Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Owen: Is Limited Atonement Language Novel?
[A John Owen extract, from the Appendix of Death of Death: ]
Some few testimonies of the ancients.
I. The confession of the holy Church of Smyrna, a little after the commendation given it by the Holy Ghost, Rev. ii. 9, upon the martyrdom of Polycarpus:— Ὅτι οὔτε τὸν Χριστόν ποτε καταλείπειν δυνησόμεθα τὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου τῶν σωζωμένων σωτηρίας παθόντα, οὔτε ἕτερον τιμῇ σέβειν. — Euseb. Hist. Eccles., lib. iv. cap. 15. — “Neither can we ever forsake Christ, him who suffered for the salvation of the world of them that are saved, nor worship any other.”
[It is an extract from a letter of the church of Smyrna to the churches of Pontus, giving an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp.]
II. The witness of holy Ignatius, as he was carrying to Rome from Antioch, to be cast to beasts for the testimony of Jesus, Epist. ad Philad. [cap. ix., a.d. 107]: Οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα ἄγουσα ὁδός, ἡ πέτρα, ὁ φραγμός, ἡ κλείς, ὁ ποιμήν, τὸ ἱερεῖον, ἡ θύρα τῆς γνώσεως δι’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον Αβραὰμ καὶ Ἰσαὰκ καὶ Ἰακώβ, Μωσῆς, καὶ ὁ σύμπας τῶν προφητῶν χορός, καὶ οἱ στύλοι τοῦ κόσμου οἱ απόστολοι καὶ ἡ νύμφη τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὑπὲρ ἧς, φερνῆς λόγῳ, ἐξέχεε τὸ οἰκεῖον αἷμα ἵνα αὐτὴν ἐξαγοράσῃ. — “This is the way leading to the Father, this the rock, the fold, the key; he is the shepherd, the sacrifice; the door of knowledge, by which entered Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the whole company of prophets, and the pillars of the world, the apostles, and the spouse of Christ; for whom, instead of a dowry, he poured out his own blood, that he might redeem her.”
Surely Jesus Christ gives not a dowry for any but his own spouse.
III. Clemens, “whose name is in the book of life,” Phil. iv. 3, with the whole church at Rome in his days, in the epistle to the church of Corinth:— Διὰ τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔσχεν πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐν θελήματι αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν σάρκα ὑπὲρ τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπὲρ ψυχῶν ἡμῶν. — “For the love which he had unto us, he gave his blood for us, according to his purpose, and his flesh for our flesh, and his life for our lives.”
Where you have assigned, 1. The cause of Christ’s death, — his love to us; 2. The object of it, — us, or believers; 3. The manner how he redeemed us, even by commutation.
This triple testimony is taken from the very prime of undoubted antiquity.
IV. Cyprian, Epist. lxii. to Cæcilius, a holy, learned, and famous martyr, a.d. 250:— “Nos omnes portabat Christus, qui et peccata nostra portabat.” — “He bare all us, who bare our sins;” that is, he sustained their persons on the cross for whom he died.
The same to Demetrian:— “Hanc gratiam Christus impertit, subigendo mortem trophæo crucis, redimendo credentem pretio sanguinis sui.” — “This grace hath Christ communicated, subduing death in the trophy of his cross, redeeming believers with the price of his blood.”
The same, or some other ancient and pious writer of the cardinal works Christ, Serm. 7, secund. Rivet. Crit. Sac. in Cyp. [lib. ii. cap. 15] Scultet. Medul. Pat. Erasm. præfat, ad lib.
The same author also, in express terms, mentions the sufficiency of the ransom paid by Christ, arising from the dignity of his person:— “Tantæ dignitatis illa una Redemptoris nostri fuit oblatio, ut una ad tollenda mundi peccatum sufficeret.” — “Of so great dignity was the oblation of our Redeemer, that it alone was sufficient to take away the sins of the world.”
V. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cataches. xiii. [a.d. 350]:— Καὶ μὴ θαυμάσῃς εἰ κόσμος ὅλος ἐλυτρώθη, οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ψιλὸς ἀλλὰ υἱὸς Θεοῦ μονογενὴς ὁ ὑπεραποθνήσκων — καὶ εἰ τότε διὰ τὸ ξύλον τῆς βρώσεως ἐξεβλήθησαν ἐκ παραδείσου, ἆρα διὰ τὸ ξύλον Ἰησοῦ νῦν εὐκοπώτερον οἱ πιστεύοντες εἰς παράδεισον οὐκ εἰσελεύσονται; — “Wonder not if the whole world be redeemed; for he was not a mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God that died. If, then, through the eating of the tree” (forbidden) “they were cast out of paradise, certainly now by the tree” (or cross) “of Jesus shall not believers more easily enter into paradise?”
So also doth another of them make it manifest in what sense they use the word all.
VI. Athanasius, of the incarnation of the Word of God [a.d. 350]:— Οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ πάντων ζωή, καὶ ὡς πρόβατον ὑπὲρ, τῆς πάντων σωτηρίας ἀντίψυχον τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα εἰς θάνατον παραδούς. — “He is the life of all, and as a sheep he delivered his body a price for the souls of all, that they might be saved.”
All in both places can be none but the elect; as, —
VII. Ambrose de Vocat. Gen., lib. i: cap. 3; or rather, Prosper, lib. i. cap. 9, edit. Olivar. [a.d. 370]:— “Si non credis, non descendit tibi Christus, non tibi passus est.” — “If thou believe not, Christ did not descend for thee, he did not suffer for thee.”
Ambr. de Fide ad Gratianum:— “Habet populus Dei plenitudinem suam. In electis enim et præscitis, atque ab omnium generalitate discretis, specialis quædam censetur universitas, ut de toto mundo totus mundus liberatus, et de omnibus hominibus omnes homines videantur assumpti.” — “The people of God hath its own fulness. In the elect and foreknown, distinguished from the generality of all, there is accounted a certain special universality; so that the whole world seems to be delivered from the whole world, and all men to be taken out of all men.”
In which place he proceedeth at large to declare the reasons why, in this business, “all” and “the world” are so often used for “some of all sorts.”
These that follow wrote after the rising of the Pelagian heresy, which gave occasion to more diligence of search and wariness of expression than had formerly been used by some.
IX. Augustine, de Cor. et Grat. cap. xi. [a.d. 420]:— “Per hunc Mediatorem Deus ostendit eos, quos ejus sanguine redemit, facere se ex malis in æternum bonos.” — “By him the Mediator, the Lord declareth himself to make those whom he hath redeemed with his blood, of evil, good to eternity.” “Vult possidere Christus quod emit; tanti emit ut possideat.” — “Christ will possess what he bought; he bought it with such a price that he might possess it.”
Idem, Serm. xliv. de Verbis Apost.:— “Qui nos tanto pretio emit non vult perire quos emit.” — “He that bought us with such a price will have none perish whom he hath bought.”
Idem, Tract. lxxxvii. in Johan.:— “Ecclesiam plerumque etiam ipsam mundi nomine appellat; sicut est illud, ‘Deus erat in Christo mundum reconcilians sibi;’ itemque illud, ‘Non venit Filius hominis ut judicet mundum, sed ut salvetur mundus per ipsum;’ et in epistola sua Johannes ait, ‘Advocatum habemus ad Patrem, Jesum
424Christum justum, et ipse propitiator est peecatorum nostrorum, non tantum nostrorum sed etiam totius mundi.’ Totus ergo mundus est ecclesia, et totus mundus odit ecclesiam. Mundus igitur odit mundum; inimicus reconciliatum, damnatus salvatum, inquinatus mundatum. Sed iste mundus quem Deus in Christo reconciliat sibi, et qui per Christum salvatur, de mundo electus est inimico, damnato, contaminato.” — “He often calleth the church itself by the name of the world; as in that, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;’ and that, ‘The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.’ And John in his epistle saith, ‘We have an Advocate, and he is the propitiation for [our sins, and not for ours only, but also for] the sins of the whole world.’ The whole world, therefore, is the church, and the world hateth the church. The world, then, hateth the world; that which is at enmity, the reconciled; the condemned, the saved; the polluted, the cleansed world. And that world which God in Christ reconcileth to himself, and which is saved by Christ, is chosen out of the opposite, condemned, defiled world.”
Much more to this purpose might be easily cited out of Augustine, but his judgment in these things is known to all.
IX. Prosper [a.d. 440], Respon. ad Capit. Gall. cap. ix.:— “Non est crucifixus in Christo qui non est membrum corporis Christi. Cum itaque dicatur Salvator pro totius mundi redemptione crucifixus, propter veram humanæ naturæ susceptionem, potest tamen dici pro his tantum crucifixus quibus mors ipsius profuit. Diversa ab istis sors eorum est qui inter illos censentur de quibus dicitur, ‘Mundus enim non cognovit.’ ”— “He is not crucified with Christ who is not a member of the body of Christ. When, therefore, our Saviour is said to be crucified for the redemption of the whole world, because of his true assumption of the human nature, yet may he be said to be crucified only for them unto whom his death was profitable. Diverse from these is their lot who are reckoned amongst them of whom it is said, ‘The world knew him not.’ ”
Idem, Resp. Object. Vincen. Res. i.:— “Redemptionis proprietas, haud dubie penes illos est, de quibus princeps mundi missus est foras. Mors Christi non ita impensa est humano generi, ut ad redemptionem ejus etiam qui regenerandi non erant pertinerent.” — “Doubtless the propriety of redemption is theirs from whom the prince of this world is cast out. The death of Christ is not to be so laid out for human-kind, that they also should belong unto his redemption who were not to be regenerated.”
Idem, de Ingrat., cap. ix.:—
“Sed tamen hæc aliqua sivis ratione tueri
Et credi tam stulta cupis; jam pande quid hoc sit,
Quod bonus omnipotensque Deus, non omnia subdit
Corda sibi, pariterque omnes jubet esse fideles?
Nam si nemo usquam est quem non velit esse redemptum,
Haud dubie impletur quicquid vult summa potestas.
Non omnes autem salvantur” ―
“If there be none whom God would not have redeemed, why are not all saved?”
X. Concil. Valen. can. iv.:— “Pretium mortis Christi datum est pro illis tantum quibus Dominus ipse dixit, ‘Sicut Moses exaltavit serpentem in deserto, ita exaltari oportet Filius hominis, ut omnis qui credit in ipso non pereat, sed habeat vitam eternam.’ ” — “The price of the death of Christ is given for them alone of whom the Lord himself said, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish.’ ”
EDITOR'S NOTE ON X - This was a council held at Valence in a.d. 855, and convened from the three provinces of Lyons, Vienne, and Arles. Remigius presided, five canons by a council in a.d. 853, at Chiersey, were condemned, and the cause of Godeschalcus, who had raised the controversy, was warmly supported. The canon quoted above is designed to contradict the fourth canon of the council at Chiersey, according to which “there never was, is, or will be a man for whom Christ has not died.”