The question which, so far as, this subject is concerned, will come, before the Synod for determination is this:–Is the doctrine of such a generality of reference of the death of Christ, as is maintained by some among us, consistent with the holy scriptures, as their meaning is established in our symbolical books? It may be of use then to bring before the mind, in one view, what taught on this subject in these books. Our symbolical books, as to doctrine, are the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms Larger and Shorter; and the following are the passages in these which bear most directly on the question:–
They who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are, justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his, power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. Confess. iii. 6.
God freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe. lb. vii. 3.
The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given to him. lb. viii. 5.
To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same’ &c. lb. viii. 8. ‘Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf.’ lb. xi. 3.
God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification. lb. xi. 4.
In the second covenant God freely provides and offers to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him, and, requiring faith as the condition to interest them m him, promises and gives his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, &c. Larg. Cat. xxxii.
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ purchased it.’ lb. lix.
God having out of his mere good pleasure elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them to a state of salvation by a Redeemer. Shorter Cat. xx.
Some of our readers, we have no doubt, will be surprised to learn that this is all, or nearly all, in out symbolical books, bearing directly on the doctrine called in question. The doctrine of particular election, and the doctrine of particular salvation, are very strongly asserted; but the doctrine of a certain generality of reference in the of Christ or the atonement made by it, is certainly not explicitly condemned, unless, the words redeemed and redemption be, in one or two places, used as synonymous, with expiation or atonement. Redemption is usually, in the writings of the compilers of the Westminster Assembly, equivalent not to the payment of a price, but to the deliverance obtained through the payment of a price. This must be obvious to every person who reads even the above quotations. In the sixth section of the third chapter of the Confession,– to be redeemed by Christ, if used in its ordinary sense, as defined, by Mr Brown in his Brief Explication of the Shorter Catechism, Q. 29, to be, “deliverance from sin and, misery, and a possession of holiness and happiness for evermore,”1–is just to be saved by Christ–and the clauses which follow are the items of that salvation. Perhaps some light may be thrown on the sense of the term by looking at a paragraph in the canons of the Synod of Dort, from which the section of the Confession seems to have been borrowed:–
It was the will of God that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him, by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts. of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them: by his death–should, purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing, and having faithfully preserved, them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence for ever.
In this connexion, “redeemed” is represented as equivalent to “delivered and saved from sin and destruction, through the death of Christ.”–Canons of the Synod of Dort, chap. ii, “Of the death of Christ and the redemption of men thereby.” The whole chapter is so excellent, that we give the greater part of it in a note.2 That it was the intention of the Westminster Assembly, in a book ultimately intended, it would appear, to be a term of ministerial communion, to condemn the doctrine, that Christ, in any sense, died for all men is certainly very unlikely, as they must have known that this would have excluded from the ministry many of the best Christians and theologians who adorned that and the preceding age; Abp. Usher, Bps., Davenant, Carleton, and Hall, Fenner, Preston, Baxter, Corbet, Howe, &c., &c. Dr Twisse, their learned prolocutor, declares, “that everyman who hears the gospel (without distinction between elect and reprobate), is bound to believe that Christ died for him”; and, as Baxter says, asserts, twenty times ever, “That Christ died to purchase pardon for all, if they will believe”; and. we have seen that Dr Lazarus Seaman, a member of Assembly, warmly recommends a treatise in which is embodied a very able defense of the thesis, “that Christ, died for all men.”
John Brown (of Broughton), “Notes, Chiefly Historical, on the Question Respecting the Extent of the Reference of the Death of Christ,” United Secession Magazine June (1841): 285-293. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnote values modernized; footnote content original; italics original; bracketed insert mine; and underling mine.]
1“Chap. iii. § 6, and chap: viii. § 8, of the Westminster Confession, which speak against universal redemption, I understand not of all redemption, and particularly not of the mere bearing of the punishment of man’s sins, and satisfying God’s justice–but of that special redemption proper to the elect, which was accompanied with an intention of actual application of the saving benefits in time[–Baxter]. “I hope it was never the mind of the Assembly to have shut out such men as Bishop Usher, Davenant, Hall, Dr. Preston, Dr Staughton, Mr William Fenner, Dr. Ward, and many more excellent English divines as ever this church enjoyed, who were all for general redemption, though not for an equal general redemption; to say nothing of the divines of France, Breme, and Beroline, and other foreigners that go this way.”–Baxter.
2“The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect, sacrifice and satisfaction
for sin;–is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”
“The promise of the gospel is that whosoever, believes in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations and to all persons promiscuously, and without distinction, to whom God of his good pleasure sends the gospel.”
“And whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in their unbelief, that is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ on the cross. but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.”–“A man that holds to the moderation of the Synod of Dort Deed not to say that Christ did not die, or satisfy for all men, nor trouble himself with presumptuous determinations about many mysteries in the decrees of God.”–Baxter.