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Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive » Edward Polhill (1622-1694) on Christ Suffering the Idem and the Tantundem: A Mediating Position


1. The price is redemptive from the guilt of sin and wrath of God; and this in a more immediate way by itself. Now, albeit the entire price concur herein, yet because as to this there is a special reluctancy in some parts thereof, I shall only insist on give things, viz.,

1. Our sins were laid upon Christ.

2. He suffered the same punishment, for the main, that was due to these sins. . . .

There are two essentials of punishment of hell, poena sensus, et poena damni, and he suffered both: when the fire of God’s wrath melted into a bloody sweat, where was poena sensus; and when the great eclipse of God’s favor made him cry out of forsaking, there was poena damni. Christ suffered the same punishment for the main, which we should have suffered; the chief change was in the person, the just suffering for the unjust, the surety for the sinner. But you would say, Christ did not suffer the same punishment, for he neither suffered eternal death, not yet the worm of conscience.

As to that of eternal death, I answer by two distinctions.

1. In eternal Death we must distinguish between the immensity of the sufferings and the Duration; the Immensity is essential to it, but the duration is but mora in esse and accidental. Christ suffered eternal Death as to the immensity of his sufferings, though not as to the duration of them; he paid down the idem, as to essentials of punishment, and the tantundem as to the accidentals; what was wanting in the duration of his sufferings, was more than compensated by the dignity of his person: for it was far more for God to suffer for a moment, than for all creatures to suffer to eternity.

2. We must distinguish between punishment as it stands in the law absolutely, and punishment as it stands there in relation to a finite creature, which cannot at once admit a punishment commensurate to its offense; and so must ever suffer, because it cannot satisfy to eternity. Punishment as it stands in the law absolutely, is death punishment as it stands there in relation to a finite creature, is eternal death: the first was really suffered by Christ, and the second could not be justly exacted of him; for he paid down the whole sum of sufferings al at once, and so swallowed up death in victory.

Edward Polhill, The Divine Will Considered in its Eternal Decrees in, The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan PA.: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1988), 153 and 154. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Tony for the find.]

[Note: 1) To suggest, as Polhil does, no doubt following Owen, that the duration of death is not an essential aspect of the Law’s demands against a sinner is theologically problematic. If the eternal or even temporary duration of death, of both soul and body, in hell is not essential as a satisfaction to God’s holiness, then the fact that God should keep sinners in eternal suffering is monstrous. If their mere physical death, even along with much pain and suffering, effected an essential satisfaction to the Law’s demands against that sinner, on what just grounds could God effect the further suffering of that sinner? 2) Owen’s essential vs accidental distinction is an evasion so that he may pretend to claim that Christ suffered, in his own person, the same as in the original obligation, the idem as demanded from the original sinner. Thereby, Owen can imagine that Christ’s death ipso facto remits and discharges the sinner from obligation to the law. And exactly because the “payment” was the same, as to essentials, as in the original obligation, the satisfaction effected by Christ cannot be “refusable.” God as Judge (or better in terms of Owen’s theology, God as Creditor) must accept it, as if it was made by the person of the sinner. By this chain of premises, Owen sought to secure the infallible necessity needed in his wider claim that all for whom Christ dies, all these cannot fail to be saved. That wider claim hinges on his essential vs accidental claim. If that unravels then so too must the other links in is argument 3) It is better, therefore, to hold that the suffering and death of Christ, as a whole, was deemed as a just equivalent (tantundem), and his finite suffering deemed satisfactory on the basis of the infinity of his person (as per classic Anselmian categories).]

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