Having considered Baron’s views in some detail, we are better prepared to reflect upon where his teachings lay on the map of theological opinions current in his day. Some preliminary comments are in order regarding the terms employed to properly situate the doctrine of Baron and his contemporaries.

As intimated in the introduction to this essay, I believe that meaningful assessment of Baron’s doctrine and placement of the same in relation to his contemporaries has, in the past, been crippled by over-reliance on the labels ‘Calvinist’ and ‘Arminian’ to name the theologies of seventeenth-century Scottish divines. The problems inherent to the use of these terms are several. Taken on its own the term ‘Calvinist’ perpetuates the myth that Reformed theology, in Scotland or elsewhere, was a monolithic reality which looked to Calvin’s teaching as the sole or principal standard of orthodoxy. That myth, in turn, tends to underwrite charges against later Reformed thinkers for departing from the standard on this or that matter; thus narratives pitting the ‘Calvinists’, or at least some of them, against Calvin are constructed–typically towards the end of promoting some present day doctrinal antidote to everything that went wrong in the Reformed theological tradition–while the fact that strict conformity to Calvin’s doctrine was no Reformed thinker’s goal is overlooked.85

Coupled with its would-be antonym ‘Arminian’, the label ‘Calvinist’ assumes other problems. If taken to denote adherence to Calvin’s or Arminius’s precise teachings, these terms prove to be rather too restrictive to capture the diversity of orthodox, or even heterodox, views that existed in Reformed settings on any given theological subject. More often, of course, the terms are used as something like sloppy synonyms for ‘Reformed’ and ‘Remonstrant’, but then they foster the anachronistic tendency to project later, more developed theological concepts and notions on to Calvin and Arminius respectively. Indeed, the ‘looser’ the labels ‘Calvinist’ and ‘Arminian’ become, the more susceptible Calvin and Arminius become to misrepresentation.

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From within the early modern period authors identify several major positions on the extent of Christ’s satisfaction. John Ball (1585- 1640) acknowledges only two chief positions, covering Remonstrant and Reformed views; the Remonstrants hold that Christ "died for all and every man with a purpose to save," and the latter "distinguish the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s death."73 Francis Turretin first acknowledges, "Though all agree that Christ died for each and everyone, still they do not explain their meaning in the same way."74 He then delineates three different major classes, those who argue that Christ conditionally died for all and absolutely died only for the elect, those who claim that Christ died absolutely for all, and the "common opinion of the Reformed" that Christ died only for the elect.75 In this threefold classification Turretin has in mind the views of John Cameron (ca. 1579-1625) and Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) for the first view, the Remonstrants for the second, and the Reformed for the third. John Davenant (1572-1641), in his treatise on the death of Christ, notes that the church fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages contended that Christ died sufficiently for all, but efficiently, or effectually, for only the elect. Davenant points out that the doctors of the Reformed church from the beginning of the Reformation embraced this common sufficient-efficient theological distinction.76

Davenant points to several Reformed theologians to illustrate this claim, including Bullinger, Aretius, Musculus, and Zanchi. Heinrich Bullinger states quite simply: "The Lord died for all: but all are not partakers of this redemption, through their own fault. Otherwise the Lord excludes no one but him who excludes himself by his own unbelief and faithlessness."77 Benedict Aretius (1505-1574) says, "Christ died for all, yet notwithstanding all do not embrace the benefit of his death, because by their own wickedness, and the corruption of their nature, they despise the offered grace."78 Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) likewise offers, ‘We know that all be not partakers of this redemption, but yet the losse of them which be not saved, doth hinder nothing at all, why it shoulde not be called an universal redemption, whiche is appointed not for one nation, but for all the whole world."79 And Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) also holds to the universality of the satisfaction of Christ: "That it is not false that Christ died for all men as it regards his conditional will, that is, if they are willing to become partakers of his death through faith. For the death of Christ is set before all in the Gospel, and no one is excluded from it, but he who excludes himself."80 All of these Reformed theologians argue that in some sense Christ died for all. So the question arises, how do Reformed theologians relate the satisfaction of Christ to the redemption of the elect?

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The doctrine of Davenant and a number of other Anglican divines represents a strand of historic hypothetical universalism, which developed in England independently of, and earlier than, the Amyraldian version. Although it informed theological debate in the early-modern period of English theology, it was not censured in synods and was not repudiated by the major post-Reformation symbol of Great Britain after the Articles of Religion, namely, the Westminster Confession.12 This is significant, given the influence of the Westminster Confession in subsequent Presbyterianism as a subordinate doctrinal standard, Chapter 8.5, of the Confession, entitled “Of Christ the Mediator,” states,

The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, bur an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for those whom the Father has given unto Him.

But this is commensurate with hypothetical universalism, because one could claim that Christ’s work is sufficient for the world but efficacious for only “those whom the Father has given” to Christ. Section 8 of the same chapter reads,

To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them. and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His word and Spirit.13

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In fact, hypothetical universalism has never been repudiated by a Reformed synod or council. The French theologians of the Academy of Saumur, where one version of the doctrine flourished in the seventeenth century, were never formally condemned for their views on this matter.6 The only confessional symbol that does take issue with hypothetical universalism in its Saumurian guise is the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675). But this is a late document, written m large part by the Swiss theologian Johann Heinrich Heidegger, and its influence was short-lived.7 It is not a subordinate standard for any Reformed communion, and even in its criticism of the doctrine does not label it heretical. It is not beyond the bounds of confessional orthodoxy in the Reformed tradition. In this way, it is quite different from, say, the Remonstrant doctrines that called for the condemnations of the Synod of Dort. The Three Forms of Unity–the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort–as well as the Anglican Articles of Religion, which do have the status of subordinate standards or confessions for many Reformed and Anglican communions, are consistent with hypothetical universalism.8

Of these symbols, the condemnations of Dort have the most pointed things to say about the scope of Christ’s atonement. However, and contrary to some popular presentations on the matter, there is no good reason to think that Dort affirmed a doctrine of atonement that excludes hypothetical universalism, In fact, some of the most prominent delegates at the synod, including the German Reformed Martinius, and several members of the British delegation, including its leader, Bishop John Davenant, were in favor of hypothetical universalism.9 This can be seen in the relevant article of the synod, 2.8, "Christ’s Death and Human Redemption through It," which deals with the scope of the atonement thus:

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God’s will that Christ should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.10

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Mitchell and Struthers:

Section VII. The latter is quite as guarded as the language used by Ussher in his Method of the Christian Religion;1 and, as I have already stated, it was drawn up by a committee of which the cautious Reynolds had charge. The former was the least that could be expected in a Synod over which Dr. Twisse presided. But it is remarkable that, though the Assembly met after the Synod of Dort, and had for its president one whose opinions on these mysterious subjects were almost as pronounced as those of Gomarus himself, it fell back not on the decrees of that Synod, but on the Articles of the Irish Church, which had been drawn up before the Synod of Dort was summoned, or the controversies its decrees occasioned had waxed so fierce. The debates of the Assembly clearly show that its members did not wish to determine several particulars decided by the Synod of Dort, far less to determine them more rigidly than it had done. They even intentionally left open one point which the Irish divines thought fit to determine. They spoke indifferently of the “decree” and of the “decrees” of God, while the Irish divines speak of only one and “the same decree”; and from the notes of their debates given below,2 it will be seen that this was done because all were not agreed upon the point, and in order that every one might enjoy his own sense! The same care was taken to avoid the insertion of anything which could be regarded as indicating a preference for supralapsarianism;3 and for this purpose, the words, “to bring this to pass, God ordained to permit man to fall,” were changed into “they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ” etc. Did these divines mean to follow an opposite policy in regard to the point on which Calamy, Arrowsmith, Vines, Seaman, and other disciples of Davenant, or according to Baillie of Amyraut, differed from the more exact Calvinists? After repeated perusal of their debates, I cannot take upon myself certainly to affirm that they did, though I admit that this matter is not so clear as the others above referred to. No notes of the debate in its latest stage are given, nor is. any vote or dissent respecting it found in these Minutes. Calamy, who spoke repeatedly in the debate on the Extent of Redemption, avowed that he held, in the same sense as the English divines at the Synod of Dort,4that Christ by his death did pay a price for all, with absolute intention for the elect, with conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe; that all men should be salvabiles non obstante lapsu Adami . . . ; that Jesus Christ did not only die sufficiently for all, but God did intend, in giving of Christ, and Christ in giving himself did intend, to put all men in a state of salvation in case they do believe.” Seaman, Vines, Marshall, and Harris in part at least, agreed with him.5 And though I cannot find that Dr. Arrowsmith took part in this debate, yet he was attending the Assembly, was a member of the Committee on the Confession, and in his writings has repeatedly expressed his leaning towards the same opinion.6 In the progress of the debate, the proposition that Christ redeemed the elect only, was exchanged for this other, that Christ did intend to redeem the elect only. The final decision of the Assembly, as has just been stated, is not inserted in these Minutes; and though at first sight it may not seem easy to reconcile the opinions of these divines with the language of the sixth section of this chapter of the Confession, it would be rash for me to say it is impossible. They certainly did not succeed in getting any positive approbation of their opinions inserted; but it is just possible that the language of this section may have been so arranged, that they felt warranted in accepting it as not positively condemning them. Those who in modern times have pronounced most confidently that the more restricted view is exclusively intended, seem to me to have unconsciously construed or interpreted the words, “neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect onlyas if they had run, “neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, or justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” But these two statements do not necessarily bear the same meaning. Calamy, Arrowsmith, and the others who agreed with them, may have felt justified in accepting the former, though they might have scrupled to accept the latter.7

It may be argued, however (and it is better to advert to it here), that even if the opinions of these divines were not positively excluded by the language of this section, they must be held to be so by that used in chap. viii. sec. 8: “To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption he doth certainly and effectually communicate and apply the same.” It is quite possible that, in the progress of the debate, they may have yielded somewhat, especially after having secured, in chap. vii. sec. 3, words sufficient to guard the truth they were mainly anxious to conserve, that under the covenant of grace, and by the preaching of the gospel, the Lord “freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved.” Besides, they had admitted (p. 159) a distinction between the propositum morientis and the meritum mortis. Still, it is also just possible that they may have accepted the words “purchased redemption,” in the eighth chapter, as Baxter was willing to do, not of every fruit of Christ’s death, but of “that special redemption proper to the elect,” “which was accompanied with an intention of actual application of the saving benefits in time.” Ussher and some of his immediate disciples, of whose own position there seems to be little doubt, appear occasionally to have used the phrase in the same sense,8 and speak of the differences between Spanheim and Amyraut, the representatives of the two continental Calvinistic schools, as parerga quædam, which should not alienate those who in common rejected Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism.9 Dr. Ames, again, who himself belonged to the stricter school, and who may be regarded as in fact one of the English Puritans, maintains that the chief cardo controversiæ between Remonstrants and Contra- Remonstrants was not an pro omnibus et singulis mortuus sit Christus? sed quis finis et fructus sit Christi in cis pro quibus est mortuus, not whether he died for all in some way, but whether he died for all equally, and whether the end and fruit of his doing so was merely to remove legal obstacles, and render salvation possible; or whether it did not also secure the salvation of a certain definite number, and that not a small, but large, number of our lost race.10 But at any rate, the adoption of the eighth paragraph in chap. viii. of the Confession did not end the contest between the divines, and set them altogether at one. These Minutes show that, when the Larger Catechism was being prepared, another effort was made by the representatives of the Davenant school to get their opinions distinctly sanctioned and positively expressed in that formulary. A committee, apparently of English members only, prepared and brought up for discussion (p. 369) the following questions and answers:–“Q. Do all men equally partake of the benefits of Christ?–A. Although from Christ some common favours redound to all mankind, and some special privileges to the visible Church, yet none partake of the principal benefits of His mediation but only such as are members of the Church invisible. Q. What common favors redound from Christ to all mankind?–A. Besides much forbearance and many supplies for this life, which all mankind receive from Christ as Lord of all, they by him are made capable of having salvation tendered to them by the gospel, and are under such dispensations of Providence and operations of the Spirit as lead to repentance.”11 These questions and answers were first agreed to be discussed, and then referred back to a Committee with which the Scotch Commissioners were associated. The questions and answers adopted in session 873 (pp. 392, 393) are probably to be regarded as their report; and the answer to the question, Are all they saved by Christ who live within the visible Church and hear the gospel? wears the look of an attempted compromise, admitting on the one side that “the gospel, where it comes, does tender salvation by Christ to all, testifying that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excludes none that come unto him;” and affirming on the other, that “none do or can truly come unto Christ, or are saved by him, but only the members of the invisible Church”’ This affirmation is warranted both by the Lambeth and the Irish Articles; but there are few nowadays who will not grant that it was more cautiously expressed in the shape in which it ultimately appeared in the answer to the sixty-eighth question of the Larger Catechism: “All the elect, and they only, are effectually called, although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word, and have some common operations of the Spirit, who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered them, being justly left to their unbelief, do never truly come to Christ.”

Alex Mitchell and John Struthers, Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1874), liii-lxi. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnote values modernized; footnote content original; italics original (Latin quotations excepted); and underlining mine.]

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