1) 24 Having endeavored to explain and illustrate what I presumed to call “the harmonizing principle,” in reference to the great topic of redemption, I will now advert to his Lordship’s declarations on the subject. It is asserted, in the first. place, that the doctrine of universal redemption–was directly opposed a by CALVIN. His Lordship I hope will excuse me for asserting, in return, that this eminent reformer did not ‘directly’ oppose the doctrine of universal redemption, in the sense now explained, as far as I have been able to collect by a frequent search into his voluminous writings. He admitted a universal price of redemption; but he had reasons innumerable against the notion of an actual redemption of all men from sin and misery. . He maintained that the remedy was universal, and that it was universally proposed to mankind, according to God’s rectoral design; by it not that it was the sovereign design of God by it to make mankind universally and indiscriminately submissive, and compliant with. the terms on which the blessings resulting from it were to be enjoyed. Had this been his design, not one of the human race could perish; for “who hath resisted his will?” If God were to design this, and to exert his power on the heart accordingly, who could prevent him? What CALVIN’S ill digested reprobating decree implied indirectly, is another consideration.

25 CALVIN, however, certainly did ‘oppose’ his Lordship’s notion of universal redemption,–which we now proceed to examine. The explanatory clauses, indicating what wag intended by the phrase “universal redemption,” are these: ‘ namely, that the benefits of Christ’s passion extend to the whole human race;’ or, ‘that every man is enabled to attain salvation through the merits of Christ.’ If by ‘the benefits’ be meant all the benefits, what Calvinist, ancient or modern, ever denied it? But if by ‘the benefits’ be meant all the benefits of Christ’s passion, surely his Lordship will not deliberately maintain it, as it is ‘ directly opposed,’ by obvious innumerable facts. For instance, a clean heart, a right spirit, justification, adoption, divine love shed abroad in the heart, being kept by divine power through faith unto salvation, an introduction to the heavenly Jerusalem, a glorious resurrection, and eternal life–all these are benefits of Christ’s passion; but are they extended to ‘the whole human race?’ If it be said that they are extended conditionally, proposed objectively, or in such a manner that all may obtain them, were it it for their own fault; this I have already admitted. But such is the present state of mankind, that were there no absolute, as well as conditional benefits, it is possible, that not one human being would in fact be finally saved. With his Lordship’s notion of free will as going before, and turning the balance in every instance, while human nature is “inclined to evil,” even in his’ own sense of this phrase, where lies the probability, much less the certainty, of the final salvation of any individual? It is of no use to contend, that God will assist mankind IF they will faithfully employ the powers and talents with which they are entrusted, without producing the evidence of probability, at least, that they WILL do this. But was it worthy of divine wisdom to prepare a kingdom of eternal glory on the precarious basis of free will exclusively,–on a bare peradventure that some would surmount their native depravity, and thus prepare the way for obtaining efficacious grace? That mankind ought to improve their powers and means, is one thing; but that any will do so, without the internal, efficacious grace of Christ ‘going before to give them a good will,’ is quite another. Edward Williams, A Defence of Modern Calvinism: Containing an Examination of the Bishop of Lincoln’s Work, Entitled a “Refutation of Calvinism,” (London: Printed for and sold by James Black, 1812), 192-194. [Some spelling Americanized; underlining mine.]


[Note: For this second comment, the proper focus here is not Williams’ essay or even the immediate comments, but the footnote. The immediate context is included for the sake of context, as Williams represents Calvin as being in agreement with Willam’s view of the Offer of the Gospel in relation to the atonement. The reader should peruse the Calvin file for the translations of the Latin of Calvin (below). The concluding sentence from Williams is one long run-on sentence. For the sake of brevity, I have truncated it at a point wherein the sense is not affected. Lastly, a brief biography of Williams is included following the footnotes.]


7. The mediatorship, atonement and merits of Christ, are the foundation of all gospel offers; and the rectoral designation of them extends to all human characters on earth: but the suretyship of Christ, the exertion of his power, and the application of his grace, is the foundation of justification, regeneration, sanctification, and perseverance; and the decretive designation of them extends only to persons who eventually love GOD and enjoy heaven; the chosen, the called, the faithful. Every new-covenant blessing, flows through the mediation and merits of Christ; when therefore overtures of pardon and reconciliation, righteousness and peace, are made to sinners as such, and not merely to elect sinners, can the consequence be avoided, that the blessings, purchased by the death of Christ, are rectorally designed for them? Must not the provision be equally extensive with the overture? Is the proposal made, delusive or real? If the latter, must not the advantages proposed be the purchase of the mediator? Or is the overture made founded on the foreseen aversion of the sinner to the thing proposed, and the certainty of a refusal if left in the hand of his own counsel? And then the proposal would be hypothetical; thus: If you perform, what it is certain you will not, you shall be saved. That is, if you believe a falsehood, that there is provision made for sinners, as such, when, on the supposition, there is provision only far elect sinners, which election cannot be known as a qualification for believing, GOD is willing to bestow pardon! But is such a proposal worthy of the great Supreme, or better than delusive?–We conclude, therefore, that the rectoral design of the death of Christ (whatever higher speciality there is in it) extends to all the human race1; not merely to those who have been, or actually shall be but also such as may be evangelized or discipled–that is, all the nations, past, present, and future…    Edward Williams, An Essay on the Equity of Divine Government and the Sovereignty of Divine Grace (London: Published by J. Burditt, Paternoster Row, 1899), 107-109 [Pagination irregular.]


1That illustrious reformer and admirable writer, CALVIN, has treated much of predestination and the doctrines of special grace; but though his works consist of nine volumes folio, I do not think that there is one sentence in them all that militates against the above representation; and in many places he expresses himself in a a manner that abundantly justifies it, particularly his comments on several passages of the New Testament. To instance only the following: Matt. xxvi. 8. “Sub multorum nomine non partem mundi tantum desgnat, fed totum humanum genus.–Rom. v. 18. Etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi, atque omnibus inidifferenter Dei benignitate offertur, non tamen appehendunt.”


Williams, Edward, 1750-1813, a dissenting minister and author, was born at Glanclwyd, near Denbigh, and completed his education at the Dissenters’ Academy, Abergavenny. In 1775, he settled at Ross, in Herefordshire, removing, in 1777, to Oswestry, and in 1792, to Carr’s Lane Birmingham. In 1795, he accepted an invitation to superintend the Independent Academy at Rotherham. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the University of Edinburgh in 1792. He was the author of several works on religious subjects, among them being: A Reply to Mr. Abraham, in two volumes ; An Abridgment of Dr. Owen’s Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, four volumes ; An Essay on the Equity of Divine Government and the Sovereignty of the Divine Grace, 1813 ; A Discourse on the Christian’s Reasons for glorying in the Cross of Christ, 1792. His Works, edited by Evan Daviea, in four volumes, appeared in 1862. As a theologian, and especially as a controversial theologian, he brought to his task acuteness of perception, varied and accurate research, solid learning, and a love of truth which prevented him from aiming at victory for its own sake. Dr. Angus, in The Handbook of English Literature, describes him as “one of the clearest and most original thinkers” of his generation. (Dict. Em. W.; Cardiff Catalogue.) See Y Beirniad, 1863, p. 297; Methodistiaeth Cymru, v. 3, p. 136; Dict. Nat. Biog.; Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol Cymru; Cathrall’s History of Oswestry; The Fathers and Founders of the London Missionary Society, by John Morrison, D.D., p. 427.

Credit to Tony

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I have updated the Williams file on Calvin on the extent of the Redemption. See entry #1.

Williams is another early pre-Barthian commentator who recognized Calvin’s actual position on the extent of the Redemption, which, in effect, falsifies the claim that Barth’s thesis (along with any other like concurring 20th century interpretations) can be described as a “New Perspective on Calvin,” as per Thomas Wenger.

May 6th, 2009 at 8:02 am