1) Joseph Truman (1631-1671):

The only colorable objection (that is not virtually answered in what I have said), that I can call to mind, is only from John 17.

[v]9. “I pray for them, I pray not for the world.” Therefore surely (say some), he would not shed his blood for the world, for whom he would not pray. But would any be at pains to read that chapter, he may see that Christ speaks of himself, what he did in that particular prayer at that time, and that particular prayer to verse 20, was only for the Apostles; or at the most for them that were then actually believers. And verse 20, he prays for them that should afterward believe through their word; and so all that he prayed for there were actually believers, or looked on as such; and the substance of the petitions there can agree to none else, as keeping them in truth and unity &c.; and there is not one word in that prayer for God to cause any to believe: so that we may as well argue he never prayed for the conversion of any, because he did not in that prayer, and so never shed his blood for the conversion of any. But can any think that Christ wept over Jerusalem, never prayed for it; or that there were none but the elect that crucified him, when he prayed for his crucifiers. May we not with greater reason argue contrary thus. Surely he did at other times, though not in this particular prayer, pray for the world since he shed his blood for it. All other other objections are reducible to this common one, “That it would be no kindness to die so as to purchase any, but the elect that actually would believe, “That if they believe, and turn they shall live,” because none else have the natural power to turn, to perform the condition, but they that have he actually causes to turn, and so it would be to mock them. Ans. I grant if this was true, it would be but to mock, as to say to a lame man, “If thou will turn, I will give,” (let this lameness come which way i will), but you see men have the natural power to perform the condition, and though they will fall short of the benefit through their wickedness, it does not follow it was no kindness: and cannot any one see, it would as much follow according to your way, that, it would be no justice in God to punish men for not performing the gospel-condition. Joseph Truman, A Discourse of Natural and Moral Impotency (London: Printed for Robert Clavel; and are to be sold at the Sign of the Peacock in St. Pauls Church yard, 1675), 185-186. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

2) William Weeks (1783-1848):

P[aulinus]. I cordially agree with you in this, and beg you will bear it in mind when we come, by and by, to see ” What God hath spoken,” as to the extent of the atonement. For the present I wish merely to consider your arguments. What is your fourth argument to prove that Christ died for the elect only?

A[spasio]. It is this: “Christ offered himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice in the office of a priest.” Now, “His priestly office is not performed for any by the halves.” Therefore “for whom Christ offered himself a sacrifice, for the same does he intercede. But he intercedes, it is agreed, for none but his own people ; therefore, he died for none but his own people.”

P. I grant that Christ is the priest of his people, and that he does not perform his priestly office for any “by the halves.” But to conclude from this that he will intercede for the salvation of all those for whom he died, is to take it for granted that he could not possibly die for any but his own people. It is to take it for granted, that he could not have any object in dying for any, unless he intended to save them. To assume this is to assume the very point in dispute. To assume the point in dispute, is what logicians call begging the question. It is usually considered an indication of a weak cause, and that the supporter of it feels it to be so.

A. Do you grant, then, that Christ intercedes for none but his own people?

P. No. I grant that he does not intercede for the salvation of any but his own people, for he did not intend to save any others. But he intended to secure the enjoyment of “many blessings and privileges “to the non-elect, as you grant. Now, if he intended by his death to obtain for the non-elect these blessings, I see not why it should be thought incredible that he should ask the Father to bestow them. He intended by his death to procure for the non-elect a period of probation and the offer of mercy: and I see not why it should be thought incredible, that, after having died to procure for them these blessings, he should ask the Father to bestow them.

A. But does not Christ say expressly, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given me?”

P. In that particular prayer he prayed for his disciples, and for none others. And he prayed for such blessings for them as are never bestowed upon any but his disciples. But this does not prove that when God bestows other blessings upon other men, he does not do it in answer to the requests of his Son. You beg the question, therefore, in both points of your argument. And besides that, you contradict what you had before granted, that “many blessings and privileges” are bestowed upon the non-elect, “in consequence of the mediation of Christ.” Mediation includes intercession as well as atonement. According to your own concession, therefore, he does, in some respects, intercede for the non-elect. What is your fifth argument? William R. Weeks, “A Dialogue on the Atonement,” in The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises, ed., Edwards A. Park, (Boston: Congregational Board of Publications, 1868), 572-573. [First published in 1825.] [underlining mine.]

2) John Brown of Broughton (1784–1858):

1. They were a peculiar Class.

The first plea which I would bring under your consideration is, ‘that the objects of his prayer were a peculiar class–not the world.’ “I pray not for the world”1 (ver. 9). And I call your attention to this plea first, because it lays the foundation for all the, rest. Indeed, all the rest may be considered as only the expansion or development of this.

The words, “I pray for them, I pray not for the world,” have by many able theologians been considered as an assertion that our Lord’s intercession does not in any sense extend to mankind at large, but is strictly limited to the elect. It is one of the passages which have been much used in support of the doctrine, that in no sense did Christ die for all men, and that therefore the atonement has exclusively a reference to ‘the elect;’ the two parts of our Lord’s mediatorial work being justly considered as indissoluble.

Like many other passages of Scripture, more eagerness has been discovered by polemical divines to wrest it as a weapon out of the hand of an antagonist, or to employ it as a weapon against him, than to discover what is the precise meaning of the words as used by our Lord, and how they serve the purpose for which he employed them. I think it will not be difficult to show that the assertion that our Lord prays for no blessings for any but the elect, is not warranted by Scripture; and that, even if it were, it would not be easy to show how such a statement should have’ a place in a plea for the bestowment of certain blessings on his apostles.1

“The world,” here, is not an expression coincident in meaning with the reprobate–the non-elect. It is equivalent to men who have not been converted–men in their fallen, unchanged state–men under the power of unbelief, impenitence, and depravity. Now undoubtedly our Lord does not mean to make an unqualified declaration that he does not pray for any of these. All his elect originally belonged to this class. They were not only “in the world,” but “of the world;” and they ceased to be of the world just in consequence of his praying for them on the ground of his atoning death, that they should be brought out of the world, by his Spirit being given them, to the sending of which it was necessary that he should go away in his death. In the context immediately following we find him praying that the world might be brought to know and acknowledge that the Father had sent him. Surely this was praying for the world.

Nor is this all. We have reason to believe that Christ’s intercession as well as his death has a reference to mankind universally, and that in an important sense he prays for all, as well as has died for all. But for the mediation of Christ, it is difficult to see how fallen men could have enjoyed any blessings. The unmitigated execution of the curse was their desert; and but for the intervention of the mediatorial economy, how could they have escaped it? All that is not wrathful in the divine dispensations to fallen man, is directly or indirectly the result of Christ’s mediation and the parts of that mediation, while they must be distinguished, cannot be separated. Had Christ not died, could men, even those who are ultimately to perish, have had in this world the blessings of various kinds they possess? could the door of mercy have been opened to them t could a free and a full salvation have been presented to them for their acceptance? and do they possess any of these blessings without his willing it to be so, and without his expressing that will in his intercession? In the parable of the barren fig-tree, who is the vine-dresser who petitions the husbandman to spare the fruitless tree for three years more,–contemplating as a possible event, that, after all, it will continue hopelessly barren, and be cut down as cumbering the ground. The prophetic oracle is fulfilled, “He makes intercession for the transgressors.”2

It is most true he does not pray for these as he does for those whom, in accordance with his covenant engagement, he is determined to save.3 In making intercession, just ,as in making atonement, he bears special relations to them, regards them with a special love, and by his intercession l secures for them the enjoyment of saving blessings.

“It is equally true,” as Luther says, according to the sense in which you use the words, “that Christ prays for the world,” for unbelieving men, “and that he does not pray for them.”4 There are blessings conferred on men who, in consequence of their sin and unbelief, shall finally perish, and who were not” chosen in Christ” to eternal life; there are blessings conferred on elect men in their state of irregeneracy, especially the great blessing of bringing them out of that state; and there are blessings conferred on elect men in their regenerate state, of which in their irregenerate state they were incapable; and the communication of all these blessings is connected, though by no means in the same way, with that mediation of our Lord which consists in his making atonement aud making intercession.

But even although the assertion, that in no sense does our Lord make intercession for any but the elect, were better founded than as we have seen it is, it would be difficult to perceive what bearing it could have on a prayer for particular blessings to the apostles. “I pray for them; I pray not for the world.” Them is here an emphatic word. ‘I am now praying for my apostles, not for mankind at large–not for unconverted men. I am asking peculiar blessings for a peculiar class; blessings which it would not be fitting for me to ask, nor for thee to bestow, on the world.’ They have peculiar claims and peculiar necessities. What these are, will come out as we proceed with the illustration of the other particulars. John Brown, An Exposition of Our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer, (Edinburgh: William Oliphant and Co., 1866), 100-104 [Some spelling modernized; footnote values modified; italics original; and underlining mine.]

4) William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894):

Again, in his sacerdotal prayer (John 17:2), our Lord represents the whole result of his mediatorial work as dependent upon election: “Thou hast given thy Son power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” He also emphasizes the discrimination between the elect and non-elect, by saying (John 17:9): “I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” The Redeemer does not say that he never prayed for the whole sinful world of mankind; for he did this whenever he uttered the supplication, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven;” but on that particular occasion he confines his supplications to a part of the world, namely, the elect. (W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3:420-421.)


1”That John xvii. 9 is to be understood not absolutely but comparatively with respect to the manner and ground of supplication, is plain from Matt. v. 44; Luke xxiii. 34; Acts vii. 60; 1 Tim. ii 1.”–PYE SMlTH

2Isa. liii. 12.

3That Christ did not pray such a prayer for all men as was only proper for believers, doth not conclude that he did not at all pray for them.”–POLHILL.

4“Pro mundo rogare, et pro mundo non rogare utrumque est bonum et rectum. Mox enim in sequentibus dicit Christus, ‘non pro eis tantum rogo, sed et pro iis qui credituri aunt per sermonem eorum.’ Hos carte priusquam ad fidem convertuntur, de mundo esse oportet, ideo pro mundo ipso orandum, propter eos, qui adhuc sunt convertendi: Sanctus Paulus haud dubie etiamnum de mundo erat, cum persequeretur et occideret Christianos: attamen S. Stephanus rogabat pro eo ut converteretur: ita Christus quoque rogabat in cruce ‘Pater ignosce illis.’ Ita verum esse videmus, quod pariter pro mundo roget et non roget. Hoc autem inest discrimiuis. Non rogat pro mundo hoc modo, quo pro suis Christianis rogando utitur. Pro Christiania ita rogat, ut penes rectam fidem manesnt, inque ea proficiant et pergant, neque ab es desciscant; pro convertendis orat, ut relicta priori vita ad fidem accedant. “–LUTHER, v. 198. “The prayer of Christ for the world takes quite a different form from that for the church. He prays that the world may cease to be what it is; he prays for the church, that what it is may be perfected.”–OLSHAUSEN.

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