Christ as a Priest,
must be divine.

2d. None but a properly divine being could undertake Christ’s priestly work. Had he been the noblest creature in heaven, his life and powers would have been the property of God, our offended Judge ; and our Advocate could not have claimed, as He does, John x: 18, that He had exousia to lay down His life and to take it again. Then: unless above law. He could have no imputable, active obedience. Third: unless sustained by omnipotence, unless sustained by inward omnipotence. He could never have endured the wrath of the Almighty for the sins of the world; it would have sunk Him into perdition. Fourth: had there not been a divine nature to reflect an infinite dignity upon His person, His suffering the curse of sin for a few years, would not have been a satisfaction sufficient to propitiate God for the sins of a world. After the sacrifice, comes intercession. His petitioners and their wants are so numerous, that unless He were endowed with sleepless attention, an omnipotence which can never tire, an infinite understanding, omnipresence, and exhaustless kindness, He could not wisely and graciously attend to so many and multifarious calls. Here we see how worthless are Popish intercessors, who are only creatures. Lectures, Dabney, Lectures, 200-201.

2) This seems, then, to be the candid conclusion, that there is no passage the Bible which asserts an intention to apply redemption to any others than the elect, on the part of God and Christ, but that there are passages which imply that Christ died for all sinners in some sense, as Dr. Ch. Hodge has so expressly admitted. Certainly the expiation made by Christ is so related to all, irrespective of election, that God can sincerely invite all to enjoy its benefits, that every soul in the world who desires salvation is warranted to appropriate it, and that even a Judas, had he come in earnest, would not have been cast out.

But the arguments which we adduced on the affirmative side of the question demonstrate that Christ’s redeeming work was limited in intention to the elect. The Arminian dogma that He did the same redeeming work in every respect for all is preposterous and unscriptural. But at the same time, if the Calvinistic scheme be strained as high as some are inclined, a certain amount of justice will be found against them in the Arminian objections. Therefore, In mediis tutissime ibis. The well known Calvinistic formula, that “Christ died sufficiently for all, efficaciously for the Elect,” must be taken in a sense consistent with all the passages of Scripture which are cited above Lectures, 527.

3) But sacrifice, expiation, is one–the single, glorious, indivisible act of the divine Redeemer, infinite and inexhaustible in merit. Had there been but one sinner, Seth, elected of God, this whole divine sacrifice would have been needed to expiate his guilt. Had every sinner of Adam’s race been elected, the same one sacrifice would be sufficient for all. We must absolutely get rid of the mistake that expiation is an aggregate of gifts to be divided and distributed out, one piece to each receiver, like pieces of money out of a bag to a multitude of paupers. Were the crowd of paupers greater, the bottom of the bag would be reached before every pauper got his alms, and more money would have to be provided. I repeat, this notion is utterly false as applied to Christ’s expiation, because it is a divine act. It is indivisible, inexhaustible, sufficient in itself to cover the guilt of all the sins that will ever be committed on earth. This is the blessed sense in which the Apostle John says (1 Jn. 2:2): “Christ is the propitiation (the same word as expiation) for the sins of the whole world.” R.L. Dabney The Five Points of Calvinism, (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publications, 1895), 60.

4) But it is objected that the report suggests error concerning the application and extent of the atonement. On this subject there are two aspects which Calvinists have always distinguished. One regards the nature of the atonement; the other its design; and we all hold that, in its intrinsic nature, the atonement is infinite. This is the consequence of the infinite dignity of the Mediatorial Person. Its value is, intrinsically, as sufficient for the sins of all men as of one. Its limitation to the elect is not to be sought, then, in it nature, but in its design; and this design, as to its actual application to them, is nothing else than the decree. It is not something else, different and separate, but the decree itself. Now the section of our report under remark, in its first sentences, speaks of the nature of the atonement, and in its last of its application. In its first sentences it uses general terms, “man’s guilt,” “our sins,” etc., for it is speaking only of the nature of Christ’s atoning work, which has no limits.’ And in speaking thus, I claim that the report does but imitate the Scriptures–”God so loved the world,” etc.; “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world,” etc.–and the Confession itself. Why, then, should it be charged with error for using the same sort of language which the Bible itself does in this connection? But when the report proceeds to speak of the application of redemption, it declares, as I assert, in exact accordance with the spirit of our standards, that God applies it to all the elect, and to no others; and that this application is itself through the purchase of Jesus Christ. We do not invent a statement to establish a supralapsarian order of sequence between the purpose to save the elect and to send Christ to die; but neither, I does the Confession. It merely declares that redemption is applied through this work of Christ precisely to those to whom it was God’s eternal purpose to apply it; and that is, his elect. The report speaks the same thing.

Moreover, the committee used the word redemption, as they believe, in strict accordance with Calvinistic ‘usage, in a sense distinct from the word atonement. Redemption means, not only a provision of a vicarious penalty to satisfy for guilt, but in addition all the gracious gifts, of active obedience to be imputed, of effectual calling, of sanctification, and of glorification, which make up a completed salvation. All this is designed, purchased, and bestowed for the elect in and through Christ. And in this view they may quote, among many Calvinistic authorities, this of old Willison, Catechism, Ques.: “How doth Christ redeem his people from their bondage?” Ans. “Partly by price, or purchase; partly by power, or conquest.”

In a word, the committee intended to express summarily that sound, but not ultra, view of the atonement held by Calvinists, and expressed in the ancient formula, “Christ died sufficiently for the race, efficaciously for the elect.” R.L. Dabney, ‘Speech on the Fusion of the United Synod,” in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, 2:307-308.

[Note: What is evident is that Dabney stepped back from what he considered the “high” or “ultra” Calvinist constructions on the sufficiency-efficiency formula, whereby he affirmed the formula as classically understood.]

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