1) (6.25) But are you afraid of the uncertain twists of life and the plots of the adversary? You have the help of God, you have His great liberality, so great that He did not spare His own Son on your behalf.1 Scripture made use of a beautiful expression to proclaim the holy purpose toward you of God the Father, who offered His Son to death. The Son could not feel death’s bitterness, because He was in the Father; for Himself He gave up nothing, on your behalf He offered everything. In the fullness of His divinity2 He lost nothing, while He redeemed you. Think upon the Father’s love. It is a matter of His goodness that He accepted the danger, so to speak, to His Son, who was going to die, and in a manner drained the sorrowful cup of bereavement, so that the advantage of redemption would not be lost to you. The Lord had such mighty zeal for your salvation that He came close to endangering what was His, while He was gaining you. On account of you He took on our losses, to introduce you to things divine, to consecrate you to the things of heaven. Scripture said, too, in a marvelous fashion,”He has delivered him for us all,”3 to show that God so loves all men that He delivered His most beloved Son for each one. For men, therefore, He has given the gift that is above all gifts; is it possible that He has not given all things in that gift? God, who has given the Author of all things,4 has held back nothing.
(6.26) Therefore, let us not be afraid that anything can be denied us. We ought not have any distrust whatever over the continuance of God’s generosity. So long and continuous has it been, and so abundant, that God first predestined us and then called us. Those whom He called, He also justified; those whom He justified, He also glorified.5 Can He abandon those whom He has honored with His mighty benefits even to the point of their reward? Amid so many benefits from God, ought we to be afraid of certain plots of our accuser? But who would dare to accuse those who, as he sees, have been chosen by the judgment of God? God the Father Himself, who has bestowed His gifts-can He make them void? Can He exile from His paternal love and favor those whom He took up by way of adoption? But fear exists that the judge may be too harsh-think upon Him that you have as your judge. For the Father has given every judgment to Christ.6 Can Christ then condemn you, when He redeemed you from death and offered Himself on your behalf, and when He knows that your life is what was gained by His death? ‘Will He not say, “What profit is there in my blood,7 if I condemn the man whom I myself have saved?” Moreover, you are thinking of Him as a judge; you are not thinking of Him as an advocate. But can He give a sentence that is very harsh when He prays continually that the grace of reconciliation with the Father be granted us?
Ambrose, “Jacob and the Happy Life,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 135-136. [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]
[Notes: 1) Of course it needs to be noted that Ambrose was not literally and formally thinking of the later double payment argument, made famous by John Owen [Works, 10: 88, 89, 249, and 272-3].
2) Regarding Ambrose’s informal allusion to double payment, Michael Haykin says:
Close analysis of Ambrose’s statements about the cross reveals the seeds of certain textual explanations and theological arguments that would later be employed in defending definite atonement in the late sixteenth and seventeenth century. For example, Ambrose employs the “double jeopardy” argument so often associated with seventeenth-century Puritans such as John Owen in defense of definite atonement. In his treatise Jacob and the Blessed Life, Ambrose argued, “Can he damn you, whom he has redeemed from death [quem redemit a morte], for whom he offered himself, whose life he knows is the reward of his own death?” [He Came From Heaven and Sought Her, 70]
In response to that, a few pertinent remarks are necessary:
i) In many places Ambrose categorically affirms universal satisfaction and universal redemption. To read Ambrose in contradiction these statements would be inexplicable.
ii) In his prefacing remarks within the very context of the quotation cited by Haykin, Ambrose affirms that Christ was delivered up for each and every man, that is, all mankind. This interpretation matches up with Chrysostom’s interpretation and even Calvin’s centuries later. It presupposes a way of reading Romans 8:32 where the “us all” refers to all mankind, but the “us” refers to the believers or the elect. There are actually no intrinsic textual grounds to restrict the “us all” as C Hodge notes in his commentary on this verse.
To explain the import of the bi-conditional. On this reading of Paul, Paul sets forth a bi-conditional statement, namely, Christ is delivered up for all men, and further we who have believed, those who have also been predestined, and have received him, how will he not give “us,” believers, all things in him. Paul presents the same bi-conditional, though explicitly, in Romans 5:9-10. In Romans 5:8-10, Paul says:
5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Thus Paul notes that two conditions are in play. That is, as enemies and sinners, we, who have been died-for, and who have now been justified or reconciled, then, and only then, does it become a case of “how much more” will be saved by Christ. The a fortiori argument only applies when the two conditions are operative, namely “died-for” and “now justified.” The presence of this bi-conditional seems to elude a lot of modern limited satisfaction advocates. In Romans 8:32, the second condition is enthymematic as it is assumed in the whole chapter that Paul is writing, to and referencing Christians already justified.
iii) Ambrose’s apparent reference to double payment is actually not an analogue or mirror of the later Owenic use of the double payment argument. For Owen, The parties are abstracted and third person and reference only the single condition of being died-for. I.e., if Christ dies for a man, any man, simply considered, that man cannot be punished in his own person. For Ambrose, however, the subjects here are believers who are not only died-for, but who are also “saved.” Ambrose first says that Christ is the gift of all gifts, which is given to all men. And then there are the gifts, plural, which he later calls benefits. These benefits are given to those predestined who have been “honoured” with them, who have been saved and adopted. It is of these people that he says have been redeemed. In context, he means redemption applied. In short, all of which comes to this, as his readers are died-for and saved, it is impossible for God to then punish them again. This is very far from Owen’s intention and use of the double payment dilemma.
Stated another way, if we use modern parsing, there is “redemption accomplished” and “redemption applied.” “Redemption accomplished” pertains to Christ being laid down as the price of redemption for all the world, as Ambrose states. “Redemption applied” is the application of that redemption, which is limited to be church and to the believer.
Regarding the language of double jeopardy. Double jeopardy not double payment in law or in normal theological usage. Payment refers to a pecuniary transaction. Jeopardy refers to the same person being punished again for the same sin. The difference is a matter of civil vs criminal law. In the former, a creditor cannot demand two payments. For the latter, a man cannot be tried or punished in his own person twice for the same crime. With regard tot he extent of the satisfaction, Shedd rightly notes that double jeopardy does not apply either as no one person is being punished twice (Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:443). In classic literature on limited satisfaction, the language of double payment has always been the majority expression.
iv) Now we are in a position to understand what Ambrose means by his informal reference to double payment. What he is saying, is that believers, who have been honoured with many benefits, including actual adoption and salvation, cannot be held liable to punishment again. There is an incorrect use of double payment (as per Owen, et al) and a correct use of it, as we find here in Ambrose. Edwards, via Shedd, says something helpful here:
The sufferings and death of Christ constitute the atonement; and even if not a single soul should appropriate it by the act of faith, it would be the same expiatory oblation still, though unapplied. Hence, the second of these sovereign acts is as necessary as the first, in order to salvation. But when both of these acts of sovereignty have taken place,–when the atonement has been made, and has actually been given over to and accepted by an individual,–then, says Edwards, it is a matter of strict justice that the penal claims of the law be not exacted from the believer, because this would be to exact them twice; once from Christ, and once from one to whom, by the supposition, Christ’s satisfaction has actually been made over by a sovereign act of God. For God to do this, would be to pour contempt upon his own atonement. It would be a confession that his own provision is insufficient to satisfy the claims of law, and needs to be supplemented by an additional infliction upon the believer. It would be an acknowledgment that the atonement, when it comes to be actually tested in an individual instance, fails to satisfy the claims of justice, and therefore is an entire failure.
Thus we can see that Haykin’s use of Ambrose is incorrect. Haykin, following Gill, fails to locate the comment in its own context, and fails to locate it relative to Ambose’s theology regarding the question “For whom Did Christ Die” in the larger context of Ambrose’s own literary corpus.]
1Cf. Rom. 8.32.
2Cf. Col. 2.9.
5Cf. Rom. 8.30.
6Cf. John 5.22.
7Ps. 29 (30).10.