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Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive » James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698), Limited Atonement and the Argument from Romans 8:32


Object. VIII. From such places of Scripture as argue and infer salvation and actual benefits, such as reprobates never enjoy, from the Death of Christ, and they are Isa. liii:11, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.” If therefore he bear the Sins of any he will certainly justify them, or else we must argue the Holy Ghost of inconsequence, Rom. v. 8, 9, 10, “If while we were Enemies we were reconciled by the death of his Son: much more being now reconciled, shall we not be saved by his life?” Where Christ’s death and reconciliation, and Salvation are inseparably connected, Rom. viii. 32. “He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” But all things are not given to reprobates, therefore neither is Christ delivered to die for them. And ver. 34, “Who shall condemn? It is Christ that died.” It would therefore seem that Christ only died for those who are justified, who shall not be condemned, who shall be saved by his life, so that if Christ had died for all any manner of way, they should certainly be saved, justified and enjoy all other things with him.

Answ. (1.) As to the place Isa. liii. 11, it is denied that it is illative and argumentative in the original language, nor is it so rendered by the best Hebraists, such as Buxtorff, Bythner or Robison, for it may very well be read thus, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; And he shall bear their iniquities.” Not (for) he shall bear their iniquities; and so it only says that Christ did bear the iniquities of his people and justify them, which because copulated together are no more of equal extent, then are creation and particular effectual vocation knit together in Isa. xliii. 1, than death in sins and trespasses and quickening with Christ are of equal extent copulated together in Eph. ii. 1, and you will no more from such a connection infer that it’s only justified persons whose iniquities Christ bare; then that it is only justified persons that did like sheep go astray, for these are they whose iniquities Christ bare, Isa liii. 4, 5, 6, so all that like Sheep have gone astray should be likewise justified by just such another consequence.

(2.) But suppose the words are illative and that the words were rightly translated, “for he shall bear their iniquities,” yet will not this infer that all these whose iniquities Christ bears shall certainly be justified because it is an argument taken from an inadequate cause and effect, and supposes it’s other causes. It is true Christ must die for all that are justified, but this is not the all, or the adequate cause of their justification, for it is required that they believe as an instrumental cause without which they cannot be justified, tho’ Christ’s blood is the only and adequate meritorious and material cause of justification; and because Christ’s death is necessary to justification. Therefore, it being existent and other causes supposed, as it is in Rom. v. 4, 5, 6, expressly, and emphatically in Rom. viii. 32, that it is supposing we believe, hence it may be argued from the death of Christ to justification. I will show you the like instance in Rom. xi. 23, they shall be grafted in if they abide not in unbelief, “for God is able.” Here the apostle reasons from God’s power to his actual grafting in of the Israelites, yet it will not follow that all whom God is able to bring in to Christ shall he brought in; tho’ indeed the power of God was one necessary cause, and hence it is argued from, for he is able to do many things he will never do, nor that we have ground to believe he will do. Therefore tho in the aforesaid Scriptures, both Isaiah and Romans, it be argued from Christ’s death to justification, yet will it not follow, that therefore all for whom Christ died shall be justified, but with a supposition of other causes, viz., if they for whom Christ died abide not in their unbelief, as it is in Rom. xi. 23, expressed, and understood Rom. viii. 32.

(3) I suppose the Scripture Rom. v. 8, 9, [and,] 10, being in some things more full may likewise help us to interpret Rom. viii. 32, which as I suppose are parallel Scriptures, and if the conclusion inferred cannot be proven from the Scripture Rom. v, then can it not be proven from Rom. viii, but in the sense of Rom. v. It is clear then from Rom. v, and viii, that the apostle has one end and scope in both, the consolation of believers from one end or medium in both; viz., the death of Christ, where it is clear the apostle does not argue from Christ’s death to our salvation simply, but from Christ’s death as connected with such a state, and various condition of his people, before and after conversion, so as the meaning is, “if while you were yet enemies,” yet in a state of enmity against Christ, when so unworthy of it, God did yet confer so great a benefit on us, as to send his Son to die for, and by his death reconcile us to God, much more being now justified and reconciled, and so in a case more worthy, and suitable to be loved, may we not expect salvation by his life? So that the Apostle argues from the different states (which he takes along) the elect were in when Christ died for them, and after reconciliation and justification, or before faith and after faith, this is clearly the apostle’s meaning, Rom. v, and Rom. viii. 32, may and ought to run parallel with it; thus he that “spared not his own Son, but gave him for us all” good and bad, and that when we were not reconciled but in a state of enmity, shall he not much more having given such a gift to all elect and reprobate, give us whom he has foreknown, called, justified, and made conform to the image of his Son, ver. 30, all things with his Son whom he gave to all and to us when we were less worthy of his love? So that there is an emphasis in the word (us) and therefore we cannot argue from the gift of Christ to die for all or any, to the gift of all other things for them except, you would state the persons for whom you would thus argue in the case or condition there represented and declared to be in, and from whom as so stated he does argue, and so you may argue and no otherwise, and so reasoning infer nothing against this truth: you must not fay absolutely and merely, because Christ died for a man therefore shall that man be saved, but you must fay, seeing whilst we were enemies graceless persons Christ died for us all, much more Christ having reconciled, justified, called and sanctified us, shall he not save us, and give us, so qualified, all things? And therefore if persons be not so qualified, if they abide in unbelief, they cannot from Christ’s death draw the inference of their salvation, for they are the (us) so qualified, the called, justified, sanctified (us) the (us) who abide not in unbelief, that from Christ’s Death sufficient to save them may so argue. Hence reprobates continuing in unbelief are not grafted in, nor saved, tho’ God be able, and the death of Christ sufficient to justify and save them.

(4.) It may be said, that the delivering to Death of Christ there meant, Rom. viii. 32 is meant of special redemption, so as the meaning were, “he that spared not his son but” from special love “delivered him to death,” efficaciously to procure salvation for us, (which by our sanctification) have evidence of our effectual vocation and justification, “shall be not with his son” so given, give us all things? It is most true, but seeing he gave not his Son for reprobates from special love, they therefore cannot argue absolutely from his death to their salvation. I say absolutely for:–

(5.) I say that God’s nor sparing his Son, but sending him to die for us all and that in a common way, is indeed a ground for faith to expect all other things from God with him, and every member in the visible church may from this ground draw their expectations of happiness, tho’ if they believe not, they shall not enjoy any of these other good things because they abide in unbelief. For that may be a sure ground for faith to lean on which without faith shall never come to pass, and therefore are all these expressions not simple enunciations declaring of truths, but they are judicial pleadings and expressions of faith or acts of faith, for these declarations which are grounds of faith do not enunciate what shall actually come to pass whither we believe or not, but enunciate a legal connection of things veritate juris, and so as stated and objected to faith which shall actually come to pass; which legal connection is ground for faith to plead for the performance at a court where such a law takes place, and so the King’s pardon is ground for a malefactor, both to expect and plead that he shall be suffered [permitted] to live, tho’ if he neglect to plead from it he shall suffer death: “For God sent his son to die for the world, that the world believing on him” so dying “might be fated.” And therefore is Christ’s death the ground and formal object of faith.

James Fraser (of Brea) A Treatise on Justifying Faith, Wherein is Opened the Grounds of Believing, or the Sinner’s Sufficient Warrant to take Hold of what is Offered in the Everlasting Gospel: Together with an Appendix Concerning the Extent of Christ’s Death, Unfolding the Dangerous and Various Pernicious Errors that hath been Vented about it (Edinburgh: Printed and sold by William Gray at Magdalen’s Chappel within the Cowgate Head, 1749), 231-236. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; some sentence reconstruction; italics original; bracketed inserts mine; and underlining mine.]

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 6:50 am and is filed under Romans 8:32. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 comments so far


I can’t believe I didn’t see that before.
If men are not died for then even if they believe it will not avail them, because without the atonement God is *not able* to save.

But Romans says God *is* able therefore they were died for.

May 8th, 2013 at 1:13 pm

You could put that into a nifty syllogism.

Of course the problem will be that the average 5-pointer will imagine that notwithstanding that there is no provision (“means” whereby God can save/is able to save a given person) for a given man, nonetheless, God is still “able” to save that man.

This parallels the sufficiency problem for the standard or average 5-pointer: somehow a penal provision not actually made for a given man, in any direct sense, can somehow be penally *sufficient* for that same man?


They just cant see the problem, and partly because they imagine (allege) that predestination and preterition would generate the same logical problem. And so it goes in a circle, as preterition does not cause generate the same problem, so neither does the reality of a limited provision (ie a penal provision not made for a given man) pose a problem.

Result: Head meets wall, effecting blood scatter-pattern on wall. :)

May 8th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

What a fantastic site! I am a ” Calvinist” and have wrestled with limited atonement for years! It has impacted my peace , assurance. It is amazing to read men like Calvin, Hodge, Charnock and find they believed in unlimited atonement and limited redemption. It makes so much more sense to my soul and magnifies the love, mercy and grace of God! Are you aware that JC Ryle also believed in unlimited atonement and limited redemption. It’s spelled out in his ” Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John”. I want to thank whoever maintains this site!

May 17th, 2013 at 8:52 am

Hey there,

Thanks. Yes to Ryle. He is on my to-do list to blog material from him.

Thanks for stopping by.

May 17th, 2013 at 9:09 am

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