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Edward D. Griffin (1770-1837) on the Bremen delegates at Dort and their advocacy of classic Calvinist categories

October 30, 2007

Griffin:

Matthias Martinius, one of the delegates from Bremen, says, “There is in God a certain common love to man with which he regarded the whole lapsed human race, and seriously willed the salvation of all. The exercise of this love to man appears in the outward call to the elect and reprobate without distinction.—In this call are to be distinguished these things: the historical narrative concerning Christ, the command to believe, the interdiction of unbelief, the promise of eternal life made to believers, the threatening of damnation to the unbelieving. And if any one does not believe, the issue of this call is condemnation, and expressly for this reason, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3: 18.) But this issue in itself is not intended by God, but follows by accident through the fault of man. —Moreover, this outward call — necessarily requires antecedent to itself these things; the promise and mission of the Son (formerly future, now past), and redemption, that is, the payment of a price to atone for sins, and God rendered so placable as to require no other sacrifice for the sins of any man, content with this only most perfect one, and that for the reconciliation of men there be no need of any other satisfaction, any other merit for them, provided (what in remedies must be done) there be an application of this common and salutary medicine. If this redemption is not supposed to be a common blessing bestowed on all men, the indiscriminate and promiscuous preaching of the gospel, committed to the apostles to be exercised among all nations, will have no foundation in truth. But since we abhor to say this, it ought to be seen to how their assertions agree with the most known and lucid principles, who unqualifiedly deny that Christ died for all. Nor here will it be enough to assert such a sufficiency of redemption as could be enough; but it is altogether such as is enough, and such as God and Christ have considered enough. For otherwise the gospel command and promise are destroyed. For how from a benefit, sufficient indeed, but not designed for me by a sincere intention, can the necessity of believing that it belongs to me be deduced? What, then, shall we call this redemption? This redemption is in the new world what creation is in the old: to wit, as the creation of man is not the image of God, but is that foundation without which the image of God could not have place in him; so, also, redemption is no part of the image of God, but is that in which is founded the whole exercise of the prophetic and kingly offices of Christ, and his priestly intercession. But care must be taken not to carry this comparison too far. This redemption is the payment of a price due for us captives, not that we should go forth from captivity at all events, but that we should be able and be bound to go forth; and in fact we should go forth if we would believe in the Redeemer, acknowledge his benefit, and thoroughly become members of him as the Head. And, therefore, upon whatever man we fall, to him we are the messengers and publishers of this salutary grace (saving, however, to believers only), from the very office of piety and charity.” “The Lord even merited grace for all men; but not for all men that grace which depends on particular election. What then? That which is promised on condition of faith. For certainly to all men is promised remission of sins and eternal life if they believe. Here, therefore, it appears that a conditional remission of sins and salvation belong to all, but not a promise to give strength and excite the actions by which that condition is fulfilled. For these things men are bound by the power of a divine command to perform themselves; and they who are not able to do this, are not able through their own fault.” “Christ merited the favor of God for all, to be actually obtained if they believe. — This his favor God declares in common in the word of the gospel.” Christ died for all in regard to the merit and sufficiency of the ransom, for believers only in regard to the application and efficacy. In support of which very sentiment many testimonies of the fathers and schoolmen, and more recent doctors of the church, can be cited when there is need.” “He who despises the offering of Christ made on the cross loses all the right which he might have had in it, and thereby aggravates damnation to himself: — and the gospel, which in itself is a savor of life unto life, becomes to the unbelieving a savor of death unto death, by accident, through their own fault.” Among the propositions which Martinius pronounces false are the following: “Christ died in no sense for them that perish;” and, “The decree of particular election or reprobation of certain persons, cannot consist with the universality of Christ’s death.”* [footnote * Acts of Synod, Part II. p. 133-139.]

Henry Isselburg, another delegate from Bremen, says, “Such is the worth and virtue of the passion, death, and merit of Christ, that, by itself and in its own nature, it is abundantly sufficient to atone for and take away all the sins of all men, and to obtain and confer on all and each, without exception, reconciliation with God, grace, righteousness, and eternal life. And therefore the remedy of sin and death, our Lord Jesus Christ, is proposed and offered by the preaching of the gospel, not to certain persons only, or to those alone who are to be saved, but to the elect and reprobate indiscriminately; and all without distinction are invited to a participation or fruition of it, and to eternal life thereby; and all and each are sincerely and seriously commanded to believe in Christ, to live to him, and to come to the acknowledgment of the truth; and they who do not believe in the name of the Son of God are justly condemned. In this sense Christ is rightly said to have died sufficiently for all, as all who believe in him and seek his aid are able and bound to obtain reconciliation, remission of sins, and the inheritance of eternal life; as the sins of no mortal are so great that the sacrifice of Christ cannot suffice to atone for them; as not one of the human race is alien from him in the same sense and degree that Satan and the evil angels are. And this is the will and intention of God from eternity, that the death of Christ should be sufficient for all in such a sense and degree, that God can require no other sacrifice or satisfaction for the sins of men but that one alone, to atone for every evil (permanent impenitence and the sin against the Holy Ghost excepted); and on the other hand, that he may account and esteem it in the highest degree sufficient to merit every salutary good, and that there may be no need of any other merit for men. Wherefore no one of the reprobate can be condemned and perish for want of the death of Christ, or because there was not in him a sufficient remedy against destruction, but each one through his own fault entirely.”* [footnote * Acts of Synod, Part II. p. 141, 142.]

Ludovicus Crocius, the other delegate from Bremen, says, “So great is the worth, price, power, value, and sufficiency of the death of Christ, that it wants nothing at all to the purpose of meriting, acquiring, and obtaining reconciliation with God and remission of sins for all men and every man. It was the counsel, aim, and intention, not only of God the Father in delivering the Son to death, but of the Son also in dying, to acquire, obtain, and merit, by that most precious death and passion, for all and each of human sinners, that if they repent and believe in Christ when they become capable of instruction, they may be able to be reconciled to God and receive remission of sins. Christ having suffered and died according to his own and his Father’s counsel, did by his death and passion merit most sufficiently for all and each of human sinners, that if they only repent and believe, they may be able to be reconciled to God, or be restored to his favor and bosom. This doctrine, as being most true as being agreeable to the Scriptures, to the nature of the thing, to the confession of the church (and the church of Bremen expressly), to the better and more common sentiment of the fathers, and of the theologians both ancient and modern, is necessarily (as I believe) to be uncorruptly and sacredly retained and defended in the church of God, as well for the glory of God (which is so illustrated that his truth in calling, his equity in commanding, his justice in threatening, appear to all who seriously contemplate the Scriptures) as for the edification, growth, and consolation of the called in true faith and piety, and finally, for the salutary avoiding and refutation of divers heresies, which like rocks surround this doctrine.”* [footnote, *Acts of Synod, Part II. p. 150, 151.]

Edward D. Griffin, An Humble Attempt to Reconcile the Differences of Christians Respecting the Extent of the Atonement, (New York, Printed by Stephen Dodge, 1819), 362-367.

Credit to Tony for the find.

For confirmation of Griffin, see: Godfrey, W.R. Tensions Within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement at the Synod of Dort, 1618-1619. Ph.D diss., Stanford University, 1974; and: Thomas, G.M.,The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus, UK: Paternoster: 1997.

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