1) (4thly.) Yet by some Passages in his1 letter, we guess that he points at the controversy about the extent of Christ’s Death, which hath been amongst Protestant divines since the Reformation, or since the time that Beza and Piscator began to write on that Head after the Reformation.
And if that be the thing he points at without naming it, we will, first, give the true state of the controversy. Secondly, declare briefly what our opinion is, as to that matter. And for the state of the controversy:
First, there are some divines in the world, who are said to hold that Christ died equally for all men, Elect and Non-elect; and that God on the account of Christ’s death, gives a common sufficient grace to them all, whereby they may all (if they will) apply to themselves the virtue of Christ’s Death, and thereby obtain justification and salvation. But that Christ did not dye for the elect, out of any special love to them above others; and that God through Christ doth not give any special effectual, determining grace to the elect more than to the non-elect. This is the Arminian extreme.
Secondly, there are other divines, who hold that Christ died for the elect only and exclusively of all others, and that he died not for any of the non-elect in any proper tolerable true sense; that he no more died for any of those men, who are not elected to eternal life, than he died for the Devil; and that such Men have no more to do with the satisfaction and merits of Christ, than the Devil has. This is the other extreme. And we suppose that this is that which our author accounts the orthodox side, and that he is of this side himself.
But thirdly, between these two extreme opinions, there is a golden mean, there is a middle-way, which hath been many hundred years ago, and still is expressed in this form of words, “That Christ died only for the elect sinners of mankind both sufficiently and efficaciously, but that he died for the non-elect only sufficiently but not efficaciously.” This is the state of the controversy.
2. If, secondly, it be now demanded whether we be for this middle-way or not? In answer to that demand we say, “That there are a great many of us, who are calumniated by our author as corruptors of the Gospel, by holding a conditional covenant, and though we do not doubt, but we all agree in the aforesaid general form of words, and in admitting the distinction of Christ’s dying for the elect efficaciously, and for the reprobate only sufficiently; yet it may be, that when we come to explain what we particularly mean by Christ’s dying sufficiently only for the non-elect, there will be some little difference amongst us in some of our notions and expressions, and possibly some of us may not in effect differ from our author, further than in the manner of our expression, and in the method of our conceptions and notions.
But (1.) we are all of one mind and of one faith with respect to Christ’s dying efficaciously for the elect only, and we hope also that our author himself agrees with us herein: Which is the main thing wherein our agreement is necessary. And then,
(2.) as to the non-elect, especially those of them to whom the Gospel is preached; we hope all of us do and will agree to this, “That Christ died for them sufficiently in such a sense as he did not dye for the fallen Angels, so that if they should believe in Christ and repent of their sins, as they are bound to do, according to the tenor and terms of the Gospel, they should be saved through Christ;” and not perish as they do by persevering in unbelief and impenitence: And being thus far agreed, we hope we shall keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; and as to any little difference of judgment that may remain, we shall bear with one another in love, after the example of the famous Synod of Dort, whereof the members differed in the Synod upon this very point, and yet they bore with one another, and wisely agreed against the Arminian extreme, as most manifestly appears from the Acts of that Synod. And we would hope also that our author and those of his way, will not be against this mutual forbearance, when they consider that the said middle-way was not only tolerated but even approved by the Synod of Dort, in that the suffrages which expressly asserted it, were approved; and that long before, it was held by our first Reformers both at home and abroad. For instance, the universality of Christ’s death in the sense before explained, was believed and professed by the blessed martyrs Latimer and Hooper, in England, and also by the Church of England herself; and by Luther in Germany, and Calvin at Geneva, as shall be proved by their own words, to be seen in their writings extant at this day, if any have the confidence to deny it. At present we shall only give our Brethren to understand, first, that Luther on John 3:16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever,” &c. says [Jam sane tibi & omnibus hominus fatendum est mundum, &c.]:2
Now truly, thou and all men must confess, that the whole race of mankind is called the world, comprehending in one, all men in general and every man in particular; do thou believe therefore that thou art a man? or if thou cannot neither believe nor know that, put your hand in your bosom, or feel your nose, make an experiment whether you have not all your members full of flesh and blood, as other men? Wherefore then would you exclude yourself out of this word (world), since Christ expressly declares that God did not send his Son to the Virgin Mary only, nor gave him to Peter or Paul, but to the World, that all might lay claim to him, even as many as are called the Sons of Man, &c.
Secondly, that Calvin on 1 John 2.2, says:
[Ego verum esse illud dictum fateor sufficienter pro toto mundo passum esse Christum, sed pro electis tantum efficaciter.].
“I confess that saying to be true, That Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole World, but efficaciously for the Elect only.”
And on Rom. 5.18:
[Communem omnium gratiam fecit, quia omnibus exposita est, non quod ad omnes extendatur reipsa, nam esti est Christus pro peccasis totius mundi, atque omnibus indifferenter Dei benignitate offertur, non tamen omnes apprehendunt.].
The Apostle (saith Calvin) Makes Grace common to all Men, because it is exposed to all Men, not that it is really and effectually extended unto all. For tho Christ suffered for the sins of the whole World, and through the goodness of God, he is indifferently offered unto all; yet all do not apprehend or receive him.
Here is that which is called the middle-way owned by Luther first, afterwards by Calvin as plainly as can be expressed in so few words. Whereupon we demand, “Did our First Reformers, Luther and Calvin, by this, Corrupt the Old, and Preach a New Gospel, or not?” If they did corrupt the old true Gospel, and preach a new false Gospel, Then (1.) We owe no great thanks to them, or respect to their Memory, for their service in Reforming the church.
(2.) If we grant this to be true of Luther and Calvin, we betray the Reformation, and yield to the Papists that which their hearts do most earnestly desire, that Luther and Calvin may be accounted two imposters and deceivers, who deluded the people, corrupted the Christian religion, and preached a new Gospel to the world. For our parts, we dare not thus far betray the Protestant cause to the Papists; rather than do so, we maintain that Luther and Calvin by holding universal redemption in the sense explained, did not corrupt the Christian religion, nor preach a new Gospel. And if they did not, then those amongst us who hold universal redemption as they held it, do no more corrupt religion, nor preach a new Gospel than they did; and consequently it is a vile calumny and reproach cast upon us (and through us upon our first reformers,) that by the middle-way aforesaid we corrupt religion, and preach a new Gospel.
William Lorimer, An Apology for the Ministers Who Subscribed Only Unto the Stating of the Truths and Errours in Mr. William’s Book (London: Printed for John Lawrence, at the Angel in the Poultry, 1694), 191–192. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; italics original; footnotes and values mine; and underlining mine.]
2) For the great fault, that these middle-way-men are charged with is, that they hold Universal Redemption in such a sense, as neither to agree with the Orthodox, that is, the most rigid Calvinists, who (contrary to the express mind of Calvin) deny that in any sound sense Christ can be said to have redeemed all mankind; nor yet with the Arminians who affirm that Christ hath redeemed all the reprobate world, in the same sense that he hath redeemed his select people, whom he chose in Christ before the foundation of the world unto special effectual grace in this life, and unto eternal glory hereafter in the life to come. William Lorimer, An Apology for the Ministers Who Subscribed Only Unto the Stating of the Truths and Errours in Mr. William’s Book (London: Printed for John Lawrence, at the Angel in the Poultry, 1694), 185.
Credit to Tony for the finds.
1Here Lorimer refers to an unnamed objector.
2Bracketed insert original here as well as for the two following.