1) Q 20. Are all men, then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ? Ans: No; only those engrafted into him, and receive all his benefits by truth faith.

Having explained the mode of our deliverance through Christ, we must now inquire carefully who are made partakers of this deliverance, and in what manner it is effected; whether all, or only some are made partakers thereof. If none are made partakers of it, it has been accomplished in vain. This twentieth question is, therefore, preparatory to the doctrine of faith, without which neither the Mediator, nor the preaching of the gospel, would be of any advantage. At the same time it provides a remedy against carnal insecurity, and furnishes an answer to that base calumny which makes Christ the minister of sin.

The answer to this question consists of two parts:–Salvation through Christ is not bestowed upon all who perished in Adam; but only upon those who, by a true faith, are engrafted into Christ, and receive all his benefits.

The first part of this answer is clearly proven by experience, and the word of God. “He that believes not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:36; 3:3; Matt. 7:21.) The reason why all are not saved through Christ, is not because of any insufficiency of merit and grace in him–for the atonement* of Christ is for the sins of the whole world, as it respects the dignity and sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made–but it arises from unbelief; because men reject the benefits of Christ offered in the gospel, and so perish by their own fault, and not because of any insufficiency in the merits of Christ. The other part of the answer is also evident from the Scriptures. “As many as received him to them, gave he power to become the sons of God.” “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.” (John 1: 12. Is. 53 : 11.) The reason why only those who believe are saved, is, because they alone lay hold of, and embrace the benefits of Christ; and because in them alone God secures the end for which he graciously delivered his Son to death; for only those that believe know the mercy and grace of God, and return suitable thanks to him.

The sum of this whole matter is therefore this: that although the satisfaction of Christ, the mediator for our sins, is perfect, yet all do not obtain deliverance through it, but only those who believe the gospel, and apply to themselves the merits of Christ by a true faith. Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans., G.W. Willard (Philipsburg, New Jersey: P&R, 1994), 106. [*Expiation is the better translation here, rather than atonement.]

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How much should a Confession contain?

Another objection frequently voiced is that the Westminster Confession is too long. Assuming that the Church must have a Creed, should it extend to thirty-three chapters? The objection implies not only that a Confession of such length is inconvenient but that the whole religious and spiritual attitude behind it is wrong. ‘The authors of the Confession,’ writes G. S. Hendry, ‘thought is was incumbent upon them to deliver categorical answers to all questions that could be raised concerning the faith, and not only so, but they held the attitude that to every question there is one right answer, and all the others are wrong. They seem to have forgotten that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Only once do they hint at mystery [III, 8]; for the rest, they know all the answers and can explain everything,’ [The Westminster Confession for Today, 1960, p. 15].

This statement, of course, is factually inaccurate. On several questions the authors of the Confession deliberately refrained from expressing an opinion. These included the Millennium, the order of the divine decrees, mediate or immediate imputation of Adam’s sin, and, arguably, the extent of redemption. On the other hand, the principle behind Hendry’s objection is in itself thoroughly wholesome. A Confession of Faith should not be a compendium of Systematic Theology, embracing all the opinions of a person or group. All revealed truth is important and every doctrine which we believe to be revealed we are bound to accept and obey. But there are ‘first things’ [l Cor. 15.3]. Some doctrines are primary and fundamental in a way that others are not, and these are the doctrines which a Confession should contain. It should not include local, national and denominational prejudices or the private opinions and speculations of individuals. It should studiously avoid anything which is not fundamental.

Donald Macloed, “The Westminster Confession Today,” The Banner of Truth, Issue 101 February 1972, 18. [Some minor reformatting and underlining mine.]


1) 3. Christ’s love to his people is a special peculiar, and discriminating love.

1. It is a special peculiar love. There is a common general love which God bears to all creatures; but there is a special peculiar love which God bears to his people. God loves all his creatures with a general love; but it is some only he loves with a special and peculiar love. God, as one observes loves all his creatures indeed, but he doth not love them so as to will the same good, or to bestow the same equal good upon them all.1 God is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He feeds the ravens, clothes the lilies, gives life, breath, being to all creatures; but then there is a special love which he bears to his people. First, he gives himself to them: Heb. 8:10. This is the covenant I will make with them, I will be their God. Secondly, he gives them his Son: Having given us his Son, Rom. 8:32. John 3:16. Thirdly, he gives Heaven, Salvation, and eternal life unto them, Luke 12:32. 1 Thess. 5:9. These are the things that God bestows upon his people: so then it is a special love in this respect. God bestows common blessings upon others; he bestows many temporal blessings upon all men; but his special favors are reserved for the Elect: therefore he is said to be the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe, 1 Tim. 4:10. God preserves and saves all men by a common Providence, but he is in a special peculiar manner the Savior of Believers: therefore he is called the Savior of the body, Eph. 5:23. Compare these Scriptures together; in one place he is said to be the Savior of all men, and in another place he is said to be the Savior of his body the Church. Christ is the Savior of all men in some respect, but not so as he is the Savior of his body the Church: he saves all men with a common Salvation, but he doth not save all men with a spiritual eternal salvation, it is the Church only he so saves. John Rowe, Emmanuel, Or the Love of Christ Explicated and Applied in his Incarnation, Being Made Under the Law, and His Satisfaction. In XXX Sermons. (London: Printed for Francis Tyton Book-seller at the Three Daggers near the Inner Temple-Gate in Fleetstreet, 1680), 13-14. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; marginal notation cited as footnote; italics original; and underlining mine.]

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Hague Conference

4. That to this end He has first of all presented and given to them his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, whom He delivered up to the death of the cross in order to save his elect, so that, although the suffering of Christ as that of the only-begotten and unique Son of God is sufficient unto the atonement of the sins of all men, nevertheless the same, according to the counsel and decree of God, has its efficacy unto reconciliation and forgiveness of sins only in the elect and true believer.

“The Counter Remonstrance (1611)” in, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), 4: 46-47.[underlining mine and footnotes mine]

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Nassau Confession:

Christ’s Majesty and Glory

Further, in regard to the majesty of the Lord Christ, our belief and confession is this: We apprehend and hold that He, according to the divine nature, is in all things equal to the Father in substance and essential properties, and is of one splendor, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

But in respect of the human nature, [He] is and remains a creature, and never becomes like God in substance or in properties or operation.

Notwithstanding, this human nature of Christ, in addition to its ever-enduring, essential properties, possesses a peculiarly wonderful, sublime, and great glory surpassing all rational creatures, and this is so both before and after glorification.

Inasmuch as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God has assumed and taken this human nature to Himself, indivisibly and indestructibly uniting it to His divine nature in one person, such glory occurs in no angel, nor among the saints belonging to the human race, nor will it occur in any angel or saint in eternity,

And precisely on this account alone is it properly said of this son of Mary, that the man Christ is the eternal, omnipotent, infinite, omnipresent, and omniscient Son of God; and that this person who is the Son of God and the son of Mary is to be worshiped and invoked by all rational creatures, angels, and men.

Not that this manhood of Christ in itself possesses these properties which pertain solely to eternal and actual deity; nor has the divine honor of invocation. Neither is it that only the divine nature of Christ (apart from the flesh) is now after the incarnation to be worshiped. Rather, the Son of God in the flesh (that is, in the human nature which He has assumed) is to be called upon with one and the same worship [latria], not with any divided but with one invocation, as a single person who is at the same time man and God, as the Council of Ephesus has quite excellently and well pronounced. The ancient teachers employ the likeness (however faint it be) of a king who receives homage in his purple and crown, not that such honor pertains to the purple clothing and to the crown in themselves, nor that the king shows himself to his suqjects uncovered and apart from the purple and the crown, but that the king makes himself known in purple and with the crown.

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