John Overall (1559-1619) on the Death of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?

[comments below]



Concerning the Death of Christ.

The Opinion of our Church concerning the Death of Christ is so plain, and every where so consistent with it self; That Christ died for All Men, or for all the Sins of all Men; that it is to be wondered, that any of us should ever have ventured to call it in Question. It is said in the II. Article,

that Christ truly Suffered, was Crucified, Dead, and Buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a Sacrifice, not only for Original Guilt, but also for all the actual Sins of Men.

Article VII. As well in the Old as New Testament, everlasting Life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man.

Article XV. ‘Christ came to be a Lamb without Spot, who by Sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the Sins of the World. And again, Article XXXI, The Offering of Christ once made, is that perfect Redemption, Propitiation, and Satisfaction for All the Sins of the whole World, both Original and Actual.

And the same is to be met with in the common Catechism, as the most plain sense of the second part of the Creed, wherein it is proposed to every one to believe in God the Son, who hath redeemed him and all Mankind; according to the Nicene Creed, who for us Men and for our Salvation, descended, &c. And in many other places of our public Liturgy; as in the Prayer of Consecration in the Sacrament:

O God! who didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our Redemption, who made there, by his one Oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient Sacrifice, Oblation, and Satisfaction for the Sins of the whole World.  And to every single Person to whom the Sacrament is administered, ’tis said, ‘The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee.’ And again, ‘His Blood which was shed for thee, preserve they Soul, &c.’

The Death of Christ therefore considered in it self must be a Price sufficient for All Men, if it was given for All. But the Scripture says plainly, That God gave his Son for the World, and lays a Condition thereon, not the Death of Christ, but the Faith of Man; and from thence Salvation is to follow conditionally: That the Son was so given, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved: But whether Men believe or not, God gave his Son for them, and through him offered Salvation on the Condition of Faith. Now that Men should perform this Condition, God does both command in his Word, and by the Grace of his Holy Spirit does actually excite and co-operate: So that if they do not believe, the fault may be in Men, and not in God: As on the contrary, if they do believe, that must be attributed to Divine Grace, and not to any Humane Virtue. Whence it is plain, that it was God’s Will and Design that Christ should die for All; though All, through their own unbelief and impenitency, do not from thence receive the fruits of salvation. But then there are some effects of this that do redound to All; as the Common Vocation; The Warnings and Encouragements, not only of the external Word, but of internal Grace too: And lastly, the General Resurrection of All. For because Christ by his Death and Resurrection did overcome Death, and rose again from the Dead; as the Apostle says, 1 Cor. 15.22. As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. For the same Reason has Christ obtained to himself a Dominion over all men, because he died for All; as St. Paul has abundantly shown [Rom. 14:9; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15]. Which Places, as they sufficiently prove that Christ died singly for All, so they signify to us, that both the general Promises of Salvation to all Believers, with whatsoever is sufficient for common Grace, and also the Purpose of particular Election, and Grace effectually persevering; nay, and the Preparation and Foreknowledge of these, are all founded in the same Christ, and in his Death, fore-seen from all Eternity. So that out of the side of Christ’s dying upon the Cross, not only the Sacraments of the Church, but likewise all saving Goods and Graces must be understood to flow. And this Opinion is so manifest in the Scriptures, that Calvin has every where interpreted them of All. Thus upon Heb. 9.20 he says, that [Many] is taken for [All.] So again upon Rom. 5.18, 19. “It is certain,” says he, “that all Men do not receive Advantage from the Death of Christ, but then this is owing to their own Infidelity that hinders them (who was otherwise sufficiently rigid about Predestination) in explaining those very places, which others brought to take away the universality of Christ’s Death (as in some it is said that he died for Many). Which words do plainly enough favor the common Opinion. Therefore it must not be said, that this which is so clear in it self [that Christ died for all] ought to be explained from an extravagant and rigid Conception of Secret Predestination; but we are rather to interpret that Secret by a thing which is plain in itself; that so it may be truly consistent with what was rightly enough delivered in a common Saying of the Schools, That Christ died for All sufficiently; For the Elect and Believers effectually: Had they not corrupted their meaning by the following Hypothesis: The Death of Christ had been sufficient for All, if God and Christ had so intended.”

John Overall, “The Opinion of the Church of England Concerning Predestination,” in A Defence of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England by John Ellis (London: Printed for H. Bonwicke, T. Goodwin, M. Wotton, S. Manship, and B. Tooke, 1700), 131-134.  [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; italics original; marginal references cited inline; and underlining mine.]  [Excellent academic secondary source: Anthony Milton, The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) (UK: The Boydell Press, 2005), 64-92.] [Original Latin edition first published in 1650.]

[Notes: 1) The predestinarian theology of Overall is disputed. It is sometimes alleged that he embraced the  theology of Peter Baro.  2) On the contrary, in these articles, Overall does seem intent on walking a middle way between extreme predestinarian views, on the one hand, and those who would ground predestination upon simple divine foreknowledge, on the other. 3) It is quite probable that sources such as Wiki have it wrong on this point (cf. Milton). However, at the end of the day, even if it were established that Overall truly supported the theology of Peter Baro, the information and comments in this excerpt are of such value that their inclusion here in this file is worth-while. 4) To that end, the reader should note a) the confessional opinion of the Reformation church of England; b) the stated position of Calvin; and c) the reference to hypothetical sufficiency, as opposed to an actual sufficiency as defined in the Augustinian tradition.]

[Thanks to Tony for the transcription and to Chris for the heads-up.]

This entry was posted on Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 7:43 am and is filed under For Whom did Christ Die?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed at this time.