Universal atonement was the norm for the Church from the time of the early church Fathers to the end of the 16th century.
Even Paul clearly indicates in Eph. 2:1-3 that the believing elect he is addressing were under the wrath of God until they believed.
Paige Patterson once explained to me that he does not want to waste any opportunity to lead a lost person to salvation.
Dr. Criswell is not the first preacher to shy away from preaching on the most difficult passage in Hebrews and what some interpreters would label the most difficult passage in the New Testament.