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Musculus on Justifying Faith

April 16, 2008


By these and other like testimonies, it is manifest, that the same other mean whereby we do apprehend and take hold of the grace of Justification, is neither works, neither the worthiness of any quality of course, but faith in Christ, unto which our salvation and everlasting life also is attributed by many testimonies of the doctrine of the Gospel: which because we may find them everywhere, we will not allege them at this present. And they be1 to be understood not only of the historical faith, albeit that the same be requisite also, but of the same Faith, whereby in believing the promises of the Gospel, we do give up ourselves wholly, with sure trust unto Christ our Saviour and redeemer. For by this faith wherein we be joined unto Christ, we be discharged of our sins, we be delivered from the guilt of them, and we be justified and that freely by grace. Wherefore they do teach aright, which do call this faith, the sure trust, leaning to the promises of the Gospel. And we may find this in the sense of this word, not seldom, but very often in the Scriptures: where to believe is used, for to trust, and faith for trust: nor there is no other sense that does agree with this saying, when it is said faith does justify: for it is most manifest, that Justifying comes not by historical faith: for so the devil should be saved also, for he believes and doubt nothing of the history of Christ. Wherefore it must needs be, that we must understand that this saying is concerning the trust, whereby in believing we do assuredly trust in the promises of the Gospel, that we be redeemed by the blood of Christ and reconciled to God the Father. Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 547-8.

What is interesting is that earlier I posted Musculus’ defintion of the Gospel. Here it is again:

So Christian men may also most rightly call the memory of the Lord’s death. This by the way of the name of the Gospel, in what sense it was used of men heretofore.

But as concerning Christian men, this name is so passed over unto them, that it is become unto them most frequent and common, and of good right also most proper and peculiar for nothing in all the world, from the beginning therefore unto the end, befell mankind thereof unto the same which began to be told and preached in every place through the whole world under the name of Christ. That is, that mankind is redeemed by the death of the only begotten Son of God, & that the forgiveness of all men’s sins and life everlasting, is ready for all them that do believe in him. Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 337.

There are a lot of interesting theological and historical material here for the honest seeker of truth.  What is now undeniably clear is that the sort of gloss Rainbow would impose upon Calvin–that somehow its okay to pastorally say even unbelievers are redeemed, even tho he, Calvin, never theologically believed that was the case at all2–for that is clearly denied by Musculus. Earlier in his Common Places, Musculus asserts that faith only believes in things which are true.

The other interesting thing is that see how for Musculus (as it was for Zanchi) saving faith is an assurance that Christ died for me. However, this doctrine or construction was denied later in the 17th century as such knowledge can only be known by what was then called a ‘reflex act of faith.’ This denial and configuration of what faith is, further sustains the reality that there was a profound reworking of the early Reformation’s atonement doctrine.

Lastly, this also impacts the development of the later doctrine of Assurance. Post-Calvin, assurance was located in the syllogismus practicus, or the practical syllogism: the empirical and inductive syllogism a believer was to invoke in order to ground his assurance of salvation.



            1Perhaps here is a typographical error? The idea is “they are to be understood…”
            2Jonathan Rainbow, The Will of God and the Cross (Penn.: Pickwick Publications, 1990), 171.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2008 9:23 am

    That’s an interesting reference to Rainbow. Who brought that to your attention? LOL :)

  2. Flynn permalink
    April 16, 2008 9:57 am

    Yeah I cant believe I missed it. But now that I know how that it’s part of his controlling hermeneutic for Calvin, I want to expose it at every opportunity I can.

    Rainbow’s reading of almost every one in his book is clearly profoundly flawed. Not only does he have his white-hat/black-hat motif, but he actually imagines that Calvin would have his flock believe in things which are not true, to act as if something is true, all the while knowing it is not. That he actually tabled this claim as serious is just bizarre.

    Even as I think of it, I am still shaking my head in amazement.

    Thus his work is flawed at so many levels. His reading of history and the key men he surveys. His reading of Calvin on the love and will of God, as well as his reading of Calvin on the redemption.


  3. April 16, 2008 9:58 am

    Actually, what Rainbow says is this:

    Souls perishing outside the church

    There is another, smaller group of “souls perish” passages which deal, not with the visible church, but with unbelieving men at large. This group of texts poses a somewhat different issue from those discussed already.

    “However, St. Paul speaks here expressly of the saints or faithful, but this does not imply that we should not pray generally for all men. For the wretched unbelievers and the ignorant have great need to be pleaded for with God; behold them on the way to destruction. If we saw a beast at the point of perishing, we would have pity on it. And what shall we do when we see souls in peril, which are so precious before God, as he has shown in that he has redeemed them with the blood of his own Son? If we see then a poor soul going to destruction, ought we not to be moved with compassion and kindness, and should we not desire God to apply the remedy? So then, Paul’s meaning in this passage is not that we should let the wretched unbelievers alone without having any care for them. We should pray generally for all men.” Calvin, Sermon on Eph. 6:18-19, CO 51:842.

    The teaching here has certain features in common with Calvin’s teaching on apostasy. His purpose was to motivate his hearers to redemptive action toward those who need help. And he used the death of Christ for others to establish the value of their worthiness of our concern. The main difference is that here Calvin was not speaking of those within the church, but of “wretched unbelievers” outside it, people who are manifestly not Christians.

    Did Calvin mean that Christ died for every one of these wretched unbelievers? Did Calvin base his exhortation to pray for all men on the doctrine that Christ died for all individuals? Before this question can be answered, we must take some account of Calvin’s general view of the activities of Christians toward unbelievers. The most important of these activities are prayer and preaching. As in the case of church discipline and pastoral care, Calvin believed that Christian activity must be based, not on the elective decree of God (about which we have no firm knowledge in cases other than our own), but on a practical working assumption. The assumption in the case of unbelievers was one which dovetailed with the universal saving will of God revealed in preaching: God loves all sinners and wills all sinners to be saved. This, as we have seen, was not for Calvin theologically true. But it was the assumption which has to be made concerning Christian activity toward the world of men outside the church.”

    Jonathan H. Rainbow, The Will of God and The Cross (Penn.: Pickwick Publications, 1990), pp. 170-171.

    On page 171, he amazingly claims that Calvin did not think it is “theologically true” that God loves all men and wills for them to be saved. But, he says that Calvin is saying that it’s a working assumption we must make in order to live up to our Christian activity toward others and to the world at large. The assumption creates an ethical imperative (p. 173). It is on pages 172-174 that Rainbow claims that we should assume that Christ’s death extends to the unbeliever outside the church. He calls this a “judgment of charity,” as in the case of God’s love and saving will.

  4. April 16, 2008 10:01 am

    My block quote attempts didn’t quite work out since I tried a blockquote inside of a blockquote. I hope the reader can see where Rainbow starts and ends, where the Calvin quote starts and ends, and where my own comments begin after the reference to Rainbow’s book title, etc.

  5. Flynn permalink
    April 16, 2008 10:06 am

    Hey there,

    Sure, but then that is something he applies in principle to the question of the death of Christ. See his comments on p 173. Somehow the redemption of unbelieving souls (Calvin) becomes that the ‘death of Christ extends to them as well.’ That is supposed to be our assumption. He is invoking the same principle. Here Rainbow would say that we are to assume the death of Christ has reference to unbelievers as well, even tho theologically, we know it may not. What he does is just insert his own assumptions into Calvin, such that the idea ‘unbelievers redeemed by the blood of Christ’ is so watered down to ‘the death of Christ has reference to them too.’ As if that was what Calvin truly and simply meant. I cant believe it.


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