Skip to content

Thomas Boston on Jn 3:16 and the Gift of Christ to the World

February 26, 2008

Query X.–Whether the revelation of the Divine will in the word, affording a warrant to offer Christ unto all, and a warrant to all to receive him, can be said to be the Father’ making a deed of gift and grant of Christ unto all mankind? Is this grant made to all mankind by sovereign grace? And whether is it absolute or conditional?


Ans.–Here we are directed to that part of our representation where we complain that the following passage is condemned, viz. “The Father hath made a deed of gift or grant unto all mankind, that whosoever of them shall believe in him Son, shall not perish;” and where we my, “That their treatment of the said passage seems to encroach on the warrants aforesaid, and also upon sovereign grace, which hath made their grant, not to devils, but to men, in terms then which none can be imagined more extensive;” agreeable to what we have already said in our representation. We answer to the first part of the question, that by the “deed of gift or grant unto all mankind,” we understand no more that the revelation of the Divine will in the word, affording warrant to offer Christ to all, and a warrant to all to receive him; for although we believe the purchase and application of redemption to be peculiar to the elect, who were given by the Father to Christ in the counsel of peace, yet the warrant to receive him in common to all. Ministers, by virtue of the commission they have received from their great Lord and Master, are authorised and instructed to go preach the gospel to every creature, i.e., to make a full, free, and unhampered offer of him, him grace, righteousness, and salvation, to every rational soul to whom they may in have access to speak. And though we had a voice like a trumpet, that could reach all the corners of the earth, we think we would be bound, by virtue of our commission, to lift it up, and my, “To you, O men, do we call, and our voice in to the sons of men. God hath so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him. Should not perish, but hare everlasting life.”And though this “deed of gift and grant, that whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish,” &c. is, neither in our representation, nor in the passage of the book condemned on that head, called a “deed of gift, and grant of Christ,” yet, being required to give our judgment in this point, we think, that agreeable to the Holy Scripture, it may be so called, as particularly appears from the text last cited, John iii. 16. where, by the giving of Christ, we understood not only him eternal destination by tho Father to be the Redeemer of an elect world, and him giving him unto the death for them, in the fulness of time, but more especially a giving of him in the word unto all, to be received and believed in. The giving here cannot be a giving in possession, which is peculiar only unto them who actually believe, but it must be much a giving, granting, or offering, as warrants a man to believe or receive the gift, and most therefore be anterior to actual believing. This is evident enough from the text itself: he gave him, “that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish,” &c. The context also, to us, puts it beyond controversy: the brazen serpent was given, and lifted up as a common good to the whole camp of Israel, that whosoever in all the camp, being stung by the fiery serpents, looked thereunto, might not die, but live. So here Christ is given to a lost world, in the word, “that whosoever believer in him should not perish,” &c. And in this respect, we think, Christ is a common Saviour, and his salvation is a common salvation; and it is “glad tidings of great joy unto all people,” that unto us (not to angels that fell,) this Son is given, and this Child is born, whose name is called Wonderful, &c. Isa. ix. 6.

We have a scripture also to this purpose, John vi. 32, where Christ speaking to a promiscuous multitude makes a comparison between himself and the manna that fell about the tents of Israel in the wilderness, says, “My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.” As the simple raining of the manna about their camp is called a giving of it, (ver. 31,) before it was tasted, or fed upon; so the very revelation and offer of Christ is called (according to the judicious Calvin on the place) a giving of him, ere he be received and believed on.

Of this giving of Christ to mankind lost, we read also, 1 John v. 11, “And this is the record that God hath given unto un eternal life, and this life ir in his Son.” This giving in the text in not, we conceive, a giving in possession, in greater or lesser measure, but a giving by way of grant and offer, whereupon one may warrantably take possession, and the party to whom is not the election only, but lost mankind; for the record of God here must be a such a thing as warrants all to believe on the Son of God. But it can be no such warrant to tell, “that God hath given eternal life to the elect;” for the making of a gift to a certain elect company of persons, can never be a warrant for all men to receive or take possession of it. This will be further evident, if we consider that the great sin of unbelief lies in not believing this record of God,–” He that believer not hath made God a liar,” says the apostle, ver. 10, “because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son;” and then it followeth, ver. 11, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life,” &c. Now, are we to think that the rejecting of the record of God is a bare disbelieving of this proposition, that God hath given eternal life unto the elect?” No, surely: for the most desperate unbelievers, such as Judas and others, believe this; and their belief of it adds to their anguish and torment. Or do they, by believing this; and net to their seal that God ir true? No; they still continue, notwithstanding of all this, to make him a liar, in “not believing this record of God,” that to lost mankind, and to themselves in particular, God hath given eternal life by way of grant, so as they as well as others, are warranted and welcome; and every one to whom it comes, on their peril, required by faith to receive or take possession of it. By not receiving this gifted and offered remedy, with application and appropriation, they fly in the face of God’s record and testimony; and therefore do justly and deservedly perish, seeing the righteousness, salvation, and kingdom of God, was brought so near to them, in the free offer of the gospel, and yet they would not take it. The great pinch and strait, we think, of an awakened conscience, doer not lie in believing that God hath given eternal life to the elect, but in believing or receiving Christ offered to us in the gospel, with particular application to the man himself, in Scripture called “an eating tho flesh, and

drinking the blood of the Son of man.” And yet, till this difficulty be surmounted in greater or lesser measure, he can never be said to believe in Christ, or receive and rest upon him for salvation. The very taking or receiving must needs presuppose a giving of Christ; and this giving may be, and is, for the most part, where there is no receiving; but there an be no receiving of Christ for salvation where there in not revelation of Christ in the word of the gospel, affording warrant to receive him, and then, by the effectual operation of the Spirit, persuading and enabling the sinner to embrace him upon this warrant and offer. “A man,” says the Spirit of God, John iii. 27, “can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” Hence Mr. Rutherford. in hie “Christ Dying and Drawing,” &c. page 442, says, that “reprobate bare as fair a warrant to believe as the elect bare.”

As to the second part of this question, i.e. “Is this grant made to all mankind by sovereign grace?  And, Whether is it absolute or conditional?” we answer that this grant, is made common to lost mankind, is from sovereign grace only; and it being ministers’ to offer Christ unto all, and peoples’ warrant to receive him, it cannot fail to be absolutely free; yet so as none can be possessed of Christ and his benefits, till by faith they receive him.

Thomas Boston, “The Marrow of Modern Divinity; Appendix,” in Works 7:485-487.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: