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Shedd on God’s desire and compassion for the salvation of all men

November 2, 2007

Shedd:

The well-meant offer: The well-meant offer:

1) “The following declaration is found in Confession xv. I, Larger Catechism, 159. ‘Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached in season and out of season by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.’ This certainly teaches that faith and repentance are the duty of all men, not of some only. No one contends that the Confession teaches that God has given a limited command to repent. ‘God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.’ But how could he give such a universal command to all sinners if he is not willing to pardon all sinners? If his benevolent love is confined to some sinners in particular? How could our Lord command his ministers to preach the doctrine of faith and repentance to ‘every creature’, if he does not desire that every one of them would believe and repent? And how can he desire this if he does not feel infinite love for the souls of all? When the Confession teaches the duty of universal faith and repentance, it teaches by necessary inference the doctrine of God’s universal compassion and readiness to forgive. And it also teaches in the same inferential way, that the sacrifice of Christ for sin is ample for the forgiveness of every man. To preach the duty of immediate belief on the Lord Jesus Christ as obligatory upon every man, in connection with the doctrine imputed to the Confession by the reviser, that God feels compassion for only the elect, and that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient for all, would be self-contradictory. The two things cannot be put together.” Shedd, Calvinism: Pure & Mixed, 25.

2) “Larger Catechism, 95, declares that ‘the moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature; to humble them in the sense of sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.’ But what is the use of showing every man his need of Christ, if Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient for every man? What reason is there for convincing every man of the pollution of his nature, and humbling him for it, unless God is for every man ‘most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin?’ The doctrine taught in this section, that all men are to be convicted of sin, like the doctrine that all men are to repent and to pray, supposes that God sustains a common benevolent and merciful relation to them all.” Shedd, Calvinism: Pure & Mixed, 26.

3) “The universal offer of the gospel is consistent with the divine purpose of predestination because (1) Christ’s atonement is a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all men and (2) God sincerely desires that every man to whom the atonement is offered would trust in it. His sincerity is evinced by the fact that, in addition to his offer, he encourages and assists man to believe by the aids of his providence–such as the written and spoken word, parental teaching and example, favoring social influences, etc.–and by the operation of the common grace of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God does not in the case of the nonelect bestow special grace to overcome the resisting self-will that renders the gifts of providence and common grace ineffectual does not prove that he is insincere in his desire that man would believe under the influence of common grace any more than the fact that a benevolent man declines to double the amount of his gift, after the gift already offered has been spurned, proves that he did not sincerely desire that the person would take the sum first offered.” W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 1:457.

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