§ 2. The love of God to the world the origin of the plan of salvation.
There is another idea to which I wish for a little to turn your attention on this part of the subject. The love in which the economy of salvation originates, is love to the world. “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son.” The term “world,” is here just equivalent to mankind. It seems to be used by our Lord with a reference to the very limited and exclusive views of the Jews. They thought God loved them, and hated all the other nations of mankind. These were their own feelings, and they foolishly thought that God was altogether such an one as themselves. They accordingly expected that the Messiah was to come to deliver Israel, and to punish and destroy the other nations of the earth. But “God’s ways were not their ways, nor his thoughts their thoughts. As the heavens are high above the earth, so were his ways above their ways, and his thoughts above their thoughts.”87
Some have supposed that the word “world” here, is descriptive, not of mankind generally, but of the whole of a particular class, that portion of mankind who, according to the Divine purpose of mercy, shall ultimately become partakers of the salvation of Christ. But this is to give to the term a meaning altogether unwarranted by the usage of Scripture. There can be no doubt in the mind of a person who understands the doctrine of personal election, that those who are actually saved are the objects of a special love on the part of God; and that the oblation of the Savior had a special design in reference to them. But there can be as little doubt, that the atonement of Christ has a general reference to mankind at large; and that it was intended as a display of love on the part of God to our guilty race. Not merely was the atonement offered by Christ Jesus sufficient for the salvation of the whole world, but it was intended and fitted to remove out of the way of the salvation of sinners generally, every bar which the perfections of the Divine moral character, and the principles of the Divine moral government, presented. Without that atonement, no sinner could have been pardoned in consistency with justice. In consequence of that atonement, every sinner may be, and if he believe in Jesus certainly shall be, pardoned and saved. Through the medium of this atonement, the Divine Being is revealed to sinners, indiscriminately, as gracious and ready to forgive; and the invitations and promises warranting men to confide in Christ for salvation, are addressed to all, and are true and applicable to all without exception or restriction. The revelation of mercy made in the Gospel, refers to men as sinners, not as elect sinners. Their election, or their non-election, is something of which, when called on to believe the Gospel, they are necessarily entirely ignorant, and with which they have nothing to do. ” The kindness and love of God toward man,” the Divine philanthropy, is revealed. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” He appears in the revelation of mercy as the God who “has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; who wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” ” The grace of God” revealed in the Gospel ” brings salvation to all,” without exception, who in the faith of the truth will receive it.88
I am persuaded that the doctrine of personal election is very plainly taught in Scripture; but I am equally persuaded that the minister misunderstands that doctrine who finds it, in the least degree, hampering him in presenting a full and a free salvation as the gift of God to every one who hears the Gospel; and that the man abuses the doctrine who finds in it anything which operates as a barrier in the way of his receiving, as a sinner, all the blessings of the Christian salvation, in the belief of the truth. Indeed, when rightly understood, it can have no such effect. For what is that doctrine, but just this, in other words,–It is absolutely certain that a vast multitude of the race of man shall be saved through Christ?’ And it is as certain, that if any one of those to whom that salvation is offered, remains destitute of it, and perishes eternally, it is entirely owing to his own obstinate refusal of what is freely, honestly, presented to him. The kindness of God, as manifested in the gift of his Son, is kindness to the race of man; and when, as an individual, I credit the kindness of God to man, so strangely displayed, so abundantly proved, I cannot find any reason why I should not depend on this kindness, and expect to be saved even as others.
Whenever a man hesitates about placing his dependence on the mercy of God, because he is not sure whether he be elected or not, he gives clear evidence that he does not yet understand the Gospel. He does not apprehend “the manifestation of the love of God to man.” When he sees God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, “he does not need to ask, Is the plan of mercy such as I am warranted to embrace? may I not somehow be excluded from availing myself of it? These, and similar suggestions, which draw away his mind from the voice of God to the speculations of his own mind, are no more regarded.” He sees God rich in mercy, ready to forgive; just, and the justifier of the ungodly. He cannot but place his confidence in him. ” Jehovah,” as it has been happily said, “by the manifestation of what he has done, especially in sending Christ, and delivering him up, the just in the room of the unjust, pleads his own cause with such subduing pathos, that there is no more power of resistance; but the person, who is the object of the demonstration, yields himself up to the authority and glory of the truth.”89 The sinner, thus cordially believing the Gospel, gladly and gratefully receives “the Savior of the world” as his Savior, and trusts that by the grace of God he shall partake of “the common salvation.” John Brown of Broughton, Discourses and Sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1854), 49-51. [Some spelling modernized; footnotes and values original; and underlining mine.]
87Isa. iv. 8, 9.
88Tit, iii, 4, 2 Cor. v. 19. Ezek, xxxiii, 11. 1 Tim. ii, 3, 4. Tit. ii. 11
89Hogg of Alyth–View of the Economy of Grace, pp. 14, 15.