Skip to content

Musculus: ‘Christ died for all men,’ by way of Augustine Marlorate

November 25, 2008

The following is an extract from Marlorate’s Commentary on John. The quotation is in context. Nothing before or after changes or impacts the critical comments here.

Musculus by way of Marlorate:

“I praye for them, I praye not for the world: but for them which thou haste giuen mee, for they are thine.”

…C. [Calvin] So that he plainly affirms that he prays not for the world: because he cared for his own flock only, which he had received of his Father’s hand, notwithstanding this might seem very absurd.

For there cannot be a better Rule of prayer divised, then if we follow Christ our Captain and master. But we are commanded to pray for all men, yea even for our enemies [Math. 5.4., 1. Tim. 2.1., Luk. 13.34.]. C. [Calvin] Furthermore Christ himself prayed after this Indifferently for all men saying, “Father forgive them: for they [know not] wotte not what they do.”

M. [Musculus] Moreover it is the office of a Mediator not only to pray but also to offer. And he offered himself upon the Cross for all men. For (as says Paul) Christ died for all men. Finally Saint John says that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. How then says he that he prays not for the world seeing he died for all men, and was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? C. [Calvin] this may be briefly answered, that these prayers which seem to be made for all men are notwithstanding restrained to the elect of God.

We ought to wish this and that man be saved and so to comprehend all mankind because yet we cannot distinguish the elect from the Reprobate yet notwithstanding we pray withal for the coming of God’s kingdom, wishing that he would destroy his enemies.

This is even as much as to pray for the salvation of all men whom we know to be created after the Image of GOD, and which are of the same nature we are of, and do leave their destruction to Judgment of GOD whom he knows to be reprobate. There was another certain special cause of this prayer, which ought not to be drawn into example. For Christ’s prayer proceeded not only from the bare sense of faith and love, but also from the feeling of his Father’s secret Judgments which are hidden from us, so long as we walk through faith.

M. [Musculus] Therefore because we know not who they are which so appertain unto the world that they can never be drawn away from the same, it is meet that we wish well unto all men, and to declare our good-will by prayer. C. [Calvin] Furthermore by these words we gather, that they whom it pleases, God to love out of this world shall be heirs of eternal life: and that this difference depended no upon man’s merits but upon the mere good-will and grace of God.

For the which place the cause of election in men must first begin with faith. Christ plainly pronounces that they were the Father’s which were given unto him.

Augustine Marlorate, A Catholike and Ecclesiasticall exposition of the holy Gospel after S. Iohn, trans., Thomas Timme (Imprinted at London by Thomas Marshe, Anno Domini, 1575), John 17:9; p., 543. [Pagination irregular; stated pagination cited here.]  560-561.


That’s a very powerful comment from Musculus. The question is, is it another silver bullet? I do think so, but I know our detractors may think otherwise. Therefore let me try and argue why this is solid.

Firstly, we know that Musculus did hold that the world of 1 John 2:2 is all mankind, from the beginning of the world to the end, [see here].

Secondly, the language here is perfectly true to Musculus. Musculus often speaks of Christ ‘offering himself on the cross’ for the sins all the world.

Thirdly, Regarding the Pauline point that ‘Christ died for all,’ we know that Chrysostom and Augustine, saw this passage as saying Christ died for all men, ie, all mankind. Some of this has been documented here, Augustine, Athanasius. We also know that some of the early Reformers held to this view, such as Vermigli. This was the position of others like Polhill. One cannot simply assert that it was not possible, at all, that Musculus similarly held to this interpretative position.

Fourthly, there is no evidence that Marlorate or Musculus intended to speak hypothetically, or rhetorically, as if to pose some sort of reductio. There is no denial here of the first premise. There is no hint that this is properly an alien premise, such as one would find only in the writings of the Socinians or 16th century universalists [eg., Pighius or Georgius].

Fifthly, the premise that Christ died for all men, is not stated conditionally, as if it were a bare supposition: there is no “if” or any equivalent construction. Rather, the text says, ‘seeing that…” Clearly Marlorate and Musculus’ intention is that the proposition be taken as a prima facia statement that Christ died for all men.

Sixthly, the terms ‘all men,’ ‘all mankind,’ ‘whole world,’ and ‘world,’ are taken interchangeably.

Seventhly, with regard to Calvin’s statement that our prayers “seem” to be made for all men, they are nonetheless restrained to the elect, he is not saying that the term “all men” means “the elect.” What he means is that our prays for the salvation of all men only find fruit or effect in the elect.

On the positive side, we see here a clear statement from Musculus, that while Christ died for all men, that is, offered himself as an oblation for all men, the intercession of Christ is limited to the elect alone. Hence, the later “impetration-application” argument was not operative in either Marlorate thinking, or Musculus’. What is more, from all my reading, I have never seen this argument used in the 16th century. Now let me immediately qualify that. In all the English works I have read from the 16th century on the death of Christ, I have never seen this argument invoked. I am not saying it never was invoked, just that so far I have never seen it. Perkins may be an exception; however I have not gotten around to reading his works yet. If anyone can clarify Perkin’s position on this point, I would be grateful. However, the earliest use of this argument that I can document is in Ames’ Marrow (1623).

This point holds good for the second theological argument that the limitation of the Priestly intercession therefore limits the scope of the expiation. The earliest invocation I can find of this argument is in Wollebius’ Compendium (1626), which asserts that because Christ did not pray for all, he could not have “‘intentionally’ died for all.” Again, future reading may turn up earlier accounts.

That notwithstanding, we now explicitly know that neither of these two arguments could have been operative in either Marlorate or Musculus’ theology. I would argue too, contra Nicole, that it was not operative in Calvin’s either.

To wrap this up, firstly, I am willing to discuss this comment from Musculus, as long as the conversation is both adult and Christian, and which is focused on the text at hand, and not focused on me. And let me be clear, if it can be shown that either of the two theological arguments can be dated to the 16th century, I am actually fine with that: as I want to be accurate in my historical work. It serves me no good to be inaccurate.

Secondly, if one can show me that I have misread the above quotation from Marlorate, please do offer arguments, for, likewise, it does not serve me if I incorrectly interpret my sources. However, as it stands, this does look to me to be another silver bullet from Musculus.


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: