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John Davenant and the Reformed Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement

December 24, 2008

I am working my way through Davenant’s commentary on Colosians, and I came across these interesting quotations so far.

In whom we have redemption.] These words are connected with the last in the former verse: In whom, viz. in his beloved Son. Here, therefore, it is proper to consider the person of the Redeemer.

Christ the Son of God, the God-man, is our Redeemer. This work required God, that he might overcome death: and man that he might die for us. As God, by right of property he undertook this work of redeeming his creatures; as man, by right of relationship he undertook to redeem his brethren.

To accomplish this work of redemption, not the Divinity alone, not the humanity alone was necessary; no, not an angelic nature; but the Soil of God alone; who, as the Apostle says, Phil. ii. “when he was in the form of God, made himself of reputation: and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Whence also that declaration that “the Church was purchased with the blood of’ God,” Acts xx. 28. Well spake Augustine, that which mediates between divinity alone, and humanity alone, is the human divine nature, and the divine human nature.” Nor was it ill said by Aquinas, The humanity of Christ is the instrument, the divinity is the chief agent in fulfilling the work of our salvation,” Quaest. disp. de verb. Art. 5.

From this consideration of the person who redeems us, we may observe the infinite guilt of sin; agreeable to that remark of Bernard, “Acknowledge, O man, how grievous are those wounds for which it is needful the Son of God should be wounded.” This ought to strike us with horror and detestation of sin.

It demonstrates also the infinite love of God towards the human race, who willingly sent his own Son to redeem miserable mortals. Let this inflame us with reciprocal love; let this excite us to every kind of obedience.

It must also be observed, that the Apostle does not say we have redemption by the Son of God, but in him. For by Christ the whole world is said to be redeemed, inasmuch as he offered and gave a sufficient ransom for all; but in him the elect and faithful alone have effectual redemption, because they alone are in him.

Hence we learn that no one has, or can have, any fruit of the redemption procured by Christ, unless he be in Christ. But we are engrafted in Christ through faith by the Holy Spirit. Therefore salvation is not derived to us unless from Christ our Head; for when he becomes our Head, and we his members, then we are in him, then his saving virtue extends to us; but not before: For he is the Savior oh his body, Ephes. v. 23.  John Davenant, An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 1:163-164. [Italics original, some reformatting, underlining mine.]

2) Through blood.] He points at Christ’s bloody death: not that the previous acts and sufferings of Christ did nothing to merit human salvation ; but that by pouring out his blood, i.e. in death, there was a completion of satisfaction. “Although,” as Aquinas truly says, “any one act of Christ was meritorious in our behalf yet to make satisfaction for the guilt of human nature which was under the bond of death, it was necessary that Christ should sustain death;” Quaest. disput. de grat. Christi, art. 7. But we are redeemed by this blood, or by this death, of Christ, inasmuch as
it expiated the wrath of God, inasmuch as it dissipated the power of the devil.

Christ averted the wrath of God from us, by undergoing the penalties due to it, that he might liberate us from our debts. “He without any evil deserts” (says Augustine) “underwent punishment, that we without any that were good might obtain grace.” And the Apostle, Gal. iii. 13, affirms, Christ was made a curse for us, that he might redeem us from the curse.

Here therefore we must observe, that although the devil held us captives, yet the price of our redemption, that is to say, the blood of Christ, was offered as a satisfaction to God, not to the devil: therefore it rested with God either to condemn or to absolve: and God being reconciled, and sin remitted, the power of the devil immediately vanished. And God is abundantly satisfied in the death of Christ for the sins of the whole world, because the death of Christ was the death of God; the blood of Christ, the blood of God: Therefore from the infinite dignity of his person, the price of his blood and his flesh which he offered for us was infinite. So Cyril, De recta fide ad Regin. lib. 2, If God incarnate and suffering in his own person he understood, every creature is trifling in comparison of him, and the death of his one body suffices for !he redemption of the world.

Thus, then, satisfaction has been made to God and our sins expiated. Now we must shew how the shedding of the blood of Christ, not only hath reconciled God to us, but also utterly destroyed the power of the devil: for from him-hath this bloody death of Christ delivered us. John Davenant, An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 1:167-168. [Italics original, some reformatting, underlining mine.]

You can find more Davenant here. If you read the file, you will see how impossible it would be claim that by “the whole world” Davenant meant something other than the whole human race, elect and non-elect included. 

What is more, how credible would it be to claim that Davenant–along with the other English delegates–thought to sign a document, which some allege directly excludes and denies his position? Frankly, the idea is just incredible. Perish the thought that Dort actually doesn’t deny Davenant’s unlimited expiation position. It might be, some have to read the document a little more carefully.

Further, as we read Muller, Davenant, along with Musculus et al, was one of those non-speculative hypothetical universalists.

to be continued…

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