Penalty of Sin Paid and Life Merited – Machen

j_gresham_machen

‘Well, then, sinner,’ says the law of God, ‘have you paid the penalty which I pronounced upon disobedience?’

‘No,’ says the sinner, ‘I have not paid the penalty myself; but Christ has paid it for me. He was my representative when He died there on the cross. Hence, so far as the penalty is concerned, I am clear.’

‘Well, then, sinner,’ says the law of God, ‘how about the conditions which God has pronounced for the attainment of assured blessedness? Have you stood the test? Have you merited eternal life by perfect obedience during the period of probation?’

‘No,’ says the sinner, ‘I have not merited eternal life by my own perfect obedience. God knows and my own conscience knows that even after I became a Christian I have sinned in thought, word and deed. But although I have not merited eternal life by any obedience of my own, Christ has merited it for me by His perfect obedience. He was not for Himself subject to the law. No obedience was required of Him for Himself, since He was Lord of all. That obedience, then, which He rendered to the law when He was on earth was rendered by Him as my representative. I have no righteousness of my own, but clad in Christ’s perfect righteousness, imputed to me and received by faith alone, I can glory in the fact that so far as I am concerned the probation has been kept and as God is true there awaits me the glorious reward which Christ thus earned for me.’

Such, put in bald, simple form, is the dialogue between every Christian and the law of God. How gloriously complete is the salvation wrought for us by Christ! Christ paid the penalty, and He merited the reward. Those are the two great things that He has done for us.

The Doctrine of the Atonement, J. Gresham Machen

THE SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS

berkhofThe widespread denial of the covenant of works makes it imperative to examine its Scriptural foundation with care.

  1. THE ELEMENTS OF A COVENANT ARE PRESENT IN THE EARLY NARRATIVE. It must be admitted that the term “covenant” is not found in the first three chapters of Genesis, but this is not tantamount to saying that they do not contain the necessary data for the construction of a doctrine of the covenant. One would hardly infer from the absence of the term “trinity” that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Bible. All the elements of a covenant are indicated in Scripture, and if the elements are present, we are not only warranted but, in a systematic study of the doctrine, also in duty bound to relate them to one another, and to give the doctrine so construed an appropriate name.  In the case under consideration two parties are named, a condition is laid down, a promise of reward for obedience is clearly implied, and a penalty for transgression is threatened. It may still be objected that we do not read of the two parties as coming to an agreement, nor of Adam as accepting the terms laid down, but this is not an insuperable objection. We do not read of such an explicit agreement and acceptance on the part of man either in the cases of Noah and Abraham. God and man do not appear as equals in any of these covenants. All God’s covenants are of the nature of sovereign dispositions imposed on man. God is absolutely sovereign in His dealings with man, and has the perfect right to lay down the conditions which the latter must meet, in order to enjoy His favor. Moreover Adam was, even in virtue of his natural relationship, in duty bound to obey God; and when the covenant relation was established, this obedience also became a matter of self-interest. When entering into covenant relations with men, it is always God who lays down the terms, and they are very gracious terms, so that He has, also from that point of view, a perfect right to expect that man will assent to them. In the case under consideration God had but to announce the covenant, and the perfect state in which Adam lived was a sufficient guarantee for his acceptance.
  2. THERE WAS A PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE. Some deny that there is any Scripture evidence for such a promise. Now it is perfectly true that no such promise is explicitly recorded, but it is clearly implied in the alternative of death as the result of disobedience. The clear implication of the threatened punishment is that in the case of obedience death would not enter, and this can only mean that life would continue. It has been objected that this would only mean a continuation of Adam’s natural life, and not what Scripture calls life eternal. But the Scriptural idea of life is life in communion with God; and this is the life which Adam possessed, though in his case it was still amissible. If Adam stood the test, this life would be retained not only, but would cease to be amissible, and would therefore be lifted to a higher plane. Paul tells us explicitly in Rom. 7:10 that the commandment, that is the law, was unto life. In commenting on this verse Hodge says: “The law was designed and adapted to secure life, but became in fact the cause of death.” This is also clearly indicated in such passages as Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:13. Now it is generally admitted that this glorious promise of unending life was in no way implied in the natural relation in which Adam stood to God, but had a different basis. But to admit that there is something positive here, a special condescension of God, is an acceptance of the covenant principle. There may still be some doubt as to the propriety of the name “Covenant of Works,” but there can be no valid objection to the covenant idea.
  3. BASICALLY, THE COVENANT OF GRACE IS SIMPLY THE EXECUTION OF THE ORIGINAL AGREEMENT BY CHRIST AS OUR SURETY. He undertook freely to carry out the will of God. He placed Himself under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law, and were no more in a position to obtain life by their own fulfilment of the law. He came to do what Adam failed to do, and did it in virtue of a covenant agreement. And if this is so, and the covenant of grace is, as far as Christ is concerned, simply the carrying out of the original agreement, it follows that the latter must also have been of the nature of a covenant. And since Christ met the condition of the covenant of works, man can now reap the fruit of the original agreement by faith in Jesus Christ. There are now two ways of life, which are in themselves ways of life, the one is the way of the law: “the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby,” but it is a way by which man can no more find life; and the other is the way of faith in Jesus Christ, who met the demands of the law, and is now able to dispense the blessing of eternal life.
  4. THE PARALLEL BETWEEN ADAM AND CHRIST. The parallel which Paul draws between Adam and Christ in Rom. 5:12-21, in connection with the doctrine of justification, can only be explained on the assumption that Adam, like Christ, was the head of a covenant. According to Paul the essential element in justification consists in this, that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, without any personal work on our part to merit it. And he regards this as a perfect parallel to the manner in which the guilt of Adam is imputed to us. This naturally leads to the conclusion that Adam also stood in covenant relationship to his descendants.
  5. THE PASSAGE IN HOS. 6:7. In Hos. 6:7 we read: “But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant.” Attempts have been made to discredit this reading. Some have suggested the reading “at Adam,” which would imply that some well-known transgression occurred at a place called Adam. But the preposition forbids this rendering. Moreover, the Bible makes no mention whatever of such a well-known historical transgression at Adam. The Authorized Version renders “like men,” which would then mean, in human fashion. To this it may be objected that there is no plural in the original, and that such a statement would be rather inane, since man could hardly transgress in any other way. The rendering “like Adam” is after all the best. It is favored by the parallel passage in Job 31:33; and is adopted by the American Revised Version.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 213-215

C.F.W. Walther on the Sanctification Controversy Brewing

CFW WaltherIn another place in the same chapter, §52, Gerhard writes: “There are several reasons why this distinction between the Law and the Gospel must be accurately defined and strictly adhered to. In the first place, many instances from the history of the Church of days gone by might be adduced to show that the pure teaching of the article of justification is not preserved, and absolutely cannot be preserved, if the distinction of these two doctrines is neglected.” Woe to him who injects poison into the doctrine of justification! He poisons the well which God has dug for man’s salvation. Whoever takes this doctrine away from man robs him of everything; for he takes the very heart out of Christianity, which ceases to pulsate after this attack. The ladder for mounting up to heaven is taken away, and there is no longer any hope of saving men. “In the second place,” Gerhard continues, “when the doctrine of the Gospel is not separated from the Law by definite boundary-lines, the blessings of Christ are considerably obscured.” By ascribing to man some share in his own salvation, we rob Christ of all His glory. God has created us without our cooperation, and He wants to save us the same way. We are to thank Him for having created us with a hope of life everlasting. Even so He alone wants to save us. Woe to him who says that he must contribute something towards his own salvation! He deprives Christ of His entire merit. For Jesus is called the Savior, not a helper towards salvation, such as preachers are. Jesus has achieved our entire salvation. That is why we were so determined in our Predestinarian Controversy. For the basic element in the controversy has been that we insisted on keeping Law and Gospel separate, while our opponents mingle the one with the other. When they hear from us this statement: “Out of pure mercy, God has elected us to the praise of the glory of His grace; God vindicates for Himself exclusively the glory of saving us,” etc., they say: “That is a horrible doctrine! If that were true, God would be partial. No, He must have beheld something in men that prompted Him to elect this or that particular man. When He beheld something good in a person, He elected him.” If that were so, man would really be the principal cause of his salvation. In that case man could say, “Thank God, I have done my share towards being saved.” However, when we shall have arrived in our heavenly fatherland, this is what we shall say: “If I had my own way, I should never have found salvation; and even supposing I had found it by myself, I should have lost it again. Thou, O God, didst come and draw me to Thy Word, partly by tribulation, partly by anguish of heart, partly by sickness, etc. All these things Thou hast used as means to bring me into heaven, while I was always striving for perdition.” Yonder we shall see — and marvel — that there has not been an hour when God did not work in us to save us, and that there has not been an hour when we — wanted to be saved. Indeed, we are forced to say to God: “Thou alone hast redeemed me; Thou alone dost save me.” Verily, as sure as there is a living God in heaven, I cannot do anything towards my salvation. That is the point under discussion in this controversy.

In conclusion, Gerhard says: “In the third place, commingling Law and Gospel necessarily produces confusion of consciences because there is no true, reliable, and abiding comfort for consciences that have been alarmed and terrified if the gracious promises of the Gospel are falsified.” Commingling Law and Gospel brings about unrest of conscience. No matter how comforting the preaching is that people hear, it is of no help to them if there is a sting in it. The honey of the Gospel may at first taste good, but if a sting of the Law goes with it, everything is spoiled. My conscience cannot come to rest if I cannot say: “Nevertheless, according to His grace, God will receive me.” If the preacher says to me: “Come, for all things are now ready — provided you do this or that,” I am lost. For in that case I must ask myself, “Have I done as God desires?” and I shall find no help.

Fifth Evening Lecture, October 17, 1884

The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

Dr. C.F.W. Walther

The Law and The Gospel in The Word of God – Louis Berkhof

Berkhof_ST_coverC. THE TWO PARTS OF THE WORD OF GOD CONSIDERED AS A MEANS OF GRACE.

1. THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL IN THE WORD OF GOD. The Churches of the Reformation from the very beginning distinguished between the law and the gospel as the two parts of the Word of God as a means of grace. This distinction was not understood to be identical with that between the Old and the New Testament, but was regarded as a distinction that applies to both Testaments. There is law and gospel in the Old Testament, and there is law and gospel in the New. The law comprises everything in Scripture which is a revelation of God’s will in the form of command or prohibition, while the gospel embraces everything, whether it be in the Old Testament or in the New, that pertains to the work of reconciliation and that proclaims the seeking and redeeming love of God in Christ Jesus. And each one of these two parts has its own proper function in the economy of grace. The law seeks to awaken in the heart of man contrition on account of sin, while the gospel aims at the awakening of saving faith in Jesus Christ. The work of the law is in a sense preparatory to that of the gospel. It deepens the consciousness of sin and thus makes the sinner aware of the need of redemption. Both are subservient to the same end, and both are indispensable parts of the means of grace. This truth has not always been sufficiently recognized. The condemning aspect of the law has sometimes been stressed at the expense of its character as a part of the means of grace. Ever since the days of Marcion there have always been some who saw only contrast between the law and the gospel and proceeded on the assumption that the one excluded the other. They based their opinion in part on the rebuke which Paul administered to Peter (Gal. 2:11-14), and partly on the fact that Paul occasionally draws a sharp distinction between the law and the gospel and evidently regards them as contrasts, II Cor. 3:6-11; Gal. 3:2,3,10-14; cf. also John 1:17.  They lost sight of the fact that Paul also says that the law served as a tutor to lead men to Christ, Gal. 3:24, and that the Epistle to the Hebrews represents the law, not as standing in antithetical relation to the gospel, but rather as the gospel in its preliminary and imperfect state.

Some of the older Reformed theologians represented the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. They thought of the law as embodying all the demands and commandments of Scripture, and of the gospel, as containing no demands whatsoever, but only unconditional promises; and thus excluded from it all requirements. This was partly due to the way in which the two are sometimes contrasted in Scripture, but was also partly the result of a controversy in which they were engaged with the Arminians.  The Arminian view, making salvation dependent on faith and evangelical obedience as works of man, caused them to go to the extreme of saying that the covenant of grace does not require anything on the part of man, does not prescribe any duties, does not demand or command anything, not even faith, trust, and hope in the Lord, and so on,  but merely conveys to man the promises of what God will do for him. Others, however, correctly maintained that even the law of Moses is not devoid of promises, and that the gospel also contains certain demands. They clearly saw that man is not merely passive, when he is introduced into the covenant of grace, but is called upon to accept the covenant actively with all its privileges, though it is God who works in him the ability to meet the requirements. The promises which man appropriates certainly impose upon him certain duties, and among them the duty to obey the law of God as a rule of life, but also carry with them the assurance that God will work in him “both to will and to do.” The consistent Dispensationalists of our day again represent the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. Israel was under the law in the previous dispensation, but the Church of the present dispensation is under the gospel, and as such is free from the law.  This means that the gospel is now the only means of salvation, and that the law does not now serve as such. Members of the Church need not concern themselves about its demands, since Christ has met all its requirements. They seem to forget that, while Christ bore the curse of the law, and met its demands as a condition of the covenant of works, He did not fulfil the law for them as a rule of life, to which man is subject in virtue of his creation, apart from any covenant arrangement.

2. NECESSARY DISTINCTIONS RESPECTING THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL.
a. As was already said in the preceding, the distinction between the law and the gospel is not the same as that between the Old and the New Testament. Neither is it the same as that which present day Dispensationalists make between the dispensation of the law and the dispensation of the gospel. It is contrary to the plain facts of Scripture to say that there is no gospel in the Old Testament, or at least not in that part of the Old Testament that covers the dispensation of the law. There is gospel in the maternal promise, gospel in the ceremonial law, and gospel in many of the Prophets, as Isa. 53 and 54; 55:1-3,6.7; Jer. 31:33,34; Ezek. 36:25-28. In fact, there is a gospel current running through the whole of the Old Testament, which reaches its highest point in the Messianic prophecies. And it is equally contrary to Scripture to say that there is no law in the New Testament, or that the law does not apply in the New Testament dispensation. Jesus taught the permanent validity of the law, Matt. 5:17-19. Paul says that God provided for it that the requirements of the law should be fulfilled in our lives, Rom. 8:4, and holds his readers responsible for keeping the law, Rom. 13:9. James assures his readers that he who transgresses a single commandment of the law (and he mentions some of these), is a transgressor of the law, Jas. 2:8-11. And John defines sin as “lawlessness,” and says that this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, I John 3:4; 5:3.

b. It is possible to say that in some respects the Christian is free from the law of God.  The Bible does not always speak of the law in the same sense. Sometimes it contemplates this as the immutable expression of the nature and will of God, which applies at all times and under all conditions. But it also refers to it as it functions in the covenant of works, in which the gift of eternal life was conditioned on its fulfilment.  Man failed to meet the condition, thereby also losing the ability to meet it, and is now by nature under a sentence of condemnation. When Paul draws a contrast between the law and the gospel, he is thinking of this aspect of the law, the broken law of the covenant of works, which can no more justify, but can only condemn the sinner. From the law in this particular sense, both as a means for obtaining eternal life and as a condemning power, believers are set free in Christ, since He became a curse for them and also met the demands of the covenant of works in their behalf. The law in that particular sense and the gospel of free grace are mutually exclusive.

c. There is another sense, however, in which the Christian is not free from the law.
The situation is quite different when we think of the law as the expression of man’s natural obligations to his God, the law as it is applied to man even apart from the covenant of works. It is impossible to imagine any condition in which man might be able to claim freedom from the law in that sense. It is pure Antinomianism to maintain that Christ kept the law as a rule of life for His people, so that they need not worry about this any more. The law lays claim, and justly so, on the entire life of man in all its aspects, including his relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When God offers man the gospel, the law demands that the latter shall accept this. Some would speak of this as the law in the gospel, but this is hardly correct. The gospel itself consists of promises and is no law; yet there is a demand of the law in connection with the gospel. The law not only demands that we accept the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ, but also that we lead a life of gratitude in harmony with its requirements.

Source: Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

The Nature of the Atonement from Berkhof’s Systematic Theology

 

Berkhof

Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof.pdf

IV. The Nature of the Atonement

The doctrine of the atonement here presented is the penal substitutionary or satisfaction doctrine, which is the doctrine clearly taught by the Word of God.

A. STATEMENT OF THE PENAL SUBSTITUTIONARY DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT.

In the discussion of this view several particulars should be stressed.

1. THE ATONEMENT IS OBJECTIVE. This means that the atonement makes its primary impression on the person to whom it is made. If a man does wrong and renders satisfaction, this satisfaction is intended to influence the person wronged and not the offending party. In the case under consideration it means that the atonement was intended to propitiate God and to reconcile Him to the sinner. This is undoubtedly the primary idea, but does not imply that we can not also speak of the sinner ’s being reconciled to God. Scripture does this in more than one place, Rom. 5:10; II Cor. 5:19,20. But it should be borne in mind that this is not equivalent to saying that the sinner is atoned, which would mean that God made amends or reparation, that He rendered satisfaction to the sinner. And even when we speak of the sinner as being reconciled, this must be understood as something that is secondary. The reconciled God justifies the sinner who accepts the reconciliation, and so operates in his heart by the Holy Spirit, that the sinner also lays aside his wicked alienation from God, and thus enters into the fruits of the perfect atonement of Christ. In other words, the fact that Christ reconciles God to the sinner results in a reflex action on the sinner, in virtue of which the sinner may be said to be reconciled to God. Since the objective atonement by Christ is an accomplished fact, and it is now the duty of the ambassadors of Christ to induce sinners to accept the atonement and to terminate their hostility to God, it is no wonder that the secondary and subjective side of the reconciliation is somewhat prominent in Scripture. This statement of the objective character of the atonement is placed in the foreground, because it represents the main difference between those who accept the satisfaction doctrine of the atonement and all those who prefer some other theory.

Now the question arises, whether this conception of the atonement is supported by Scripture. It would seem to find ample support there. The following particulars should be noted:

a. The fundamental character of the priesthood clearly points in that direction. While the prophets represented God among men, the priests in their sacrificial and intercessory work represented men in the presence of God, and therefore looked in a Godward direction. The writer of Hebrews expresses it thus: “For every high priest, taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,” 5:1. This statement contains the following elements: (1) The priest is taken from among men, is one of the human race, so as to be able to represent men; (2) he is appointed for men, that is, to be active in the interests of men; and (3) he is appointed to represent men in things pertaining to God, that is, in things that have a Godward direction, that look to God, that terminate on God. This is a clear indication of the fact that the work of the priest looks primarily to God. It does not exclude the idea that the priestly work also has a reflex influence on men.

b. The same truth is conveyed by the general idea of the sacrifices. These clearly have an objective reference. Even among the Gentiles they are brought, not to men, but to God. They were supposed to produce an effect on God. The Scriptural idea of sacrifice does not differ from this in its objective reference. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were brought to God primarily to atone for sin, but also as expressions of devotion and gratitude. Hence the blood had to be brought into the very presence of God. The writer of Hebrews says that the “things pertaining to God” consist in offering “both gifts and sacrifices for sin.” The friends of Job were urged to bring sacrifices, “lest I,” says the Lord, “deal with you after your folly.” Job 42:8. The sacrifices were to be instrumental in stilling the anger of the Lord.

c. The Hebrew word kipper (piel) expresses the idea of atonement for sin by the covering of sin or of the sinner. The blood of the sacrifice is interposed between God and the sinner, and in view of it the wrath of God is turned aside. It has the effect, therefore, of warding off the wrath of God from the sinner. In the Septuagint and in the New Testament the terms hilaskomai and hilasmos are used in a related sense. The verb means “to render propitious,” and the noun, “an appeasing” or “the means of appeasing.” They are terms of an objective character. In classical Greek they are often construed with the accusative of theos (God), though there is no example of this in the Bible. In the New Testament they are construed with the accusative of the thing (hamartias), Heb. 2:17, or with peri and the genitive of the thing (hamartion), I John 2:2; 4:10. The first passage is best interpreted in the light of the use of the Hebrew kipper; the last can be interpreted similarly, or with theon as the object understood. There are so many passages of Scripture which speak of the wrath of God and of God as being angry with sinners, that we are perfectly justified in speaking of a propitiation of God, Rom. 1:18; Gal. 3:10; Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:9. In Rom. 5:10 and 11:28 sinners are called “enemies of God” (echthroi) in a passive sense, indicating, not that they are hostile to God, but that they are the objects of God’s holy displeasure. In the former passage this sense is demanded by its connection with the previous verse; and in the latter by the fact that echtroi is contrasted with agapetoi, which does not mean “lovers of God,” but “beloved of God.”

d. The words katalasso and katalage signify “to reconcile” and “reconciliation.” They point to an action by which enmity is changed to friendship, and surely have, first of all, an objective signification. The offender reconciles, not himself, but the person whom he has offended. This is clearly brought out in Matt. 5:23,24: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift before the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave thy gift there before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother (which
in this connection can only mean, reconcile thy brother to thyself, which is objective), and then come and offer thy gift.” The brother who had done the supposed injury is called upon to remove the grievance. He must propitiate or reconcile his brother to himself by whatsoever compensation may be required. In connection with the work of Christ the words under consideration in some instances certainly denote the effecting of a change in the judicial relation between God and the sinner by removing the judicial claim. According to II Cor. 5:19 the fact that God reconciled the world to Himself is evident from this that He does not reckon unto them their sins. This does not point to any moral change in man, but to the fact that the demands of the law are met, and that God is satisfied. In Rom. 5:10,11 the term “reconciliation” can only be understood in an objective sense, for (1) it is said to have been effected by the death of Christ, while subjective reconciliation is the result of the work of the Spirit; (2) it was effected while we were yet enemies, that is, were still objects of God’s wrath; and (3) it is represented in verse 11 as something objective which we receive.

e. The terms lutron and antilutron are also objective terms. Christ is the Goel, the liberator, Acts 20:28; I Cor. 6:20; 7:23. He redeems sinners from the demands of God’s retributive justice. The price is paid to God by Christ as the representative of the sinner. Clearly, the Bible abundantly justifies us in ascribing an objective character to the atonement. Moreover, strictly speaking, atonement in the proper sense of the word is always objective. There is no such thing as subjective atonement. In atonement it is always the party that has done wrong that makes amends to the one who was wronged.

2. IT IS A VICARIOUS ATONEMENT.

a. The meaning of the term “vicarious atonement.” There is a difference between personal and vicarious atonement. We are interested particularly in the difference between the two in connection with the atonement of Christ. When man fell away from God, he as such owed God reparation. But he could atone for his sin only by suffering eternally the penalty affixed to transgression. This is what God might have required in strict justice, and would have required, if He had not been actuated by love and compassion for the sinner. As a matter of fact, however, God appointed a vicar in Jesus Christ to take man’s place, and this vicar atoned for sin and obtained an eternal redemption for man. Dr. Shedd calls attention to the following points of difference in this case: (1) Personal atonement is provided by the offending party; vicarious atonement by the offended party. (2) Personal atonement would have excluded the element of mercy; vicarious atonement represents the highest form of mercy. (3) Personal atonement would have been forever in the making and hence could not result in redemption; vicarious atonement leads to reconciliation and life everlasting.

b. The possibility of vicarious atonement. All those who advocate a subjective theory of the atonement raise a formidable objection to the idea of vicarious atonement. They consider it unthinkable that a just God should transfer His wrath against moral offenders to a perfectly innocent party, and should treat the innocent judicially as if he were guilty. There is undoubtedly a real difficulty here, especially in view of the fact that this seems to be contrary to all human analogy. We cannot conclude from the possibility of the transfer of a pecuniary debt to that of the transfer of a penal debt. If some beneficent person offers to pay the pecuniary debt of another, the payment must be accepted, and the debtor is ipso facto freed from all obligation. But this is not the case when someone offers to atone vicariously for the transgression of another. To be legal, this must be expressly permitted and authorized by the lawgiver. In reference to the law this is called relaxation, and in relation to the sinner it is known as remission. The judge need not, but can permit this; yet he can permit it only under certain conditions, as (1) that the guilty party himself is not in a position to bear the penalty through to the end, so that a righteous relation results; (2) that the transfer does not encroach upon the rights and privileges of innocent third parties, nor cause them to suffer hardships and privations; (3) that the person enduring the penalty is not himself already indebted to justice, and does not owe all his services to the government; and (4) that the guilty party retains the consciousness of his guilt and of the fact that the substitute is suffering for him. In view of all this it will be understood that the transfer of penal debt is well-nigh, if not entirely, impossible among men. But in the case of Christ, which is altogether unique, because in it a situation obtained which has no parallel, all the conditions named were met. There was no injustice of any kind.

c. Scriptural proof for the vicarious atonement of Christ. The Bible certainly teaches that the sufferings and death of Christ were vicarious, and vicarious in the strict sense of the word that He took the place of sinners, and that their guilt was imputed, and their punishment transferred, to Him. This is not at all what Bushnell means, when he speaks of the “vicarious sacrifice” of Christ. For him it simply means that Christ bore our sins “on His feeling, became inserted into their bad lot by His sympathy as a friend, yielded up Himself and His life, even, to an effort of restoring mercy; in a word that He bore our sins in just the same sense as He bore our sicknesses.”43 The sufferings of Christ were
not just the sympathetic sufferings of a friend, but the substitutionary sufferings of the Lamb of God for the sin of the world. The Scriptural proofs for this may be classified as follows:

(1) The Old Testament teaches us to regard the sacrifices that were brought upon the altar as vicarious. When the Israelite brought a sacrifice to the Lord, he had to lay his hand on the head of the sacrifice and confess his sin. This action symbolized the transfer of sin to the offering, and rendered it fit to atone for the sin of the offerer, Lev. 1:4. Cave and others regard this action merely as a symbol of dedication.44 But this does not explain how the laying on of hands made the sacrifice fit to make atonement for sin. Neither is it in harmony with what we are taught respecting the significance of the laying on of hands in the case of the scape-goat in Lev. 16:20-22. After the laying on of hands death was vicariously inflicted on the sacrifice. The significance of this is clearly indicated in the classical passage that is found in Lev. 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.” Says Dr. Vos, “The sacrificial animal in its death takes the place of the death due to the offerer. It is forfeit for forfeit.” The sacrifices so brought were pre-figurations of the one great sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

(2) There are several passages in Scripture which speak of our sins as being “laid upon” Christ, and of His “bearing” sin or iniquity, Isa. 53:6,12; John 1:29; II Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:28; I Pet. 2:24. On the basis of Scripture we can, therefore, say that our sins are imputed to Christ. This does not mean that our sinfulness was transferred to Him — something that is in itself utterly impossible — but that the guilt of our sin was imputed to Him. Says Dr. A. A. Hodge: “Sin may be considered (1) in its formal nature as transgression of the law, I John 3:4; or (2) as a moral quality inherent in the agent (macula), Rom. 6:11-13; or (3) in respect to its legal obligation to punishment (reatus). In this last sense alone is it ever said that the sin of one is laid upon or borne by another.”45  Strictly speaking, then, the guilt of sin as liability to punishment was imputed to Christ; and this could be transferred, because it did not inhere in the person of the sinner, but was something objective.

(3) Finally, there are several passages in which the prepositions peri, huper, and anti are used in connection with the work of Christ for sinners. The substitutionary idea is expressed least by the first, and most by the last preposition. But even in the interpretation of huper and anti we shall have to depend largely on the context, for while the former really means “in behalf of,” it may, and in some cases does, express the idea of substitution, and while the latter may mean “instead of,” it does not always have that meaning. It is rather interesting to notice that, according to Deissmann, several
instances have been found on the inscriptions of the use of huper with the meaning “as
representative of.”46 We find a similar use of it in Philemon 13. In such passages as Rom.
5:6-8; 8:32; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 2:9 it probably means “instead of,” though it can also be rendered “in behalf of”; but in Gal. 2:13; John 11:50, and II Cor. 5:15 it certainly means “instead of.” Robertson says that only violence to the text can get rid of that meaning here. The preposition anti clearly means “instead of” in Matt. 2:22; 5:38; 20:28; Mark
10:45. According to Robertson any other meaning of the term is out of the question here.  The same idea is expressed in I Tim. 2:6.

d. Objections to the idea of a vicarious atonement. Several objections are raised against the idea of vicarious atonement.

(1) Substitution in penal matters is illegal. It is generally admitted that in cases of a pecuniary debt payment by a substitute is not only permissible, but must be accepted and at once cancels all further obligation on the part of the original debtor. However, it is said that penal debt is so personal that it does not admit of any such transfer. But it is quite evident that there are other than pecuniary cases in which the law has made provision for substitution. Armour in his work on Atonement and Law mentions three kinds of such cases. The first is that of substitution in cases of work for the public benefit required by law, and the second, that of substitution in the case of military service required in behalf of one’s country. Respecting the third he says “Even in the case of crime, law, as understood and administered by men in all lands, provides that the penalty may be met by a substitute, in all cases in which the penalty prescribed is such that a substitute may meet it consistently with the obligations he is already under.”47 It is perfectly evident that the law does recognize the principle of substitution, though it may not be easy to cite instances in which innocent persons were permitted to act as substitutes for criminals and to bear the penalties imposed on these. This finds a sufficient explanation in the fact that it is usually impossible to find men who meet all the requirements stated under (b) above. But the fact that it is impossible to find men who meet these requirements, is no proof that Jesus Christ could not meet them. In fact, He could and did, and was therefore an acceptable substitute.

(2) The innocent is made to suffer for the wicked. It is perfectly true that, according to the penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement Christ suffered as “the righteous for the unrighteous” (I Pet. 3:18), but this can hardly be urged as an objection to the doctrine of vicarious atonement. In the form in which it is often stated it certainly has very little force. To say that this doctrine makes the innocent suffer the consequences of the guilt of the wicked, and is therefore unacceptable, is tantamount to raising an objection against the moral government of God in general. In actual life the innocent often suffer as a result of the transgression of others. Moreover, in this form the objection would hold against all the so-called theories of the atonement, for they all represent the sufferings of Christ as being in some sense the result of the sins of mankind. Sometimes it is said that a moral agent cannot become reasonably responsible for any sin, except by doing it personally; but this is contradicted by the facts of life. One who hires another to commit a crime is held responsible; so are all accessories to a crime.

(3) God the Father is made guilty of injustice. It appears that all the objections are really variations on the same theme. The third is virtually the same as the second put in a more legal form. The doctrine of vicarious atonement, it is said, involves an injustice on the part of the Father in that He simply sacrifices the Son for the sins of mankind. This objection was already raised by Abelard, but loses sight of several pertinent facts. It was not the Father but the triune God that conceived the plan of redemption. There was a solemn agreement between the three persons in the Godhead. And in this plan the Son voluntarily undertook to bear the penalty for sin and to satisfy the demands of the divine law. And not only that, but the sacrificial work of Christ also brought immense gain and glory to Christ as Mediator. It meant for Him a numerous seed, loving worship, and a glorious kingdom. And, finally, this objection acts as a boomerang, for it returns with vengeance on the head of all those who, like Abelard, deny the necessity of an objective atonement, for they are all agreed that the Father sent the Son into the world for bitter suffering and a shameful death which, while beneficial, was yet unnecessary. This would have been cruel indeed!

4. There is no such union as would justify a vicarious atonement. It is said that, if a vicar
is to remove the guilt of an offender there must be some real union between them which would justify such a procedure. It may be admitted that there must be some antecedent union between a vicar and those whom he represents, but the idea that this must be an organic union, such as the objectors really have in mind, cannot be granted. As a matter of fact the required union should be legal rather than organic, and provision was made for such a union in the plan of redemption. In the depths of eternity the Mediator of the new covenant freely undertook to be the representative of His people, that is, of those whom the Father gave unto Him. A federal relationship was established in virtue of which He became their Surety. This is the basic and the most fundamental union between Christ and His own, and on the basis of this a mystical union was formed, ideally in the counsel of peace, to be realized in the course of history in the organic union of Christ and His Church. Therefore Christ could act as the legal representative of His own, and being mystically one with them, can also convey to them the blessings of salvation.

3. IT INCLUDES CHRISTS ACTIVE AND PASSIVE OBEDIENCE. It is customary to distinguish between the active and passive obedience of Christ. But in discriminating between the two, it should be distinctly understood that they cannot be separated. The two accompany each other at every point in the Saviour ’s life. There is a constant interpenetration of the two. It was part of Christ’s active obedience, that He subjected Himself voluntarily to sufferings and death. He Himself says: “No man taketh my life from me, I lay it down of myself,” John 10:18. On the other hand it was also part of Christ’s passive obedience, that He lived in subjection to the law. His moving about in the form of a servant constituted an important element of His sufferings. Christ’s active and passive obedience should be regarded as complementary parts of an organic whole. In discussing it, account should be taken of a threefold relation in which Christ stood to the law, namely, the natural, the federal, and the penal relation. Man proved a failure in each one of these. He did not keep the law in its natural and federal aspects, and is not now in a position to pay the penalty, in order to be restored in the favor of God. While Christ naturally entered the first relation by His incarnation, He vicariously entered only the second and third relations. And it is with these that we are particularly concerned in this connection.

a. The active obedience of Christ. Christ as Mediator entered the federal relation in which Adam stood in the state of integrity, in order to merit eternal life for the sinner. This constitutes the active obedience of Christ, consisting in all that Christ did to observe the law in its federal aspect, as the condition for obtaining eternal life. The active obedience of Christ was necessary to make His passive obedience acceptable with God, that is, to make it an object of God’s good pleasure. It is only on account of it that God’s estimate of the sufferings of Christ differs from His estimate of the sufferings of the lost. Moreover, if Christ had not rendered active obedience, the human nature of Christ itself would have fallen short of the just demands of God, and He would not have been able to atone for others. And, finally, if Christ had suffered only the penalty imposed on man, those who shared in the fruits of His work would have been left exactly where Adam was before he fell. Christ merits more for sinners than the forgiveness of sins. According to Gal. 4:4,5 they are through Christ set free from the law as the condition of life, are adopted to be sons of God, and as sons are also heirs of eternal life, Gal. 4:7. All this is conditioned primarily on the active obedience of Christ. Through Christ the righteousness of faith is substituted for the righteousness of the law, Rom. 10:3,4. Paul tells us that by the work of Christ “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us,” Rom. 8:3,4; and that we are made “the righteousness of God in Him,” II Cor. 5:21.

According to Anselm Christ’s life of obedience had no redemptive significance, since He owed this to God for Himself. Only the sufferings of the Saviour constituted a claim on God and were basic to the sinner ’s redemption. Thinking along somewhat similar lines Piscator, the seventeenth century Arminians, Richard Watson, R. N. Davies, and other Arminian scholars deny that the active obedience of Christ has the redemptive significance which we ascribe to it. Their denial rests especially on two considerations: (1) Christ needed His active obedience for Himself as man. Being under the law, He was in duty bound to keep it for Himself. In answer to this it may be said that Christ, though possessing a human nature, was yet a divine person, and as such was not subject to the law in its federal aspect, the law as the condition of life in the covenant of works. As the last Adam, however, He took the place of the first. The first Adam was by nature under the law of God, and the keeping of it as such gave him no claim to a reward. It was only when God graciously entered into a covenant with him and promised him life in the way of obedience, that the keeping of the law was made the condition of obtaining eternal life for himself and for his descendants. And when Christ voluntarily entered the federal relationship as the last Adam, the keeping of the law naturally acquired the same significance for Him and for those whom the Father had given Him. (2) God demands, or can demand, only one of two things of the sinner: either obedience to the law, or subjection to the penalty, but not both. If the law is obeyed, the penalty cannot be inflicted; and if the penalty is borne, nothing further can be demanded. There is some confusion here, however, which results in misunderstanding. This “either . . . or” applied to the case of Adam before the fall, but ceased to apply the moment he sinned and thus entered the penal relationship of the law. God continued to demand obedience of man, but in addition to that required of him that he pay the penalty for past transgression. Meeting this double requirement was the only way of life after sin entered the world. If Christ had merely obeyed the law and had not also paid the penalty, He would not have won a title to eternal life for sinners; and if He had merely paid the penalty, without meeting the original demands of the law, He would have left man in the position of Adam before the fall, still confronted with the task of obtaining eternal life in the way of obedience. By His active obedience, however, He carried His people beyond that point and gave them a claim to everlasting life.

b. The passive obedience of Christ. Christ as Mediator also entered the penal relation to the law, in order to pay the penalty in our stead. His passive obedience consisted in His paying the penalty of sin by His sufferings and death, and thus discharging the debt of all His people. The sufferings of Christ, which have already been described, did not come upon Him accidentally, nor as the result of purely natural circumstances. They were judicially laid upon Him as our representative, and were therefore really penal sufferings. The redemptive value of these sufferings results from the following facts: They were borne by a divine person who, only in virtue of His deity, could bear the penalty through to the end and thus obtain freedom from it. In view of the infinite value of the person who undertook to pay the price and to bear the curse, they satisfied the justice of God essentially and intensively. They were strictly moral sufferings, because Christ took them upon Himself voluntarily, and was perfectly innocent and holy in bearing them. The passive obedience of Christ stands out prominently in such passages as the following: Isa. 53:6; Rom. 4:25; I Pet. 2:24; 3:18; I John 2:2, while His active obedience is taught in such passages at Matt. 3:15; 5:17,18; John 15:10; Gal. 4:4,5; Heb. 10:7-9, in connection with the passages which teach us that Christ is our righteousness, Rom. 10:4; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; and that He secured for us eternal life, the adoption of sons, and an eternal inheritance, Gal. 3:13,14; 4:4,5; Eph. 1:3-12; 5:25-27. Arminians are willing to admit that Christ, by His passive obedience merited for us the forgiveness of sins, but refuse to grant that He also merited for us positive acceptance with God, the adoption of children, and everlasting life.

43 Vicarious Sacrifice, p. 46.

44 The Scriptural Doctrine of Sacrifice, pp. 129 f.

45 Outlines of Theology, p. 408.

46 Light From the Ancient East, p. 153.

47 p. 129.

Romans 5:10

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

2 Corinthians 5:19

19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling [1] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:20

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Hebrews 5:1

5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Job 42:8

Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

Hebrews 2:17

17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 1:18

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Galatians 3:10

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Ephesians 2:3

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [2] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Romans 5:9

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:10

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 11:28

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

Matthew 5:23

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,

Matthew 5:24

24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

2 Corinthians 5:19

19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling [3] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Acts 20:28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, [4] which he obtained with his own blood. [5]

1 Corinthians 6:20

20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23

23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Leviticus 1:4

He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

Leviticus 16:20-22

20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:12

12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, [6]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, [7]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

John 1:29

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Hebrews 9:28

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1 Peter 2:24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 John 3:4

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

Romans 6:11-13

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Philemon 1:13

13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,

Romans 5:6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:32

32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Hebrews 2:9

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Galatians 2:13

13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

John 11:50

50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

2 Corinthians 5:15

15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Matthew 2:22

22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.

Matthew 5:38

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

Matthew 20:28

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

1 Timothy 2:6

who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered [8] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

John 10:18

18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Galatians 4:4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:7

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Romans 10:3

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [9]

Romans 8:3

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [10] he condemned sin in the flesh,

Romans 8:4

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Romans 4:25

25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

1 Peter 2:24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered [11] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 John 2:2

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Matthew 3:15

15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Matthew 5:17

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:18

18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

John 15:10

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Galatians 4:4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Hebrews 10:7-9

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.

Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [12]

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Philippians 3:9

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Galatians 3:13

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Galatians 3:14

14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit [13] through faith.

Galatians 4:4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Ephesians 1:3-12

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us [14] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known [15] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 5:25-27

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. [16] (ESV)

Footnotes

[1] 5:19 Or God was in Christ, reconciling
[2] 2:3 Greek flesh
[3] 5:19 Or God was in Christ, reconciling
[4] 20:28 Some manuscripts of the Lord
[5] 20:28 Or with the blood of his Own
[6] 53:12 Or with the great
[7] 53:12 Or with the numerous
[8] 3:18 Some manuscripts died
[9] 10:4 Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified
[10] 8:3 Or and as a sin offering
[11] 3:18 Some manuscripts died
[12] 10:4 Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified
[13] 3:14 Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
[14] 1:5 Or before him in love, having predestined us
[15] 1:9 Or he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known . . .
[16] 5:27 Or holy and blameless

The Inconsistent Synergism of ‘Eternal Security’ – Michael Horton

charles_stanleyToday, many within the American Church speak of ‘Eternal Security’.  Charles Stanley is one key example that teaches this doctrine.  In this system, Charles Stanley actually is Arminian in the other four points of Calvinism and because a person “makes a decision for Jesus”, well Jesus is just kind of stuck with them, regardless of the lack of fruit or evidence of true faith in Christ.  This doctrine of ‘Eternal Security’ is inconsistent with the Reformed Protestant view known as ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ (or the ‘P’ in TULIP).  In the Reformed understanding of the five points of Calvinism, salvation is all of grace from beginning to end.  Michael Horton in his recent book, For Calvinism very thoughtfully engages the ‘inconsistent synergism’ of the doctrine of ‘Eternal Security’ commonly taught by Charles Stanley among many others.  Sadly, Reformed folk get a bad wrap for holding to ‘Eternal Security’ even though it is a view inconsistent with our system of doctrine and Reformed Confessional standards.  ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ is an altogether different doctrine than what has become known as ‘Eternal Security’ or ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’.  Reformed Protestants are not ‘Antinomians’ as the Assemblies of God would have us to believe as they lump Charles Stanley in within the pale of Calvinism and leave Reformed Protestants impaled.  Just take a look at our Reformed Confessions such as the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Standards.

Michael Horton writes in For Calvinism:

Neither the Roman Catholic and Orthodox nor the Arminian view is Pelagian . Both insist on the necessity of grace, but this grace is regarded as making final salvation merely possible; it becomes effectual only to the extent that the believer cooperates with its infused powers.

If these rival views of perseverance represent a consistent synergism, another important view can be identified as inconsistent synergism. Generally known as eternal security, this view seems in some respects indistinguishable from the perseverance of the saints. However , at least as it is articulated by many of its leading proponents, this view locates security in the believer’s decision to accept Christ. 25 Although genuine Christians may fail to grow in their sanctification and persevere in their faith — in fact, they may never even begin to bear the fruit of righteousness— they are assured of eternal life. Such “carnal Christians” may leave the church, even deny Christ , and thereby lose the blessings of living as “victorious Christians” as well as the rewards in the next life for faithful service, but they will be saved, though “only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3: 15). 26

Although advocates often represent this position as moderate Calvinism, it is more appropriately identified as moderate Arminianism. This is why I have identified it as “inconsistent synergism.” After all, it denies that human beings are incapable of responding to God in faith apart from a prior regeneration, bases election on foreseen faith, rejects the particular scope of the atonement, and maintains that the Spirit’s sovereign call may be resisted. Even its teaching of eternal security is based on the believer’s decision to accept Christ, which renders this view actually closer to Arminianism than to a Calvinist interpretation of perseverance of the saints.

Over every form of synergism, Confessional Lutheranism strongly affirms a monergistic soteriology: God alone saves; it is not a process of human cooperation with God’s grace. Nevertheless, from a Reformed perspective the Lutheran system represents an inconsistent monergism. Confessional Lutheranism affirms total depravity and unconditional election while nevertheless holding with equal rigor to a universal atonement and the possibility of resisting the Spirit’s inward calling through the outward gospel. Lutheranism affirms with Reformed theology that the elect will persevere and “those who still take pleasure in their sins and continue in a sinful life do not believe” (Augsburg Confession, Art. 20); yet also holds that it is possible that (1) the elect may lose their salvation for a time (e.g., David, Peter), but not finally; and (2) others might once have truly believed, been regenerated and justified, but then lose all of these gifts through apostasy. 27

According to some Lutherans, salvation can only be lost through unbelief, while according to others it may also be lost due to mortal sin. 28 How can one say that God alone saves, from beginning to end, while also affirming the possibility of losing one’s salvation? It seems undeniable that this gift depends in some sense on the sinner’s nonresisting, although this conclusion is rejected by Confessional Lutherans.

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints reflects a consistently monergistic view of salvation as entirely due to God’s grace alone from beginning to end. With the writer to the Hebrews, we can acknowledge the tragic reality of apostasy or falling away from the covenantal sphere of the Spirit’s activity through Word and sacrament without concluding that these visible members of Christ’s body were actually regenerated branches of the vine. Although some professing members may be devoid of saving faith, those who receive the reality that is promised to them in Word and sacrament are assured that they will continue to trust in Christ. In spite of the weakness of our faith and repentance, we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us,” so that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8: 37, 39). Now that is a message that takes command of our hearts and minds, leading us to worship and out to our neighbors with the best news that they will ever hear!

Horton, Michael S. (2011-10-25). For Calvinism (Kindle Locations 2129-2162). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.  (pp. 122-123 in the paperback)

Is Perseverance of the Saints Different from Eternal Security

The Perseverance and Preservation of the Saints — Michael Horton

Assemblies of God Position Paper on the Security of the Believer (Backsliding)

Machen – Can We Live Up to the Golden Rule?

j_gresham_machenSo it is with the whole of the discourse. The new law of the Sermon on the Mount, in itself, can only produce despair. Strange indeed is the complacency with which modern men can say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need. In reality, if the requirements for entrance into the Kingdom of God are what Jesus declares them to be, we are all undone; we have not even attained to the external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands ? The Sermon on the Mount, rightly interpreted, then, makes man a seeker after some divine means of salvation by which entrance into the Kingdom can be obtained. Even Moses was too high for us; but before this higher law of Jesus who shall stand without being condemned? The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.

Even the disciples, to whom the teaching of Jesus was first addressed, knew well that they needed more than guidance in the way that they should go. It is only a superficial reading of the Gospels that can find in the relation which the disciples sustained to Jesus a mere relation of pupil to Master. When Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” he was speaking not as a philosopher calling pupils to his school) but as One who was in possession of rich stores of divine grace. And this much at least the disciples knew. They knew well in their heart of hearts that they had no right to stand in the Kingdom; they knew that only Jesus could win them entrance there. They did not yet know fully how Jesus could make them children of God; but they did know that He could do it and He alone. And in that trust all the theology of the great Christian creeds was in expectation contained.

At this point, an objection may arise. May we not–the modern liberal will say– may we not now return to that simple trust of the disciples? May we not cease to ask how Jesus saves; may we not simply leave the way to Him? What need is there, then, of defining “effectual calling,” what need of enumerating “justification, adoption and sanctification and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them”? What need even of rehearsing the steps in the saving work of Christ as they were rehearsed by the Jerusalem Church; what need of saying that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”? Should not our trust be in a Person rather than in a message; in Jesus, rather than in what Jesus did; in Jesus’ character rather than in Jesus’ death?

Plausible words these are–plausible, and pitifully vain. Can we really return to Galilee; are we really in the same situation as those who came to Jesus when He was on earth? Can we hear Him say to us, “Thy sins are forgiven thee”? These are serious questions, and they cannot possibly be ignored. The plain fact is that Jesus of Nazareth died these nineteen hundred years ago. It was possible for the men of Galilee in the first century to trust Him; for to them He extended His aid. For them, life’s problem was easy. They needed only to push in through the crowd or be lowered through some Capernaum roof and the long search was over. But we are separated by nineteen centuries from the One who alone could give us aid. How can we bridge the gulf of time that separates us from Jesus?

Some persons would bridge the gulf by the mere use of the historical imagination. “Jesus is not dead,” we are told, “but lives on through His recorded words and deeds; we do not need even to believe it all; even a part is sufficient; the wonderful personality of Jesus shines out clear from the Gospel story. Jesus, in other words, may still be known; let us simply–without theology, without controversy, without inquiry about miracles–abandon ourselves to His spell, and He will heal us.”

Christianity & Liberalism, 1923 J. Gresham Machen

Machen on the Cross of Christ for Sinners

j_gresham_machenBut still another objection remains against the Christian doctrine of the Cross. The objection concerns the character of God. What a degraded view of God it is, the modern liberal exclaims, when God is represented as being “alienated” from man, and as waiting coldly until a price be paid before He grants salvation! In reality, we are told, God is more willing to forgive sin than we are willing to be forgiven; reconciliation, therefore, can have to do only with man; it all depends upon us; God will receive us any time we choose.

The objection depends of course upon the liberal view of sin. If sin is so trifling a matter as the liberal Church supposes, then indeed the curse of God’s law can be taken very lightly, and God can easily let by-gones be by-gones.

This business of letting by-gones be by-gones has a pleasant sound. But in reality it is the most heartless thing in the world. It will not do at all even in the case of sins committed against our fellow-men. To say nothing of sin against God, what shall be done about the harm that we have wrought to our neighbor? Sometimes, no doubt, the harm can be repaired. If we have defrauded our neighbor of a sum ofmoney, we can pay the sum back with interest. But in the case of the more serious wrongs such repayment is usually quite impossible. The more serious wrongs are those that are done, not to the bodies, but to the souls of men. And who can think with complacency of wrongs of that kind which he has committed? Who can bear to think, for example, of the harm that he has done to those younger than himself by a bad example? And what of those sad words, spoken to those we love, that have left scars never to be obliterated by the hand of time? In the presence of such memories, we are told by the modern preacher simply to repent and to let by-gones be by-gones. But what a heartless thing is such repentance! We escape into some higher, happier, respectable life. But what of those whom we by our example and by our words have helped to drag down to the brink of hell? We forget them and let by-gones be by-gones!

Such repentance will never wipe out the guilt of sin–not even sin committed against our fellow-men, to say nothing of sin against our God. The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin? Others are suffering because of our past sins; and we can attain no real peace until we suffer in their stead. We long to go back into the tangle of our life, and make right the things that are wrong–at least to suffer where we have caused others to suffer. And something like that Christ did for us when He died instead of us on the cross; He atoned for all our sins.

The sorrow for sins committed against one’s fellowmen does indeed remain in the Christian’s heart. And he will seek by every means that is within his power to repair the damage that he has done. But atonement at least has been made–made as truly as if the sinner himself had suffered with and for those whom he has wronged. And the sinner himself, by a mystery of grace, becomes right with God. All sin at bottom is a sin against God. “Against thee, thee only have I sinned” is the cry of a true penitent. How terrible is the sin against God! Who can recall the wasted moments and years ? Gone they are, never to return; gone the little allotted span of life; gone the little day in which a man must work. Who can measure the irrevocable guilt of a wasted life? Yet even for such guilt God has provided a fountain of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ. God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness as with a garment; in Christ we stand spotless before the judgment throne.

Thus to deny the necessity of atonement is to deny the existence of a real moral order. And it is strange how those who venture upon such denial can regard themselves as disciples of Jesus; for if one thing is clear in the record of Jesus’ life it is that Jesus recognized the justice as distinguished from the love, of God. God is love, according to Jesus, but He is not only love; Jesus spoke, in terrible words, of the sin that shall never be forgiven either in this world or in that which is to come. Clearly Jesus recognized the existence of retributive justice; Jesus was far from accepting the light modern view of sin.

But what, then, it will be objected, becomes of God’s love? Even if it be admitted that justice demands punishment for sin, the modern liberal theologian will say, what becomes of the Christian doctrine that justice is swallowed up by grace? If God is represented as waiting for a price to be paid before sin shall be forgiven, perhaps His justice may be rescued, but what becomes of His love?

Modern liberal teachers are never tired of ringing the changes upon this objection. They speak with horror of the doctrine of an “alienated” or an “angry” God. In answer, of course it would be easy to point to the New Testament. The New Testament clearly speaks of the wrath of God and the wrath of Jesus Himself; and all the teaching of Jesus presupposes a divine indignation against sin. With what possible right, then, can those who reject this vital element in Jesus’ teaching and example regard themselves as true disciples of His? The truth is that the modern rejection of the doctrine of God’s wrath proceeds from a light view of sin which is totally at variance with the teaching of the whole New Testament and of Jesus Himself. If a man has once come under a true conviction of sin, he will have little difficulty with the doctrine of the Cross.

But as a matter of fact the modern objection to the doctrine of the atonement on the ground that that doctrine is contrary to the love of God, is based upon the most abysmal misunderstanding of the doctrine itself. The modern liberal teachers persist in speaking of the sacrifice of Christ as though it were a sacrifice made by some one other than God. They speak of it as though it meant that God waits coldly until a price is paid to Him before He forgives sin. As a matter of fact, itmeans nothing of the kind; the objection ignores that which is absolutely fundamental in the Christian doctrine of the Cross. The fundamental thing is that God Himself, and not another, makes the sacrifice for sin–God Himself in the person of the Son who assumed our nature and died for us, God Himself in the Person of the Father who spared not His own Son but offered Him up for us all. Salvation is as free for us as the air we breathe; God’s the dreadful cost, ours the gain. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Such love is very different from the complacency found in the God of modern preaching; this love is love that did nob count the cost; it is love that is love indeed.

This love and this love alone brings true joy to men. Joy is indeed being sought by the modern liberal Church. But it is being sought in ways that are false. How may communion with God be made joyful? Obviously, we are told, by emphasizing the comforting attributes of God–His long-suffering, His love. Let us, it is urged, regard Him not as a moody Despot, not as a sternly righteous Judge, but simply as a loving Father. Away with the horrors of the old theology! Let us worship a God in whom we can rejoice.

Christianity & Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen, 1923, pp. 129-132 (pp. 109-112 in the edition with foreword by Carl Trueman)

The Covenant of Grace – Sacred Bond

sacred_bond_coverThe covenant of grace is the historical outworking of God’s eternal plan of salvation in the covenant of redemption. As we learned in chapter 1, the covenant of redemption was made in eternity among the persons of the Trinity and fulfilled in time through Christ’s active obedience and atoning death. It was for Christ a covenant of works . Just as there was a covenant of works with the first Adam, there was also a covenant of works with the second Adam, Christ. His obedience under this covenant is the foundation of the gospel and the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace is essentially the application to sinners of the benefits earned by Christ through his fulfillment of the covenant of redemption. In this covenant, because of Christ’s obedience, God brings his people into communion with himself and promises them, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” His promise is not on the basis of their obedience, but on the basis of Christ’s obedience. It was works for Christ so that it is grace for us. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5: 19).

Like the covenant of works, the covenant of grace is made between God and humans. One of the chief differences between these two covenants, however, is that the latter has a Mediator between God and his covenant partners, whereas the former does not. Christ is that Mediator (1 Tim. 2: 5). This makes the nature of these covenants very different from one another. As was shown in chapter 2, the covenant of works is based on law and requires perfect , personal obedience. Its condition is , “Do this and you will live” (cf. Lev. 18: 5; Gal. 3: 12). The covenant of grace, on the other hand, is based on God’s promise to save sinners. Its condition is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16: 31; cf. Rom. 10: 6– 13; Gal. 2: 16). In the covenant of grace, God pronounces sinners justified and righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them and received through faith alone.

Brown, Michael G.; Keele, Zach (2012-05-29). Sacred Bond; Covenant Theology Explored (Kindle Locations 885-900). Reformed Fellowship, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The Doctrine of Infant Salvation – Reformed View from B.B. Warfield’s Studies in Theology

bb_warfieldThe following selection is the Reformed Position held by B.B. Warfield, published in chapter 14 of Studies in Theology titled The Development of the Doctrine of Infant Salvation

THE REFORMED DOCTRINE

6. It was among the Reformed alone that the newly recovered Scriptural apprehension of the Church to which the promises were given, as essentially not an externally organized body but the people of God, membership in which is mediated not by the external act of baptism but by the internal regeneration of the Holy Spirit, bore its full fruit in rectifying the doctrine of the application of redemption. This great truth was taught alike by both branches of Protestantism, but it was limited in its application in the one line of teaching by a very high doctrine of the means of grace, while in the other it became itself constitutive of the doctrine of the means of grace. Not a few Reformed theologians, even outside the Church of England, no doubt also held a high doctrine of the means; of whom Peter Jurieu may be taken as a type. But this was not characteristic of the Reformed churches, the distinguishing doctrine of which rather by suspending salvation on membership in the invisible instead of in the visible Church, transformed baptism from a necessity into a duty, and left men dependent for salvation on nothing but the infinite love and free grace of God. In this view the absolutely free and loving election of God alone is determinative of the saved; so that how many and who they are is known absolutely to God alone, and to us only so far forth as it may be inferred from the marks and signs of election revealed to us in the Word. Faith and its fruits are the chief signs in the case of adults, and he that believes may know that he is of the elect. In the case of infants dying in infancy, birth within the bounds of the covenant is a sure sign, since the promise is “unto us and our children.” But present unbelief is not a sure sign of reprobation in the case of adults, for who knows but that unbelief may yet give place to faith? Nor in the case of infants, dying such, is birth outside the covenant a trustworthy sign of reprobation, for the election of God is free. Accordingly there are many — adults and infants — of whose salvation we may be sure, but of reprobation we cannot be sure; such a judgment is necessarily unsafe even as to adults apparently living in sin, while as to infants who “die and give no sign,” it is presumptuous and rash in the extreme.

The above is practically an outline of the teaching of Zwingli. He himself worked it out in its logical completeness, and taught: 1. That all believers are elect and hence are saved, though we cannot know infallibly who are true believers except in our own case. 2. All children of believers dying in infancy are elect and hence are saved, for this rests on God’s immutable promise. 3.  It is probable, from the superabundance of the gift of grace over the offense, that all infants dying such are elect and saved; so that death in infancy is a sign of election; and although this must be left with God, it is certainly rash and even impious to affirm their damnation. 4.  All who are saved, whether adult or infant, are saved only by the free grace of God’s election and through the redemption of Christ.

The central principle of Zwingli’s teaching is not only the common possession of all Calvinists, but the essential postulate of their system. They can differ among themselves only in their determination of what the signs of election and reprobation are, and in their interpretation of these signs. On these grounds Calvinists early divided into five classes: 1. From the beginning a few held with Zwingli that death in infancy is a sign of election, and hence that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into glory. After Zwingli, Bishop Hooper was probably the first to embrace this view.  It has more lately become the ruling view, and we may select Augustus Toplady and Robert S. Candlish as its types. The latter, for example, writes: “In many ways, I apprehend, it may be inferred from Scripture that all dying in infancy are elect, and are therefore saved… The whole analogy of the plan of saving mercy seems to favour the same view. And now it may be seen, if I am not greatly mistaken, to be put beyond question by the bare fact that little children die… The death of little children must be held to be one of the fruits of redemption…” 2. At the opposite extreme a very few held that the only sure sign of election is faith with its fruits, and, therefore, we can have no real ground of knowledge concerning the fate of any infant; as, however, God certainly has His elect among them too, each man can cherish the hope that his children are of the elect. Peter Martyr approaches this sadly agnostic position (which was afterward condemned by the Synod of Dort), writing: “Neither am I to be thought to promise salvation to all the children of the faithful which depart without the sacrament, for if I should do so I might be counted rash; I leave them to be judged by the mercy of God, seeing I have no certainty concerning the secret election and predestination; but I only assert that those are truly saved to whom the divine election extends, although baptism does not intervene… Just so, I hope well concerning infants of this kind, because I see them born from faithful parents; and this thing has promises that are uncommon; and although they may not be general,  quoad omnes,… yet when I see nothing to the contrary it is right to hope well concerning the salvation of such infants.”  The great body of Calvinists, however, previous to the present century, took their position between these extremes. 3. Many held that faith and the promise are sure signs of election, and accordingly all believers and their children are certainly saved; but that the lack of faith and the promise is an equally sure sign of reprobation, so that all the children of unbelievers, dying such, are equally certainly lost. The younger Spanheim, for example, writes: “Confessedly, therefore, original sin is a most just cause of positive reprobation.  Hence no one fails to see what we should think concerning the children of pagans dying in their childhood; for unless we acknowledge salvation outside of God’s covenant and Church (like the Pelagians of old, and with them Tertullian, Epiphanius, Clement of Alexandria, of the ancients, and of the moderns, Andradius, Ludovicus Vives, Erasmus, and not a few others, against the whole Bible), and suppose that all the children of the heathen, dying in infancy, are saved, and that it would be a great blessing to them if they should be smothered by the midwives or strangled in the cradle, we should humbly believe that they are justly reprobated by God on account of the corruption (labes) and guilt (reatus) derived to them by natural propagation.  Hence, too, Paul testifies (Romans 5:14) that death has passed upon them which s transgression, and distinguishes and separates (1 Corinthians 7:14) the children of the covenanted as holy from the impure children of unbelievers.” 4. More held that faith and the promise are certain signs of election, so that the salvation of believers” children is certain, while the lack of the promise only leaves us in ignorance of God’s purpose; nevertheless that there is good ground for asserting that both election and reprobation have place in this unknown sphere. Accordingly they held that all the infants of believers, dying such, are saved, but that some of the infants of unbelievers, dying such, are lost. Probably no higher expression of this general view can be found than John Owen’s. He argues that there are two ways in which God saves infants: “ (1) by interesting them in the covenant, if their immediate or remote parents have been believers. He is a God of them and of their seed, extending his mercy unto a thousand generations of them that fear him; (2) by his grace of election, which is most free, and not tied to any conditions; by which I make no doubt but God taketh many unto him in Christ whose parents never knew, or had been despisers of, the gospel.”  5. Most Calvinists of the past, however, have simply held that faith and the promise are marks by which we may know assuredly that all those who believe and their children, dying such, are elect and saved, while the absence of sure marks of either election or reprobation in infants, dying such outside the covenant, leaves us without ground for inference concerning them, and they must be left to the judgment of God, which, however hidden from us, is assuredly just and holy and good. This agnostic view of the fate of uncovenanted infants has been held, of course, in conjunction with every degree of hope or the lack of hope concerning them, and thus in the hands of the several theologians it approaches each of the other views, except, of course, the second, which separates itself from the general Calvinistic attitude by allowing a place for reprobation even among believers’ infants, dying such. Petrus de Witte may stand for one example. He says: “We must adore God’s judgments and not curiously inquire into them. Of the children of believers it is not to be doubted but that they shall be saved, inasmuch as they belong unto the covenant. But because we have no promise of the children of unbelievers we leave them to the judgment of God.”  Matthew Henry and our own Jonathan Dickinson may also stand as types. It is this cautious, agnostic view which has the best historical right to be called the general Calvinistic one. Van Mastricht correctly says that while the Reformed hold that infants are liable to reprobation, yet “concerning believers’ infants… they judge better things. But unbelievers’ infants, because the Scriptures determine nothing clearly on the subject, they judge should be left to the divine discretion.”

The Reformed Confessions with characteristic caution refrain from all definition of the negative side of the salvation of infants, dying such, and thus confine themselves to emphasizing the gracious doctrine common to the whole body of Reformed thought. The fundamental Reformed doctrine of the Church is nowhere more beautifully stated than in the sixteenth article of the Old Scotch Confession, while the polemical appendix of 1580, in its protest against the errors of “antichrist,” specifically mentions “his cruell judgement againis infants departing without the sacrament: his absolute necessitie of baptisme.” No synod probably ever met which labored under greater temptation to declare that some infants, dying in infancy, are reprobate, than the Synod of Dort. Possibly nearly every member of it held as his private opinion that there are such infants; and the certainly very shrewd but scarcely sincere methods of the Remonstrants in shifting the form in which this question came before the synod were very irritating. But the fathers of Dort, with truly Reformed loyalty to the positive declarations of Scripture, confined themselves to a clear testimony to the positive doctrine of infant salvation and a repudiation of the calumnies of the Remonstrants, without a word of negative inference. “Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word,” they say, “which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace in which they together with their parents are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy” (art. 17). Accordingly they repel in the Conclusion the calumny that the Reformed teach “that many children of the faithful are torn guiltless from their mothers’ breasts and tyrannically plunged into hell.” It is easy to say that nothing is here said of the children of any but the “godly” and of the “faithful”; this is true; and therefore it is not implied (as is so often thoughtlessly asserted) that the contrary of what is here asserted is true of the children of the ungodly; but nothing is taught of them at all. It is more to the purpose to observe that it/s asserted that the children of believers, dying such, are saved; and that this assertion is an inestimable advance on that of the Council of Trent and that of the Augsburg Confession that baptism is necessary to salvation. It is the confessional doctrine of the Reformed churches and of the Reformed churches alone, that all believers’ infants, dying in infancy, are saved.

What has been said of the Synod of Dort may be repeated of the Westminster Assembly. The Westminster divines were generally at one in the matter of infant salvation with the doctors of Dort, but, like them, they refrained from any deliverance as to its negative side. That death in infancy does not prejudice the salvation of God’s elect they asserted in the chapter of their Confession which treats of the application of Christ’s redemption to His people: “All those whom God hath predestined unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit,… so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace… Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth.” With this declaration of their faith that such of God’s elect as die in infancy are saved by His own mysterious working in their hearts, although incapable of the response of faith, they were content. Whether these elect comprehend all infants, dying such, or some only — whether there is such a class as non-elect infants, dying in infancy, their words neither say nor suggest.  No Reformed confession enters into this question; no word is said by any one of them which either asserts or implies either that some infants are reprobated or that all are saved. What has been held in common by the whole body of Reformed theologians on this subject is asserted in these confessions; of what has been disputed among them the confessions are silent. And silence is as favorable to one type as to another.

Although the cautious agnostic position as to the fate of uncovenanted infants dying in infancy may fairly claim to be the historical Calvinistic view, it is perfectly obvious that it is not per se any more Calvinistic than any of the others. The adherents of all types enumerated above are clearly within the limits of the system, and hold with the same firmness to the fundamental position that salvation is suspended on no earthly cause, but ultimately rests on God’s electing grace alone, while our knowledge of who are saved depends on our view of what are the signs of election and of the clearness with which they may be interpreted. As these several types differ only in the replies they offer to the subordinate question, there is no “revolution” involved in passing from one to the other; and as in the lapse of time the balance between them swings this way or that, it can only be truly said that there is advance or retrogression, not in fundamental conception, but in the clearness with which details are read and with which the outline of the doctrine is filled up. In the course of time the agnostic view of the fate of uncovenanted infants, dying such, has given place to an ever growing universality of conviction that these infants too are included in the election of grace; so that to-day few Calvinists can be found who do not hold with Toplady, and Doddridge, and Thomas Scott, and John Newton, and James P. Wilson, and Nathan L. Rice, and Robert J. Breckinridge, and Robert S. Candlish, and Charles Hodge, and the whole body of those of recent years whom the Calvinistic churches delight to honor, that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into His glory — not because original sin alone is not deserving of eternal punishment (for all are born children of wrath), nor because they are less guilty than others (for relative innocence would merit only relatively light punishment, not freedom from all punishment), nor because they die in infancy (for that they die in infancy is not the cause but the effect of God’s mercy toward them), but simply because God in His infinite love has chosen them in Christ, before the time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit,… so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace… Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth.” With this declaration of their faith that such of God’s elect as die in infancy are saved by His own mysterious working in their hearts, although incapable of the response of faith, they were content. Whether these elect comprehend all infants, dying such, or some only — whether there is such a class as non-elect infants, dying in infancy, their words neither say nor suggest. No Reformed confession enters into this question; no word is said by any one of them which either asserts or implies either that some infants are reprobated or that all are saved. What has been held in common by the whole body of Reformed theologians on this subject is asserted in these confessions; of what has been disputed among them the confessions are silent. And silence is as favorable to one type as to another. Although the cautious agnostic position as to the fate of uncovenanted infants dying in infancy may fairly claim to be the historical Calvinistic view, it is perfectly obvious that it is not per se any more Calvinistic than any of the others. The adherents of all types enumerated above are clearly within the limits of the system, and hold with the same firmness to the fundamental position that salvation is suspended on no earthly cause, but ultimately rests on God’s electing grace alone, while our knowledge of who are saved depends on our view of what are the signs of election and of the clearness with which they may be interpreted. As these several types differ only in the replies they offer to the subordinate question, there is no “revolution” involved in passing from one to the other; and as in the lapse of time the balance between them swings this way or that, it can only be truly said that there is advance or retrogression, not in fundamental conception, but in the clearness with which details are read and with which the outline of the doctrine is filled up. In the course of time the agnostic view of the fate of uncovenanted infants, dying such, has given place to an ever growing universality of conviction that these infants too are included in the election of grace; so that to-day few Calvinists can be found who do not hold with Toplady, and Doddridge, and Thomas Scott, and John Newton, and James P. Wilson, and Nathan L. Rice, and Robert J. Breckinridge, and Robert S. Candlish, and Charles Hodge, and the whole body of those of recent years whom the Calvinistic churches delight to honor, that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into His glory — not because original sin alone is not deserving of eternal punishment (for all are born children of wrath), nor because they are less guilty than others (for relative innocence would merit only relatively light punishment, not freedom from all punishment), nor because they die in infancy (for that they die in infancy is not the cause but the effect of God’s mercy toward them), but simply because God in His infinite love has chosen them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, by a loving foreordination of them unto adoption as sons in Jesus Christ. Thus, as they hold, the Reformed theology has followed the light of the Word until its brightness has illuminated all its corners, and the darkness has fled away.

Sources:

https://ia600506.us.archive.org/3/items/developmentofdo00warf/developmentofdo00warf.pdf

http://www.davidcox.com.mx/library/W/Warfield%20-%20Studies%20in%20Theology.pdf