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John Wesley: Why Aren’t All People Saved?

John Wesley
John Wesley (1703 –1791)

“If you ask, ‘Why then are not all men saved’ the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, As I live, saith the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.’ (Ezek. 18:3, 32.) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, ‘He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;’ (2 Pet. 3:9;) ‘He willeth that all men should be saved.’ And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, ‘Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.’ (John 5:40.) ‘The power of the Lord is present to heal’ them, but they will not be healed. ‘They reject the counsel,’ the merciful counsel, ‘of God against themselves,’ as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, ‘How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!’ (Matt. 23:37.) 

“Thus manifestly does this doctrine [of Calvinistic predestination] tend to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, by making it contradict itself; by giving such an interpretation of some texts, as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture; — an abundant proof that it is not of God. But neither is this all: For… it is a doctrine full of blasphemy; of such blasphemy as I should dread to mention, but that the honour of our gracious God, and the cause of his truth, will not suffer me to be silent. In the cause of God, then, and from a sincere concern for the glory of his great name, I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. But first, I must warn every one of you that hears, as ye will answer it at the great day, not to charge me (as some have done) with blaspheming, because I mention the blasphemy of others. And the more you are grieve with them that do thus blaspheme, see that ye ‘confirm your love towards them: the more, and that your heart’s desire, and continual prayer to God, be, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!’’

Hell

“This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, ‘Jesus Christ the righteous,’ ‘the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,’ as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.’ If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying one thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in ‘whose mouth was no guile,’ you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity; — then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, He wept over it, and said, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, — and ye would not;’ ἠθέλησα — καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε. Now, if you say, they would, but he would not, you represent him (which who could hear) as weeping crocodiles’ tears; weeping over the prey which himself had doomed to destruction! 

“Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit ‘seeketh rest and findeth none;’ so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil! 

“This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination! And here I fix my foot. On this I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? that God is worse than the devil! It cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never can prove this; whatever its true meaning be, this cannot be its true meaning. Do you ask, ‘What is its true meaning then’ If I say, ‘I know not,’ you have gained nothing; for there are many scriptures the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know till death is swallowed up in victory. But this I know, better it were to say it had no sense, than to say it had such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will it cannot mean that the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works; that is, whatever it prove beside, no scripture can prove predestination.”  #

— John Wesley (1703-1791), Sermon #128 “Free Grace.”

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