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Note [K] page 45.
1 John v. 16, 17. After paying all the attention in my power to this difficult passage, I am quite satisfied that it has nothing to do with the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; but I am not so sure that I understand to what it does refer. Bloomfield in his learned work, the “ Recensio Synoptica," justly observes, that the difficulty chiefly rests with the phrases-αμαρτία μη προς θάνατον, and αμαρτία προς θάνατον, as also ζωήν just after. But though he quotes various opinions, he throws no light on the phraseology. He declares that he cannot assent to the opinion of Benson, Macknight, and others, who consider the passage as referring to those diseases which were inflicted as a punishment of sin, and which were often healed in answer to prayer. He quotes Benson's paraphrase at large, and then leaves the reader, as he often does, unsettling and objecting to every thing, and estab. lishing nothing. The long Note of Macknight refers the prayer entirely to persons endowed with the supernatural gifts of the primitive times; to whom that commentator is too much disposed to refer every thing which he could not account for on ordinary principles. There is certainly no such limita. tion expressed either in the context or in the phraseology itself. By far the most satisfactory explanation of the passage, which I have met with, is in a discourse on it by Matthias Maurice, to whom I have formerly referred. I do not agree with all the views and reasonings of the discourse itself; but the following passage as an interpretation of the text, I think worthy of the reader's consideration.
“ When I consider the words of the text they lead me by the hand directly to believe, that sin unto death is meant a sin unto temporal death. Every believer hath the Son; every brother is supposed to be a believer; he that liath the Son of
God, hath him for ever; the gifts of God are without repent. ance, and whoever hath the Son, hath everlasting life in him. He is already passed from death unto life ; but the life in the text is of another nature, it is given unto one brother, upon another praying brother's request. Any person will readily think, that thereby is meant a sparing of him that sinned from temporal death, a recovering of him from sickness and affliction; much like that, Let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. Now seeing that by life in the text is meant temporal life; it necessarily follows, that by death is meant temporal death. In the 5th chapter of James, the matter is set in very clear light. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord : and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that you may be healed. The inwrought prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The apostle James does treat at large of sin unto sickness, and encourages the brethren to pray for one another that they might be healed : the apostle John writing a great while after, gives the true reason why they were not always answered, in all their prayers for each others healing, because there were some sins unto death. Then again, of the sin that is unto death, the apostle saith, I do not say that he shall pray for it. That is, when he sees it is the will of God to afflict a brother even unto death for some sin he has committed; it is not his business to oppose the will of God in the matter. But this does not in the least intimate that he should not pray for his person, and for his comfort until death, and in death; yea, it plainly implies that he should; because the Holy Ghost does not make the exception upon his person, but his sin. I do not say he shall pray for it. That is for the removal of that affliction which it hath
brought, and which now evidently appears will end in death. God in wisdom judging and having determined, that the death even of a child of his, after the commission of such a sin would be more useful to his glory, and honour before all; and more for the edification of the church, than the continuance of his life, submission becomes the creature.” pp. 101-103.
Note [L] page 58.
I know not any subject of greater importance to the clear declaration of the Gospel, than the sufficiency of the atonement of Jesus; while a just idea of the difference between its sufficiency and its efficiency, would have prevented many mistakes in the mode of addressing men and inviting them to repent and believe. The sufficiency of an individual to discharge a debt, is his possessing the means or power of doing so; his efficiency for this purpose is his willingness, or his actually paying the money. The sufficiency of a pardon is its being fully adequate to the character and circumstances of the transgressor; its efficiency, is its actual application. The sufficiency of a remedy, is its inherent power to save, the efficiency of such a remedy is its administration. The sufficiency of the atonement belongs essentially to its nature, as the atonement of the Son of God; its efficiency is its application to them that believe. Hence we say with propriety, Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the world; and with equal propriety, he is the Saviour only of them that believe. Peruvian bark is a sufficient remedy for intermitting fever ; but it can cure those only to whom it is exhibited. The amnesty of a government to those who rebel against it, may be as comprehensive as possible; but it can only benefit those who accept it.
The calls and invitations of the Gospel rest on two facts, the perfect sufficiency of the Redeemer's sacrifice, or his ability to save to the very uttermost; and the recorded willingness
of God to apply it, or to accept of all who believe in him. The first relates to his power, the second to his willingness to save. On the ground of the former, all have sufficient reason to come to him; and on the ground of the latter, the most guilty who believe may be assured of a gracious reception. I am acquainted with no writer who has done more justice to this subject, or placed it in a more luminous point of view, than the late Mr. Fuller of Kettering. The following passage is in full agreement with the sentiments I entertain.
“ It is a fact, that the Scriptures rest the general invitations of the Gospel upon the atonement of Christ. But if there were not a sufficiency in the atonement for the salvation of sinners without distinction, how could the ambassadors of Christ beseech them to be reconciled to God, and that from the consideration of his having been made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him? What would you think of the fallen angels being invited to be reconciled to God, from the consideration of an atonement having been made for fallen men? You would say, It is inviting them to partake of a benefit which has no existence, the obtaining of which, therefore, is naturally impossible. Upon the supposition of the atonement being insufficient for the salvation of any more than are actually saved by it, the non-elect, however, with respect to a being reconciled to God through it, are in the same state with the fallen angels; that is, the thing is not only morally but naturally impossible. But if there be an objective fulness in the atonement of Christ, sufficient for any number of sinners, were they to believe in him; there is no other impossibility in the way of any man's salvation, to whom the Gospel comes at least, than what arises from the state of his own mind. The intention of God not to remove this impossibility, and so not to save him, is a purpose to withhold, not only that which he was not obliged to bestow,
but that which is never represented in the Scriptures as neces. sary to the consistency of exhortations or invitations.
“ I do not deny that there is difficulty in these statements ; but it belongs to the general subject of reconciling the purposes of God with the agency of man; whereas in the other case, God is represented as inviting sinners to partake of what has no existence, and which therefore is physically impossible. The one, while it ascribes the salvation of the believer in any stage of it to mere grace, reuders the unbeliever inexcusable; which the other, I conceive, does not. In short, we must either acknowledge an objective fulness in Christ's atonement, sufficient for the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to believe in him; or, in opposition to Scripture and common sense, confine our invitations to believe to such persons as have believed already.”—Fuller's Works, vol. iv. pp. 110, 111.
If these views are scriptural, then I submit, that it is both unnecessary and improper to require men in the first instance to believe that Jesus Christ died for them in particular ; that he was crucified for their offences, and raised again for their justification. It is unnecessary, for if there be a sufficiency in the atonement of the Son of God for all, then every individual who hears and believes the Gospel testimony enjoys the benefit of the atonement as fully and certainly as if it had been made for him specifically. It is improper, because that Christ died for any individual in particular, is nowhere revealed in Scripture; consequently it cannot be proper to require a man to believe what God has not testified, which is not true unless, and until it is believed ; and which may be proved in the issue, if the individual does not hold fast, to have been a lie.
I should not have thought it necessary to advert to this topic at present, but for the plausible and zealous manner in which this doctrine has been brought forward and propagated of late