Archive for the ‘The Death of Christ and the Purchase of Faith’ Category


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The Christian reader, it is presumed, may, from hence, obtain a clean view of the ends answered by the death of Christ, a subject which has occupied much attention among, divines. Some have asserted, that Christ by his satisfaction accomplished this only, “That God now, consistently with the honor of his justice, may pardon (returning) sinners if he wills so to do.” This is, doubtless, true, as far as it goes; but it makes no provision for the return of the sinner. This scheme, therefore, leaves the sinner to perish in impenitence and unbelief, and the Savior without any security of seeing of the travail of his soul. For how can a sinner return without the power of the Holy Spirit? And the Holy Spirit, equally with every other spiritual blessing, is given in consideration of the death of Christ. Others, to remedy this defect, have considered the death of Christ as purchasing repentance and faith, as well as all other spiritual blessings, on behalf of the elect. The writer of these pages acknowledges he never could perceive that any clear or determinate idea, was conveyed by the term, purchase, in this connexion; nor does it appear to him to be applicable to the subject, unless it be in an improper or figurative sense. He has no doubt of the atonement of Christ being a perfect satisfaction to divine justice; nor of his being worthy of all that was conferred upon him, and upon us for his sake; nor of that which to us is sovereign mercy being to him an exercise of remunerative justice: but he wishes it to be considered, Whether the moral Governor of the world was laid under such a kind of obligation to show mercy to sinners as a creditor is under to discharge a debtor, on having received full satisfaction at the hands of a surety? If he be, the writer is unable to perceive how there can be any room for free forgiveness on the part of God; or how it can be said that justice and grace harmonize in a sinner’s salvation. Nothing is farther from his intention than to depreciate the merit of his Lord and Savior: but he considers merit as of two kinds; either on account of a benefit conferred, which on the footing of justice requires an equal return, or of something done or suffered which is worthy of being rewarded, by a Being distinguished by his love of righteousness. In the first sense, it cannot, as he supposes, be exercised towards an infinite and perfect Being. The goodness of Christ himself, in this way, extends not to him. It is in the last sense that the scriptures appear to him to represent the merit of the Redeemer. That he “who was in the form of God, should take upon him the form of a servant, and be made in the likeness of men, and humble himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” was so glorious an undertaking, and so acceptable to the Father, that on this account he “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” Nor was this all: so well pleased was he with all that he did and suffered, as to reward it not only with honors conferred upon himself, but with blessings on sinners for his sake. Whatever is asked in his name, it is given us.


There are three kinds of blessings in particular, which God, out of regard to the death of his Son, bestows upon men: First, He sends forth the gospel of salvation, accompanied with a free and indefinite invitation to embrace it, and an assurance that whosoever complies with the invitation, (for which there is no ability wanting in any man who possesses an honest heart), shall have everlasting life. This favor is bestowed on sinners as sinners. God gives the true bread from heaven in this way to many who never receive it. He invites those to the gospel supper who refuse and make light of it.— John vi, 32—36, Matt. xxii. 4, 5, Secondly, He bestows his Holy Spirit to renew and sanctify the soul: gives a new heart and a right spirit, and takes away the heart of stone. Christ is exalted to give repentance. Acts v. 31. Unto us it is given in behalf of Christ, to believe in him, Phil. i. 29. We have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God, and our Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. i. 1. This favor is conferred on ELECT SINNERS. See Acts xiii. 48. Rom. viii. 28—30. Thirdly, Through the same medium is given the free pardon of all our sins, acceptance with God, power to become the sons of God, and the promise of everlasting life. Your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake, 1 John, ii. 12. God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you, Ephes. iv. 32. We are accepted in the beloved, Ephes. i. 6. By means of his death we receive the promise of eternal inheritance, Heb. ix. 13. This kind of blessings is conferred on BELIEVING SINNERS.

Andrew Fuller, “The Gospel its Own Witness,” in The Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, in Eight Volumes (New Haven: Printed and Published by S. Converse, 1821), 3:158-159. [Some reformatting; italics original; and underlining mine.]

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1) Prop. XL. Faith is a fruit of the Death of Christ, (and so is all the good which we do enjoy): But not directly as it is a Satisfaction to justice; but only Remotely, as it proceeds from that jus Dominii which Christ has received, to send the Spirit in what measure and to whom he will, and to succeed it accordingly; and as it is necessary to the attainment of the further ends of his Death, in the certain gathering and saving of the Elect. So that most directly it flows from the good pleasure of God and the Redeemer, which we call Predestination. So that is is an unmeet Speech (and such as Scripture never uses) to say, that [Christ died to purchase us Faith] though it be a Fruit of his Purchase. As if a Prince should Ransom or Buy a condemned Malefactor, agreeing and resolving that yet he shall not be saved, if he will spit in his Redeemers Face and refuse him and his kindness. And if it be known that this Malefactor is so desperately wicked, that he will thus reject and abuse his Redeemer and refuse his kindness, except the Prince send a bosom Friend to persuade him, who is the most powerful and irresistible Orator in the World: If the Prince because he is resolved neither to lose the Man, nor his Price of Ransom, doth send this Orator with a Charge that he shall take no denial, nor cease till he have procured the Malefactors consent; is it a convenient Speech to say, that he gave his Ransom Money to purchase the Malefactors consent to be delivered? Or to cure his wicked nature? No: Yet it is true that his Price was a ground-work and Preparative to this effect; so is it in our present Case. Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ, (London: Printed for John Salusbury at the Rising Sun in Cornhill, 1694), 42-43. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; bracketed inserts original; and underlining mine.]                                                                                      [Credit to Tony for this find.]

2) The second Argument against Universal Satisfaction answered.

Arg. II, Christ hath purchased Faith infallibly to be given to all that he died (or satisfied) for: But Christ hath not purchased Faith infallibly to be given to all men, but only to the Elect, Therefore Christ died not for all men, but only for the Elect.

The Major is thus proved. Christ hath purchased all things necessary to the Salvation of all he died for: But Faith infallibly to be given, is necessary to their Salvation, Ergo, &c.

The Major is thus proved, Christ is a perfect Savior to all those to whom he is a Savior or Redeemer: Therefore he hath purchased for them all things necessary to their Salvation. The Minor of the main Argument is proved by experience.

Ans. The Major is not true, nor can be proved from Scripture; but the contrary may abundantly be proved. The argument by which they would prove the Major, is sick of the same disease; viz. Its Major is false: and the Minor if not well explained is false too. To the Major I say,

First, Christ hath done all that belonged to him as a Redeemer by dying, or as a Satisfier, or all that for which properly an expiatory Sacrifice was required, far all those for whom he died: But I shall anon show that the thing in question is not such.

Secondly, Christ did not purchase all things necessary to Salvation, for all that he died for: I wait the proof of the affirmative. In the mean time I mind the arguers, that themselves confess.

1. He did not purchase Predestination.

2. Nor that Love which caused God to send Christ.

3. Nor Creation and our Natural Being.

4. Nor his own Death and Merits: He purchased not these for any man.

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Is saying that faith is a gift of grace equivalent to a belief in the purchase of faith?

In Owen is view this is clearly the case. It is his contention at the beginning of the work that

the death and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ hath wrought, and doth effectually procure, for all those that are concerned in it, eternal redemption, consisting in grace here and glory hereafter,64

and, as we saw, his first premise in relation to the purchase of faith states that

whatever is freely bestowed upon us, in and through Christ, that is all wholly the procurement and merit of the death of Christ.65

Not only does he expand the category of faith in his discussion of means to include grace, as we have seen, but he insists that access to and experience of the covenant of grace is only by purchase.66 Grace itself is merited for us by Christ.67

Is this then just a quarreling over words, when we suggest that the acknowledgment that faith is a gift of grace is no support for the notion of the purchase of faith?68 To this we must respond with three observations.

Firstly, the acceptance of the distinction within grace is itself moot, and it is not a feature of modern studies of grace, which tend to emphasise the underlying unity of its varied uses in the New Testament, especially in the Pauline use, which is the major and determinative New Testament use.69 Even were it accepted it could be well argued that where grace is related to faith it is referring to God’s electing, sovereign grace [especially Eph. 2:8-9, Phil. 1:29, 2 Pet. 1:1, Acts 11:48, 14:23, 18:27], grace which cannot be thought of as ‘purchased‘, unless it is to be the cause of itself. Secondly, the words are different in that they set the participants in salvation in different relationships in respect to one another. In Owen’s understanding, purchase is from God, for the elect, by Christ. By contrast, the gift of faith is given by God, to the elect, through Christ. While Christ is the mediating agent in both, the initiating agent has changed from Christ to God, and thus the nature of the role of Christ in relation to people’s coming to faith also changes. Thus faith seen as the gift of God’s grace, a phraseology more consistent with the New Testament terminology, does not allow Owen to draw the causal links he desires and needs between the death of Christ and subjective faith, especially where the context suggests Paul is referring primarily to the Father, as in Eph. 2: 8-9 and Phil. 1: 28-9.70 Thirdly, Owen’s making these terms equivalent in effect further highlights his dependence on the construct of the covenant of redemption. They can only be equivalent if one accepts his initial premise.

In fact, Owen’s talk of ‘purchase’ could well be seen as having a distorting effect on the biblical idea of faith, by reifying it, making it a thing or object or commodity, instead of a relational response. The phrase ‘purchase of faith’ is a category confusion, for trust, like love, can only be given by the subject, not bought, and arises in the subject. While, of course, it is bought for us, and not from us, even that suggests a passivity that is not a feature of the New Testament is portrayal. While the trusting attitude itself can be conceptualised as passive and receptive in relation to the reception of righteousness, we are not passive but active in that trusting, we are those who believe.71 It is this active responsibility that talk of the purchase of faith has the potential to undermine, and which the New Testament’s portrayal of faith in relation to the temporal realities of the preaching of the gospel and renewal by the Spirit do not. Nor does seeing faith as a gift of grace suggest passivity to the same extent, for the realisation of that gift again focuses on God is gracious work in history, on the preaching of Christ, whereas purchase emphasises determined causality. Gift continues to be the language of grace, but purchase moves into the language of rights.72

We have spent some time examining the concept of the purchase or procurement of faith and associated ideas. Why the labour? To stress that the ‘purchase of faith,’ is not a self evident biblical idea that can be read off the text of scripture. Rather it is a theoretical causal construct dependent on the covenant of redemption. Owen could argue that he would in no way seek to undermine anything that the scripture has said about faith and its relation to the cross. It is just that he, with his talk of the purchase of faith by the cross, is revealing the relation of the cross to believing as seen from the perspective of eternity. But Owen would have to say more. It is revealing it as seen from eternity where the viewpoint of eternity is the relation of the Father and the Son in the one work of redemption as conceptualised in the covenant of redemption. The whole legitimacy of Owen’s insistence on the purchase of faith is dependent on the legitimacy of that covenant, and it is that covenant which we shall explore after we have examined its temporal foundation, Owen’s understanding of ‘redemption’ in scripture.

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Purchase antabuse from Austin

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The relation of faith to Christ’s death in Scripture.

From our brief survey we see that when faith is related to Christ’s death that death is predominantly presented as an object of faith, as trust is placed in Jesus the Christ who was crucified.55 Where it is related causally to people’s coming to faith it is as the content of what is preached, not as a guarantor of a right purchased from the Father.56 Faith comes through hearing and what is heard is the gospel of Christ crucified for sin, buried, and risen.57 The gospel of the cross is also the focus of the Spirit’s illuminating work.58 Coming to faith seems to occur in the creation of a compelling relational context in which, by the presentation of the object of faith, Christ clad in the promises of His gospel,59 and the revealing of the certainty of the reality of that object by the Spirit, the illuminated hearer can do no other than freely turn to God in the genuinely and thoroughly human response of believing.60 Thus the scriptural mode of relation contrasts with that of Owen whose talk of the purchase of faith stresses the eternal and efficient in the causation of faith. The Scriptures, however, are seen to stress the sufficiency of Christ’s death as presented in the gospel and its temporal application by the Spirit in relation to coming to faith.

Some of the references to faith contained in scripture create positive difficulties for the notion of purchase. These are those references which indicate the weakness or incompleteness of the faith of believers. If the faith which is purchased is a weakness of faith [Rom. 14: 1 who in context are specifically those for whom Christ died, 14: 15] or a lacking in faith [1 Thess. 3: 10] is that the result of a deficiency in acquisition or application? Is it because He dies for some or applies to some in ways different to others? This Owen cannot allow. He specifically rejects the idea that Christ can die for some in one way and for others in another, and he insists that what is obtained must be applied, for that is the purpose of its obtaining.61 Owen’s language has difficulty in accommodating itself to the reality of Christian faith as it is presented in the scriptures. Making a slightly different point, Clifford elaborates on the consequences of this variability of the subjective Making a slightly different point, Clifford elaborates on the consequences of this variability of the subjective experience of faith amongst Christians for Owen is position.

First he observes that

in Owen’s view the sufferings of Christ not only deal with the guilt of the believer’s pre-conversion unbelief, they are causally related to the removal of unbelief.62

Then, noting that

doubting believers fail to participate fully in the subjective blessings Christ’s death purchased for them

he concludes that Owen’s

argument applies as much to supposed believers as it does to unbelievers, with interesting consequences. For if partial unbelief in a Christian hinders him from enjoying the fullness of those blessings Christ has died to purchase for him, this is no different in principle from saying that total unbelief in a non-Christian hinders him from ‘partaking of the fruit’ Christ’s death makes available for him too.63

That is, if Christ can be said to have died for one who has a relative lack of the subjective benefits of that death, why can He not be said to have died for one whose lack of those benefits is greater, when the barrier in both to fullness of blessing is unbelief.

Chambers, N.A. “A Critical Examination of John Owen’s Argument for Limited Atonement in the Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” (Th.M. thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1998), 221-224. [Some reformatting; old style title emphasis converted to italics; italics original; underlining for side-headers original; and inline underlining mine.]

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To come up closer then to this person, and speak exactly, if I can. The death of Christ, as it is Redemptory, Propitiatory, or Satisfactory for sin, hath this fruit I speak of, Pardon. It is this is the direct immediate and proper fruit of it; I think I may say too, the only (such) fruit of it, for, Pardon for all sin of Omission and Commission, and consequently a disobligation from all punishment, of Loss and Suffering, is (passively taken) no less than a right to Impunity and Life, and this is held forth upon condition of Faith and Repentance to all the World: But the Condition it self (performed by some) is not the fruit of Christ’s death, as a Propitiation, though by way of Redundancy it comes by it. If you ask me what Redundancy? or How? I will tell you (though I can’t Peremptorily,) as thus. In all things whatsoever we pray for, suppose it to be for fair weather (as we have Collects for such Occasions), we ask it in Christ’s name, for his sake, or through his merits, when yet it would be a strange speech to say Christ dyed that we may have fair weather: And nevertheless there is some sense in which there is a Truth in this; for if Christ had not atoned God by his satisfaction for sin, there is no blessing could be obtained for, or by, any. Now, when there is some distinction must be made here, so that, mediately, indirectly, or some way, by way of Redundancy, such blessings, even as these, are the benefits of Christ’s Redemption to such and such particular persons, let that distinction be formed right, and in such a sense will the condition we speak of be a fruit hereof to the Elect, even by its redundant merit and value.

The purchase of Christ made, was a purchase for us, and for himself. His purchase for us was, that we should be pardoned upon Condition: He purchased for himself, a power to give us that condition, that our pardon may be complete. All power is committed to me in Heaven and Earth, says Christ, after he was risen. There is accordingly a Redemption by price (our Divines say), and by power. Pardon upon condition is the fruit of his Redemption by price: But the Condition is the Effect of his Redemption by power. When by his Death (I say) he had paid the price of a pardon for All upon Condition; by his Resurrection he receives power to confer the condition to whom he pleases, that is the Elect, which when they perform, they are justified, or have absolute right in it. And that may be a good resolution as to the sense of that Text, He was delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification. To make the matter though more plain, we have that Text in Acts. Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Repentance we see (and so faith) comes from this power, the power of Christ as a King, rather than as a Priest; and if as a Priest both, ’tis by virtue of his Intercession as he is at Gods right hand, rather than of his Oblation. Now Christ intercedes for nothing but according to Gods will; His will is his Decree, and it is from the decree, his decree of Election, that our faith and repentance does come. It is not from Christ’s purchase by price; it is not from the power of our free will; but it is from Election (which belongs to God not as Rector, but as Lord of his own gifts) working the same effectually in us. It is out of this Treasury Christ gives it; And not by virtue of a right to any from his death, but by the power of an endless life. Not as Testator, but as the Executor or Dispenser of his Fathers Election.

In fine, Christ by his death did merit, or procure this power, that he hath at Gods right hand: By this power he gives us Repentance and Faith. Faith and Repentance then is not the fruit of Christ’s death any otherwise than mediately or indirectly, as being derived from this power, which he obtained by it.

God (I again say) for the merit of Christ’s life and death exalts him to the power mentioned. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him. By this power, or as exalted, Christ gives his Spirit to work Faith and Repentance in whom he chooses, or hath chosen. By this work they are regenerated, and that Article in the Agreement (or Covenant as some call it) between Father and Son [When though shalt make his Soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed], is made good to him. In this way about then, and no other, does Faith and Repentance come to the Elect by his death, when the direct and immediate fruit of it is Universal. That is, Faith and Repentance (the Condition) is the fruit of Christ’s death as all other Blessings are, which are asked of God for Christ’s merits sake, or which he, as Prince and Savior, bestows on his people.

John Humfrey, Peace at Pinners-Hall Wish’d and Attempted in a Pacifick Paper Touching The Universality of Redemption, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Grace, and our Freedom from the Law of Works (London, Printed and are to be Sold by Randal Taylor near Amen-Corner, 1692), 4–7. [Some reformatting; italics original; and underlining mine.]

Credit to Tony for the find.