The most learned Belgic Professors, in their judgment exhibited at the Synod of Dort, confess the same thing (Act. Synod. Dordt. p. 88). “We confess, say they, that the merit and value of the death of Christ is not only sufficient to expiate all, evert the greatest sins of men, but also those of the whole posterity of Adam, although there should be many more to be saved, provided they embraced it with a true faith.” But it would not be sufficient to save all, even if all should believe, unless it be true that by the ordination of God this death is an appointed remedy applicable to all. If it be denied that Christ died for some persons. it will immediately follow, that such could not be saved by the death of Christ, even if they should believe. What is usually answered to this argument by some, viz. “That God has not commanded his ministers to announce that Christ died for every individual, whether they believe or not, but only for believing and penitent sinners, and therefore it cannot be demonstrated from the universality of the call, that the death of Christ is. according to the ordination of God, an universal remedy applicable to all” seems to me to be said very inconsiderately. For faith is not previously required in mankind, as a condition, which makes Christ to have died for them, but which makes the death of Christ, which is applicable to all from the Divine loving-kindness to man, actually applied and beneficial to individuals. The death of Christ was a sacrifice established in the Divine mind, and ordained for men from the beginning of the world; nor could it profit any one if he should believe, unless it had been offered for him before he believed. When therefore we announce to any one, that the death of Christ would profit him if he believed, we presume that it was destined for him, as applicable before he believed.

John Davenant, Dissertation on the Death of Christ, 358-359.


[407] Although vicarious atonement as the acquisition of salvation in its totality cannot therefore be expanded to include all persons individually, this is not to say that it has no significance for those who are lost. Between the church and the world there is, at this point, not just separation and contrast. It is not the case that Christ has acquired everything for the former and nothing for the latter. In rejecting universalism one may not forget that Christ’s merit has its limits even for the church and its value and meaning for the world. In the first place, it must be remembered, after all, that though Christ as such is indeed the Re-creator, he is not the Creator of all things. Just as the Son follows the Father, so re-creation presupposes creation, grace presupposes nature, and regeneration presupposes birth. Not included in Christ’s merits, strictly speaking, is the fact that the elect are born and live, that they receive food, shelter, clothing, and an assortment of natural benefits. One can say that God would no longer have allowed the world and humankind to exist had he not had another and higher purpose for it. Common grace is indeed subservient to special grace, and along with salvation God also grants the elect many other, natural, blessings (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 8:28, 32; 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Pet. 1:3). Still it is wrong, with the Herrnhuter and Pietists, to erase the boundaries between nature and grace, creation and redemption, and to put Christ in the Father’s place on the throne of the universe. Even election and the covenant of grace, presupposing as they do the objects of the one and the participants of the other, were not acquired by Christ but precede his merits. With his creation the Father lays the groundwork for the work of re-creation and leads toward it. With his work, on the other hand, the Son goes back deeply–as far as sin reaches–into the work of creation. Still the two works are distinct and In the second place, Christ did not, for each of his own, acquire the same thing.

There is diversity among believers before they come to the faith, difference in gender, age, class, rank, character, gifts, and so on, and also in the measure and degree of wickedness and corruption. And when they come to the faith, there is diversity in the grace given them. Grace is given to each according to the measure Christ has bestowed (Rom. l2:3; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 3:7; 4:7). The natural diversity among people, though cleansed by grace, is not erased. By the diversity of spiritual gifts, it is even increased, for the body of Christ consists of many members in order that it may be one organism, God’s own creation and masterpiece.

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John Owen (1616-1683) on What It Means To “Bear Sin”

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in The Imputation of Sin


נָשׂא (nasa) also, verse 12, arguing a taking of the punishment of sin from us and translating it to himself, signifies as much, yea all that we do by the word satisfaction. So also doth that of ἀνήνεγκεν, used by Peter in the room thereof: for to bear iniquity, in the Scripture language, is to undergo the punishment due to it, Lev. v. 1; which we call to make satisfaction for it;—which is farther illustrated by a declaration how he bare our sins, even by being “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities,” Isa. liii. 5; whereunto is added, in the close, that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him.” Every chastisement is either νουθετική, for instruction, or παραδειγματική, for example, punishment and correction. The first can have no place in our Saviour; the Son of God had no need to be taught with such thorns and briers. It must, therefore, be for punishment and correction, and that for our sins then upon him; whereby our peace or freedom
from punishment was procured.

John Owen, “The Death of Death” in, Works, 10:266; or, Death of Death, 154. [Some spelling modernized and Underlining mine.]


That Distinction well understood, which is must insisted on by the French Protestant Divines, would much conduce herein, namely the distinction of Natural and Moral Impotency.

And though many of Dr. Twisse’s Judgment in other things, oppose it, yet he himself in many places, when pressed with difficulties, fled to it as his chief Sanctuary, Vindic. grat. lib. 2. Errat. 9. Sect. 6. pag. (mihi) 211.

Joseph Truman, A Discourse of Natural and Moral Impotency (London: Printed for Robert Clavel; and are to be sold at the Sign of the Peacock in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1675), 3. [Some spelling modernized]

[Ripped from Tony.]


1) 1. To impute is to reckon to, or to lay to one’s account. So far as the meaning of the word is concerned, it makes no difference whether the thing imputed be sin or righteousness; whether it is our own personally, or the sin or righteousness of another.

2. To impute sin, in Scriptural and theological language, is to impute the guilt of sin. And by guilt is meant not criminality or moral ill-desert, or demerit, much less moral pollution, but the judicial obligation to satisfy justice. Hence the evil consequent on the imputation is not an arbitrary infliction; not merely a misfortune or calamity; not a chastisement in the proper sense of that word, but a punishment, i.e., an evil inflicted in execution of the penalty of law and for the satisfaction of justice.

3. A third remark in elucidation of what is meant by the imputation of Adam’s sin is, that by all theologians, Reformed and Lutheran, it is admitted, that in the imputation of Adam’s sin to us, of our sins to Christ, and of Christ’s righteousness to believers, the nature of imputation is the same, so that the one case illustrates the others. When it is said that our sins were imputed to Christ, or that He bore our sins, it is not meant that he actually committed our sins, or that He was morally criminal on account of them, or that the demerit of them rested upon Him. All that is meant is that He assumed, in the language of the older theologians, "our law-place." He undertook to answer the demands of justice for the sins of men, or, as it is expressed by the Apostle, to be made a curse for them. In like manner, when it is said that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers, it does not mean that they wrought out that righteousness, that they were the agents of the acts of Christ in obeying the law; nor that the merit of his righteousness is their personal merit; nor that it constitutes their moral character; it simply means that his righteousness, having been wrought out by Christ for the benefit of his people, in their name, by Him as their representative, it is laid to their account, so that God can be just in justifying the ungodly. Much of the difficulty on this subject arises from the ambiguity of language. The words righteous and unrighteous have two distinct meanings. Sometimes they express moral character. A righteous man is an upright or good man. At other times, these words do not express moral character, but simply relation to justice. In this sense a righteous man is one with regard to whom the demands of justice are satisfied. He may be personally unrighteous (or ungodly) and legally righteous. If this were not so, no sinner could be saved. There is not a believer on earth who does not feel and acknowledge himself to be personally unrighteous, ill-deserving, meriting the wrath and curse of God. Nevertheless he rejoices in the assurance that the infinitely meritorious righteousness of Christ, his full atonement for all sin, constitutes Him legally, not morally, righteous in the sight of divine justice. When, therefore, God pronounces the unrighteous to be righteous, He does not declare them to be what they are not. He simply declares that their debt to justice has been paid by another. And when it is said that the sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity, it is not meant that they committed his sin, or were the agents of his act, nor is it meant that they are morally criminal for his transgression; that it is for them the ground of remorse and self-reproach; but simply that in virtue of the union between him and his descendants, his sin is the judicial ground of the condemnation of his race, precisely as the righteousness of Christ is the judicial ground of the justification of his people. So much for the statement of the question. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans: Michigan: 1981), 2:194-195.

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