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Wolfgang Musculus and the Reformed Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement

October 10, 2008

A few weeks ago we saw that Bullinger held that Christ died for all men and for all men’s sins. When we come to look at Musculus we see the same idea expressed.

For example, Musculus says:

And there by three manner of sacrifices of this priesthood, of which the first does pertain only unto Christ as our mediator and High Priest, the other two be common to us also with him. The first is the sacrifice of expiation or cleansing, wherein he offered himself the only and immaculate host upon the Cross to God the Father for the sins of the whole world. Of this sacrifice we have spoken before. Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 604.

With Musculus, we have the fact that he defined what he meant by whole world.

Musculus again:

If we consider of them which do purchase the forgiveness of their sins by the grace of God, there is but a small number of them, even as it is of the elect in respect of the reprobate, whose sins be withhold for evermore. But we seek not here to whom this grace of forgiveness does befall, but rather to whom it is to be taught and set forth. We can not here appoint upon any certain persons, to whom only this forgiveness of sins is to be preached. All men be generally called unto it, both Jews and Greeks, learned and unlearned, wise and foolish, rich and poor, old and young, men and women. For like as God enclosed all under unbelief that he might have mercy upon all, so he will have this grace of his mercy to be set forth to all men: “So God loved the world,” (says our Savior), “that he gave his only begotten son, that everyone which believes in him should not perish, but have life everlasting.” And in the first epistle of John, we read this: “But in case any man do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just, and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins also of the whole world. I think that there is meant by the world, all mankind, by which the world does consist, from the beginning of it, until the end. Therefore when it is said, that God gave his son for the world, and that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world what else is meant, but that the grace of forgiveness of sins is appointed unto all men, so that the Gospel thereof is to be preached unto all creatures? In this respect the gentle love of GOD towards man is set forth unto us to be considered, whereby he would not have any to perish, but all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. But for all that, this general grace has some conditions going withal, of which we will speak hereafter. Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 577-8.

In this quotation we see lots of connections. Firstly, “world” here in 1 Jn 2:2 means “all mankind.” This “world” consists mankind from its beginning to the end: that is, is all men who have lived, live and will live. What is more, this expiation as the basis for forgiveness is appointed to all men. The motive that causes this unlimited expiation is God’s love towards man and God’s general grace, and his unwillingness that any man perish.

We see the same explicitness from Musculus in his comments on John 3:16 where he expressly says that the world of John 3:16 is all mankind; see here.

When we come to the language of Redemption, Musculus asserts the same idea.

Firstly, all men are appointed for redemption, all men from the first to the last. He thus will say all mankind is redeemed. For those interested, you can read more from Musculus here. This redemption refers to the sufficiency and merit of the price paid for all men. It is not a hypothetical redemption, mind you. Of course, it would take a devious mind to assert that Musculus simply meant that by “all mankind has been redeemed,” denoting a past tense accomplished action, he meant some sort of potential or contrary-to-fact hypothetical redemption. But I wont hold my breath on that one given what we have seen in the past from some quarters. :-)

To wrap up, in Musculus we see the very non-speculative hypothetical universalism which Richard Muller referred to (see here).


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