Here then see the infinite goodness and condescension of God towards us his poor and worthless creatures, who though he be infinitely above us, and stands not at all in need of us, nor cannot be in the least benefited or advantaged by us, or by his acquaintance with us; but before there was made either man or angel, he was infinitely satisfied, and infinitely blessed in the enjoyment of himself; yet was he pleased to create angels and men, not only to a fitness and capacity of, but unto an actual communion and acquaintance with himself; which was more than needed on God’s part, or was owing on our parts; and when we like foolish and unthankful wretches, upon the very first motion of the devil, gave away this honor and happiness of acquaintance and communion for an apple, as Esau sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage, and thereby not only made our selves unworthy for ever to be admitted into God’s favor and acquaintance, but unfit for it too, as well as unworthy; that God should yet please to stoop so low as to take us yet again into acquaintance with himself: this speaks the wonderful goodness of God, his infinite Φιλανθρωπια or love to mankind.

When Esau had once undervalued the birth-right, so far as to sell it for a mess of pottage though afterwards it grieved him for what he had done, and he sought earnestly, and that with tears, to recover that blessing and birth-right which he had so foolishly lost, yet it could not be: so God might have dealt with Adam, and every one of us. The Text tells us, Adam lived 930 years after his sin, now if Adam had spent all those years in nothing but weeping and mourning, for his folly and madness in parting with his birth right, his acquaintance and communion with God, for an apple and in seeking earnestly, and that with tears, to recover communion and acquaintance with God again, and after all, had been denied it, yet God had been altogether just and righteous.

But behold the kindness of God, and his love towards mankind! As it is said of David, when Absalom by his villainies had banished himself from his Father’s Court and presence, it is said, The soul of King David Longed to go forth unto Absalom: that is, David’s heart was full of fatherly affection towards him, and he longs to be friends with him again: so did the heart of God even long towards man, after his sin and fall, and he did even long to be friends with him again, and to renew his acquaintance and converse with him.

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From within the early modern period authors identify several major positions on the extent of Christ’s satisfaction. John Ball (1585- 1640) acknowledges only two chief positions, covering Remonstrant and Reformed views; the Remonstrants hold that Christ "died for all and every man with a purpose to save," and the latter "distinguish the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s death."73 Francis Turretin first acknowledges, "Though all agree that Christ died for each and everyone, still they do not explain their meaning in the same way."74 He then delineates three different major classes, those who argue that Christ conditionally died for all and absolutely died only for the elect, those who claim that Christ died absolutely for all, and the "common opinion of the Reformed" that Christ died only for the elect.75 In this threefold classification Turretin has in mind the views of John Cameron (ca. 1579-1625) and Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) for the first view, the Remonstrants for the second, and the Reformed for the third. John Davenant (1572-1641), in his treatise on the death of Christ, notes that the church fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages contended that Christ died sufficiently for all, but efficiently, or effectually, for only the elect. Davenant points out that the doctors of the Reformed church from the beginning of the Reformation embraced this common sufficient-efficient theological distinction.76

Davenant points to several Reformed theologians to illustrate this claim, including Bullinger, Aretius, Musculus, and Zanchi. Heinrich Bullinger states quite simply: "The Lord died for all: but all are not partakers of this redemption, through their own fault. Otherwise the Lord excludes no one but him who excludes himself by his own unbelief and faithlessness."77 Benedict Aretius (1505-1574) says, "Christ died for all, yet notwithstanding all do not embrace the benefit of his death, because by their own wickedness, and the corruption of their nature, they despise the offered grace."78 Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) likewise offers, ‘We know that all be not partakers of this redemption, but yet the losse of them which be not saved, doth hinder nothing at all, why it shoulde not be called an universal redemption, whiche is appointed not for one nation, but for all the whole world."79 And Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) also holds to the universality of the satisfaction of Christ: "That it is not false that Christ died for all men as it regards his conditional will, that is, if they are willing to become partakers of his death through faith. For the death of Christ is set before all in the Gospel, and no one is excluded from it, but he who excludes himself."80 All of these Reformed theologians argue that in some sense Christ died for all. So the question arises, how do Reformed theologians relate the satisfaction of Christ to the redemption of the elect?

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1. There is an absolute willingness in Christ to save some sinners, and these sinners are those whom God hath, from all eternity, chosen to life; and who thereupon do come to Christ, that they might have life, being awakened and stirred up thereunto by the inward and effectual working of God’s Spirit and Grace upon their hearts. Now there is in Christ an absolute willingness to save all such; he is fully resolved to be wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption to them, John 6:37.

2. There is a conditional willingness in Christ to save other sinners, yea all sinners, yea even those that shall never be saved; by which Christ stands ready to receive, and pardon, and embrace them, in case they come to him, and repent and believe the Gospel: which they never do, through the hardness and impenitency of their hearts, to which they are justly left, they are eternally lost, though Christ could have saved them, and would have saved them, if the Condition had been performed, Luke 13:34.

Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom: A a Treatise Containing the Substance of Several Sermons Preached on the Subject From John VIII. 36. (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 178-179.

Credit to Tony for the find.


The earlier reformers adopted general language on the subject. They held that “the redemption procured by the death at Christ was, proposed and offered to all, but apprehended by, and applied to, only those who believe.” Melancthon says in his Loci Communes “On the promises of the gospel,” “Reconciliation is offered and promised to all mankind,” and quotes John iii. 16. Calvin, when commenting on this passage says, “He has put an universal mark both that he might invite all, men promiscuously to the participation of life, and that he might leave the unbelieving without excuse.” “He shows himself to be propitious to the whole world, since he calls all without exception to believe in Christ.” On Romans v. 18, he says, “He makes grace common to all, because it is set before all, not because it is actually extended to all, for although Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and through the goodness of God is offered to all indifferently, yet all do not apprehend him.” Bullinger, in his 28th sermon, on Revelations v. says, “The Lord died for all; ‘but all are not partakers of redemption, through their own fault.” Zanchius, one of the highest of Predestinarians, says, “It is not false that Christ died for all men as it regards his conditional will, that is, if they are willing to become partaken of his death through faith; for the death of Christ is set before all in the gospel, and no one is excluded from it but it who excludes himself.” In the opinion of Davenant, who was deeply. conversant in that ‘kind of Literature,–the early reformers,–“so explained the ‘doctrine of election and reprobation, that they might not infringe the universality of the redemption accomplished by the death of Christ.’

John Brown (of Broughton), “Notes, Chiefly Historical, on the Question Respecting the Extent of the Reference of the Death of Christ,” United Secession Magazine, June (1841): 286. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]


And because it is this synod purposely called against Arminianism, that is the best discovery what is to be accounted Arminian or anti-Arminian doctrine, as I think, by consenting to it, I do clear myself from that calumny with all men of conscience and r(1820-1894)eason that know it, so I shall think that those who go as much on the other hand, and differ from the synod one way, as much as the Arminians did the other way, remain censurable as well as they; till some body shall convince me that there is but one extreme in this case, and that a man may hold what he will without danger, so he be but sure it go far enough from Arminianism. A man that holds to the moderate of Dort, need not say that Christ did not die or satisfy for all men, nor need he trouble himself with presumptuous determinations about many mysteries of the decrees of God, which many volumes are guilty of. Nor does he need to aver the necessity of immediate physical efficient predetermination of God (as the first cause) of every second cause natural and free, as without which they cannot act. Nor need he say, that God so predetermined to the act which is sin, and not to the sinfulness of the act. Nor need he subscribe to all that Dr. Twisse, or Mr. Rutherford, or such like, have written on these points. Nay, as the synod, so our own assembly gave an example of modesty in these points, to them that will follow it, not only silencing many things which others make the pillars of anti-Arminianism, but expressing that the “will is endued by God with a natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to do good or evil,” and, therefore, they never tell you that God as the first cause must of natural necessity determine the means will by physical immediate premotion, before it can act either good or evil. But they reserve the honor of determining man’s will to special grace, “Renewing the will, and by almighty power determining it to that which is good (c 10. Sect. 1. And c.9. Sect. 1.).

Richard Baxter, Richard Baxter’s Confession of Faith (London: Printed by R.W. for Tho. Underhil, and Fra. Tyton, and are to be sold at the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard, and at the three Daggers in Fleetstreet, 1665), 25-26. [Some reformatting, some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]