of one if there were.

But if Christ has died for all men, they can all be forgiven if they will repent and believe. And so the offer of forgiveness can be consistently made to them on the part of God, and be a real expression of his mercy. And since they are all moral agents, and able to accept the offer, their salvation is, by this means, put entirely at their own option. Should an earthly government offer pardon to a criminal, upon the easy condition of his own voluntary acceptance, and should it appear that every obstacle was removed, so that he might be pardoned if he would, there would be no doubt of the merciful disposition of that government. Even the criminal himself would say, with his dying breath, ” The government was merciful, but I would not receive pardon at their hands.”

A. What have you to say respecting the truth and sincerity of God?

P. If Christ has died for all, then the truth and sincerity of God are glorified in his inviting all to turn and live. If Christ has died for all, then he has made ample provision for the salvation of all, provided they will comply with the prescribed conditions. When a man makes a feast and invites twenty persons to come and partake of it, what does the invitation say to all and each of them, come, for there is provision made to entertain you? or, come, for there is no provision made for you? Certainly, the invitation amounts to a declaration that there is provision made for every one who is invited; and it is so understood by those who are invited. And if it were not so understood, it would not be considered a sincere invitation, but a gross insult. If the master of the feast should say, I invite twenty when there is only provision made for five; you are all invited to come, but if you come only five can be received, and the rest must go empty away. “What would be thought of such a man? But the invitations of the gospel are not attended with any such declaration. They say, “Come, for all things are ready.” No minister of the gospel is sent to say to the non-elect. Come, for there is no provision made for you; come, for if you do you will be shut out.

A. But the ministers of the gospel do not know who the elect are, and therefore they cannot do otherwise than invite all indiscriminately. When they address a company of sinners, they do not know but that they are all elected; and therefore, they can sincerely invite them all.

P. But the ministers of the gospel are only servants, sent in their master’s name to proclaim his invitation. The invitation is his, not theirs. And he knows for how many he has made provision. The question is, how he can sincerely invite all to come. The invitation to any one certainly holds out the idea that there is provision made for him. He so understands it; and it is intended that he should so understand it. He must so understand it not to feel himself insulted by the invitation. If he understands that he is invited while at the same time there is no provision made for him, he will feel it as a gross imposition. Or, if he should not discover it till long afterwards; if he should at the time suppose the invitation to be sincere, but should afterwards discover that no provision was made for him, and that if he had come he would have been excluded, he cannot look back upon the transaction and consider it in any other light.

A. But the invitations of the gospel are not in fact made to all the human race. A great part of the world have never heard the gospel.

P. The ministers of the gospel are commanded to preach it to every creature. That they have not done so is a fault of theirs, for which they will have to answer to their master in the great day. The invitations of the gospel are, therefore, in fact, directed to every creature. But, Aspasio, do you think that all are elected who hear the gospel preached?

A. No. I have no reason to think that.

P. Then the fact that the gospel has not been actually preached to every creature will avail you nothing. It looks like a mere subterfuge, intending to evade coming to the point and meeting the difficulty fairly.

A. But I think the invitation may be given to all men as sincerely, upon my plan, as upon yours.

P. How can that be?

A. I will tell you. Suppose a thousand captives are confined in prison–suppose a person wishes to redeem one hundred of them, and, for that purpose, pays to the authority which holds them in prison a pearl of great value, “sufficient to redeem all the captives in prison; but the person paying it has in view only to redeem his own friends; this intention in the redeemer, and the acceptance of the price by the authority which holds them in bondage, constitutes the pearl a ransom, and confines it to the number for whom it was designed. But the pearl itself is sufficient to ransom all the rest of the captives if it had been applied to their advantage. To carry on the allusion, suppose that the person undertaking to redeem his friends should say, ‘I will have proclamation made in the prison that every one who will acknowledge me as his deliverer, and will submit himself to my authority, may immediately come forth on the footing of the ransom which I have paid; for none but my friends will accept these terms, the remainder will prefer their prison to liberty, which can only be had by submission to me, whom they inveterately hate.’ Now the person commissioned to carry these tidings to the prison would feel himself authorized to proclaim deliverance to every one who was willing to accept the terms, and to use arguments and motives to induce them to submit; but the event would be, that none would accept the offer but the real friends of the redeemer. This he knew from the beginning, and therefore he paid the ransom for no others. Is there any thing insincere in this whole transaction?”

P. Was the pearl paid for the whole, or only for a part?

A. It was paid only for the hundred who were intended to be redeemed. There was nothing paid for the rest.

P. Then its value makes no difference. If the whole price was paid for the hundred, there was nothing paid for the nine hundred. They are in just the same situation as to the possibility of their deliverance, as if no ransom had been paid for any. The great value of the pearl seems to me only a blind, to prevent the true state of the case from being seen. What if some of the nine hundred had accepted the offer, and attempted to come out, would they not have been stopped at the door by the keepers of the prison? Would they not have been told there is no ransom paid for you; you cannot be released?

A. You ought not to ask such a question; for it was foreseen that none of them would accept the offer.

P. But there is a wide difference between their being hindered only by their own voluntary refusal of the offer, and their being hindered also by the want of a ransom being paid for them. In the one case they could come out if they would; in the other they could not come out if they would. In the one case their liberation is possible, and depends on their own voluntary choice; in the other their liberation is impossible, for if they should choose to come out, and make the attempt, they would find the doors locked and barred against them. If the ransom had been paid for the whole, and their liberation had been rendered possible, and had been made to depend entirely upon their own voluntary choice, then they could all be sincerely invited to come out; but if the ransom was paid only for the hundred and nothing was paid for the rest, their liberation was impossible; it did not depend upon their own voluntary choice; they could not come out if they would; and therefore to make the offer to them and call upon them to come out, is just as if one should go to the doors of a prison, and looking through the grates should call upon the prisoners to rise and come out, when they were fast bound in chains and the doors are locked and barred against them, which would be but mocking their misery.

William R. Weeks, “A Dialogue on the Atonement,” in The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises, ed., Edwards A. Park, (Boston: Congregational Board of Publications, 1868), 555-557.

[Notes: 1) Once again, it should be stressed that one does not have to agree with all of Week’s positive assertions. This excerpt is posted because it particularly well explains the problematic entailed in the revised version of the sufficiency-efficiency formula. 2) Weeks’ Dialogue was first published in 1825. 3) We can add the supplemental point that the possible counter-assertion, that the sincerity of the offer is predicated solely upon the conditionality of the offer. That is, if 1 of the 900 were to believe, it would infallibly turn out, that there would be a sufficient provision for that person. However, it should be obvious how self-refuting this is. If one of the 900 were to have believed, such that it would have turned out that there was a sufficient provision for that man, then it would not have been the case that he was not of those for whom the payment was not made (i.e, for whom Christ had not died for) in the first place, but that he would have been one of the minority for whom the original payment was made, that is, not one of the 900 at all. What is more, as God knows that this member of the 900 is non-elect, and that there was a provision of payment made only for the 100 (elect), then it will never be true that were this non-elect person to believe, it would turn out that he would find a sufficient provision for him. Thus, when examined, the counter is hollow and ineffectual in evading the force of the argument Week’s presents here.]

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 8:07 am and is filed under Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed at this time.