Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 17
XVII. Of the Universal Offer of Grace and the Call of God Unto Faith.
By universal grace as we confess it (Titus 2:11-14) we do not understand that God dispenses gifts and favors alike great to all men and at all times (See Article 9) even not under the preaching of the Gospel; much less that through the death of Christ all men without distinction are reconciled with God (John 3:36) and received and adopted as children (John 1:12), for then would conversion (Mark 1:15), regeneration (John 3:3), and a willingness to become reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20) be no longer necessary, upon which, however, the gospel lays great stress (Acts 2:38-40), ascribing the grace of justification only to them who truly believe. Romans 3:22, 25, 26; Acts 10:43; 13:39.
We understand rather, thereby, in the first place, the all-including love of God and of Jesus Christ in the work of salvation (John 3:16), seeing that the Lord Jesus died not only for many (Matthew 20:28) but for all men (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Hebrews 2:9) not only for the reconciliation of the believers (John 10:15; Acts 20: 28) but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2); that, namely, God so reconciled the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19) that He in view of the perfect obedience (Romans 5:18, 19) and death (Isaiah 53:11, 12) of Christ-as the ransom for all-has made His throne of grace accessible (Hebrews 10:19-22) to all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10) without distinction (Romans 10:12; 2:11; Isaiah 45: 22), and therefore has ordered that universal forgiveness be proclaimed (Acts 17:30) to all the world (Mark 16:15, 16), so that everyone who believes (John 3:15) and is converted (Luke 24:47) shall not perish but shall have forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life (Acts 13:38, 39). Wherefore, then, we have confidence that no one will be eternally damned for Adam's transgression, but indeed for his own obstinacy, his unbelief, his disobedience, etc., and that thus we need not fear condemnation for little children, but rather we may cherish for them the hope of the kingdom of God for Christ's sake. Mark 10:13-16.
Again we confess to believe that with whatever power (Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 1:19) and absolute authority (Matthew 20:15; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 1:11) it may please God to work at certain times to bring about conviction and conversion (Isaiah 44:3), and though some nations and persons are preferred before others (Luke 8:10), all of which we heartily believe and reverently adore-it is yet withal sufficiently plain and evident that God's work of grace to incite man to faith and conversion (Acts 3:26) is so far general that He does not altogether pass by any one (Romans 1:20; 2:14, 15) but manifests to all and every one His goodness (Psalms 145:9) and justice, and even the common mercies of His providence have this in view (Acts 17:27) and lead to this end. Romans 2:4.
Seeing then, as we do, that all grace shown by God to fallen man from the gates of Paradise on through all times, is the fruit only and solely of Christ's mediation, and that it has pleased God to reveal the same very differently and by degrees, we regard ourselves as both disqualified (1 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 14:4) and unable to define with exactness what the Lord our God through His omnipresent Spirit and His unceasing works of providence does and will do (Job 33:14, 24, 28-30), in the consciences of such nations and persons who hitherto have been deprived of the knowledge of the gospel. For this reason we hold it best to maintain a holy silence on this point, since we know that God's decisions are always in accordance with the most perfect justice, and are ordered according to the highest wisdom, and that He does not reap where He has not sown. Or, if we should have to choose, we would think that He would for Christ's sake extend His mercy to those who, according to the measure of their knowledge of God (Romans 2:9, 14-16) and His revelation have sought the Lord (Acts 17:27, 30; Romans 10:12, 13) feared Him (Acts 10:34, 35) and glorified Him. Romans 2:1.
Especially do we acknowledge the universality of the divine work of grace in the case of those who live under the preaching of the gospel, viz., that God either by the general influence of His providence on the conscience (Psalms 33:15), or by His Word (John 15:22), or by His Spirit (John 14:26; 16:8-11; Ephesians 1:17), or by all these means combined (Revelation 3:20) offers to every man (endowed with reason and understanding) sufficient opportunity (Isaiah 5:3, 4; 65:2) and grants divine help to make a beginning and then to advance step by step in the knowledge of Him (John 7:17; Micah 6:8) and to attain unto faith (Mark 9:24) and conversion (Isaiah 55:7); after which, if this prevenient grace of God (in the strength which it supplies) is recognized and accepted according to ability (Proverbs 1:30), and God's face is sought according to the measure of knowledge (1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:2-4), more grace will inevitably follow. James 4:6. Yea, we doubt not that the Lord will in His time and way and according to the riches of His grace and His great promises (Luke 11:9-13) give all else necessary to complete salvation and happiness. Ephesians 2:8, 9.
From all this it naturally follows that those who accept the testimonies of God by a living faith (1 John 4:16) obtain great pleasure (Matthew 11:28) to take refuge themselves in the proffered hope (Hebrews 6:18; 10:19-23; Romans 3:24, 25) and also to commend it to all others and invite souls thereto (Revelation 22:17) as the experience of all those who are in any measure constrained by the love of Christ Proves. 2 Corinthians 5:13-15.
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