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Andrew Fuller (1754-1815): On the Nature of True Penal Substitution As Precluding Pecuniary Satisfaction (Part 2)

October 22, 2009

Fuller:

LETTER III.

ON SUBSTITUTION.

Jan. 12, 1803.

My dear Brother, Whether Christ laid down his life as a substitute for sinners, was never a question with me. All my hope rests upon it; and the sum of my delight in preaching the gospel consists in it. If I know any thing of myself, I can say of Christ crucified for us, as was said of Jerusalem: “If I forget thee, let my right hand forget: if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!”

I have always considered the denial of this truth as being of the essence of Socinianism Mr. B[ooth] professes, “in his juvenile years, never to have hoped for salvation but through a vicarious sacrifice.” But, if he allow himself to have believed this doctrine when he was an Arminian, it is rather singular that I, who am not an Arminian, as he himself acknowledges, should be charged with denying it. I could not have imagined that any person whose hope of acceptance with God rests not on any goodness in himself, but entirely on the righteousness of Christ, would have been accounted to disown his substitution. But, perhaps, Mr. B. considers “a real and proper imputation of our sins to Christ,” by which he seems to mean their being literally transferred to him, as essential to this doctrine; and, if so, I acknowledge I do not at present believe it.

For Christ to die as a substitute, if I understand the term, is the same thing as his dying for us, or in our stead, or that we should not die.

The only subject on which I ought to have been here interrogated is, “The persons for whom Christ was a substitute; whether the elect only, or mankind in general.” On this question I will be as explicit as I am able.

Were I asked concerning the gospel, when it is introduced into a country. For whom was it sent? I should answer, if I had respect only to the revealed will of God, and so perhaps would Mr. B., It is sent for men, not as elect, or as non-elect, but as sinners. It is written and preached, “that they might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing they might have life through his name.” But, if I had respect to the secret will or appointment of God as to its application, I should say. If the divine conduct in this instance accord with what it has been in other instances, he hath visited that country “to take out of it a people for his name.”

In like manner concerning the death of Christ. If I speak of it irrespective of the purpose of the father and the Son, as to the objects who should be saved by it, merely referring to what it is in itself sufficient for, and declared in the gospel to be adapted to, I should think that I answered the question in a scriptural way by saying, It was for sinners as sinners: but if I have respect to the purpose of the Father in giving his Son to die, and to the design of Christ in laying down his life, I should answer, It was for the elect only.

In the former of these views, I find the apostles and primitive ministers (leaving the consideration of God’s secret purpose as a matter belonging to himself, not to them) addressing themselves to sinners without distinction, and holding forth the death of Christ as a ground of faith to all men. On this principle the servants sent forth to bid guests to the marriage supper were directed to invite them, saying, “Come, FOR all things are ready.” On this principle the ambassadors of Christ besought sinners to be reconciled to God, “for,” said they, ” he hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

In the latter view, I find the apostles ascribing to the purpose and discriminating grace of God all their success; and teaching believers to ascribe every thing that they were, or hoped to be, to the same cause; addressing them as having been before the foundation of the world the objects of his love and choice; the children or sons whom it was the design of Christ in becoming incarnate to bring to glory ; the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood, and for which he gave himself, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it to himself.

If it be a proper definition of the substitution of Christ, that he died for or in the place of others, that they should not die, this, as comprehending the designed end to be answered by his death, is strictly applicable to none but the elect: for whatever ground there is for sinners, as sinners, to believe and be saved, it never was the design of Christ to impart faith to any others than those who were given him of the Father. He therefore did not die with the intent that any others should not die.

Whether I can perfectly reconcile these statements with each other, or not, I believe they are both taught in the Scriptures; but I acknowledge that I do not at present perceive their inconsistency. The latter Mr. B. will admit; and, as to the former, I am quite at a loss what to make of his concessions, if they do not include it. According to the best of my recollection, he acknowledged to me that he believed the atonement of Christ to he sufficient for the whole world, as well as I; and that, if one sinner only were saved consistently with justice, it required to be by the same all-perfect sacrifice. So, I am certain, I understood him. Now, if it be acknowledged that the obedience and death of Christ was a substitution of such a kind as to be equally required for the salvation of one sinner, as for many–is not this the same thing as acknowledging that atonement required to be made for sin as sin; and, being made, was applicable to sinners as sinners? In other words, is it not acknowledging that God redeemed his elect by an atonement in its own nature adapted to all, just as he calls his elect by a gospel addressed to all?

If the speciality of redemption be placed in the atonement itself, and not in the sovereign will of God, or in the design of the Father and the Son, with respect to the persons to whom it shall be applied, it must, as far as I am able to perceive, have proceeded on the principle of pecuniary satisfactions. In them the payment is proportioned to the amount of the debt; and, being so, it is not of sufficient value for more than those who are actually liberated by it; nor is it true, in these cases, that the same satisfaction is required for one as for many. But, if such was the satisfaction of Christ that nothing less was necessary for the salvation of one, nothing more could be necessary for the salvation of the whole world, and the whole world might have been saved by it if it had accorded with sovereign wisdom so to apply it. It will also follow that, if the satisfaction of Christ was in itself sufficient for the whole world, there is no further propriety in such questions as these–”Whose sins were imputed to Christ? for whom did he die as a substitute?“–than as they go to inquire who were the persons designed to be saved by him? that which is equally necessary for one as for many must, in its own nature, be equally sufficient for many as for one; and could not proceed upon the principle of the sins of some being laid upon Christ, rather than others, any otherwise than as it was the design of the Father and the Son, through one all-sufficient medium, ultimately to pardon the sins of the elect rather than those of the non-elect. It seems to me as consonant with truth to say a certain number of Christ’s acts of obedience are literally transferred to us as that a certain number of our sins are literally transferred to him. In the former case, his own undivided obedience, stamped as it is with divinity, affords a ground of justification to any number of believers: in the latter, his own atonement, stamped also as it is with divinity, is sufficient to pardon any number of sins or sinners. Yet as Christ did not lay down his life but by covenant–as the elect were given to him, to be as the travail of his soul, the purchase of his blood–he had respect in all that he did and suffered to this recompense of reward. It was for the covering of their transgressions that he became obedient unto death. To them his substitution was the same, in effect, as if their sins had by number been literally transferred to him. I am not aware that any principle that I hold is inconsistent with Christ’s laying down his life by covenant, or with his being the surety of that covenant, pledging himself for the certain accomplishment of whatever he undertook; as, that all that were given him should come to him; should not be lost, but raised up at the last day, and be presented without spot and blameless. All this I suppose to be included in the design of the Father and the Son; or in the “sovereign application” of the atonement.

It has been objected, though not by Mr. B., “how does the sufficiency of Christ’s death afford ample ground for general invitations, if the design was confined to the elect people? If the benefits of his death were never intended for the non-elect, is it not just as inconsistent to invite them to partake of them as if there were a want of sufficiency! This explanation seems to be no other than shifting the difficulty.”

To this I answer :

1. It is a fact that the Scriptures rest the general invitation of the gospel upon the atonement of Christ.—2 Cor. v. 19, 21 ; Matt. xxii. 4; John iii. 16.

2. If there were not a sufficiency in the atonement for the salvation of sinners, and yet they were invited to be reconciled to God, they must be invited to what is naturally impossible. The message of the gospel would in this case be as if the servants who went forth to bid the guests had said, “Come,” though, in fact, nothing was ready, if many of them had come.

3. If there be an objective fullness in the atonement of Christ sufficient for any number of sinners, were they to believe in Him, there is no other impossibility in the way of any man’s salvation to whom the gospel comes than what arises from the state of his own mind. The intention of God not to remove the impossibility, and so not to save him, is only a resolution to withhold, not only that which he was not obliged to give, but that which is never represented as necessary to the consistency of exhortations and invitations to a compliance. I do not deny that there is a difficulty; but it belongs to the general subject of reconciling the purposes of God and the agency of man; whereas, in the other case, God is represented as inviting sinners to partake of that which does not exist, and which therefore is naturally impossible. The one, while it ascribes the salvation of the believer, in every stage of it, to mere grace, renders the unbeliever inexcusable, which the other, I conceive, does not.

Such, as well as I am able to explain them, are my views of these important subjects. I may be mistaken in some particulars ; and, if so, I should be happy to receive further light from any one.

But, till I do, I shall not think the worse of what I have written for the names by which it may be stigmatized. Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of Rev. Andrew Fuller with a Memoir of his Life. By Andrew Gunton Fuller in two Volumes (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1836), 1:672-674 / Andrew Fuller, “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland Respecting The Controversy with the Rev. A. Booth: Letter III on Substitution,” in The Works of Andrew Fuller (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 2:706-709.   [Italics original; underlining mine; footnote reference to John Owen (added by editor) not included; and bracketed insert mine .]

[Explanatory notes: 1) What appears in the conversation between Abraham Booth and Fuller on the nature of Christ’s substitution was Booth’s confusion regarding imputation. Booth was committed to two ideas which are in conflict. On the one hand, he denied that Christ suffered so much for so much sin. All that Christ suffered for one man, was perfectly sufficient for the next man, indeed, all men.  There was no mathematical ratio which proportioned the sufferings of Christ to the “amount” of imputed sin.  On the other hand, however, he wanted to insist that there is a delimitation in whose sins were imputed to Christ. Thus, it is not sin qua sin, imputed, but the sin (or sins) of a limited set of named persons (ie the elect alone)  imputed to Christ. Thus, it is not the sin of  man qua man, being the same sin which binds one man also binds every sinner without limitation, but only the sin of the elect man (sin of man qua election) which is imputed to Christ .   Fuller’s point is that if this is so, we are now right back at the door-step of Christ suffering so much for so much sin, and we are moving back towards a pecuniary satisfaction. 2) What is more, the satisfaction of Christ could not by nature, be sufficient for all men. Clearly Fuller spotted the problematic in the limited imputation position. 3) If limited imputation is the core of the “limited atonement,” then says Fuller, certain unresolvable problematics must ensue.  It is these problematics which Fuller sought to identify and challenge. To his misfortune, Booth was not able to recognize the problems inherent in a limited imputation view of Christ’s substitutionary atonement.]

Credit to tony for the find

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 12:56 pm

    Andrew Fuller, “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland Respecting The Controversy with the Rev. A. Booth: Letter III on Substitution,” in The Works of Andrew Fuller (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 2:706-709.

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