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No. 25."] JANUARY, 1813. [vol 3.


To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians, Magazine.

• IB,

PTM1E more we examine the New Testament, the less ground ■■■ shall we find in it for those doctrines which form the creeds of the Orthodox, so called. This consideration renders it'the duty of every Christian, who is in any measure adequate to the task, to place the truths contained in that book in such ;i light, as may most effectually expose the danger and absurdity of those systems, by which the minds of so many thousands in this country are enslaved, and which all pretend to be the genuine offspring of Divine Revelation.

Did those who take upon them the right of forming religious creeds, present them to us as the mere productions of their own fancy, we could indeed bear with their weakness; but when we are told, that we must either believe them, or for ever he excluded from the Divine favour; when the allnierciful Deity is introduced as sanctioning schemes diametrically opposed to the present and future happiness of his creatures; when the meek and lowly Jesus is represented as teaching the horrible doctrine of reprobation, silence becomes a crime.

By the advocates of the doctrines of election and reprobation, the prayer of Jesus, contained in this chapter, is considered as an unanswerable reply to all that cau be said against their system.

A little attention, however, to the scope of the passage will shew, that instead of this being the case, there is not, from the beginning to the end of it, the most distant reference to any thing of'the kind.

There are evidently three distinct classes of characters mentioned by Jesus in the course of the prayer. The first of these )-thus described by him—" As many as thou hast given 1dm," ver. 2. "The men which thou gavest me out of the *orld; thine they were, and thou gaiest tliem me; and they Iwve kept thy word," ver. 6. For these the prayer of Jesus was in the first instance mado; nor, from the very nature of VOL. in. B

things, could it have a reference to others. Hence, he savs, "I pray for them ; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine." ver. 9.

The second class is thus described—" Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word ; that they all may be one, as thou, Father art in me, and 1 in thee, that they also may be one in us." ver. 91.

The third class is denominated—" The, World," and is repeatedly mentioned in the course of the chapter.

The first of these are the twelve apostles, as appears from the following circumstances. Jesus, as the Messiah, was sent into the world, that through him men might have eternal life. The Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins ; or, in other words, to proclaim to men the mercy of his Father. This prayer anticipates his rising from the dead, and sitting down at the right hand of his Father. Then all power, or u power over all flesh," was given to him. This power, the power of declaring the forgiveness of sins, Jesus delegated to the apostles. "Whose sins soever ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose sins soever ye retain, they are retained." This Jesus calls giving eternal life to those whom his Father had given him, ver. 2; and, as his Father sent hitn into the world, to manifest to it this life so he sent them. "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world," ver. 18. This exactly corresponds with what is elsewhere said of the twelve—" Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit," John xv. 16. "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but 1 ha\e chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." With these agree the words, of Peter, (Acts x. 40). "Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." Again, one of these characters, namely Judas, whom Jesus styles " the son of perdition," fell frpm his office by transgression. He was one of those who were given to Jesus, and had obtained part of the . ministry with the other disciples. Having, from remorse, destroyed himself, it became necessary to complete the number of the apostles by electing one in his room.

Two were immediately appointed as candidates; the matter was decided by lot; the lot fell on Matthias; he was the man whom God had chosen, and he was numbered with the eleven and ordained to be, with them, "a witness of the, resurrection of Jesus.'' Here then was an instance of the nature ef the election, the choice, the ordination, &c. so often mentioned in the above passages; an instance which clearly proves that those terms relate to the apostolic office.


With regard to the second class of characters, they, appear, to be those wh6, in the beginning of the gospel, believed on Jesus through the testimony of ihe apostles, and were employed in an extraordinary way in propagating and confirming the doctrines of Christianity. It would appear from Mark xvi. 17,18, that the apostles were encouraged by the promise of Jesus to expect in their labours a co-operation of this kind. "These signs shall fallow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents: and if they arink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the- sick, and they shall recover." The history of the Acts of the Apostles abundantly illustrates this passage, and shews that, in addition to what the twelve received, there was a grand display of miraculous power distributed among the first converts to Christianity; and that those who received this power, acted in unison with the apostles,.in establishing the kingdom of God. For these Jesus prays, that they ail may be one; which evidently refers to their united efforts, in the work which they were to perform, even as he and his Father had hitherto acted in the same work. Let any one compare what is here expressed by Jesus, with Paul's account of the miraculous gifts, in 1 Cor. xii. and he must instantly see to what this part of the prayer alludes. In this chapter, and in various other parts of his epistles, Paul urges the importance of uuity among those who possessed these gifts, and for the same reason too that Jesus assigns in his prayer, namely the conversion of the world to Christianity.

The last class of characters mentioned by Jesus in his prayer, are those whom he calls "the world." These are represented as ignorant of God; as having persecuted Jesus, and hating his disciples. For them, he says, "I pray not." Hence it is concluded, that he must be speaking of the reprobate. But, how different a scene opens on our view where the subject is received in the light of consistency, and its different parts compared with each other. Then, instead of supposing, that Jesus is here anticipating a period when ninetenths of the human race shall be delivered over to neverending torments, in consequence of an unrepeatable decre* of his Father, we must view him as anticipating the salvatio ■ of the world; the universal submission of the ends of the earth to the reign of God: the period when, in his name every koet» shall bow, and every tongue confess, that he is Lord, to the ({lory of God the Father.

The world, the salvation of the world, is, in fact, the principal object adverted to by Jesus in this prayer. He does indeed prat for his disciples, and for those who should believe on him through their word, that they might be unanimous in their exertions; and that they might, in the execution of their work, be preserved from the evils of the world; but, why all this? why furnish them with miraculous powers, arid bestow on them such pains in instructing them? for their own sakes? No, verily; but for the sake of the world: that the world might believe that God had sent him; and consequently, that the world through him might be saved. The strongest objection to this idea is derived from the words, "I pray not for the world." But this objection amounts to nothing; for, as has been shewn, the prayer has respect to three distinct classes of character, and that part of it where these words occur is exclusively appropriated to the apostles; and surely every on* knows, that he had not chosen the whole world for apostles. If, however, it is urged, that Jesus refused to pray for the world, on the ground of their having been decreed to eternal misery, then, either he mu9t have changed his mind, or the decree of God have been altered ; for he expresses, towards the conclusion, the "most earnest desire, that the world, who were then ignorant of his Father, and from whose ignorance he expected his disciples to suffer so severely, might believe on him by the preaching of the apostles. However important a place then the preservation of the apostles, and others who received miraculous gifts, holds in the prayer of Jesus, still it is plain, that the world* was the object to which he looked forward with the greatest degree of pleasure; and that to the effecting of its salvation all other things were to be made subservient.

If BHch is the meaning of Jesus, and that it is, has, I trust, been fairly shewn, what becomes of the doctrine of election and reprobation ,* Find them wherever they may, their advocates can find no vestige of ground for them in this prayer, without torturing the plainest of language into a meaning which evidently involves their arguments in self contradiction and gross absurdity. J^et them remember, that if those who are here said to have been given to'Jesus are the elect, one of them fell !—Nor let us hear the hacknied excuse, that Judas was nothing more than an impostor, and only united with the

* See John iii. 16, 17, where it is expressly declared "that God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten son ; that Whosoever belicveth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life I for God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

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