Page images

its meaning is not always uniform; it sometimes means all men collectively, and at other times all distributively, that is, some of all classes. Nothing is clearer than that the phrases the world, all the world, and the whole world, often occur in circumstances where absolute collective universality is perfectly inadmissible. Such is the case in the following passages:-'There went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus that all the world should be taxed;"" where all the world can mean only the inhabitants of the Roman empire:-'The world knew him not;'30 where all the inhabitants of the earth cannot be meant, as there certainly existed, even then, some who knew Christ: -'Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing; behold the world is gone after him;'" where, as denoting those who waited on the ministry of Jesus, a very restricted sense only of the term can be applicable:-The whole world lieth in wickedness;'" where, though more extensive than in the last quotation, universality is totally inadmissible, as, at the time this language was used, there were, at least, several thousand godly persons in the world:-'All the world wondered after the beast;23 at the time to which this language applies there were with the Lamb on mount Zion a a hundred and forty and four thousand, who had not the mark of the beast in their forehead. Thus is it distinctly proved that the phrases in question, do not necessarily denote universality. If absolute univer

29 Luke ii. 1.

30 John i. 10. 32 1 John v. 19.

31 John xii. 29.

33 Rev. xiii. 3.

sality is to be understood, when they occur in reference to the death of Christ, it must be on some other ground than the scripture usage of the language. And if the extent of import attachable to the words is to be determined by circumstances connected with the thing spoken of, we candidly submit whether the principles formerly advanced, from the purposes of God, the covenant of grace, the resurrection and intercession of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit, are not sufficient to warrant a restricted import, while the general observations, lately made, determine the nature and extent of this limitation. But let us look at the passages themselves in which these phrases occur.


'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.' Here, the fact that the Lamb of God does not take away the sin of every individual in the world, peremptorily demands that the term shall be taken in a restricted acceptation; while the circumstance of the address having been made originally to Jews, sufficiently accounts, on a principle formerly explained, for the use of an extensive term. John was sent to announce a new order of things, widely different, in point of extent, from the levitical economy, which had now waxed old and was ready to vanish away.

[ocr errors]

'For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent

34 John i. 29.

[ocr errors]

not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.'" The same remarks apply to this passage as to the last. The latter expression in it explains what is meant by the world. We have only to ask, whether every individual in the world is actually saved by God's only begotten Son, to ascertain the extent of that world which is the object of God's redeeming love; for it must be blasphemy to suppose that the design for which God sent his Son into the world, could, even in the slightest degree, be thwarted.


'We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." This expresses the opinion of certain Samaritans, and, as they were believers, it may be supposed to be according to truth. It represents Jesus as the Saviour of the world. If the appellation be understood to denote only fulness of merit or sufficiency of means for salvation, there can be no difficulty in explaining it. But if it be supposed to denote the actual procurement of salvation, then the ultimate fact comes in to determine that the term 'world' shall be taken in a restricted sense, for it is not more a solecism in language than revolting to every right and honourable conception regarding Christ, to speak of him as the Saviour of those who are lost.

The same remarks apply, in all their force, to the Saviour's own words:-The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the

[blocks in formation]


An express contrast is designed between the privileges of ancient Israel and those of which Jesus was to be the immediate author, which sufficiently accounts for the universal term in this place; while, as in all the other instances, the fact obliges us to adopt a limited interpretation.

The same principles must guide us in explaining the apostle's words:-'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.' 38 It is enough, here, to ask whether all without exception are reconciled to God?-whether all participate in the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputeth not his sin?

37 John vi. 51.


'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.' This seems, at first sight, the strongest passage of all in support of the objection, yet there is not one, which, when viewed in its connexion, is more easily explained in consistency with the view we have adopted. The chief explanation has already been brought forward, in speaking of the comparative extent of the new and old testament privileges. The contrast is here plainly marked 'our sins; the sins of the whole world.' The aim of the passage, too, is clearly to afford consolation to believers when they fall into sin, not to hold out encouragement to the wicked to commit iniquity. Propitiation' itself supposes an

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

actual deliverance from the wrath of the Almighty, in which we are certain all do not share, for we read of some on whom the wrath of God abideth for ever. Moreover, the propitiation for sin is connected with advocacy, by which, as before explained, the reference of the former term is necessarily limited. Not to mention the passages before adduced, in which the very same phrase occurs in a connexion which necessarily precludes absolute universality: to which we here beg leave to add other two:-'I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.-The great dragon, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.' 40

The second class of texts, on which the objection in question is founded, consists of those in which Christ is said to die for all men or for every man. We must here remind the reader of the established canon of criticism before laid down, namely, that the extent of import attaching to universal terms depends on the subject in reference to which they are used. Now, the term all is often employed in scripture in a restricted, or distributive sense. For example, when Paul says, 'For all seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's,'" the term must be restricted to those selfish persons of whom he complains in the context, yet the term itself is as naked and general as in any case in which it is used in connexion with the death of Christ. Again, when the same writer says, 'marriage is honourable in all,'"

40 Rev. iii. 10. xii. 9.

41 Phil. ii. 21.

42 Heb. xiii. 4.

« PreviousContinue »