OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST
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THE PRICE HE PAID, AND THE PURCHASE HE MADE; OR THE SATISFACTION AND MERIT OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST CLEARED; THE UNIVERSALITY OF REDEMPTION THEREBY OPPUGNED; AND THE DOCTRINE CONCERNING THESE THINGS, FORMERLY DELIVERED IN A TREATISE AGAINST UNIVERSAL REDEMPTION, VINDICATED FROM THE EXCEPTIONS AND OBJECTIONS OR MR R[ICHARD] B[AXTER.] PREFATORY NOTE.
THIS reply to the animadversions of Baxter on the preceding treatise was prepared by Owen while he was busily occupied in Dublin with arranging the affairs of Trinity College, — the work for which he had been taken to Ireland by Cromwell. It may be viewed simply as an appendix to the important treatise which it vindicates; and it discusses several points, such as the nature of the payment made by Christ, the penalty undergone by him, the condition of believers antecedent to the death of Christ and to their own faith in Christ, etc., — questions on which momentous issues hang, if treated in relation to Socinianism, or even to certain equivocal views of Grotius, but which savor much of a logomachy, as the subject of dispute between Owen and Baxter.
The animadversions of Baxter, to which the following treatise is an answer, appeared at the close of his “Aphorisms on Justification;” to which some interest attaches, as the first of the voluminous publications of Baxter, which have been computed to amount to mere than double all the manifold and lengthened productions of his antagonist, Owen! Baxter’s second appearance in this controversy was in his “Confession of Faith,” 1655. In this work he accuses our author most unjustly of Antinomianism; and it is remarkable that while he persists in condemning Owen’s work against universal redemption, he declares, nevertheless, “In the article of the extent of redemption, wherein I am most suspected and accused, I do subscribe to the Synod of Dort, without any exception, limitation, or exposition of any word as doubtful and obscure.” It may seem difficult to reconcile this statement with his opposition to the sentiments of Owen.
The latter replied in an appendix to his “Vindiciae Evangelicae;” and the dispute closed with a final reply from Baxter, appended to a work which he published against Mr Blacke, entitled, “Certain Disputations of Right to the Sacraments, and the True Nature of Visible Christianity,” 1656.
There is a feeling of pain in perusing the record of such disputes between men who held so much of precious truth in common, — who had both higher work on hand against common enemies, — men at one, doubtless, in all the sympathies of genuine faith and spiritual brotherhood, and now for ever at one in the songs and services of heaven. Good will spring from all the evil of these keen debates, if we can hold with a firmer grasp the truth which they may have been overruled to elicit and establish; and though a spirit of pugnacity appears in the conduct of Baxter, how few share his candor and modesty in the subsequent acknowledgment which he made, that he had been imprudent and incautious in meddling on this occasion with Owen.
TO THE READER.
OF all the controversies wherewith the disciples of Christ, through the craft of Satan, and their own knowing but in part, have in several ages been exercised, there have been none of so great weight and importance, upon all considerations whatever, as those which immediately concern the person and grace of Him by whose name they are called. As his person was almost the sole subject of contest (of any moment) for the space of many ages succeeding his converse in the flesh with the sons of men; so in these latter days, through the darkness of their own spirits and the seducements of the spirit of darkness, many in an especial manner do draw forth a variety of uncouth thoughts concerning his grace, and the dispensation of the love of God towards mankind in him. Yet have not these things been so distinctly managed, but that as they of old, with their oppositions to his person, did also labor to decry and disannul the work of his grace; so many of those who, of latter days, have been led away into dangerous misapprehensions of his grace, both as to the foundation and efficacy of it, have also wrested the things concerning his person to their own destruction.
Of those that have entangled the spirits of the men of this generation, turning aside many from the simplicity of the gospel and the truth as it is in Jesus, none have been obtruded upon the saints of God with greater confidence, nor carried out to a more unhappy issue, than such as, assisting corrupted nature to unbend itself from under the sovereignty of God, and loosening the thoughts of men’s hearts from their captivity to the obedience of the gospel, do suit the mystery of God in Christ reconciling sinners unto himself to the fleshly wisdom and reasonings of a man. It was in our hopes and expectations, not many years ago, that the Lord would graciously have turned back all those bitter streams which, issuing from the pride, unthankfulness, and wisdom of the carnal mind, had many ways attempted to overflow the doctrine of the grace of God, that bringeth salvation; but finding now, by experience, that the day of the church’s rest from persecution is the day of Satan’s main work for seducing and temptation, and that not a few are attempting once more to renew the contest of sinful, guilty, defiled nature, against the sovereign distinguishing love and effectual grace of God, it cannot but be convenient., yea necessary, that the faith once delivered to the saints be contended for and asserted from the word of truth in the like public way wherein it is opposed.
It hath been the constant practice of all persons, in all ages, who have made it their design to beget and propagate a belief of any doctrine contrary to the form of wholesome words, to begin with, and insist mainly upon, those parts of their beloved conception and offspring which seem to be most beautiful and taking, for the turning aside of poor, weak, unlearned, and unstable souls; knowing full well that their judgments and attention being once engaged, such is the frame of men’s spirits under delusion, they will choose rather to swallow down all that follows than to discharge themselves of what they have already received. Upon this account, those who of late days have themselves drunk large draughts of the very dregs of Pelagianism, do hold out at first only a desire to be pledged in a taste of the universality of the merit of Christ for the redemption (or rather something else, well I wot not what) of all and every man. Finding this rendered plausible from some general expressions in the word seeming to cast an eye of favor that way, in the light wherein they stand, as also to be a fit subject for them to varnish over and deck up, with loose, ambiguous, rhetorical expressions, they attempt with all their might to get entertainment for it, knowing that those who shall receive it may well call it Gad, being sent before only to take up quarters for the troop that follows.
To obviate this evil, which, being thus planted and watered through other subtleties and advantages, hath received no small increase, I have once and again cast in my mite into the treasury of that rich provision which the Lord hath enabled many men of eminent learning and piety to draw forth from the inexhaustible storehouse of divine truth, and to prepare it for the use of the saints.
In one of those treatises, having at large handled the several concernments of the death of Christ, as to the satisfaction and merit thereof, in their nature and tendency, as well as their object and extent, and finding some opposition made to sundry truths therein delivered, I have attempted, through the assistance of grace, to vindicate them from that opposition in this ensuing discourse, as also taken occasion to hold forth sundry other things of weight and importance; of all which you have an account given in the first chapters thereof, whither I remit the reader.
Since not only the complete finishing of this treatise under my hand, which is now about five months ago, but also the printing of some part of it, the two dissertations of Dr Davenant, of the Death of Christ, and of Predestination and Reprobation, were set forth; in both which, especially the former, there are sundry assertions, positions, and theses, differing from what is delivered in the ensuing treatise, and, as I suppose, repugnant unto truth itself. The whole of those persuasions, I confess, which he endeavoreth in them to maintain, is suited to the expressions of sundry learned men, as Austin, Hilary, Fulgentius, Prosper, who in their generations deserved exceeding well of the church of God; but that it is free from opposition to the Scripture, or indeed self-contradiction, is not so apparent. Yea, through the patience and goodness of God, I undertake to demonstrate that the main foundation of his whole dissertation about the death of Christ, with many inferences from thence, are neither found in, nor founded on the word; but that the several parts thereof are mutually conflicting and destructive of each other, to the great prejudice of the truth therein contained.
It is a thing of the saddest consideration possible, that wise and learned men should once suppose, by tempering the truths of God so that they may be suited to the self-indulgency of unsubdued carnal affections, to give any luster to them, or in the least to remove that scandal and offense which the fleshly-minded ( Romans 8:7.) doth take continually at those ways of God which are far above out of his sight. That this is the grand design of such undertakings as that of the learned bishop now mentioned, even to force the mysteries of the gospel to a condescension and suitableness unto the unpurged relics of the wisdom of nature, when all other thoughts ought to be captivated to the obedience thereof, is to me most apparent. Whence else should it proceed that so many unscriptural distinctions of the various intentions of God in the business of redemption, with the holding out, for the confirmation of one part of their opinion, — namely, “That Christ died for all and every one in such a sense,” — those very arguments which the most that own the truth of their inferences do employ merely against the latter part of their opinion, — namely, “In some sense he died only for the elect,” — with sundry inextricable entanglements, should fill up both the pages of their discourses?
It is no way clear to me what glory redoundeth to the grace of God, what exaltation is given to the death of Christ, what encouragement to sinners in the things of God, by maintaining that our Savior, in the intention and the designment of his Father, died for the redemption of millions for whom he purchased not one dram of saving grace, and concerning whom it was the purpose of God from eternity not to make out unto them effectually any of those means for a participation in the fruits of his death, without which it is impossible but it should be useless and unprofitable unto them; and yet this is the main design of that Dissertation concerning the Death of Christ. What in that and the ensuing discourse is argued and contended for according to the mind of God we thankfully accept; and had it not been condited with the unsavory salt of human wisdom, it had been exceeding acceptable, especially at this time: for that there are some more than ordinary endeavors for the supportment and re-enforcing of the almost conclamated cause of Arminianism f279 ready to be handed unto public view is commonly reported and believed; concerning which, also, many swelling words (of which there lies great abundance on every side) are daily vented, as of some unparalleled product of truth and industry, as though “Nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale,” for the most part by such as are utterly ignorant how far these controversies haw been sifted, and to what issue they have been driven long ago.
For my part, as I have not as yet of late heard or read any thing of this kind, either from public disputes or in printed sheets, but only long-sinceexploded sophisms, inconsequent consequences, weak objections, fully, soundly answered many a day since; nor, by the taste which I have already received, have I any reason to expect, from the great endeavors which are entering the city of God with “Io triumphe,” any thing beyond fruitless attempts to varnish over with plausible appearances formerlydecried invectives and reasonings, whose deformity and nakedness have been often discovered, to the loathing of them by the saints of God: so I no way doubt but that the Lord, whose truth is precious to him, will continue to pour out, from the rich provision which he hath made for the use of his church, and laid up in the Lord Jesus, suitable gifts and abilities against all opposition whereunto, by the craft of Satan, it is exposed. I shall say no more, though occasion be administered to deplore that success which the spirit of seduction, that is gone out in this hour of temptation, hath had in prevailing upon them that live in the earth to turn away their minds from sound doctrine and the form of wholesome words. Only, I desire to commend the reader unto those two apostolical cautions, — one, 1 Timothy 1:18,19; the other, 1 Timothy 6:20, — and so commit him to the grace of God. J.O.
May 15th, [1650.]