“Dr Thomas’s writings make his readers into Bible students, who while retaining a lively sense of indebtedness to him find confirmation in their own independent study.” So wrote Brother John Carter in the Introduction to “The Faith in the Last Days”, page 39. It is in this spirit that we include the following article from the pen of Brother John Thomas taken from the “Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come”, 1858, pages 84,85. The article is actually the answer to a question from a correspondent relating to the apparent partiality of God in the outworking of His purpose. The answer involves a concise yet powerful exposition of God’s purpose, in the development of a Divine family and the relationship between God Manifestation and Human Salvation. The second paragraph contains several sentences that have been frequently quoted and may be well known to many readers, but it is possible that the context of the quotation is not so well known and it is the context that makes the quotation so meaningful.

The correspondent asks: Why are the people of one age more favoured than those of another, in hearing the Gospel and being saved? For instance, see what numbers were converted during the apostolic age, whilst whole nations and generations of men have gone down to the dust without ever having heard a message of warning, or testimony of mercy and righteousness. And, again, in millennial times, what multitudes will be blessed and saved under divine knowledge and government, whilst millions have perished in their intervening ages. … Why does God put it forth more signally in one age than another, seeing that one generation needs the blessings of salvation as much as another? And it is said that “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:14); that “He is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). Some would (therefore) be ready to accuse Him of partiality and injustice….

 Brother Thomas’s answer: Why are the people of one age more favoured than those of another, in hearing the Gospel and being saved? Because one generation of flesh and blood happens to live contemporary with the times appointed in the original plan, while others do not. No injustice is done to the nations and generations that never heard the Gospel. Before they were born into the world they were nothing; after they died they went to nothing, so they became as though they had never been. They had no hopes, and now they have no regrets; why, then, need we burden ourselves with sorrowing for them that know nothing and care for nothing? “The dead know not anything.”

  Men were not ushered into being for the purpose of being saved or lost. God-manifestation, not human salvation, was the grand purpose of the Eternal Spirit. The salvation of a multitude is incidental to the manifestation, but it was not the end proposed. The Eternal Spirit intended to enthrone Himself on the earth, and, in so doing, to develop a Divine Family from among men, every one of whom shall be spirit because born of the Spirit, and that this family shall be large enough to fill the earth, when perfected, to the entire exclusion of flesh and blood. In elaborating this purpose, upon the principles revealed in the Bible, a far greater production of human kind occurs than is necessary. Hence vast multitudes are swept off by disease, war, and so forth, and the multitude left are of but little more use than to keep the world a going until the Divine Family shall become complete. God will take out from the human race as many for His Name as His purpose requires. If He chose to make apostolic demonstrations every two hundred years, he could, doubtless, obtain a hundred fold more for the kingdom than upon the present system; but He does not so operate. It is fair, then, to conclude that His purpose does not demand so many, and that, He only employs means adequate to what He desires.

True, “one generation needs the blessings of salvation as much as another,” but it is not God’s pleasure to respond to all their needs, for the plain reason that He does not. The more light the more responsibility; hence, there will be, no doubt, more raised to Aion judgment who have previously lived in the apostolic age, than of those who live in this generation of ours. It is, therefore, a merciful dispensation to leave “the Veil of the Covering” over the intoxicated nations until the appointed time to teach them righteousness by the only means that can effect it – by the argument of Divine force, as introductory to the force of Divine argument. “When thy judgments, O Yahweh, are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” Isaiah 26:9. This is the only remedy for our rebellious race.

God has given light enough and ample means enough for the taking out all needed for His Name. The light is strong enough for an honest and good heart to see by, but it is not strong enough to bring men to obedience of a contrary description. Men who do not think and dare not reason or act, lest they should jeopardise their social position or be wounded in the vested interests, can never see the Kingdom of God. The light is not strong enough for them, and their constant exclamation is, “I do not see it in that light,” “I cannot so understand it.” It is never convenient for them to see anything by which “the idols of the den” are made to follow the lead of Dagon:

The household gods must be preserved, Whatever else betide!

 God does not “will all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”, in the sense of compelling such a result. That He does not is clear, from the fact that very few of mankind in each generation arrive at that knowledge, and the salvation is scrupulously predicated upon the knowledge and obedience of the truth. The original words of Paul to Timothy do not sanction such a supposition. Speaking of God, he says, “who is willing that all men be saved and come to the exact knowledge of truth; for there is one God and one Mediator of God and men, Jesus, a man anointed, who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony in its proper times” 1 Timothy 2:4-6. The proof of God’s willingness is seen in His sending an invitation to all men, offering them the kingdom, power, and glory, of which the Gospel treats, with eternal life at the resurrection; and the extent of the salvation or amplitude of the “all” is also seen in accompanying the invitation in the history of its proclamation; so that when His willingness shall have found its full development, and the fruits shall be gathered in, they will sing, “Thou hast purchased us for God with thy blood OUT OF every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” Revelation 5:9. He is willing that any man, Jew, Turk, Protestant, Pagan, or Papist should be saved on the terms He has appointed, for “He is no respecter of persons”, but He will not force men to be saved, nor will He permit them to be saved if they will not believe His promises and do His commands.

In 2 Peter 3:9, the word rendered “willing” is not the same as used by Paul above. Peter said, “not desiring or wishing that any perish”. The “any” are related to the “toward”, in the sentence immediately before. He is willing that the incorrigible perish, but He does not desire or wish that any of the saints should perish. There were certain before Peter’s mind who had obeyed the truth, but “had forsaken the right way” 2 Peter 2:15, and who were about to fall into that furnace of fire that was shortly to devour Judah. It was the Lord’s longsuffering towards such errorists of the circumcision that caused the seeming delay with which the apostles were taunted. He did not wish any of them to perish, but that they might all come to a change of mind.