May 10, 2015

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on Christ’s Prayer in John 17

The fourth Crimination.

C. “They make Christ to die for those that he would not pray for, Joh. 17. ‘I pray not for the world, but for those that thou hast given me out of the world’”---

B. He maketh himself to die for them. It is ofter and plainer said that he died for all, than it is, that he prayed not for all. And many plain Texts, yea the scope of the Gospel, must not be reduced to your feigned sense of one obscurer Text.

2. But doth not the Text tell us, that he died not for the world, as it tells us, that he prayed not for them? Or doth it tell us, that he died for no more than he prayed for? Or rather are not these your own Inventions?

3. But where doth the Text say, that Christ never prayed for any but the Elect? yea, or that he prayed not at all for the world, though he put not up that particular prayer for the world? Look on the Text, and you will see that he speaketh there only of the Disciples that followed him on Earth; And that he prayed not in that Petition for all his Elect only; And therefore he after addeth, vers. 20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word. And what was the prayer?  [That they may be one, and kept from the evil of the world,] which is a blessing peculiar to his Disciples. But it is manifest, that Christ had other prayers for the world, even for many ungodly men; yea, for Reprobates. For, 1. On the Cross he prayeth for his Persecutors, Father, forgive them: And it is mens own invention to say that he meaneth none but the Elect: We must not unnecessarily limit where the Word limiteth not. And Stephen made Christ his Pattern. And it is gross fiction to say that Stephen prayed for none but the Elect.

C. “Doth not Christ say, That his Father heard him always? and can you imagine that he prayed for that which God denied him?”

B. 2. My next Answer should have prevented that Objection, which is, that what God giveth to the World for Christ’s sake, that Christ may well be said to pray for; For it is the fruit of his Mediation. But God giveth much Pardon, and many Mercies to the World, for Christ’s sake. 1. He giveth them much Actual pardon for temporal punishments for Christ’s sake. All the Life, Health, Time, Gospel, Means and Mercies, which ever he giveth them, are such as deserved full punishment would have deprived them of: And therefore they are all acts of executive pardon of that punishment.

3. And this very Chapter containeth a prayer for the World, viz. vers. 21, 23. That the World may believe, and know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them.--- If you say that by the World here is meant only the Elect; I answer, 1. Your word is no Proof. 2. That they are prayed for, to believe and know, &c. is no proof: For many did believe that God sent Christ that yet were not saved. This soundeth but as a common Act of Faith. 3. And note, that here the world is contradistinguished, not only from Apostles, but those (after-mentioned) that should believe by their word; and it is prayed, That the world may know that God loveth those that believe in him: which may extend both to the Conversion of such as then are unconverted, and to the conviction of others, such as are common members of the visible Church (at least): As the Spirit is sent to convince the world of Sin, and Righteousness, and Judgment.

4. And it is not to be granted you without proof, that by the World is meant all Reprobates as such: For Judas is before distinguished from the World (as one given to Christ) when yet he was a Reprobate: But either it may be the World of present Unbelievers, whom Christ prayeth for else-where, though not there: Or the World of final professed Infidels and Enemies of the Church, as distinct from both Elect and Reprobate in the Church. And several expressions of Christ’s before of the Worlds hating and persecuting his Apostles, seem not applicable to every Hypocrite, who prophesieth and casteth out of Devils in his Name, and perhaps suffereth for his Truth, and excellently defendeth it, and hath some love to Believers.
Richard Baxter, Catholick Theologie (London: Printed by Robert White, for Nevill Simmons at the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1675), Book II, 68–69.