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An interesting early commentary on Calvin’s view of the atonement.

December 11, 2007

An interesting early commentary on Calvin’s view of the atonement.

Background information. The following is an extract from Andrew Willet’s Synopsis Papismi. In this work Willet responds to a Frier Feuardentius. This Friar apparently tried to use Calvin to prove his own position. Willet is countering that attempt. So what is interesting is his reading of Calvin, as having taught that Christ bore all the kinds of the sins due to the reprobate. What is also fascinating is the chosen Calvin text (below).

Fourthly, Feuardentius slanders Calvin, as though he should say, Christum omnia reprobis & damatis debita supplica pertuliffe: That Christ did bear all the punishments due unto the reprobate: p. 443. And thereupon infers, that these four are punishments of the reprobate: 1. That they shall forever want the vision or sight of God. 2. They shall for ever be perplexed with the horror of a guilty conscience. 3. By their own fault, they are deprived of the gifts of the spirit. 4. Instead of virtues, they are defiled with all wickedness: p. 446.447. He would by Calvin’s sentence force all these upon Christ.

Contra 1. Though in some sense Christ may be said to have suffered the pains of the damned, though not all, nor in the manner, as they suffer them; yet, because the Scripture so speaks not, I could wish, for fear of offence; that such phrases had been forborne: that neither the adversary should have caught any advantage thereby, no the weak conscience taken offence.

2. That Christ nothwisthand did bear some punishments due unto the reprobate, as desertion for a while dereliction, the Scriptures (we see) do warrant it.

3. Whereas Calvin says: Vt dependeret omnes, queab illis exptendaeerant poeas, &c., that he might pay all punishments to be required of them: Institut. lib. 2.c.16.sect10. he means, as Augustine in the like case expounds the world (omnis, omnia) not singula generum, but genera singularum, not ever pain in particular, but in general: as buy all punishments, the kinds of all punishments are understood, that is in the body, and soul, though not every particular punishment in the body.

4. Calvin himself excepted the manner: Excepto, quod deloribus mortis, &c. It must be excepted that Christ could not be held in the sorrows of death, as the reprobate are: ibid. The punishment then, which Christ did bear, and the reprobate suffer, differ in the perpetuity: wherefore the Frier impudently does object to the two first punishments produced, which do include a continuance and perpetuity forever.

5. Calvin according to the Scriptures professes, that Christ in all his actions and punishments was immaculate and without sin: such punishments then of the reprobate, as are not suffered without sin, of the which sort are the two last rehearsed, Christ by the sentence of Calvin is to be freed: so then none of those four punishments can be fastened upon Christ, in Calvin’s judgement: so that the Frier is ent away here with a flea in his ear.

Andrew Willet,  Synopsis Papismi, (London: Felix Kyngson, for Thomas Man, and are to be sold by Henry Fetherston, dwelling at the Signe of the Rose in Pauls Church-yard, 1614), 1081. [underlining mine]

The Battles’ English is:

10. THE “DESCENT INTO HELL” AS AN EXPRESSION OF THE SPIRITUAL TORMENT THAT CHRIST UNDERWENT FOR US

But we must seek a surer explanation, apart from the Creed, of Christ’s descent into hell. The explanation given to us in God’s Word is not only holy and pious, but also full of wonderful consolation. If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No — it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death. A little while ago we referred to the prophet’s statement that “the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him,” “he was wounded for our transgressions” by the Father, “he was bruised for our infirmities” [Isaiah 53:5 p.]. By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge — submitting himself even as the accusedto bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained. All — with this one exception: “He could not be held by the pangs of death” [Acts 2:24 p.]. No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that, God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked! Those who — on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it — say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man. 2.16.10.

The Latin is:

10. Verum de Christi descensu ad inferos,seposita ratione symboli, certior expositio quaerenda est. Et nobis ex Dei verbo constat, non modo sancta et pia, sed plena quoque eximiae consolationis. Nihil actum erat si corporea tantum morte defunctus fuisset Christus; sed operae simul pretium erat ut divinae ultionis severitatem sentiret: quo et irae ipsius intercederet, et satisfaceret iusto iudicio. Unde etiam eum oportuit cum inferorum copiis aeternaeque mortis horrore, quasi consertis manibus, luctari. Correctionem pacis nostrae illi impositam fuisse ex propheta (Ies. 53, 5) nuper retulimus, fuisse propter scelera nostra a patre percussum,attritum propter nostras infirmitates. Quibus significat, in locum sceleratorum sponsorem, vadem, adeoque instar rei submissum, qui dependeret ac persolveret omnes, quae ab illis expetendae erant, poenas; uno hoc duntaxat excepto, quod doloribus mortis non poterat detineri (Act. 2, 24). Ergo si ad inferos descendisse dicitur, nihil mirum est, quum eam mortem pertulerit, quae sceleratis abirato Deo infligitur. Ac nimis frivola, adeoque ridicula est eorum exceptio, qui dicunt hoc modo perverti ordinem: quia absurdum est sepulturae subiici quod praecessit lain Ubi enim quae in hominum conspectu passus est Christus exposita fuerunt, opportune subiicitur invisibile illud et incomprehensibile iudicium quod coram Deo sustinuit: ut sciamus non modo corpus Christi in pretium redemptionis fuisse traditum; sed aliud maius et excellentius pretium fuisse, quod diros in anima cruciatus damnati ac perditi hominis pertulerit.

What struck me is a couple of things, 1) the fact that these two were both reading this reference in Calvin, regarding the ones accursed, as referring to the reprobate, and 2) Willet’s concession–as it looks to me–that Calvin did hold
that Christ was punished for all the kinds of sins due to the
reprobate. This gets us into some complex stuff, but it is a start.

David

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