Robert Jenison (1584?–1652) on the Death of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?


4. Christ is made Redemption, but is that of all? no.–Thou was slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and Nation. Revel. 5.9. Not all nations, but some out of all, according to that of Paul, explaining whom he means by Vessels of mercy, which God had afore prepared unto Glory, even us (says he) whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles: he says not all us Jews, or all us Gentiles, but us of the Jews and Gentiles.

Objection. This is against the doctrine of our Church, which tells us that the offering of Christ made upon the cross, is a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. I answer, no: The Church indeed uses the phrase of Scripture, but not against the sense of Scripture, whose meaning therefore is the same with that of the Scripture; for our Church does tell us, that (as it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word, so, neither) may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another. Therefore our Church uses not the Scripture phrase so as to bee repugnant to those other places named, or yet to itself which (besides much more that might be said) in the 17. Article, tells us, That God hath decreed by his Council secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation, those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind. So that, seeing to deliver from curse and damnation is the effect of Christ’s death according to the everlasting purpose of God. Therefore Christ hath not redeemed all mankind, so as to deliver them from curse and damnation, seeing his everlasting purpose and constant decree was to deliver from curse and damnation, not all Mankind, but those whom hee hath chosen in Christ out of mankind. Redemption, in Gods purpose and intention, reaches not beyond the decree.

Our Church then doth not deny universal redemption: for we truly say with it and with Scripture, Christ died for all. Yet it denies that equal and universal Application of this redemption, whose event is suspended, and hangs either on the liberty of mans will, or on any condition in man (which God will not work.) We deny not, but say that Christ paid a price for all, but such as is to be applied to each by the man’s of faith, which is not of all, and not by the very act or fact of his oblation, so that, faith being presupposed, and coming between, all and each are capable of salvation, and they are such as, believing, shall be saved.

Objection. But doth not the Scripture invite all, and make promises to all, and that truly, not feignedly? Math. 11.28. 1 Tim. 2.4. Rom. 11.32:

I answer, there is none but may truly and seriously be invited to partake of the pardon of sin and of life by Christ’s death, upon the condition of Faith. Bee it known unto you, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, And by him all that believe are justified &c. And elsewhere, To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believes in him, shall receive remission of sins. Now this is grounded on the merit of Christ’s death: wee being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins &c.

In this regard and upon this ground, if I were among the Barbarous heathen, among Jews, Turks and Infidels, I (if I could speak to be understood of them) would first endeavor to let them know Christ and his benefits, and then I would seriously invite them all to believe on him, yea and would assuredly in Christ’s name, promise unto all true penitents and believers among them, pardon of sin and life eternal, having (though I be no Apostle) warrant for the same from our Savior himself, saying, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, hee that believes and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believes not shall be damned. And I would ground such exhortations and promises upon the merits of Christ’s death, the fruit whereof doth actually belong to such only as believe, as is said: So Gods word doth teach us, whose will (as we see in his word) doth immutably tie and conjoin together repentance and pardon, faith and salvation, and contrariwise. It excludes from pardon the impenitent, and from salvation the unbeliever, upon which ground I say, if Pharaoh obey and believe, he shall be saved: If the Ninevites believe they shall not perish. There’s no falsehood nor mockery here, seeing the promise is conditional.

And though it be said by some, that God inviting all, such is his heart inwardly as he hath manifested himself outwardly, and that he bears the same mind to us, which he showed to us in his son Christ, who is the image as of his essence, so of his will, and that wee must not think he shows himself kind outwardly, and yet inwardly hates us.

I answer, Men must not be too bold to infer that God should equivocate and deal hypocritically with men, whilst he invites and calls them to that whereunto he effectually works not. Though Jesuitical equivocations and Reservations doe falsify and destroy the Proposition uttered, yet Gods secret decrees never destroy or falsify his will revealed; seeing as is said, Gods will in his word doth connect and tie together the end and the means, repentance and pardon, faith and salvation, life (eternal) and Godliness, glory and virtue (Both which and all things pertaining to both, his divine power doth give unto us.) Neither is the truth of this connect by any decree of God, or sin of man broken.

And as for God’s will, whereof Christ is both the Image and the interpreter, we may see it declared by himself, in these words. First, says he, All that the Father gives me, shall come to me: and him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out; then he adds immediately, for I came down from heaven, not to doe mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Fathers will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the Last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son and believes on him may have everlasting life. Lo, Gods will in Christ is not to save any but such as believe (I speak not know of infants) & all such he will save; God then wills men’s salvation in willing their faith and Repentance: and so he wills not (yea and swears he wills not, or hath no pleasure in) the death of the wicked, in that he wills not their sin and impenitency: Therefore it’s said, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: (that it especially which God hath pleasure in.) Therefore it is added, Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die O house of Israel? as if he had said, if ye will not turn, ye must assuredly die: I have inseparably conjoined these two together, impenitency (persisted in) and death. The truth is, in that place of Ezekiel, The people conceiving that evils did befall them not for their own, but for their parents sins saying The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge, the Lord there Ezek. 18. Where this same doctrine and point is handled, swears that–the soul which sins shall dye (whether the soul of the Father or of the son) and then the son shall not bear the inequity of the Father–but if the wicked will turn from all his sins-he shall surely live, and not die. And then it follows, have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? and not that hee should return from his ways and live? cast away from you all your transgressions–for why will ye die, O house of Israel.

God therefore answering their objection, who thought themselves punished for their parents sins, denies the same, and tells them it is for their own sins; and whereas they thus spoke, if our transgressions and our sins bee upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? The answer in effect is, by repentance; unto which God accordingly exhorts them, saying and swearing, as I live, I have no pleasure &c. as formerly; so he swears, he had rather they should repent and live (seeing these two are inseparable, and without repentance, no life) then persist in impenitency (whilst they shuffled off their sins to their Fathers) and so perish: (which two also are inseparable:) so that if they persist in impenitency, his will then is they shall perish. God doth truly will the death of impenitent sinners, who will deny it? and when he wills not their death, it is as much as if he had said he will not their sin and impenitency: but if they would go on in sin, he must and did will their death. Therefore he says, turn ye, turn ye, why will ye dye? Why will ye run upon your own death? and yet he assures them by oath they dyed not but for their sin, though they thought otherwise.

So, on the other hand, God wills men’s salivation, in willing their faith and repentance, & so he wills that all men should be saved; and so wills the salvation even of such as perish; but how? First by approving it if it were done, but not by decreeing the extent, not yet so as to work it by special and effectual grace. The obedience and faith, suppose of Pharaoh, had been a thing pleasing to God: but it was not a thing to be given by God from Gods decree. But for those that are saved he so wills their salvation that he decrees the same, and according to his decree, infallibly produces that same, according to that of Christ, All that the father gives me, shall come unto me, and of God, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, Therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. The one is according to his will revealed, his signifying will, the other according to his secret will, or the will of his good pleasure; which ancient distinction of the schools must not be so slighted, or so easily cried down; and our Church doth hold it, whilst in the 17. Article it uses first these words, he hath constantly decreed by his Counsel secret to us: and these again in the end of that article, In our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God. So that it would not impertinently be thought on what God wills by the will of his precept, and what he wills by the will of his decree: what Gods will is to me concerning that he would have me doe, and what he wills with himself in his own secret Cornell; what he wills at my hand as my duty, what he will bestow upon me freely as a blessing. God seriously wills me to doe my duty, and shows me what would bee acceptable to him, as namely to pray for all men; and to make no exception of any, but to further, every mans salvation: but, says Austen [Augustine], if the Church were certain who (in particular) were predestined to go into everlasting fire with the devil, It would as little pray for them (though yet living on earth) as it doth for him.

2. God so far wills the salvation of all, that he seriously exhorts sinners to repent, and accordingly in his Gospel gives them so much grace, knowledge and good motions and so far enables them thereunto, that there is a true fault in them that repent not; that is, there is either contempt or neglect of the Gospel, and so indeed, besides their other sins, a new fault against the Gospel, whence their condemnation becomes the greater, and the condition of such as never heard of Christ more tolerable at the day of judgment then theirs. Therefore (besides that God gave men power sufficient in Adam to doe what he requires and that men have disabled themselves to doe that which he otherwise hath right to require) I say God, upon the forenamed ground, may seriously invite all, exhort all, & require of them that, which he gives them so much grace to perform, that it is out of their own deficiency if they perform it not: & withal may punish them justly for not doing it their perishing is of themselves: Man is never punished but for his own sin. Only God gives not that powerful grace to them (as he is not bound) by which (as depending on his election) infallibly they might convert.

Here is then the mystery: Though God invite all, and promise life to all upon the condition of faith, and that promise be grounded, as is granted, upon the merits of Christ’s death, yet the fruit of Christ’s death doth actually belong only to such as believe. The price paid for all, and which shall certainly bee to the salvation of believers, yet profits not all, because faith is not given to all (as not the means of faith) but to the Elect only.

We therefore preach and teach that Christ died for all, so as that all and each, may by the virtue of Christ’s death, through faith (the Gospel once coming to them) may I say obtain remission of sin and life; and so Christ’s death hath purchased a possibility of salvation for all men, if all men can believe.

But we say again that Christ so died for the Elect that, by virtue of the merit of his death (which was specially intended for them according to Gods eternal decree) they not only might, but should infallibly attain faith here, and obtain life eternal hereafter, and that without any compulsion of their wills.

Hence it comes to pass (though the particularity of Gods promises be objected as an odious doctrine and comfortless) that the promises of the Gospel are of two sorts. 1 Conditional, and of the end which is salvation, requiring faith and repentance; and so Gods promises are general, and he seriously invites all, and mocks none who perform the condition. 2. Absolute, and of the Means: whereby, as he absolutely, (and without condition required of us) promised Christ himself, Gen. 3.15. so also both the outward, and also inward effectual Means, as the working of faith, writing his Laws in our hearts, putting his fear in our hearts that wee depart not from him, &c.

Which, as they depend not on any condition in man, but only on Gods free, absolute and immutable decree, so doe they particularly and specially belong to the Elect, and not to all. Let any show me a promise in Scripture whereby God hath promised to give faith universally to all without exception. But who these in particular are, the effects of Gods eternal love, manifested in time on and in them, doe and will show and declare.

Robert Jenison, Two treatises: the first concerning Gods Certaine performance of his conditional Promises, as touching the Elect, or, A Treatise of Gods most free and powerfull grace. Lately published without the Authours privitie, and printed corruptly, by the name and title of Solid Comfort for Sound Christians. The second, Concerning the extent of Christ’s death and love, now added to the former. With an Additionall thereunto (London: Printed by E. G. for L. Blaikelocke at his shop at the Sugar-Loafe next Temple-Bar in Fleete-streete, 1642), 213–235. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

Credit to Tony for the find.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 at 6:00 am and is filed under For Whom did Christ Die?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far

Michael Adams

Very well stated.

July 26th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Hey Michael,

Thanks for stopping by. For myself I actually prefer Ford’s way of expressing the issue, or Scudder.

If you are interested at all in reader some other material on this topic, and from some westminster divines, scope out the “For Whom Did Christ Die?” by going to the main index page and then clicking on the link by that name.

If I may ask, from the Reformed perspective as you understand it, what do you think of the classic-moderate Calvinist view on the subject of the expiation, its extent, etc?


July 27th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

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