Johannes Bergius (1587-1658) on the Death of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?


1) Q. 38. But the quickening virtue, and the purgation of our sins, is ascribed to the flesh and blood of Christ; which is indeed a divine property.

A. The quickening Virtue and Purgation of our sins is ascribed to the flesh and blood of Christ, not as an essential property of the Deity, but as the virtue and fruit of his sufferings, which is the perfect propitiatory sacrifice which he gave for the life of the World, by which God purges us from sin and quickens us. But therefore is it the perfect propitiatory sacrifice, because it is not the flesh and blood of a mere man, but of the son of God himself, and because he gave it and shed it for us, in perfect love and obedience. And it is as much as to say, “My flesh gives life to the world, that is, thereby the world receives life, for that I came from Heaven, and took true flesh of man upon me, and gave it for the life of the world.” The blood of the Son of God cleanses us from all sin, that is, hereby have we cleansing from all our sins, that the Son of God has shed his own blood for us.    Johannes Bergius, The Pearle of Peace & Concord. Or A Treatise of Pacification Betwixt the dissenting Churches of Christ, (London: Printed by T.C. For John Rothwell, at the Fountain and Bear in Cheap-side; and John Wright, at the Kings Head in the Old Bayly 1655), 35-36. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

2) Q. 49. But what do they accuse your doctrine for?

A. They charge us that we [the Reformed] as if we teach, First, that God did not will at all the Salvation of all men, but has chosen some few merely of his won will and pleasure without any respect of their belief or unbelief to salvation, and rejected the rest and the greatest part of men to damnation. So that the Elect if they live so wickedly, yet must be saved; but that the rejected, if they never so piously, yet must be dammed…

4. [And] that it was not at all the will of God, that Christ should suffer and die for all men, but only for some certain persons, namely the elect.    Johannes Bergius, The Pearle of Peace & Concord. Or A Treatise of Pacification Betwixt the dissenting Churches of Christ, (London: Printed by T.C. For John Rothwell, at the Fountain and Bear in Cheap-side; and John Wright, at the Kings Head in the Old Bayly 1655), 49 and 50. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; square bracketed inserts mine; and underlining mine.]

3) Q. 71. What then do you teach of the fourth point: “Whether Christ died for all men, that they might be redeemed of their sins?

A. As the Scriptures speak differently here; In some places, that he gave himself for all for a ransom, that he is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world.1 That he died also for those that perish.2 But in some places that he laid down his life for many, for his Sheep, for his Church, for the Children of God that were in the world.3

So that we must answer this Question with distinction: for the word, for all must either have respect to the saving virtue of Christ’s death by itself, and in that sense it is said that he died for ALL men, because his Passion and Death is in itself a powerful, sufficient, perfect propitiatory sacrifice for all men, so that they might all thereby obtain Remission, and Redemption, of they themselves did not reject it by their own defaults. Or else it may be understood in relation to the fruit and participation, effect and operation of the death of Christ in men. And in this sense it is said that he died not for all, but properly for true believers only, because they only receive it aright, and only receive the remission of their sins indeed thereby, and are made partakers of all the saving virtues of the death of Christ.

To understand this rightly, it must be well observed, that the virtue of Reconciliation, or the Merit and Satisfaction of the death of Christ does not consist in this that Christ has either merited remission of sin, and eternal life of God, or will actually bestow it upon those men for whom (that is in whose stead and for whose benefit) he died, simply, and without any further obligation, though they do what they list [wish], turn from sin or not turn, if they do believe this, or hold this for true, that he thus died, paid and satisfied for them; and indeed Socinus and the Papists also misconstrue and pervert the Doctrine of our Evangelical Churches; yea many among the Evangelical so-called out of their carnal misapprehension of this Doctrine do fancy to themselves such a satisfaction of Christ and such a Faith, whereby they think themselves redeemed from the punishment of sin, though they live still always in sin, without true Repentance. Whereas our Lord Christ in this sense did not die and pay a ransom or satisfy for any one man, no not for Peter, or Paul, must less for all men. For this were not satisfaction, but rather an utter abolition and abrogation of the Righteousness of God, because such a remission of sin without repentance were altogether contrary to and destructive of God’s justice. And whosoever also believes such a Remission or imagines the same, does not as yet believe in Christ. For he does not acknowledge him to be such a Savior and Redeemer as will redeem him from sin itself, and makes Christ but a Servant of his sins, and a pay-master of his debts, that he may freely trespass upon the grace of God (Gal. 2:27, Jude v.4.).

But the right genuine virtue of Reconciliation and Satisfaction of Christ consists summarily in this, that he has purchased grace with God, as our High-Priest and Mediator before God, by his perfect obedience to death of the cross, as the only sacrifice pleasing to God, in stead of that death which we had deserved according to the severe justice of God; first that he has instituted the Covenant of grace and reconciliation in his blood, in which Covenant he requires graces and Repentance from all men, and accordingly promises and offers remission of sin, and eternal life. Then secondly, that he also applies and imparts the promised remission in his blood to all those that accept such Covenant of grace by a true Faith.

For this is already the first effect of the Propitiation, Satisfaction, and Intercession of Christ, that God for his sake does not presently judge and cast away fallen man according to the Law, as the fallen Angels, but offers yet grace and pardon, gives also thereby time and room for repentance, and through his manifold goodness, out especially through the Word of the Covenant and the Spirit of grace, calls and leads to repentance, though in divers ways and divers measures, as it is most suitable to his unsearchable Wisdom, Goodness, and Justice. Whence then follows the second effect, that he effectually pardons for Christ’s sake all their sins who from the heart believe the grace offered, and thereupon turn to him with repentance, and he takes for his children and heirs of eternal life.

Of the first effect all men are partakers some way, but especially they are called by the word of the Gospel, since such call is made in the name of Jesus Christ, and proceeds from his merit and intercession. And although it be made in different manner and measure, even in the New Testament; yet such difference does not arise out of an inequality of Christ’s death; but out of God’s Wisdom and Justice, according to which he calls every one to the grace of Christ how and when he will; whereof the special causes are best known to himself. Whereof hereafter Q. 80.

They should also be made Partakers of the second effect; if they did not reject and cast away from themselves the proffered grace and Reconciliation through their own infidelity. Where the failing is not in the merit and satisfaction of Christ, nor in the offered grace of God, but only in themselves who despise the goodness of God, reject the Covenant of Reconciliation, and thereby exclude themselves from the Communion of the death of Christ and from all saving grace of God.

And therefore it is well said that Christ indeed died for all men, especially for all that are called, as concerning the virtue of his death in itself, yea as concerning the first effect thereof. But yet not for all, concerning the whole fruit and communion, or effect and operation of the death of Christ; because the believers only are made partakers of his saving virtue effectually, and they only are justified and saved; but unbelievers are condemned, even therefore because they will not believe in Christ that died for them.

We may explain all this by a Comparison; if any Man had laid down so much for a ransom to the Emperor or to the King as he designed for a company of imprisoned Rebels, or had ventured his life against a foreign enemy for to purchase their Redemption, and so hereby had obtained for all the prisoners free pardon, yea the restitution of all their goods and dignities, only with this condition, that they shall acknowledge their offence and deprecate the Emperor, yield new allegiance, and for the future be true and obedience: In this case it might truly be said, that he gave a ransom for all the prisoners, or laid his life at stake for them, and purchased to all of them together such conditional pardon it being proffered to all in general upon this ransom, merit or intercession, although his ransom, merit or intercession, although some should not or would not accept of such a pardon. And yet again, it may be truly said that he only obtained pardon wholly and altogether for them that accept of the condition, deprecate and submit; but not for them that are so stiff-necked that they will rather die and perish in prison then to offer new allegiance. Even so it is with the ransom, merit and intercession of Christ with God for the imprisoned rebellious men, as every one in this case may easily apply the comparison. Only herein may be the greatest difference, that we may be more securely trust the promised pardon of God than of any Emperor or King on Earth.

Q. 72. But although the death of Christ of itself be a sufficient sacrifice for all, yet nevertheless here is the chief question, whether it was God and Christ’s proper Intention, Will, and Mind that he should indeed die for all men.

A. Even as Christ died for all men, just so it was God and Christ’s Intention, Will and Mind that he should die for them; namely, that it should be indeed such a sufficient perfect sacrifice for the sins of the World, not that any should thereby have remission of sin without Faith and Repentance, whether they will believe or not (I speak of adult persons) but that thereby principally the Covenant of grace and Reconciliation should be erected or constituted, and faithfully offered to all in general. For the effectual remission of sin and salvation shall also be applied and bestowed upon all those that accept of the same Covenant by true Faith; but not to those that obstinately contemn and reject the Covenant.

Q. 73. But many of yours dare teach nevertheless that Christ died not for all, neither sufficienter, in respect of the Virtue, nor efficienter in respect of his operation, neither quod ad impetrationem, that he has purchased it for all, nor quod ad applicationem, that he has bestowed it upon all.

A. They speak properly of the unbelieving, as considered in their constant infidelity, and of the effectual reconciliation or remission, as the ultimate scope and effect of Christ’s sufferings; and they only teach, that as for those for whom Christ did so die, that reconciliation is not only offered to them of God, but that they also really and indeed receive remission and salvation by is death. Whereas it is most true that he neither purposed nor promised, must less will bestow any remission upon the unbelievers abiding in their infidelity and impenitency, because of this (as mentioned before) wholly contrary to the righteousness of God. But as only as the Elect believers receive the Covenant of grace; so they only are made partakers of the promised remission and Salvation effectually. To whom Christ also did bear respect properly and peculiarly in is whole passion, whereas else he would not have died, nor come into the world neither, for the sake of Goats, Dogs and Swine, that is, for those of whom he did foresee that they would despise his grace, and tread his blood under feet, (Mat. 7:6 and 29; Mat. 25:32-33, and 41).

But in case one or another do simply thus teach, that Christ died not at all for All, bit only for some certain persons, and has wholly excluded al others without any respect of their sin or unbelief only by his bare mere will and pleasure; yet is not this Doctrine and Opinion of our Churches, who have always confessed and acknowledged the above mentioned distinction between Virtue and Communion of the death of Christ, and have exempted no man from it, save only for his impenitency and unbelief.

Even as also upon is Sufficiency or general Virtue of the death of Christ is grounded.

First, the general Command and Promise of the Gospel, that they shall all believe in Christ as their Savior.

Secondly, in particular, faith itself, that every one that is called may apply to himself such general precept and promise.

Thirdly, the comfort of all afflicted doubting consciences, that they may include themselves in this general precept and promise, and if hitherto they have not believed, yet henceforth they may and must believe.

Fourthly, Baptism especially of little Children, that we do baptize them into the death of Christ, which we cannot do in faith, if we know not certainly whether Christ had died for them.

Fifthly, the condemnation of unbelievers: since no man could be condemned for not believing in Christ as his Savior, if he had not died at all for him, nor would have been his Savior at all.

Dihe unfere kirchunlehre, in Catech. Heidlb. q. 37. Confess. Helvet. c.11. Synod. Dortr. c. de Redemption. Can. 5 & 6 & in Actis[?] judicia imprimus Theologorum Britanniæ, Professorum Belgicorum, Deputatorum Frisiæ, Hastiacorum[?], Nastorio[?]-Veteranorum, Bocwensium[?], &. Megunkericht der Zurcher aust Philippi Nicolai Schmachauch p. 94. & seqq. Caselisot Wechseltrisiun, p. 382. Calvin. in 1Joh. 2. P. 52. Zanch. In Misc. p. 382. P. Martyr in Rom. 9. p. 414. Wolfgang. Musculus in loco de redemptione generis humani, p. 152. Pareus in Catech. q. 40. et Irenic. c. 24. Act. 5, & c. 78. Art. 1. Polani synt. l.6.c.18. p. 397 043. Hanor. Muldun Klenod Comfode Christi: Nuostadt an der Martt[?]. An. 92. Kimedontius de redemptione genereris humani, l.1.c.11. Davenantius Epsc Sarish. In Col. 1:14, 26, p. 71, 106, 111. Chamier-Panstrat. Tom. 3.l.9,a c. 27. Num. 9. Joh. Cameron. Tom. 3. In Miscel. p. 582. & seqq.    Johannes Bergius, The Pearle of Peace & Concord. Or A Treatise of Pacification Betwixt the dissenting Churches of Christ, (London: Printed by T.C. For John Rothwell, at the Fountain and Bear in Cheap-side; and John Wright, at the Kings Head in the Old Bayly 1655), 82-93. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnotes inserted and values modernized; bold original; italics original; and underlining mine.]  [Note: some of the text in the last paragraph is unclear, my reproduction here is a best estimation. Corrections welcome.]

4) IV. Considering we are also agreed in the Doctrine of the Death of Christ, about the Application of it: (that although it be in itself a very perfect Propitiatory Sacrifice and satisfaction for the sin of the World; yet such satisfaction is applied and appropriated, and sin is effectually pardoned to none but only those that believe in Christ, and this not with a dead impenitent, but with a true living Faith, which works by love; and again, that no man is excluded from it but only by his impenitency and unbelief), there will therefore be no need of any further strife, since all the matter lies in the Application, whether and for whom Christ so died as that he applies his merit unto them, that is, so that the are sins are pardoned unto them for Christ’s sake (for else what good would his death and merit do us, if it were not applied to us, and if sin were not thereby pardoned?), seeing then they confess together with us, that it is only applied to Believers, therefore they confess also thereby that he died for in this manner only for believers, that it might be applied unto them. Howbeit although he died thus far for all, and merited grace by his death, as that it is faithfully offered to all, and that they may and ought to apply it to themselves by Faith; yet he died not for anyone, much less for all in this manner, that they should have remission of sin without Repentance, and without Faith; because he has promised to no man in his word, such a Remission without Repentance, and therefore also has purchased it with God for no man by his death, nor will apply it, or impart it to any man upon those terms. Johannes Bergius, The Pearle of Peace & Concord. Or A Treatise of Pacification Betwixt the dissenting Churches of Christ, (London: Printed by T.C. For John Rothwell, at the Fountain and Bear in Cheap-side; and John Wright, at the Kings Head in the Old Bayly 1655), 125-126. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

[Note: this work was originally published about 1635.]

[Biographical notes: John Bergius was born at Stellin, Pomerania His father, Conrad Bergius, was a philologist and the rector of the city’s secondary school. In the late sixteenth century northern humanism had reached its flowering stage in Stellin. Close commercial ties with the Netherlands and the presence of a sizeable number of Dutch grain traders in the city aided the transmission of ideas from the Low Countries. Not surprisingly therefore, Conrad Bergius, like many scholars in central Europe at that time, had become attracted to Dutch humanism and eventually had converted to Calvinism.

Conrad died when john was only five years old. Yet he had made provisions for his son’s education. Young john was to be exposed to some of western Europe’s finest humanist and Protestant learning. Adrian von Borck, a relative and john’s godfather, had family connections in the Low Countries. He saw to it that the father’s wishes were carried out. He sent john to the famous Reformed grammar school at Neuhausen near Worms to complete his secondary education and then to the University of Heidelberg to commence his formal theological training. At Heidelberg, the center of German Calvinist learning, Bergius attended the lectures of the Reformed irenicist David Pareus. He also listened to the sermons of Abraham Scultetus the Palatinate court preacher who later would help John Sigismund establish a Reformed church in Brandenburg. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Bergius moved on to Strassburg. He later regretted this move, undoubtedly because he found the Lutheran orthodoxy at the city’s school oppressive and stifling. In 1607 he was again in northern Germany at Danzig’s Reformed Academy, where he attended the lectures of the then well-known and popular philosopher Bartholomaus Keckermann. In Lutheran Danzig, pastors felt threatened by the city’s small but growing Calvinist minority and by the advances of the Catholic Counter Reformation in neighboring Poland; so it was there that Bergius got his first taste of the political and confessional controversies that he was to experience later on a much larger scale as court preacher. In 1608 Bergius traveled to England; he earned a master of arts degree at Cambridge University and spent several weeks at Oxford before moving to France in 1610. H is arrival in Paris coincided with the assassination of King Henry IV, an event that horrified young Bergius and undoubtedly helped shape his political and religious sentiments. During his two-year stay in the French capital he supported himself by tutoring two young Calvinist noblemen who later served King Louis XIII as noblemen of the bedchamber. He visited Saumur and had frequent contacts with Huguenot leaders, particularly with Pierre du Moulin, whose irenic theology and royalist political sentiments bore a striking similarity to the ideas that Bergius himself would voice later on.

After Paris, Bergius briefly attended Leiden University in the Low Countries. Students from all over Europe, especially Protestant Germany, flocked to Leiden in the early seventeenth century to study theology and the neostoic philosophy of Justus Lipsius. Bergius’s family background and earlier education had already exposed him to Dutch humanist ideas. His stay in Holland reinforced those sentiments; he was to retain a lifelong appreciation for Dutch thought and culture. “Let us,” Bergius pleaded many years later “take as our example the brave Dutch, who after pushing back the Romans [Spanish Hapsburgs] have been called promoters of liberty.” Lack of funds unfortunately permitted Bergius to stay only a few months at Leiden. In July 1612 he left Holland again. He returned to Brandenburg, where he hoped to qualify for a teaching position in theology at the University of Frankfurt on the Oder.

Thus, Bergius had attended some of Europe’s leading Protestant schools. Through his travels and studies he had become thoroughly familiar with international Calvinism. At the same time he had gained firsthand experience of the religious and political issues that were dividing Europe and particularly Germany. Determining the influence of particular individuals and institutions on Bergius’s thinking is difficult, of course. Still, some general conclusions about his education are possible. Christian, specifically Calvinist, and humanist principles were clearly mingled in his training. More than anything else, his travels had impressed upon Bergius the desperate need for political stability and religious harmony. Like many of his Calvinist teachers he had become convinced that peace would be served best by rulers strong enough to maintain political order yet tolerant enough to promote greater harmony among churches as similar as the Lutheran and the Reformed. In short the sum total of his learning experience prior to his entry into the service of the Brandenburg electors tended to encourage in him a theology that was irenic and an attitude to political authority that was absolutist….

In 1619 Bergius refused to attend the Synod of Dort, largely because he feared that the condemnation of Arminianism by orthodox Calvinists there would hurt his relations with Lutherans at home. Since the Mompelgard Colloquy in 1586, the doctrine of predestination had become a major issue dividing Lutherans and Calvinists. Many Reformed, including Bergius, now sought to de-emphasize this difference by espousing a milder “universalist” view of predestination which resembled the Lutheran and Arminian positions. Christ accordingly died not only for the elect; he died for all, though none received the benefits of his death and resurrection except believers. From his friend Adam Agricola, who already had arrived at Dort as the representative of Jagerndorf, Bergius had learned that the orthodox, who dominated the synod, were determined to suppress all liberal views. He therefore decided not to attend, even though John Sigismund repeatedly asked him to go as Brandenburg’s representative. The synod, Bergius explained later to Fussel , his father-in-law, would have done little for Protestant harmony and only could have hurt Calvinism in Brandenburg. Judging by the Lutheran reaction to the Dort decrees, his decision was a wise one.

Nischan, Bodo, “John Bergius: Irenicism and the Beginning of Official Religious Toleration in Brandenburg-Prussia,” Church History, 51 (1982) : 390-392 and 398.]


11 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:2, 2 John 1:29; Heb. 2:9; [and] 1 Cor. 5:15.

2Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11-12; 2 Pet. 2:1; 2 Pet. 1:9; [and] Heb. 10:29.

3Isa. 53:11, 12; Mat. 20:28 and 26; Heb. 9:28; John 10:15 and 11:52; John 10:15, 11:52, and 15:13; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25; Tit. 2:14; Eph. 5:23; [and] Mat. 1:21.

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