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Robert Candlish (1806-1873) on God’s Will and Desire for the Salvation of All Men

March 20, 2009

Candlish:

1) III. Nor, lastly, is it to be omitted that the cross of Christ is the proof and measure of that infinite compassion which dwells in the bosom of God towards each and all of the lost race of Adam, and his infinite willingness, or rather longing and yearning desire, to receive each and all of them again into his favor. Even the cross itself would almost seem to be an inadequate expression–though a blessed confirmation–of what is in his heart; of the feeling, as to speak, to which he gives utterance by an oath, when he swear, “As I live, saith the LORD I, have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth;” and of the deep, ineffable sincerity of hie assurance, that be would rather-how much ratherthat the sinner should turn and him and live.

There is a well known theological distinction between God’s will of decree (voluntas decreti) and his will of desire or of good pleasure (voluntas beneplaciti)–between what his mind, on a consideration of all interests, actually determines, and what his heart, from its very nature, if we may venture the expression, must prefer and wish. The types, or expressions, of these two wills respectively, are to be found in the two texts commonly quoted to illustrate them;–the first, Rom. ix. 10:66 Who hath resisted his will?” the second, Matt. xxiii. 37 : “How often would I have gathered you, and ye would not!” (See also Ps. lxxxi. 18-16, and various other passages). This latter, as distinguished from the former, denotes the pure complacency with which God approves of a certain result as just and holy in itself, and delights in it, and therefore will to enjoin it on the creature, as his moat bounden duty; and, in enjoining it, cannot but add the assurance of his willing acceptance of it, whensoever, wheresoever, and howsoever realized.

Even in a human agent, some such distinction must be recognized. Knowing hie character and his heart, you at once can specify what would be most agreeable and welcome to him as the scene or spectacle which he would most delight to contemplate. But you must know a great deal more respecting his opinions, and the circumstances with which these come into contact or, in a word, respecting his mind–his judgment as to what, in certain contingencies, he is to do, and the reasons of his judgment–before you can be qualified to understand the whole of his procedure. Still, if he were a straightforward man, you would act without hesitation, in any case in which your personal interest was concerned, on what you knew of his heart, although you might have much perplexity in discerning all the views which, in certain difficult cases, entered into the making up of his mind. Thus, to take a familiar instance, a man of undoubted and notorious beneficence to the industrious poor, or the poor willing to be industrious, has peculiar opinions on pauperism generally, and on the right mode of dealing with certain instances of pauperism, which involve his conduct in some degree of mystery to the uninitiated, and might give rise to various questions in regard to some parts of his procedure. Now, if I am a beggar, perishing without his aid, shall I perplex myself with difficulties arising out of my ignorance of the reasons that determine his resolution in these particulars?–or shall I proceed upon my acquaintance with his acknowledged goodness, and, on the faith of his own express invitations, appeal at once to his generosity and truth for what is needed to meet my case? Evidently, in such a state of matters, I would practically draw the distinction. Knowing my friend’s character, and frankly interpreting his frank assurances to me, and all situated like me–without reference to any inquiries that might be raised respecting his actual treatment of particular cases not, as yet, fully explained to me–I would venture confidently to make my appeal to him, and feel no anxiety as to the issue. So is it with God; his will, as determining what, in every cage, in to be the actual result, is an act of his omniscient mind, which he need not explain to us; but his will, as defining what, in every case, would be the result most agreeable and welcome to him, is an inherent part of his nature, and, as it were, a feature of his heart. In the one view, his will is consistent with many being impenitent and lost; in the other, it would have all men everywhere to repent and be saved.

Now, it is into this latter willthis will of the DIVINE HEART–and not into the former, the will of the DIVINE MIND–it is into what God, from his very nature, must and does desire, in reference to lost sinners, and not into what God, for ends and on principles as yet unknown, has decreed–that the cross, as such, considered merely objectively, as presented to the eye, and not subjectively, as experienced and realized in the heart, gives mankind at large, and every individual, if he will but look, a clear, unequivocal, and most satisfying insight. To every individual, believer or not, elect or not, it is a proof and pledge of the Father’s bowels of compassion yearning over him, and the Father’s eye looking out for him, and the Father’s arms open to embrace him freely, if he will but be moved to return; and to no individual, before he believes, is it, or can it be, anything move; to none does it beforehand impart any further insight into the mind and will of God, as a warrant or encouragement to believe.

Nor is more needed; for, on the subject of the universality of the gospel offer or call, and its sincerity and good faith on the part of God, as well as its sufficiency as regards men, let the following observations be considered:–

1. To vindicate God in this procedure, and satisfy men, it is enough that these two things be acknowledged and established–first, His right to require and command the sinner’s return to himself; and, secondly, His willingness and ability, in consistency with the ends of justice, to save all such as do return. It is irrelevant here to raise any question as to the extent or sufficiency of the atonement. It is enough that it is sufficient for all who will avail themselves of it, and through it, return to God–sufficient for washing away guilt of deepest dye, and corruption of darkest stain. This, taken along with the undoubted right which God has to say to the sinner–not merely graciously, and in the way of a free permission, but authoritatively, in the way of a peremptory command–return, repent, believe–is enough to shut the sinner up to the necessity of complying with the call; and if we add, what has already been explained, the insight given into the character and heart of God into the intensity of his longing desire to see every sinner return, and to embrace every sinner returning–what can be wanting, so far as argument, or motive, or warrant ir concerned, to bring the prodigal again, in relenting contrition, to his father, and the rebel, in new-born allegiance, to his Lord?    Robert Candlish, An Inquiry into the Completeness of the Atonement with Especial Reference to the Universal Offer of the Gospel, and the Universal Obligation to be believe, (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1845), 8-13. [Underlining mine, upper case Candlish.]

2) 1. The present dispensation of long-suffering patience towards the world at large, seems to stand connected with the work of Christ. That dispensation of forbearance is subservient to the dispensation of grace, and preparatory to the dispensation of judgment; and it is the fruit of Christ’s mediation.

2. To all alike, the work of Christ is a manifestation of the divine character, as well as of the divine manner of dealing with sinners of mankind.

3. To all alike, it is a proof and pledge of the desire, if we may so speak, subsisting in the divine heart–a desire involved in the very nature of God, as originating such a plan of salvation at all, whatever, on grounds and reasons unknown to us, his decree, as to its actual issue or result, may be–to see every sinner return to himself, and to welcome every one so returning. Robert Candlish, An Inquiry into the Completeness of the Atonement with Especial Reference to the Universal Offer of the Gospel, and the Universal Obligation to be believe, (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1845), 21. [Underlining mine, upper case Candlish.]

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