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It is impossible, I apprehend, to reconcile the passage with the opposite doctrine of endless suffering. With a certain doctrine which has long been retained in human creeds, it forms a perfect contrast, and is utterly irreconcilable: I mean the once popular doctrine of eternal election and reprobation-that, "by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are elected to everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death." Here the question arises, can it be required that Christians should pray for all good things for all men, in direct opposition to God's decree, whereby, for his own glory,' he hath foreordained a part of mankind to endless perdition and misery?
Would not thus praying for all men express an extent of benevolence, which, according to the abovenamed decree, never entered into the Divine counsels, and contrary to God's eternal purpose? Must we pray for all temporal and spiritual good things for those concerning whom their Maker has determined that they shall be the miserable objects of his hatred and wrath for ever? To pray for their present and future happiness, would, in this view, be opposing the divine will; and to pray for their conversion, and their deliverance from sin and misery, would be to intercede with God to violate, or to alter his own decree, and prevent the accomplishment of his eternal purpose and foreordination concerning them. It would be begging him to do. that which he had determined should not be done, or which according to another theory, he knew from the beginning would never take place. Can such prayers be according to the mind and will of God? Surely not.
The orthodox clergy therefore (as they choose to be distinguished) and others, ought, in all reason and conscience, to alter, either their prayers or their
principles either to adopt a sentiment which will allow them to have some faith and hope that God will ultimately manifest his favour and goodness unto all men, or else cease to ask him to do it.
The minister who preaches doctrines which he does not believe, is justly pronounced dishonest and hypocritical. But is it not equally inconsistent, and indeed far more reprehensible, for a person to address to God in prayer, sentiments in which he has no confidence, which he disbelieves and utterly disclaims?
It appears to me this is a serious matter, and ought to be seriously considered. There should be a uniformity of sentiment expressed in preaching and in prayer: for to pray in the language, and according to the principle of universal grace and salvation, and in preaching to labour to support the doctrine of partial grace, and of endless punishment, is like a fountain which sends forth at the same place, both sweet waters and bitter;' and too nearly verifies that other declaration of the apostle James"out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing." Well might he add, "My brethren, these things ought not so to be."
The above remarks go to show, and if I mistake not, do make it appear irrefutably, that if we are divinely directed, which none will deny, to pray for the salvation and happiness of all men, then the doctrine which inculcates that sentiment must ultimately prove true; otherwise we are required to pray for that which God never intended to accomplish; or else that he intended it, knowing, at the same time, that he never should, and determining that he never would accomplish it. I see no way of escape from one or the other of these conclusions; the latter, it will be agreed, is inadmissible; the former therefore must be true.
But the passage of Scripture upon which we are commenting, directs that not only prayers, but "giving of thanks also, be made for all men. So that if any are too careless, or too wicked and ungrateful to perform the duty themselves, Christians and Christian ministers are required to do it for them, and in their behalf: that thank-offerings and praise may be continually presented to the universal PARENT" God over all, blessed for evermore"-for the entire human family; in joyful anticipation of that happy period, that glorious consummation, when, "in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and when every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"—"And giving of thanks for all men."
But can it be believed that we should be required to give thanks for all men, if to a part of mankind existence will not be a favour, but an eternal curse? Must we give thanks in behalf of all men, when a large portion of them (some have thought far the greatest part) are to be sinful, degraded, and miserably tormented, world without end? No requisition could be more absurd.
Shall we be told that we should give thanks for all men on account of the many temporal blessings they enjoy? Surely if these momentary enjoyments, will, with many of them, be succeeded by an infinite duration of sorrow, despair and wretchedness, these temporal gifts can be no cause of gratitude, either to themselves or others.
Or will it be urged that we should give thanks for all men because by the mercy of God in the mediation of Jesus Christ "sufficient provision (as it is often said) is made for the salvation of all?" Here then we inquire, How can that be a sufficient pro
vision which fails to accomplish the end proposed, and which, it was known from the beginning, would fail, and consequently would be insufficient? In this view of the subject then, we determine, we think with certainty, that there can be no just ground for the exhortation to give thanks for all men, if any part of mankind, on any account whatever, will fail of salvation, and be endlessly miserable.
Should it be urged that, not knowing who shall be the subjects of these sufferings in a future state, we may give thanks generally for all men; it is obvious that this circumstance does not in reality alter the case at all, since it is admitted, and strenuously contended, that future endless suffering will be the destiny of some. In this view, and according to this sentiment, our giving thanks for all is only the result of our ignorance, because did we but know the event of things, and what will be the fate of mankind individually, innumerable instances would be exhibited, in reference to which it would be impossible that we should sincerely give thanks. I have dwelt at considerable length upon this point, and I cannot but think the arguments in relation to it, are reasonable and conclusive.
Before dismissing this part of the subject, it is proper to notice, that after exhorting that supplications, prayers, &c., be made for all men, the Apostle particularly mentions "kings, and all that are in authority" that is, civil rulers of every grade, and without distinction of character, whether good and virtuous, or otherwise. It is, therefore, the positive duty of Christians to pray for the "powers that be," as ordained of God." And this was uniformly the practice of the primitive Christians.
When St. Cyprian defended himself before the Roman Proconsul, he said, among other things, "We pray to God, not only for ourselves, but for all
mankind, and particularly for the emperors." Tertulian, in his Apology, is still more particular, and says, "We pray for all the emperors, that God may grant them long life, a secure government, a prosperous family, vigorous troops, a faithful senate, and obedient people; and that the whole world may be in peace, and that God may grant, both to Cesar, and to every man, the accomplishment of their just desires.". Origen says, "We pray for kings and rulers, that with their royal authority, they may be found possessing a wise and prudent mind." They prayed, according to the direction of our Saviour, even for those by whom they were grievously persecuted.
We proceed to inquire for what purpose, and in view of what object, we are directed to offer up prayers, intercessions, &c., for all men. This, by the Apostle, is immediately subjoined, namely, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty."
And here I would take occasion to remark, and I do it in confidence and from careful observation, that the Scriptures never call upon us to pray that either ourselves, or any of the human race, may be saved from sufferings in a future state; nor is there a single example of any prayer to that effect in all the Bible. Neither the prophets, our Saviour, nor the apostles, that we have any account of, ever prayed that either themselves or others might be saved from endless punishment, or from any punishment in another world, and they never directed any one so to pray. But why did they not? For the best reason in the world: because God never subjected mankind to such punishment-never made them liable to it. He made the creature, the whole intelligent creation, in this world, subject to vanity, and to many evils; all of which, however, we are assured he will over