[notes below]


Now because the Scriptures speaking of redemption, purchased by Christ’s death, do sometimes express it in most large terms, as 1 Tim. 2:6, “Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all;” and so Heb. 2:9, that, “He by the grace of God should taste death for every man”: Here is “all” and “every many”; and that place 1 John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” Sometimes again, the Scripture speaks of redemption in a more limited manner, as that Christ laid down his life “for is friends,” John 15:13, for his his sheep, John 10:15, for his Church, Eph. 5:25, “Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it,” &c.


Now that you have may have your senses exercised to discern good and evil, truth and error in this point, you must distinguish between the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s death; we do say, that Christ died sufficiently for all, but not effectually for all, for that would be an absurd manner of speech. But thus we say, that the death of Christ is that one only, and perfect sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for sins, in which God is well pleased with man, and by which God intended to save all that come unto him, and it is in itself of infinite value and price, abundantly sufficient to take away the sins of the whole world. And if any perish, It is not through the weakness and insufficiency of that sacrifice, but through their own unbelief, by man’s own default it proves ineffectual unto the salvation of man. This common sovereign medicine of souls made of Christ’s blood, must be embraced and applied, else it avails not. It is effectual only to them that believe.

How redemption
is universal

According to the first branch of this distinction, we teach that redemption by Christ’s death, is universal in three respects.

First, for the price and merit of it: In Christ’s sacrifice there is merit enough for all the sins that ever were, or shall be committed, yea, if there were ten thousand worlds to be redeemed, they needed no other price, no other satisfaction to please God, God is fully contented with this one of his Son. For it being the death of the eternal Son of God, it is of infinite value above all the souls, and above all the sins of the sons of men, it is an universal remedy.

Secondly, it is general and universal for the promise and offer of it, upon the all-sufficient, and merit of Christ’s death is grounded a universal promise of salvation, according to which all that believe I him do actually receive remission of sins, and life everlasting [Rom. 3:25.]. The promise of life in Christ’s death is universal to all men. The gospel is to be preached to every creature, so that there is no man living that may not lay hold on that offer, no man is forbidden to come in, and take of the water of life freely, that has a mind to it. Rev. 22:17, “Whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely.” You cannot wish a larger promise, nor an easier condition, “whosoever will let him come.” There is none excluded, but such as will not come in, nor acknowledge him, nor deny themselves, and their own righteousness, their carnal reason and sweet contentments for his sake. Why then do men cavil at the doctrine of redemption, as if it were not large enough? It is too straight and narrow to take in Episcopius, or Corvinus, or any of the Arminian subscribers? No. Do they know any man in the world, to whom the offer of salvation may not be freely and truly made? No, not one (the finally impenitent, and wilful condemners of Christ only excepted). Whose cause then do they so hotly plead? Let every one that is athirst, come, let everyone that is grieved with sin, come. Let everyone that longs for salvation, come, and she shall find rest to his soul. He shall find Christ to be his God and his mighty redeemer. He shall feel the virtue and efficacy of Christ’s death.

Thirdly, redemption is general or universal, in respect of the means, sincerely calling all men unto fellowship with Christ, and of God’s grace in him (namely) the Word and sacraments [Acts 17:30, 1 Tim. 2:4.]. The manner of administration of this grace in the death of Christ is universal and complete, so that if there were a thousand worlds more to be saved, they needed no other gospel, no other sacraments, no other means to convert them, no new law to make them partakers of remission of sins by the death of Christ. And these are seen and known of all men, easy to be understood, preached, and published, not in a corner, but on the housetop, to all nations, “there sound is gone forth into all lands.” Our commission is, “Go into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature,” Mar. 16:16. “It is the power of God to salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,” Rom. 1:16. And it is also real and sincere, for in the gospel there is nothing false or dissembled: Whatsoever is offered or promised to men, the same shall be made good to them b God the author of the gospel. We offer salvation to all that will receive it, and it is sealed unto them that by the sacraments, and it shall be made good unto them that receive it in truth. We do not promise mercy and life to any that continue in their sins, that stand off from Christ, but to as many as receive him, they shall the sons of God. And our word is true, it shall be made good unto you. The Lord says not in vain to any man, “Come unto me and I will ease you,” yea, so full and sufficient is this calling and preaching of life by the gospel, that they which hear it, and obey it not, are Autokatakritos, self-condemned, they must condemn themselves for their own obstinacy and contempt. If they be not converted by he means, they will be forced to confess, “Thou Lord would have healed and gathered us, but we would not.”

William Lyford, The Plain Mans Senses Exercised (London: Printed for Richard Royton at the Angel in Ivie-lane, 1655), 259-262. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; marginal headers and references cited inline; and underlining mine.]

Credit to Tony for the find.

[Notes: I think we can classify a third category on the extent of the satisfaction and redemption:

1) We know that the modern TULIP understanding of the “extent” question in terms of Reformed history can pretty much be discarded as it does not represent classic categories. On the other hand, if we use something of the following taxonomy, we are able to discern at least three positions or categories on the extent of the redemption/satisfaction subject.

Category 1.

For classic Lombardians, including the first and second generation Reformers, (Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Musculus, Gualther, et al) it was said that Christ died for all as to the sufficiency of the satisfaction, but for the elect as to its efficiency. In terms of the sufficiency side, two elements were affirmed, 1) the satisfaction was for all the sins of all men; and, 2) as to the laying down of the redemption price, it can be said that all men have been redeemed. And thus there was a twofold aspect to redemption, universal and objective, on the one hand, and personal and particular, on the other. All men have been redeemed as to the laying down of the price, but only the elect as to the application of salvation.

Category 2.

In terms of the satisfaction it is only for the sins of the elect, and the price of redemption was laid down only for the elect alone. Here redemption tends to collapse the former two-fold aspect into one, namely effectual, in terms of both the objective laying down of the price and as to its application.

These two categories are fairly discernible as found in their respective authors.

Category 3.

Christ can be said to have redeemed all insofar as the innate value of the price for all. However, he died for the elect only as the extent of the satisfaction. The satisfaction was only for the sins of the elect.

This third category picks up on Prosper and Aquinas’ idea that in the laying down of the price, itself, it can be said that all men have been redeemed. However, in terms of intention and satisfaction it is for the elect alone.

William Lyford follows the same basic form of argument used by Perkins (see more on this below). We can conclude that the form of argument outlined by Perkins and Lyford is distinct from the more straightforward category of Owen, et al.

2) Here I would argue, Jonathan Moore has not properly captured Perkins’ teaching on this. Moore cites Perkins as saying “I doe willingly acknowledge and teach universall redemption and grace, so farre as the is possible by the word.” And, “universall redemption of all men we grant: the Scripture saith so.” But then, I believe Moore goes on to suggest or imply that is is a “universality” of the elect throughout the world.1

For these two quotation, Moore cites Perkins’ Works, II.605 and, I.296. The second refers to Perkins’ An Exposition of the Creed, the first to his A Christian and Plaine Treatise of the Manner and Order of Predestination, and of the Largenes of Gods Grace. For my reading of the Treatise, I will use the separately published 1606 edition of this work as its easier to read in the critical places. This Treatise, in all the EEBO editions of his Works has repeated areas of unreadable texts.

What is of interest to me is what Moore leaves out regarding Perkins. From the 1606 Treatise, we can see that Perkins cites a range of Church Fathers on the redemption of all men. For example, Perkins cites Pope Innocent:

Christ’s blood was shed effectually for those only he had predestined, but for all men in regard of sufficiency: for the shedding of the blood of that just one for the unjust, was so rich in price, that if everyone had believed in the redeemer, none at all had been held captive of the devil.2

Later Perkins also cites Aquinas’ famous line:

Christ’s merit according to the sufficiency carries itself indifferently to all, but not according to the efficacy, Which happens–partly by God’s election, through which the effect of Christ’s merit is mercifully bestowed on some, and partly by the just judgement of God withdrawn from other some.”3

And on page 105, by way of a rebuttal to an objection, Perkins cites Prosper’s well-known comment,

Whereas they [the fathers] write that Christ redeemed all men and the world, their meaning is, that he did it according to the sufficiency, and the common cause, and common nature of all, which Christ did take upon him: and not effectually, on God’s part. This very thing does Prosper make plain:

All men” (says he), “are rightly said to be redeemed, in respect of the one nature of all, and the one cause of all, which our Lord did truly take upon him: and yet all are not delivered from captivity.” The propriety of redemption without doubt belongs unto them for whom the prince of this world is sent abroad–whose death was not so bestowed for mankind, as should also pertain unto the redemption of them, who were not to be regenerated.

And again he says,

Our Savior may fully be said to be crucified for the redemption of the world, both in respect that he truly took upon him the nature of man, and also in respect of the common or general perdition in the first man: and yet he may be said to be crucified only for those unto whom his death was available.4

And lastly, there is the well-known expression which predates Perkins:

Everyone in the Church, by God’s command (believe the gospel) is bound to believe that he is redeemed by Christ: yea, even the reprobate as well as the elect, but yet notwithstanding in a diverse and different respect. The elect is bound to believe that by believing he shall be made a partaker of election: the reprobate, that by not believing he may be made inexcusable, even by the intention of God.5

Elsewhere, Perkins says,

The covenant albeit it be one in substance, yet it is distinguished into the old and new testament. The old testament, or covenant, is that which in types and shadows prefigured Christ to come and to be exhibited. The new testament declares Christ already come in the flesh and is apparently showed in the gospel. The gospel is that part of God’s word which contains a most worthy and welcome message: namely, that mankind is fully redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God manifested in [the] flesh, so that now for all such as repent and believe in Christ Jesus there is prepared a full remission of all their sins, together with salvation and life everlasting. William Perkins, The Works of William Perkins, (England: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1970), 213.

The idea that all men are bound by the gospel proclamation to believe they have been redeemed was an expression which dates back to Musculus, Zanchi, and Bucanus. If Perkins was a strict limited redemption advocate, I think he could rightly be charged with having the non-elect believe a lie.

What is more, when Perkins denies universal redemption, he is strictly denying it in the Arminian sense.6

Therefore, I think we can identify two initial stands of thought in Perkin’s theology.

i) Perkins does cite both Innocent, Aquinas, and Prosper, to claim that as to the objective value of the death of Christ, in shedding his blood for all, it can be said he redeemed all.

This is distinct from his added idea, of what was called “a special universality” of the church or elect throughout the world. This classic idea7 of a special universality is what Moore, and Perkins in his turn, is accessing when he connects Perkin’s apparent universal redemption with the redemption of the elect throughout the world. However, when Perkins speaks of redeeming all by the sufficiency of the sacrifice, he cannot being invoking this special universality idea as that would make the whole formula redundant.

ii) We can also see that when Perkins cites sufficiency-efficiency formula positively, without reference to the Fathers, he does tend to state it in its revised form, that of a counter-factual hypothetical sufficiency. He will often use the form of words, “to have been sufficient,” etc.

Perkins, I must assume, either he agreed with the Fathers or he was citing them with the intention of placing his own “gloss” upon them. I do not find the second option plausible at this point for that would mean he was knowingly changing their intent.

Further, we should note that the mere stating of the formula in terms of what looks like the revised version does not, in itself, preclude the classic version, as both are true on the terms of the classic understanding. If the classic version of the formula is accepted, it is also true that the death of Christ was sufficient to have been applicable to worlds upon worlds. Here we are into suppositional and modal forms of logic. I think this accounts for Bucanus, who uses both forms.

However, if one takes the formula only in the revised sense, then the classic formula is not possible. Owen could not say, for example, that the non-elect have been “redeemed” as to the sufficiency of the sacrifice, for they are not redeemed in any sense.

Regarding Perkins, then, the question for us becomes, how do we account for his ardent particularism?

When he speaks of the objective sufficiency of Christ’s death, apart from the “intention” of God and the representation of Christ, he is able to say it is for all and that in this sense all have been redeemed. However, when he speaks of intention or of vicarious representation, he says Christ died only for the elect.

In this way, Perkins has continuity with Owen, et al. For Perkins, and Moore is right here, there is an inseparable logical relationship between those for whom Christ dies (as to intention and representation), and those who are saved, such that, all for whom Christ dies, all will be and must be saved. Perkins enlists the various forms of the double payment argument, the expiation-intercession argument, and the impetration-application arguments, among others, to prove this unbreakable logical relationship.

I think this then supports the idea that Perkins’ was a transitional theologian in terms of the Reformed understanding of the nature and extent of the redemption of Christ. As a distinct category, like Lyford, he worked out his theology as one coming out of classic medieval constructs, but moving toward the stricter limited redemption position, as would later be taught by Owen and others. However, it cannot be said that he is in the sort of Owenic class. Perkins seriously wanted to retain certain classic medieval constructions, and so remain in line with the spirit of the 39 Articles. Owen, for his part, is quite happy to completely disconnect his theological constructs from the medieval traditions, which is also where most of modern TULIP orientated theology is at now.

On the other hand, Perkins was not a HU proponent either, because he expressly denies a universal satisfaction for all the sins of all men. And because the classic HU position, as represented by Davenant or Paraeus, et al, disconnects the alleged necessary logical connection between the satisfaction of Christ and its application.8 As Davenant says, Christ may make satisfaction for all men, or any given man, but yet that man may fail to be saved, because he does not meet the condition. Here Moore is correct that this was possible for Davenant and others because the impetration is connected with the intercession not the expiation itself.

People like Lyford, Simpson, Ball, and others, should be included within this transitional category. This group is mostly made up by conceptually pre-Westminsterian, thinkers, who developed their theology between the 1580s to 1650s, with some overlap beyond this range of course. Using the Westminster as a marker is tricky. What can be said is that this is a period where many of these issues are being sorted out. And post the 1640-50s period, what survives are the two trajectories, HU and the strict particularists. I think Howe, Charnock, Calamy, and Baxter are representative HU advocates of the post-Westminster period. However, by this time, the Perkins-Lyford category has been well eclipsed.

In Short, what men such as Perkins were arguing for is a form of universal redemption on the basis of the bare or innate sufficiency of Christ’s death. This was the point of continuity with the Fathers. However, in terms of intention, will, and satisfaction, Christ only died for the elect. This was his point of contact with the later Strict Particularists.

Therefore, I think it is completely right to speak of “theologies” of the extent of the satisfaction in the 16th and 17th centuries.]


1Jonathan Moore, English Hypothetical Universalism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2007), 39.

2William Perkins, A Christian and Plaine Treatise of the Manner and Order of Predestination, and of the Largenes of Gods Grace (London: Printed for William Welby, and Martin Clarke, 1606), 22. [Spelling modernized.]

3Ibid., 87. [spelling modernized]

4Ibid., 105-106. [Some spelling modernized, and some reformatting.]

5Ibid., 103. [spelling modernized]

6For example, see pages 82-82, and 87-88.

7Sometimes attributed to Ambrose.

8I should note too, within the broad HU categories are lots of variants and off-shoots.

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