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Calvin and Calvinism » Reformed Confessions and the Extent of the Atonement

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The Stafforts Book (1599):

Thus we now, with the full witness of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments and also of the teaching of the Christian church, confess that after the grievous fall of our first parents, man can do nothing at all for his own salvation or conversion, or of his own ability help or cooperate therein. Instead, God alone creates in us a new heart; in the place of our heart that is made a heart of stone by sin, [He] must give us a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:27). Now we must note the specific means that God uses in our conversion, namely the preaching of the merits of the Lord Christ and the holy, most worthy sacraments, which are the seals and gracious signs, and which are appended to the comforting preaching of de Merito Christi (the merits of Christ). In connection with the teaching of the merits of Christ, this disruptive question of our day intrudes itself into the Protestant churches: whether Christ has died for the sins of the entire world or for the sins of a few, that is, for those who believe! And although this question has its clear explanation in God’s Holy Scriptures, so that man ought not eagerly to rush into self-willed wrangling over a matter in which there should be no strife, nevertheless in order to make Our simple meaning plain, we confess that when one considers the merit of Christ in its worth, power, and complete ability (as Augustine states), the greatness, power, and worth of Christ’s merit is more than sufficiently powerful and precious to take away, redeem, and propitiate not only the sins of the whole world, but rather, the whole world even if the world were much larger than it is. . . .

Now as the Lord Christ says in John 3:18 and 36, “He who believes On the Son has eternal life. He who does not believe on the Son will not see life. Rather, the wrath of God remains on him.” We understand that this heavenly cure, this overwhelmingly precious and all-sufficient medication for sin, in whatever manner it may show its power and effectiveness in us, requires faith. . . .

Because, as has now been shown, only those are redeemed from eternal death by the death of Christ, are reconciled with God, are justified from sins, and are saved, who have received from the holy gospel the death of Christ and his merit through faith, and who Consecrate themselves to Him, so it cannot be otherwise taught (when one considers the meritum Christi quod efficaciam [the merit of Christ regarding its efficacy] and all that it so powerfully accomplishes), than that Christ died only for believers and not for all men in general. For the unbelievers, as long as they remain in unbelief, do not receive any benefit from the merit of Christ. And this is consistent with Holy Scripture. . . .

“The Stafforts Book (1599)” in, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 3:768. [Some minor reformatting; italics original; bracketed inserts original; and underlining mine.]

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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.]

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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Sandomierz Consensus (1570) on the Death of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism

Sandomierz Consensus:

1) Thus our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, by His suffering and death and His complete obedience, which He fulfilled for us after His birth here in the body, reconciled His Father with all believers, cleansed our sin, overcame death, defeated damnation and hell, and by His resurrection He returned eternal life and restored immortality to mankind. For He is our righteousness, life, and resurrection; in Him alone all believers have the forgiveness of their sins and the perfection of their lacks; in Him is salvation and all abundance of God’s gifts, as the apostle wrote to the Colossians, in chapters 1 and 2. "The Father was pleased that all completeness be in Him, and in Him you are made complete:’ Therefore, we believe that Christ is the only and eternal Savior of mankind and of the whole world, in whom all are saved by faith, all who were saved before the law, under the law, and under the gospel, and all who are yet to be saved until the end of the world. For the Lord Himself said in the gospel, ”The one who does not enter the sheep pen through the door but from somewhere else is a thief and a criminal; I am the door to the sheep" (John 10:1, 7). Likewise, "Abraham saw my day and was glad" (John 8:56). And St. Peter also said, "There is no other salvation except in Christ, nor was any other name given to people under heaven in which we could attain salvation apart from this one" (Acts 4:12). We firmly believe that we will be saved by the grace of God through Christ, just as our ancestors in the faith were; for thus St. Paul wrote regarding this–that "all those ancient fathers shared one spiritual food with us and drank one spiritual drink. They drank (he says) from that spiritual Rock, which was following after them from the wilderness, and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:3-4). Also, St.John the Evangelist calls Christ "the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world" (Rev. 13:8) and "the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Thus, in a full confession, we proclaim that Christ is the only Savior, Redeemer, King, and highest Bishop of the world, the true, holy, and blessed Messiah whom all the faithful awaited from of old, whom all the rites and ceremonies of the law presented and exhibited, whom the Father, according to His oath, gave and sent into the world so that it is unnecessary to wait for another. For there is no other hope; and we need to give this glory to Christ alone, believe in Him, and stop at Him alone, rejecting all other helpers and mediators, because all who seek salvation in something other than Christ alone fall away from the grace of God and cannot be sharers in Christ. “Sandomierz Consensus (1570)” in, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 3: 201-202.

2) Yet because we were all, without a doubt, born in sin, and we are guilty of crime and of death before the majesty of God, it is certain that we are justified by the Highest Judge, that is, we are made free of sin and of death, by the grace and merit of Christ, not with respect to our own persons or merits. For nothing clearer can be said than the words of St. Paul which he wrote to the Romans: “All have sinned and do not have the glory of God in themselves, but they are justified freely through His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24).

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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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