Objections to CALVINISM

as it is

by Randolph S. Foster



The Atonement


IN THIS CHAPTER WE shall take up the Calvinian view of the atonement. What do Calvinists believe on this point? This question shall be answered by their Confession of Faith and their standard authors. The Confession of Faith says:


Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ–are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season–are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.


Upon this section the expositor of the Confession, indorsed by the board of publication, makes the following remarks:


In this section we are taught that Christ died exclusively for the elect and purchased redemption for them alone; in other words, that Christ made atonement only for the elect and that in no sense did he die for the rest of the race. Our Confession first asserts, positively, that the elect are redeemed by Christ and then, negatively, that none others are redeemed by Christ, but the elect only. If this does not affirm the doctrine of particular redemption or of a limited atonement, we know not what language could express that doctrine more explicitly.


Hear the Confession again: “To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.”


Upon this section the expositor of the Confession remarks:


This section relates to the extent of Christ’s death with respect to its objects, and in opposition to the Arminian tenet that Christ died for all men for those who shall finally perish, as well as for those who shall be eventually saved; it affirms that the purchase and application of redemption are the same extent. In the fifth section, we were taught that Christ purchased redemption only for those whom the Father hath given him, and here it is asserted that to all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same. What language, then, could affirm more explicitly than that here employed that the atonement of Christ is specific and limited, that it is neither universal nor indefinite, but restricted to the elect who shall be saved from wrath through him?


The sacrifice of Christ derived infinite value from the divinity of his person: it must, therefore, have been intrinsically sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole human race, had it been so intended: but in the design of the Father and in the intention of Christ himself it was limited to a definite number who shall ultimately obtain salvation.


The interpretation thus given to the Confession is sustained by the author quoted with eleven arguments in support of limited atonement. I think all will admit that he has fairly and correctly expressed the sense of his Confession and the doctrine of all consistent Calvinists. His language is explicit; and I embrace his definition as the best I have seen of the Calvinian view of the atonement.


Christ died exclusively for the elect, and purchased redemption for them alone; in other words, Christ made atonement only for the elect; and in no sense did he die for the rest of the race.


Corroborative of this statement, I shall proceed to quote from many other distinguished Calvinists that there may be no mistake as to the meaning of the system as understood by its friends.


We shall now consider the persons for whom, as a priest, Christ offered himself, and so enter on that subject which is so much controverted in this present age–namely, whether Christ died for all men or only for the elect whom he designed hereby to redeem and bring to salvation. And here let it be premised,


  1. That it is generally taken for granted by those who maintain either side of the question that the saving effects of Christ’s death do not redound to all men, or that Christ did not die in this respect for all the world, since to assert this would be to argue that all men shall be saved, which everyone supposes contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture.


  1. It is allowed, by those who deny the extent of Christ’s death to all men as to what concerns their salvation, that it may truly be said that there are some blessings redounding to the whole world, and more especially to those who sit under the sound of the Gospel as the consequence of Christ’s death: inasmuch as it is owing hereunto that the day of God’s patience is lengthened out and the preaching of the Gospel continued to those who are favored with it; and that this is attended in many with restraining grace and some instance of external reformation, which has a tendency to prevent a multitude of sins and a greater degree of condemnation that would otherwise ensue. These may be called the remote or secondary ends of Christ’s death, which principally and immediately designed to redeem the elect and to purchase all saving blessings for them, which shall be applied in his own time and way. Nevertheless, others, as a consequence hereof, are made partakers of some blessings of common providence so far as they are subservient to the salvation of those for whom he gave himself a ransom.


  1. It is allowed on both sides, and especially by all who own the divinity and satisfaction of Christ, that his death was sufficient to redeem the whole world, had God designed that it should be a price for them, which is the result of the infinite value of it; therefore,


  1. The main question before us is whether God designed the salvation of all mankind by the death of Christ, or whether he accepted it as a price of redemption for all, so that it might be said that he redeemed some who shall not be saved by him? This is affirmed by many who affirm universal redemption which we must take leave to deny. And they further add as an explanation hereof that Christ died that he might put all men into a salvable state or procure a possibility of salvation for them, so that many might obtain it, by a right improvement of his death, who shall fall short of it, and also that it is in their power to frustrate the end thereof and so render it ineffectual. This we judge not only to be an error, but such as is highly derogatory to the glory of God, which we shall endeavor to make appear and to establish the contrary doctrine–namely, that Christ died to purchase salvation for none but those who shall obtain it.


Says Witsius,


We therefore conclude that the obedience and suffering of Christ, considered in themselves, are, on account of the infinite dignity of the person, of that value as to have been sufficient for redeeming not only all and every man in particular, but many myriads besides, had it so pleased God and Christ that he should have undertaken and satisfied for them.


The suretyship and satisfaction of Christ have also been an occasion of much good even to the reprobate; for it is owing to the death of Christ that the Gospel is preached to every creature–that gross idolatry is abolished in many parts of the world–that wicked impiety is much restrained by the discipline of the Word of God–that they obtain at times many and excellent, though not saving, gifts of the Holy Spirit–that they have escaped the polutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And who can in short enumerate all those things which they enjoy, not through accident only and beside the intention of God and Christ, but by the appointment of God? Not, indeed, with a design and purpose of saving them according to the testament, but from a view to make known his long-suffering toward the vessels of wrath, that is, those who are to perish, who dwell among those who are to be damned; for nothing falls out by accident with God, everything being according to his divine counsel.


That the obedience and suffering of Christ are of such worth that all without exception who come to him may find perfect salvation in him; and it was the will of God that this truth should without distinction be proposed both to them that are to be saved and to them that are to perish, with a charge not to neglect so great salvation, but to repair to Christ with true contrition of soul; and with a most sincere declaration that all who come to him shall find salvation in him.


That, nevertheless, Christ, according to the will of God the Father and his own purpose, did neither engage nor satisfy, and consequently in no manner die, but only for all those which the Father gave him and who actually are to be saved.


If we search the matter to the bottom, we shall learn that it never was Christ’s intention to satisfy for all in general. Certainly he satisfied only for those he engaged for. But he engaged to do the will of his Father. But this is the will of his Father, not that every man should be saved, but those that were give him, that is, the elect out of every nation who are to receive the gift of faith.


The two sides of this question [Arminian and Calvinian] do not imply any difference of opinion with regard to the sufferings of Christ’s death, or with regard to the number and character of those who shall eventually be saved. They who hold the one and the other side of the question agree that although the sufferings of Christ have a value sufficient to atone for all the sins of all the children of Adam from the beginning to the end of time; yet those only shall be saved by this atonement who repent and believe. But they differ as to the destination of the death of Christ–whether, in the purpose of the Father and the will of the Son, it respected all mankind or only those persons to whom the benefit of it is at length to be applied.


After many remarks highly eulogistic of the doctrine of general or universal redemption, the author remarks of his own, the Calvinistic system:


The Calvinistic system gives a very different view of the application of the remedy; and the difference may be traced back to its fundamental principle, that Christ did not die for all men, but for those in every nation who in the end are to be saved. Them only he delivers from the curse, and for them only he purchases those influences of the Spirit by which faith and repentance are produced.


Nor do we hesitate to admit that all mankind, as well as those who live under the Gospel’s light, have been benefited by the Redeemer’s death. Blessings have flowed from this precious fountain of mercy to our sinful world that would, if Christ had not died, been withheld. But when the question is proposed, “What is the extent of the Savior’s atonement? For whom did he satisfy divine justice? In whose place did he lay down his precious life?” we answer, “For all to whom his agreement shall be applied; for to whom his Father gave him to redeem.


Not so the advocates of indefinite atonement. They affirm that Christ died for all and every man. This we cannot believe.


On the extent of Christ’s atonement, the two opinions that have long divided the church are expressed by the terms, definite and indefinite. The former means that Christ died, satisfied divine justice, and made atonement only for such as are saved. The latter means that Christ died, satisfied divine justice, and made atonement for all mankind, without exception. The former opinion, or what is called definite atonement, is that which we adopt. It may be thus stated: that the Lord Jesus Christ made atonement to God by his death only for the sins of those to whom, in the sovereign good pleasure of the Almighty, the benefits of his death shall be finally applied. By this definition, the extent of Christ’s atonement is limited to those who ultimately enjoy its fruits; it is restricted to the elect of God, for whom alone we conceive him to have laid down his life?


Redemption is certainly applied and effectually communicated to all those for whom Christ has purchased it.


And here we believe, after all, lies the main point of dispute in regard to the atonement. Among those who agree as to its nature, the chief question in dispute is, “What is its design? What was it intended to effect?” This question was briefly discussed in the former discourse, and we endeavored to point out some of the consequences which would flow from the belief that Christ died intentionally to save all mankind. Such a belief must inevitably lead to Socinianism on the one hand or Universalism on the other.


The advocates of a limited or definite atonement [Calvinists], on the other hand, maintain that the atonement cannot be considered apart from its actual application–that, in strictness of speech, the death of Christ is not an atonement for any until it be applied–that the sufferings of the Lamb of God are truly vicarious, or in other words that Christ, in suffering, became a real substitute for his people, was charged with their sins, and bore the punishment of them, and thus was made a full and complete satisfaction to divine justice in behalf of all those who shall ever believe on him–that this atonement will eventually be applied to all for whom, in the divine intention, it was made, or to all whom God in his sovereignty has been pleased to decree its application.


They believe, however, notwithstanding, the atonement is to be considered as exactly commensurate with its intended application, that the Lord Jesus Christ did offer a sacrifice sufficient in its intrinsic value to expiate the sins of the whole world, and that if it had been the pleasure of God to apply it to individual, the whole human race would have been saved by its immeasurable worth. They hold, therefore, that on the ground of the infinite value of the atonement, the offer of salvation can be consistently made to all who hear the Gospel, assuring them that if they will believe they shall be saved; whereas, if they will reject the overture of mercy, they will increase their guilt, and aggravate their damnation. At the same time, the Scriptures plainly teach that the will and disposition to comply with this condition depends upon the sovereign will of God, and that the actual compliance is secured to those only for whom, the divine counsels, the atonement was specifically intended.


It [the Confession of Faith, chapter 3, section 6] is diametrically opposed to the system of the Arminians, who hold that Jesus Christ by his death and suffering made an atonement for the sins of all mankind in general and of every individual in particular. It is not less opposed to the doctrine maintained by many that though the death of Christ had a special reference to the elect and, in connection with the divine purpose, infallibly secures their salvation, yet that it has also general reference and made an equal atonement for all men. The celebrated Richard Baxter, who favored general redemption, makes the following remark upon this and another section of our Confession [chapter 3, section 6 and chapter 8, section 8] which speak against universal redemption: ‘I understand not of all redemption and particularly not of the mere bearing the punishment of man’s sins and satisfying God’s justice, but of that special redemption proper to the elect which was accompanied with an intention of actual application of the saving benefits in time. If I may not be allowed this interpretation, I must hence dissent.’ The language of the Confession, in my opinion, will not admit of this interpretation; and what is more, the Bible is silent about this general redemption or the general reference of the death of Christ.


It was the will of God that Christ, by the blood of the cross, should efficaciously redeem those and those only who were from eternity elected to salvation and given to him by the Father.


It was the most free counsel and gracious will and intention of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should exert itself in all the elect to give unto them only justifying faith, and by it to conduct them infallibly unto salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ, by the blood of the cross whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should efficaciously redeem those and those only who were from eternity elected to salvation and given to him by the Father.


The foregoing quotations contain what we understand to be the Calvinian view of the extent of the atonement. It would be an easy thing greatly to extend the list of authorities and also the amount of quotation from each; but this is not deemed necessary as it is presumed there will be no dispute upon the point now in question.


From the authorities cited, we make the following deductions:


  1. Calvinists believe that the death of Christ is of sufficient value, intrinsically, to make atonement for all the sins of the whole world had it been so intended.


  1. That resulting from his death are many benefits and blessings to all men–the reprobate in common with the elect.


  1. That though his death is thus sufficient to be an atonement for the world, yet it is not an atonement for all because he did not die for all, but simply and only for the elect.


The limitation of his death to a part, therefore, in their estimation did not proceed from the fact that his death had only value sufficient to atone for a part, but from the fact that he did not choose to die and his Father did not choose that he should die for all, but only for the elect. The death itself was sufficient to satisfy for all to divine justice; but in the design of the Father and the Son, there were some for whom it was not so intended, for whom it did not in any sense atone, and who, whatever common temporal benefits they receive through the operations of the plan, never did and never could receive salvation because, though the death of Christ was a sufficient sacrifice, they were sovereignly excluded from having any part therein by the purpose of God, who intended it for the elect alone and in no sense for the reprobate.


That these deductions are legitimate is so palpable as to need no further vindication; they are indeed distinctly made in the quotations from Witsius, Ridgley, and Hill already given. With the first, of course, we make no issue; and with the second only as it stands connected with the third.


It is with the third we shall contend in what follows. And it is presumed that Calvinists will not find fault with our statement of their faith. We certainly have represented it in the least objectionable light or, rather, we have allowed its friends so to represent it. If anything is to be gained by expletives and mitigated statements, we have allowed them this advantage–blending the terrible feature of limited atonement with the benign history of Providence toward those who are so unfortunate as to be sovereignly excluded from any possible interest in it–the fact that Christ’s death is restricted in the intention of the Father and Son to a part, with the acknowledgment that it was ample and sufficient for all in its own value–the fact that if any fail to be saved by Christ, it is not because he had not ability to save them, but simply because, in his infinite and inscrutable mercy, he thought best that it should not apply to some–that though these cannot possibly be saved by Christ, but must, necessarily, be damned forever and damned a thousand-fold worse than if he had never died, yet, in lieu thereof, he has given them many temporal benefits, and if he had so chosen, he could have done more for them, but he did not so choose. May God conduct us into all truth!


Having thus given the Calvinian view of the extent of the atonement–namely,


That the Lord Jesus Christ made atonement to God –his death only for the sins those to whom, in the sovereign good pleasure of the Almighty, the benefits of his death shall be finally applied. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ but the elect only. Christ died exclusively for the elect and purchased redemption for them alone: in other words, Christ made atonement only for the elect and in no sense did he die for the rest of the race.


Having thus presented their view of the atonement in their own language, we shall now proceed to name some objections to it.


  1. And, first, we object to it in general terms–all that has been objected to the decree of election and reprobation in the former chapter; for the doctrines are so kindred that much that is applicable to the one may also be applied to the other. What supports the one, supports the other; and what opposes the one, antagonizes the other to a great extent.


  1. Particularly I object to the doctrine of a limited atonement that it has no foundation in Scripture. Not a solitary passage from Genesis to Revelation asserts the doctrine that Christ died for only a part of mankind. No passage implies it; it finds no countenance in any fact or principle of revelation. That it is repeatedly said that Christ died for particular persons and classes is not disputed, but it is nowhere said, it is nowhere implied that he did not die for others. This, then, is one great objection I bring to bear against this doctrine: it is nowhere revealed in the Word of God.


  1. I object to it that it is not only nowhere taught in the Word of God, but is directly contrary to multitudes of express declarations of revelation and to the whole tenor of divine teaching.


(1.) It is contrary to those passages which teach that Christ died for all men, for every man, for the whole world.


(2.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which contrast the death of Christ with the fall of Adam.


(3.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent those who are lost as purchased by Christ.


(4.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which make offer of the benefits of Christ’s death to all men.


(5.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which require all men to believe on and accept Christ.


(6.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent the cause of the sinner’s damnation as being his rejection of Christ and unbelief in him.


(7.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent that those who are finally lost might have been saved.


(8.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent the Lord as not willing the destruction of sinners, but as regretting their folly and desiring them to turn and live.


(9.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent God as a being of universal love.


(10.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent him as impartial.


(11.) It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent him as just.


  1. I object that not only is not the doctrine of a limited atonement nowhere taught in the Scriptures, and not only is it diametrically contrary to the whole tenor of revelation and many express passages thereof, but it is also adversative to all our conceptions of the character of God as the universal parent. In the light, or rather in the darkness of its consequences, we are compelled to change all our views of his character and nature. Shorn of all his glorious perfections of infinite benevolence, and impartiality, and truth, and sincerity, he is presented to us as a hideous compound of cruelty, and caprice, and duplicity, and falsehood. I know these are severe charges; and it is their indisputable truth, as everyone who will be at the pains of a faithful examination will be compelled to admit, that makes them severe.


Can any man believe, is it in the power of the human mind that God is a being of infinite love when he damns millions of souls eternally with the most excruciating tortures for that which they could not avoid, and this, too, when it was in his power to save them, but he chose not to do it? Can this be believed?


Can any man believe God is impartial when he, by a sovereign act, takes some men to heaven and consigns others to hell, when there was no difference between them whatever, but some were chosen and others rejected for pleasure alone? No partiality–no caprice here!


Can any man believe in the truth and sincerity of God when he proclaims himself ready to save all and not willing any should perish–when he goes to all with invitations, and promises, and exhortations, and yet the truth is that many of those thus invited he has damned for his own pleasure before they had an existence? Is this in your idea of sincerity?


  1. I object further: if it is true that Christ did not die for those who shall finally be lost, then there never was a possibility of their salvation. Either this must be admitted, or it must be assumed that a soul might be saved for whom Christ did not die. There is no other alternative; and our Calvinistic brethren may select either horn of the dilemma. If they select the latter, then they will do away with the necessity of the death of Christ and find some other name for means whereby to be saved. If they admit the former, then they damn the sinner when it was eternally impossible for him to escape damnation; and this his damnation is for a cause with which he never had any consenting connection.


But if it was eternally impossible for the sinner to escape damnation, then he is in no way to blame; nor can he in any sense reflect upon himself for being lost, seeing it was eternally impossible for him to be saved. He cannot blame himself–no man, no angel, not God can blame him. It is no fault his that he is damned, for he could not be saved. Let it not be said he brought himself into this miserable condition from which there is no reprieve, for the truth is, he had nothing whatever to do with it unless he personally acted before he had an existence. For his damnation was fixed before he had an existence, and the pretended causes were engendered with him in the womb. Look at the facts, stripped of all mysticism. There stands a man for whom Christ did not die. Now, that man must be lost! But why? Because when he was conceived, he became a partaker of a corrupt nature which, if not regenerated, must eventuate in damnation. But Christ never died for him, and so his nature cannot be regenerated. And he must, therefore, necessarily be damned eternally for that which was given to him with his existence. In Calvin’s words, “Yea, and very infants themselves bring their own damnation with them from their mother’s womb.”


  1. Still further, I object: if there are any for whom Christ did not die, such persons not only cannot avoid damnation and are not therefore to blame for being finally destroyed, but, moreover, they cannot avoid sinning on as long as they live and without any cessation or mitigation. They cannot avoid this. Mark well this proposition! Human nature is depraved and, unless changed by the grace of God, it must sin on–it must sin ever. This is admitted by Calvinists. But there is no grace out of Christ. If there is a man for whom Christ did not die, there is, therefore, no means whereby he can be changed; he must, therefore, necessarily, continue to sin. It is useless to remonstrate with him; he must sin–it is his nature and his nature cannot be changed. For the only Being in the universe who could effect the change has withheld the means. He sins as necessarily as the planet revolves, as water descends to its level, as the stone projected to the heavens must descend to the earth.


But if he must sin and cannot avoid it, if the thing is absolutely and entirely beyond his power and all other available power, the man cannot be to blame for it, can he? Let it not be said he brought the disability upon himself. If this were so, it would relieve the case. But this, you know, is not the fact. His disability came with him into the world; it was communicated as a part of his existence; it was his very and essential nature. And now was he to blame for an existence and nature which were forced upon him, which never at any period he consented to and which he never could avoid? His first parent may be to blame, but surely he cannot be responsible; for he not only did not bring the disability upon himself, but it was imposed on him without the possibility of its removal. Let him sin; no being in the universe can censure him; he is not to blame. It is his nature, unavoidable to his being. You say he ought not to sin. I answer, “He cannot help it.” You say he ought to help it. I ask, “Ought he to do an impossibility? Can you affirm this?” But you say he can help it if he will. But can he will? If so, by what power? His own? You will not pretend so much. The power of God? But God will not communicate the requisite assistance. But does God require men to avoid sinning? Then Calvinism is false, or God is unjust.


Take a similar case. There is a man of scrofulous habit–the disease is destroying his life, and no remedy can cure it. You find on inquiry that the disease has been in his family for a succession of generations; it is transmitted from father to son. Now is the man to be blamed for being scrofulous; is he responsible? It was communicated in his conception. Is he to blame for remaining under the influence of the disease? He has tried every remedy in vain and has found none to cure him. He cannot be cured.


But I object, further: if it is impossible for the sinner to avoid sinning and if this disability of his was not brought upon himself by his own act, then not only is he not to blame for his sins, but he cannot be required to do right. He is under no obligation to do right. No being in the universe can create such an obligation. This must be so, unless it can be shown that a being can be brought under obligation to perform an absolute impossibility. Will any man in his senses pretend so much! Suppose God were to command me this moment to annihilate the sun, and yet give me no more power than I now possess. Would unrighteous command create an obligation? Yet, when he commands that sinner for whom Christ did not die to do right, he commands as absolute an impossibility as in the former case. Does this command create an obligation? No mysticism can escape this plain matter-of-fact statement. But does God require men to do right? Then Calvinism is false, or God is a despot! Calvinists may determine which horn to choose. Let not our opponents refer to the condition of fallen angels and lost sinners as proof that obligation to do right may remain when the ability is gone. The cases are not analogous. In the former case, the sinner required to perform what it never was possible for him to do, and the inability was communicated with his existence, and he never could have got clear of it.


  1. But I object, further: if the sinner cannot avoid doing sin and has no available power to do right, then not only is he not to blame for his sins and absolutely under no obligation to do right, but, moreover, he cannot be punished either in this world or the world to come for his delinquencies without the grossest injustice and sheerest tyranny. He is a fool for inflicting upon himself the torture of remorse, the pang of regret, or as he gives himself any sorrow, any uneasiness about his state. The God who made him and who punishes him, universal intelligence must pronounce a monster of cruelty! Punish him! For what, I pray you? Is not his very being curse enough? Must other tortures be added? And for what? For his sins? He never could avoid them. For not doing right? He never had the power. Damn him in hell torments forever for this!


O sir, is not this dreadful! Do you believe our heavenly Father is such a being as this! Does not your blood shiver in your veins at the thought! Is being bad enough! Must he suffer on forever, the victim of insatiable malevolence! What should be thought of a human tyrant who, supposing a certain family of his slaves by birth, were disqualified for his service so that was absolutely impossible for a cause connected with their conception for them to do what he required of them, should, nevertheless, appoint them the usual task and yet, because they failed to perform it, at the close of every day strip them and inflict upon their naked persons inhuman tortures, and this because they did not perform absolute impossibilities–what would all men think of such a monster? Would not the mute earth open her dumb mouth and curse him? Would not the heavens execrate the abhorrent wretch? But shall a thousand-fold worse conduct be charged upon the glorious God, and no one resent the indignity? Under the sanctity of religion, shall the revolting slander be made that he will torture through all eternity men for not performing impossibilities and the representative go unrebuked? It must not be.


  1. But I object, further: if Christ did not die for all, then is it inconsistent and insincere to invite all to come to him and be saved. This is so manifest that I cannot express my astonishment that Calvinists do not perceive it. Look at it. There stands a man for whom Christ did not die–he never died for him that he might live. Now, I ask in all consistency, how can that man be invited to come to Christ for life? He cannot come; and if he could, Christ has no life for him. Look at the invitation in the light of these facts. Is it not horrible? Can you present Christ in this attitude without alarm at the blasphemy? What pretense justifies this invitation, this entreaty? What excuse is there for that Calvinistic preacher who stands and entreats all sinners to come to Christ, when he professes to believe, first, with respect to the persons for whom Christ died, that they must come in the day of God’s power and cannot come until that time–next, with respect to the reprobate, that he never can come, that the thing is impossible–what must be thought of such a preacher? What would you think of a man who should go into a grave-yard and address himself in the same way to a congregation of tomb-stones?


Is it pretended that all may be invited to come to Christ because his death is sufficient for all? What a miserable evasion! Admit that the death of Christ is sufficient for all, yet there stands the fact, it was not made for all. Some men were eternally excluded from it. Here is a table sufficient to accommodate all the citizens of a city; but it is surrounded by an army who are instructed to admit only the white portion of its citizens and to prevent all colored persons from approaching, so that it is absolutely impossible for such to reach that table. Now, I ask, with what consistency could these colored persons be invited and entreated to come to the table and eat by the same authority that placed an army to prevent their approach under the pretense that there is enough for all? Would not all men pronounce such a procedure miserable duplicity—abominable, shameless hypocrisy? If there be enough, they have no share in it. But do you say, to justify a universal invitation of sinners to Christ, that not only is there a sufficiency in him for all, but, likewise, all who will may come–there is no let or hindrance but in the sinner’s will only? There is no army prevent him. If he will come, he may; and if he will not, whose fault is it?


But, now, look at this. The very reason why the sinner will not come is this–he has no power to will to come. Here is where the army is planted to prevent–an army of irresistible motives to prevent him from willing. He cannot will and the reason is, the will must be given of God, but it can only be given to those for whom Christ died; but for this sinner he did not die, and, hence, it is impossible for him to have the will. So that to say if he will come, he may, and make this the ground of the offer is arrant trifling. He cannot will to come to Christ, and the reason why he cannot will is that Christ did not die for him to make the will possible so that the obstacle is not in his will, but in the fact that Christ did not die for him. And hence the hypocrisy of inviting him when the fact is he is prevented from coming. And if he could come, Christ has not the thing for him which he is invited to receive.


  1. 1 object: if Christ died not for all, then unbelief is no sin in them that finally perish, seeing that there is not anything for those men to believe unto salvation for whom Christ died not. Their unbelief is no sin, for three reasons: First, their unbelief is true–Christ did not die for them, and they believe the truth when they believe he did not. Second, they cannot believe without divine aid, and are not, therefore, sinful for not doing what is impossible. Third, they cannot be required to believe a lie; but if they believed on Christ, they would believe a lie. Therefore, in not believing, they violate no requirement and so commit no sin.


  1. But if Christ did not die for all men, then it would be a sin in those for whom he did not die to believe he did die for them, seeing it would be to believe a lie. But God commands all men to believe–he therefore commands some men to believe a lie. If he wills them to do what he commands, he wills them to believe a lie. If he does not will them to believe, then he commands them to do what he does not wish them to do!


  1. If Christ did not die for those who are damned, then they are not damned for unbelief. Otherwise, you say they are damned for not believing a lie!


  1. If Christ died not for all, then those who obey Christ by going and preaching the Gospel to every creature as glad tidings of grace and peace, of great joy to all people do sin thereby in that they go to most people with a lie in their mouth. For if Christ did not die for all, the Gospel cannot be glad tidings of great joy to all. To many it must be a message of unmingled terror and grief, for it only announces that they are hopelessly lost and that the death of Christ itself is, in its very design, an infinite and everlasting curse to them for it will unavoidably enhance their damnation a thousand-fold.


But not only does it make those to sin by publishing absolute falsehood who publish the glad tidings to all, but, also-and what cannot be written without trembling–it represents our Lord Jesus Christ himself, in the language of Mr. Wesley,


as a hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied that he everywhere speaks as if he were willing that all men should be saved, and as if he had provided the possibility. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, that he had provided no such possibility, is to represent him as a hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners upon proffered and possible conditions is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people.


You cannot deny that he says, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden.” If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come–those whom he knows to be unable to come–those whom he can make able to come, but will not–how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying one thing and meaning another–as pretending a love which he had not. Him “in whose mouth was no guile,” you make full of deceit void of common sincerity. Then, especially, when drawing nigh the city, he wept over it and said, “O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, …and ye would not.” Now, if you say that he would not, you represent him–which who can hear?–as weeping hypocritical tears over the prey which himself of his own good pleasure damned to destruction.


Such blasphemy as this one might think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle. But there is yet more behind; for just as it honors the Son, so it honors the Father. As alleged, it destroys all his attributes at once. It overturns his justice, mercy, and truth. Yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil can be–as more false, more cruel, and unjust. More false, became the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust, because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God when you say that God condemns millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin which, for the grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid. And more cruel, because that unhappy spirit seeketh rest and findeth none, that his own misery is the occasion of his tormenting others.


But God resteth in his high and holy place so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure happy as he is to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery is to impute such cruelty to him as I know of no warrant to impute to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the most high God as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil. Who hath ever said worse of the devil? who can say worse of him than this, that he is a heartless dissembler, ever deceiving with empty pretenses–that he delights in the misery of his wretched victims? But here it is said of God that he pretends to desire the happiness of his creatures–that he even comes and implores them to live, weeping over them while he entreats–at the same time that he has doomed them to eternal hell torments of his own pleasure in such a way as that it is absolutely and forever impossible for them to escape, and this for sins they never could avoid! If this be the God of the Bible, in what does he differ from its devil? Only in his larger growth!


  1. If Christ did not die for all men, then God is not sincere in requiring all men to repent, nor can he equitably make the requisition. For what could this repentance do them? What remission of sins could it procure for those for whom Christ did not die? Manifestly none. If it were possible for them to comply with the requirement, it could do them no good; but they cannot comply, if it would be a means of their salvation. And hence it follows, as has been well said by Whitby,


that no impenitent person can justly be condemned for dying in his impenitent estate, For on this supposition he may fairly plead that, Christ not dying for him, his repentance, had he been ever so careful to perform it, must have been in vain since it could not procure the remission of his sins. If here say that it is an impossible supposition that anyone for whom Christ did die should repent, you only strengthen this his plea, enabling him to say he condemned and perisheth for want of that repentance which, from his birth to his dying day, it was utterly impossible for him to perform. Hence, further. it must follow that God could not equitably require of them for whom He died not obedience to the laws of Christ, since that obedience, could they be ever so willing or industrious to perform it, could not avail for the remission of their sins–it being only the blood of Christ which cleanseth from which blood never was given for them.


If it were possible for those for whom Christ died not to obey every requisition of the Bible, it would not contribute a particle to their salvation; but if it is impossible, then they are finally to be damned for not performing impossibilities, and then for not complying. At the same time, if they did and could comply, it would not, could not bring them the salvation which is promised to all who comply. Is not this creditable to God and the Bible?


  1. If Christ did not die for all, then why does he say he is not willing any should perish? Surely, he is willing that the greater part should perish, or he would have permitted his death to extend to them. Why do any perish, but that it is his sovereign will to limit his death to a part? Indeed, if Calvinism be true, the will of God is the only original cause of the sinner’s damnation! Not merely is it the will of God that they should be damned as sinners, but it is because of his will that they are sinners that they might be damned.


This charge, fearful as it is–and I confess it is startling–is based upon what has been abundantly and irrefutably proved in a former place–namely, that God willed the fall of Adam–that he willed that reprobates should come into the world with a necessity to sin–and that, indeed, he is the first and only original cause of all things, sin included. And since he could not cause what was contrary to his will, he must therefore will both the sin and damnation of the reprobate. This is also to be argued from the fact that he, according to Calvinism, limited the death of Christ to a part, when he might have extended it to all, and this for his own pleasure. He did not will that all should be saved from sin and hell, or he would not have limited the death of Christ to a part–he must, therefore, have willed, contrary to his own declaration, that many should die.


Look at it. Calvinists believe that all for whom Christ died must inevitably be saved. They believe, also, that his death was sufficient for the sins of the whole world. Well, now observe, the only reason why this sufficient atonement does not save the whole world is this: God the Father and God the Son, of their own good pleasure, limited it to a part. It was their good pleasure, therefore, that the residue should be left in their sins and perish, and his sovereign pleasure is the cause of their damnation! Dreadful! dreadful! dreadful! The atonement was ample to satisfy the demands of justice–here there was no limit. The condition of all the race was precisely the same–here there was no limit. But in the will of God there was a limit; as a sovereign, for his own pleasure, he limited the remedy which was sufficient for all to a part and left the others to perish! If this be so, and Calvinists say it is so, are we not shut up to the conclusion that all who are left in sin and damnation are so left because God preferred this to heir holiness and salvation!


  1. But Calvinists tell the poor reprobates, as a kind of palliation of their cruel treatment, that, though God has sovereignly excluded them from salvation in Christ, yet he has done a great deal for them. The death of Christ, it is true, has not made it possible for them to escape the vengeance of eternal fire–for they were created for this–to obtain a mansion in heaven, but it has procured them many temporal blessings, such as the ministry of the Word, common operations of the Spirit, invitations of the Gospel, and many other great privileges, for which they, as in duty bound, ought to be very grateful.


Ought the reprobates to be grateful for these? Are these blessings? Are they blessings in their design, in their result? Or is it not true, on the contrary, in their very nature and design they are the greatest curse that ever befell the poor miserable victims of almighty wrath? Did not the honest Calvin himself say they were intended to fatten them for the slaughter, that “God calls them that they may be more deaf–kindles a light that they may be more blind–brings his doctrines that they may be more ignorant–applies the remedy that they may not be healed!”


For any one of these blessings they are destined, in the purpose of when he bestows them, to suffer the keenest, deepest pangs of hell forever. They come to them as angels of light, but infix in the inmost soul a thousand arrows of remorse and anguish which shall never be extracted through eternity. Blessings! designed and destined to eventuate in eternal woe! God of universe, protect thy hapless creatures from such blessings as these! Blessing! Sent upon the reprobates that their condition may be rendered more intolerable than that of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment–that a pretense may be furnished for heightening the horrors of perdition to utmost excess to the praise of his glorious justice!


  1. If Christ did not die for all, and if only those for whom he did die can be saved, then all for whom he did not die come into the world with the necessity of their damnation, because they come into the world under an arrangement by which their damnation is unavoidable. They must necessarily be damned because there is no salvation out of Christ, and Christ did not die for them. Now, with the question whether they will be lost or not, they have nothing to do whatever because it was settled from eternity when it was settled that Christ should not die for them. But do you say, the first cause of their destruction was their corruption of nature, and God only passed them by in their leaving them to suffer just punishment? Very well; let us take your explanation. Then it amounts to this: these persons were left to damnation because of their corrupt nature. But had they anything whatever to do in making that corrupt nature? If they had, they must have acted before they existed. But if they had not, then they were assigned to eternal damnation for an act with which they had nothing to do whatever. But, again: if they were assigned to damnation for their corruption of nature, then they were damned for a cause existing in their conception–then they were damned, all of them, when they were unborn. So here we have not the damnation of a few children a span long, but of all who finally perish before they have attained that stature.


But, to escape these horrible consequences, do you adopt this evasion, that they were only passed by because of their corruption and left in a state in which, when they should attain to personality, they would inevitably sin? And then, on account of these actual sins, they would be condemned and punished? Well, let us look at this for a moment. You say they were only passed by because of their corruption of nature. What do you mean by this? That it was determined Christ should not die for them? Then I ask, “What was their state thus passed by? Could they be saved?” If they could, then they could be saved without the death of Christ. If they could not be saved, must they not necessarily be damned? Or is there some intermediate state between salvation and damnation to which they would be assigned?


But, leaving this, let us admit that the final damnation of those passed by, for whom Christ did not die, is on account of their actual sins. The charge still stands true that they brought with them into the world the necessity of their damnation, and its final infliction is without any fault of theirs whatever. The facts are precisely these: These unfortunate–for they are not guilty, if Calvinism is true–persons came into the world with a corrupt nature which was forced upon them with existence. This nature just unavoidably involves them in actual sins because, being evil, it can only produce evil. From this corruption there is no escape: Christ did not die for them, and his death is the only means of escape from corruption. They are, therefore, born into the world with a necessity to sin; and if they are to be damned for these sins, they are born with a necessity of damnation! Who has nerves sufficient for these things? Who is the man who can indulge such thoughts of the Ruler of the universe and the moral government thereof without feelings of unmingled consternation! Who can believe that a God of infinite love has brought millions of beings into existence with the unavoidable necessity of eternal damnation, and this necessity ascribable to nothing in the creature over which he had control, but merely to the good pleasure of God!


  1. I must add finally upon this point, before passing to others immediately connected therewith, that if it be true that Christ died but for a part, then it is certain if the devil knows this, he is the greatest fool in the universe and Christians next in the dimensions of folly. What has the devil to do any more? Why shall he walk through the earth seeking prey? Why shall he hunt for the souls of men? He already has his portion! They are counted out, every soul of them. Their names and numbers are designated! He cannot get one more though he move heaven and earth–though he employ every emissary in hell. He cannot come short of one–the thing is forever impossible. For God is pledged–he has given them to the devil in an everlasting covenant–they were created for him–his they must be! He need not watch and diminish his rest, for God will bring them all safe to him, and no being has power to pluck one of them out of his hand! Let the devil rest and hell hold jubilee, for God has given them a large part of the human race for his own glory and of his own sovereign pleasure.


And what shall be said of the folly of Christians? Know you not that all for whom Christ died must be brought in, in the day of his power? Not one can fail–the Lord will hasten it in its time. Why shall you labor? You cannot make one hair white or black. Why do you take trouble about those whom God has given to the devil? Would you rob him? It is impossible! What folly you are guilty of! Pray, preach, mourn, weep, make yourselves sad–for what? Know you not it is all in vain? None can perish for whom Christ died; none can escape for whom he did not die. Let the devil and Christians quit their devilish warfare and be at peace. Let the world have rest. For God will not defraud the devil of one soul that is his, and he cannot steal one that is Christ’s. And Christians can do nothing by interference! Let the foolish strife come to an everlasting end.


Such are some of the consequences flowing unavoidably from the proposition that Christ died but for a part of mankind. That they are terrible, I readily admit–so appalling, that I cannot mention them against you without seeming to pervert and persecute you, because it must ever seem unaccountable to all men how rational beings can embrace such absurdities, not to say wicked. blasphemies. I have found no pleasure in pointing them out; on the contrary, it has given me unmingled pain. God is my witness, I am sincerely sorry for you. I regard you with commiseration as the victim of a miserable system whose frightful errors I must suppose you believe and, by some fatal infatuation, refuse to renounce. As I have waded through the pages of your divines, I have involuntarily regretted that I found myself under the necessity of becoming acquainted with their unaccountable and horrid teachings–much more, that it became my duty to expose them. Would that you had been content to enjoy peace and left your neighbors to pursue their own salvation and not, by your unprovoked intermeddling, rendered it necessary to uncover your revolting and shameful deformities to the observation of our common enemies. And now, what may seem almost as paradoxical as many things in your creed after all that I have said, I must be allowed to cherish love for your church in despite of all her blemishes, and for yourself also as a professed follower of my Savior. May the Spirit itself lead us into all truth.


In addition to the foregoing objections to a limited atonement are several others resulting from the Calvinian view of the nature of the atonement, and the method by which those interested therein become partakers of its benefits.


If Calvinists hold to a limited atonement, as has been seen in the citations already made, they further hold, as growing out of the nature of the atonement itself, that all those particular persons for whom it was made must, in consequence thereof, not only infallibly, but necessarily and unconditionally, be saved.


It may be proper to make a few quotations bearing directly on this point: “To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.”


This clause at the same time necessarily limits the atonement to those who are finally saved because it says all for whom it was made will be saved; and it asserts that all for whom it was made must infallibly have its application–they must necessarily be saved by it.


The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.


We are further taught that the atonement shall be effectually applied by the Holy Spirit to all those who were chosen of God and redeemed by Christ, and that it shall be effectually applied to them alone.


The Father from all eternity gave to Christ a people to be his seed and be by him brought to glory. He was not merely to procure for them a possibility of salvation, but to secure for them a full and final salvation; and none that were given to him shall be lost.


The intention of Christ in laying down his life was not merely to obtain for those for whom he died a possibility of salvation, but actually to save them–to bring them to a real possession and enjoyment of eternal salvation. From this it inevitably follows that Christ died only for those who shall be saved in him with an everlasting salvation.


Christ, therefore, is called our surety because he engaged to God to make satisfaction for us, the elect–which satisfaction consists in this, that Christ, in our room and stead, did, both by doing and suffering, satisfy divine justice, both the legislative, the retributive, and the vindictive, in the most perfect manner, fulfilling all the righteousness of the law which the law otherwise required of us in order to impunity and to our having a right to eternal life.


But we must proceed a step further and affirm that the obedience of Christ was accomplished by him in our room, in order thereby to obtain for us a right to eternal life. The law which God will have secured inviolable admits none to glory but on conditions of perfect obedience, which none was ever possessed of but Christ, who bestows it freely on his own people?


But, besides, Christ satisfied the vindictive justice of God not merely for our good, but also in our room, by enduring those most dreadful suffering both in soul and body which we had deserved and from which he, by undergoing them, did so deliver us that they could not, with the wrath and curse of God as the proper punishment of our sins, be inflicted on us.


The Lord Jesus obtained for the elect, by his satisfaction, an immunity from all misery and a right to eternal life …. A right to all the benefits of the covenant of grace is purchased at once to all the elect by the death of Christ, so far as that consistently with the truth and justice of God and with the covenant he entered into with his Son, he cannot condemn any of the elect or exclude them from partaking in his salvation; nay, on the contrary, he has declared that satisfaction being now made by his Son and accepted by himself, there is nothing for the elect either to suffer or to do in order to acquire either impunity or a right to life, but only that each of them in their appointed order and time enjoy the right purchased for them by Christ and the inheritance arising from it.


Before actual conversion, the elect are favored with no contemptible privileges above the reprobates in virtue of the right which Christ purchased for them such as, first, that they are in a state of reconciliation and justification, actively considered, Christ having made satisfaction for them, etc.


For since Christ did, by his engagement, undertake to cancel all the debt of those persons for whom he engaged as if it were his own, by suffering what was meet, and to fulfill all righteousness in their room, and since he has most fully performed this by his satisfaction as much as if the sinners themselves had endured all the punishment due to their sins and had accomplished all righteousness, the consequence is, he has engaged and satisfied for those, and those only, who are actually saved from their sins.


Whoever makes a purchase of anything has an unquestionable right to it; and it not only may, but actually does become his property in virtue of his purchase upon paying down the price. And herein consists our liberty and salvation, that we are no longer our own, nor the property of sin, nor of Satan, but the property of Christ.


Divines explain themselves differently as to the conditions of the covenant of grace. We, for our part, agree with those who think that the covenant of grace, to speak accurately with respect to us, has no conditions.


Jesus Christ was ordained of God to be the Savior of those persons, and God gave them to him to be redeemed by his blood, to be called by his Spirit, and finally to be glorified with him. All that Christ did in the character of mediator was in consequence of this original appointment of the Father, which has received from many divines the name of the covenant of redemption–a phrase which suggests the idea of a mutual stipulation between Christ and the Father in which Christ undertook all the work which he executed in human nature and which he continues to execute in heaven in order to save the elect; and the Father promised that the persons for whom Christ died should be saved by his death. According to the tenor of this covenant of redemption, the merits of Christ are not considered the cause of the decree of election, but as a part of that decree. In other words, God was not moved by the mediation of Christ to choose certain persons out of the great body of mankind to be saved, but, having chosen them, he conveys all the means of salvation through the channel of this mediation.


Christ engaged to pay the debt of his people and satisfy for the wrongs and injuries done by them. There is a two-fold debt paid by Christ as a surety of his people–the one is a debt of obedience to the law of God. Another thing which Christ as a surety engaged to do was to bring all the elect safe to glory.


In the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the second book of Calvin’s Institutes, it is elaborately taught that Christ has suffered and obeyed for his elect so that their salvation is positively secured–their debt being paid, and they being entitled to salvation.


If Christ has satisfied for our sins–if he has sustained the punishment due to us–if he has appeased God by his obedience, then salvation has been obtained for us by his righteousness.


Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners in which he pardoneth all their sins–accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight–not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.


Although Christ by his obedience and death did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified, inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety which he might have demanded of them and did provide this surety, his only Son, imputing his righteousness to them and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.


Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God not because of those other graces which do always accompany it or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for justification, but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.


The imputation that respects our justification before God is God’s gracious donation of the righteousness of Christ to believers, and his acceptance of their persons as righteous on the account thereof. Their sins being imputed to him and his obedience being imputed to them, they are, in virtue hereof, both acquitted from guilt and accepted as righteous before God.


The Calvinists say that the faith and good works of the elect are the consequence of their election. God having from all eternity chosen a certain number persons, did in time give his Son to become their Savior. He bestows them, through him (unconditionally) that grace which effectually determines them to repent and believe, and so effectually conducts them by faith and good works unto everlasting life. These are–faith and good works–not conditions, but the fruit of election, and they were from eternity known to God because they were in time to be produced by the execution of the divine decree.


The atonement was a satisfaction made for the sins of the elect which had respect to them personally and secures the pardon of all their iniquities. Christ was substituted for the elect to obey and suffer in their stead and was, by imputation, legally guilty, so that the law could demand his death. In the decree of election, the sinners who will be saved were given to Christ to be justified. They were given when ungodly, and not from any foreseen faith and repentance. The ground of pardon is the mystical union with the Lord Jesus Christ.


Christ being a propitiation for us does also imply that God did also accept of the passive obedience of Christ, together with his action, as sufficient satisfaction to the demands of justice. So that the imputation of the obedience of Christ does fully and perfectly acquit the believer from the guilt of sin, the empire of Satan, the curses of the law, and the damnation of hell. God has received satisfaction from the surety, and, therefore, will demand no more from the principal debtor.


Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth–not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous. Not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone. Not by imputing faith–itself the act of believing—or any other evangelical obedience to them as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith–which faith they have not themselves. It is the gift of God …. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf.


Those who maintain that Christ obeyed the law and suffered its penalty in our stead, and thereby made a true and proper satisfaction to divine justice, believe that his obedience and suffering, constituting what is usually styled his righteousness, are imputed to the believer for his justification, Christ’s righteousness being received by faith as its instrument. Accordingly, justification consists not only in the pardon of sin, or in other words, in the release of the believing sinner from punishment, but also in the acceptance of his person as righteous in the eyes of the law through the obedience of Christ reckoned or imputed to him, by which he has a title to eternal life.


They whose sins he bore in his own body on the tree, whose sins he suffered for, cannot with the most palpable violation of all right, and law, and justice, be themselves constrained to suffer for the same sins. Therefore, the atonement, the satisfaction rendered to divine justice, is as extensive as the sheep of Christ’s flock and no more. The atonement is as long and as broad as the salvation of God: or, in other words, they whose sins are washed out in the blood of Calvary must be saved, and none others can be. In other words, they and all they for whom Christ died, for whom he paid the ransom or price of redemption, will be saved and none other.


As God doth not will that each individual of mankind should be saved, neither did he will that Christ should properly and immediately die for each individual of mankind. Whence it follows that though the blood of Christ, from its own intrinsic dignity, was sufficient for the redemption of all men, yet, in consequence of his Father’s appointment, he shed it intentionally and, therefore, effectually and immediately for the elect only.


The absolute will of God is the original spring and efficient cause of people’s salvation. I say the original and efficient for, sensu complexo, there are other intermediate causes of their salvation, which, however, all result from and are subservient to this primary one–the will of God. Such are his everlasting choice of them to eternal life; the eternal covenant of grace entered into by the Trinity; the incarnation, obedience, death, and intercession of Christ for them: all of which are so many links in the great chain of causes.


Since this absolute will of God is both immutable and omnipotent, we infer that the salvation of everyone of the elect is most infallibly certain and can by no means be prevented. This necessarily follows from what we have already asserted and proved concerning the divine will, which, as it cannot be disappointed or made void, must undoubtedly secure the salvation of all whom God wills should be saved.


By the purpose or decree of God, we mean his determinate counsel whereby he did from all eternity preordain whatsoever he should do or permit to be done in time. In particular, it signifies his everlasting appointment of some men to life and of others to death, which appointment flows entirely from his own free and sovereign will.


Nor could the justice of God stand, if he were to condemn the elect for whose sins he has received ample satisfaction at the hand of Christ; or if he were to save the reprobate who are not interested in Christ.


Those who are ordained to eternal life were not so ordained on account of any worthiness foreseen in them, or of any good works to be wrought by them, nor yet for their future faith; but solely of free, sovereign grace and according to the mere pleasure of God. This is evident, among other considerations, from this: that faith, repentance, and holiness are no less the free gift of God than eternal life itself.


Not one of the elect can perish; but they must all, necessarily, be saved. The reason is this: because God simply and unchangeably wills that all and everyone of those whom he hath appointed unto life should be eternally glorified …. Now, that is said to be necessary, quod nequit aliter esse, which cannot be otherwise than it is.


Of those whom God hath predestined, none can perish, inasmuch as they are all his own elect. They are the elect who are predestinated, foreknown, and called according to purpose. Now, could any of these be lost, God would be disappointed; therefore, they can never perish.


Our blessed Redeemer has not only procured for believers the pardon of their sins and reconciliation unto God, but he has also purchased for them a title to God’s favor here and eternal happiness hereafter. Now, if Christ has purchased this inheritance for the believer and made over the title to him in his justification, who shall deprive him of his own estate procured for him at such an infinite price?


Now, from these quotations I make the following deductions as further setting forth the Calvinian view of the atonement:


  1. All those for whom Christ died must necessarily be saved and cannot by any means perish.


  1. Their salvation is thus certain, because his death actually paid their debt to divine justice and procured them a right to eternal life by suffering and obeying in their stead, which suffering and obedience is made theirs by imputation.


That we do not injustice to our Calvinistic brethren when we charge them with teaching that all for whom Christ died–the elect–must infallibly be saved. We presume no one of their number will deny, as it would be a denial of all their written and, so far as I know, of their oral teaching. Upon this point, indeed, they are peculiarly eloquent and harmonious. Their whole system is shaped to accommodate it.


And if I do at all understand the quotations already made and the general tone of Calvinistic theology, the ground of the certainty of the salvation of the elect is this:


  1. They are the elect, or they are the persons chosen of God, with an unchangeable purpose from eternity to be saved, and they must, therefore, be saved.


  1. But, second, as God ordained these some to glory, so he appointed the means of infallibly bringing them to glory, which were that Christ should become their surety and both obey and suffer for them, and so purchase a title for them to everlasting life. In other words, Calvinists believe that the elect will necessarily be saved because Christ has suffered the penalty due for all their sins, and that they cannot, therefore, be held to suffer. Their sins are indeed no longer theirs, having been imputed to Christ, and he has already suffered their penalty. And, further, he, by his holy and spotless life, has fulfilled all righteousness; and this, his obedience and righteousness, is accounted imputed to the elect–those for whom he died–so that their righteousness henceforth complete in Christ. And thus, by virtue of his death and obedience which have perfectly satisfied the law for them, they must be saved.


Am I correct in this apprehension of Calvinism? Will any Calvinist say I am not? Do they not all teach that Christ has entirely paid the debt of people? That he has perfectly satisfied for their sins? That nothing is wanting on their part to render the atonement thus made for them, complete? Do they not also teach that Christ has fully obeyed all righteousness for his people, and that this–his obedience–is imputed to them and thus becomes theirs own? That is, it is just the same as though they had themselves perfectly obeyed.


And this transfer of their sins to Christ and of his righteousness to them is entirely without conditions on their part. Now, mark well this point. They are not required to do anything by which this atonement, in either branch of it, becomes theirs. It is so independently of them! Whatever they are expected to do as the elect is not a means whereby this satisfaction becomes theirs, but it is because this satisfaction is theirs. I ask my readers to look critically into these points as my object is here to show some of the labyrinthian intricacies of this system and expose some of its most dangerous errors.


Here is one of the points where, for purposes of convenience, it is wont to assume an Arminian garb and bewilder with its equivocations. Calvinists talk about conditions–Dr. Rice is wont to use this language–as though they believed it depended upon something which the elect should do, whether the atonement should be applied to them or not. They talk about salvation by faith and repentance as though these were conditional to salvation! Now, the common idea attached to the term condition is this: that it is something upon which the occurrence of another thing depends. When we speak of conditions of salvation, we mean something by which salvation is brought about. When we speak of the condition as performed by man, we mean something which he may or may not perform, according as he wills, and upon which his salvation depends.


But Calvinists do not mean this when they use the term condition–they do not mean that the question whether the atonement shall apply to the elect depends upon any conditions which he may or may not perform. On the contrary, they believe that it is his and is applied without any condition–that whatever the sinner does in his salvation is because the atonement is already irresistibly applied to him, and not that he may procure its application. He is regenerated irresistibly because he is atoned for; and then, because he is regenerated, he must produce all the fruits of faith, repentance, &c. And now, to talk about these as conditions of salvation is sheer nonsense–it is to talk about conditions of the existence of a thing which depend upon its existence and are consequent thereto.


To the doctrine contained in the above statement,


  1. I object, first, that, making the salvation of those for whom Christ died both infallible and unconditional, it is a doctrine nowhere taught in the Scriptures. It is utterly without foundation in the Bible. It is spurious ore, reprobate silver, taken from some other mine besides divine revelation.


  1. It is expressly contrary, to all the Scriptures which teach a conditional salvation.


  1. To those which teach that some for whom Christ died may come short of life;


And to all the classes of Scriptures already enumerated against this doctrine of limited atonement.


  1. I object: it renders it unnecessary, nay, impossible, for the elect to do anything in order to their salvation, and as it is unnecessary and impossible for them to do anything. Whatever they shall find themselves able to do and whatever they are required to do is the fruit of their being already saved without their consent. Is this the doctrine of the Bible? Let it not be said that Calvinists teach that faith is a condition of salvation, implying a free exercise of the creature. This is what they teach: that certain persons are elected unto life–that for these Christ makes satisfaction or, in other words, saves them–that this salvation includes the spiritual life from its beginning to its eternal completion in heaven–and that this is developed,


(1.) In irresistible regeneration or the new birth without the action of the man.


(2.) That this irresistible regeneration develops as a cause the fruits of faith and a holy life.


(3.) That these are crowned with glory; but the man, in the whole process, has only passively experienced an unconditional salvation, commenced and perfected by irresistible agency.


This, then, is my objection, that it renders it unnecessary and impossible for the elect to do anything in order to their salvation.


  1. But I further object that, if true, then the persons for whom Christ died are not only not required to do anything in order to their salvation, but, also, that they cannot avoid being saved–the thing is utterly and eternally out of the question if Calvinism is true. They cannot prevent themselves from going to heaven. My proposition is not that they will not, but they cannot–nothing in the range of their power. They may sin to their utmost ability, and they will not suffer the least inconvenience from it so far as their eternal salvation is concerned.


But now look at this. There stands a man that never can get to heaven–the thing is impossible, and eternally has been so. Poor creature! He must suffer the torments of an ever-burning hell. He must lie down with devils, and weep, and wail, and sorrow without relief while the spark of immortality glows in his undying soul. He cannot help it–and this for no avoidable fault of his; he was created to howl amid these flames. There stands another man–by nature he is precisely such as the former–but this man cannot possibly miss of heaven. Nothing that he can do can keep him out of its blessedness. He may sin until his enormities would make a devil pale, if it were possible; but this cannot even endanger his salvation. His price has been paid and saved he must be; he is deprived of the ability to keep himself from salvation. And now the question arises, “Why this difference!” And you are told it is the good pleasure of God! Hold, I beseech you! Does not your whole nature rise up against such a sentiment? Is there not an involuntary shudder at the bare idea? Does not your reason and all that is human in you revolt at it?


But is not this sentiment calculated, inevitably, to produce licentiousness, recklessness, and despair? What else can be its legitimate fruits? It comes to all men, elect and non-elect, with the first lesson: You are impotent. You cannot do anything toward achieving salvation until you are regenerated. You cannot even put forth a virtuous desire until this work is accomplished. This being so, the sinner must wait for regeneration; for he cannot stir till he is regenerated. But then follows the second lesson: if you are not of the elect, you cannot be regenerated. For Christ has died for none but the elect, and no man can be regenerated for whom Christ did not die. But if you are of the elect, you cannot avoid being regenerated, because all for whom Christ died must be regenerated or effectually called and this by irresistible, unsolicited grace. At this point, the sinner perceives that the whole matter is infallibly fixed–that his agency is entirely excluded. If elect, the work must be done. If not elect, it is impossible. And now ensues, as a necessary consequence, hopeless inaction or reckless licentiousness. With these troths in his mind. what can be said to a sinner as an inducement to attend to his salvation? Or, rather, is it not all sheer folly to address him at all on that subject?


Do you exhort him to forsake sin? He says, “I cannot.” To repent? cannot until regenerated. This is God’s work and not mine,” Do you warn him of danger and exhort him to flee: He smiles at your childish folly and answers you, “It is all fixed without my agency.” Thus the whole man is neutralized, and hopeless recklessness superinduced.


  1. But what has now been objected had respect alone to this aspect of the subject: that the salvation of those for whom Christ made atonement is infallibly certain and unconditional on their part. I now object, further, to the ground upon which salvation is declared. It has two parts:


(1.) Christ has absolutely paid the debt of his people and released them from the obligation. In other words, he took their sins upon himself and suffered their penalty in such a way that they cannot be required to suffer themselves; so that they can commit no sin but what Christ has fully satisfied for it. If this be true, of course the elect must unconditionally escape punishment, because their punishment has already been inflicted upon their substitute, and divine justice is fully and entirely satisfied.


(2.) As the elect are thus brought into the enjoyment of unconditional salvation so far as deliverance from punishment is concerned, so, in the second place, they are by a similar process made completely righteous–namely, as Christ suffered for them, so also he obeyed for them and his perfect righteousness is imputed to them. He obeyed perfectly and fulfilled all righteousness, and this is imputed to them, or it is accounted precisely the same as though they had obeyed themselves. And, therefore, they are accounted worthy of life as being righteous in Christ. Thus the elect are brought into the enjoyment of unconditional salvation by having their sins imputed to Christ, and his righteousness imputed to them.


But will it be said that this imputation does not savingly take place without faith, and, therefore, that faith is a condition of salvation–a condition without which the elect are not saved. It is only when they believe that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them. But look, for a moment, at this sheer sophistry and deception for the language certainly does mislead.


The doctrine is that the salvation of these persons–the elect–is first determined in the immutable decree of God. Then Christ, to secure it, satisfies and obeys for them which gives them an unconditional title to life. And then he irresistibly regenerates them, and this regeneration necessarily produces faith. And now shall it be pretended that this faith, which is itself a necessary effect of irresistible regeneration, is a condition of salvation! It must at least be admitted that, if it is a condition, the elect is entirely passive in complying with it; and so his salvation, dependent as it is upon this condition, is not dependent upon him in any sense–upon anything he can do or refuse to do.


And so, of course he has nothing to do but to submit as a passive subject throughout; and this he cannot help but do. To talk about conditions of salvation in such an arrangement–about salvation depending upon faith–must in all candor seem like a nonsensical abuse of language. Much more so to appeal to the sinner to believe in order that he may be saved, warning him that, if he does not, he must be damned, thus seeming to imply that he has power to perform a condition by which he may be saved when faith is no more in his power than is the annihilation of the universe!


But, further, if Christ has absolutely paid the debt for his people so that nothing more is necessary to acquit them from punishment–if the punishment has been inflicted and justice satisfied without anything further, then it is manifest nothing more can be requisite to free them from punishment. And so their sins cannot be punished, and they cannot, therefore, be in any peril when they sin.


  1. But if this be true, then it is certain that no motive can be drawn from eternity to enforce virtue or restrain from vice. None can be drawn for the reprobate for his destiny is fixed; damned he must be, and his sins cannot make it any more certain. None to the elect for their destiny is also fixed, and no sin possible to them can unsettle it. Well, say that I do not know which I am, elect or reprobate–or I do know, it is all the same. Eternity, as it respects destiny, can bring no motive to bear on my conduct, because conduct cannot affect my unconditional salvation or damnation. If Christ died for me, no sin I can commit can keep me out of heaven. If he did not die for me, nothing that I can do can get me in; and hence, in either case, my conduct is entirely unimportant. Will this doctrine do to preach? Is this the doctrine of the Bible? Is it consistent with our views of moral government? What would be thought of a man who should preach it? Yet such are the unavoidable consequences of Calvinism!


  1. If this be true, then particularly is it impossible for the elect after they have once received the gift of faith ever to become guilty; and yet Calvinists believe that even the elect after regeneration, and pardon, and adoption. may fall into grievous sins, nay, must continue to sin as long as they live. But now observe the consequence I charge here: if it is true that faith secures the imputation of both Christ’s suffering and obedience to the believing soul, and if this imputation is consequent upon faith–and all this Calvinists believe–then I insist that any sin committed by the believer cannot either involve him in guilt or condemnation. Not condemnation, for the satisfaction of Christ is imputed. Not guilt, for the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness makes him completely righteous, and he cannot, therefore, have any guilt. So that whatever sin the elect commit after they have been generated and united to Christ by faith does not involve them in guilt, because, by virtue of their faith, their sins have all been taken from them and imputed to Christ, and his righteousness has been imputed to them, so that they cannot be less than complete in his righteousness. Whether they sin, therefore, or be holy, it is all one. Whether they fall away into grievous delinquencies such as would shame even the reprobates, as Calvinists believe they may, or continue faithful, it is no difference. The question of their final salvation is neither rendered doubtful thereby, nor is the fact of their perfect righteousness; for both are infallibly secured by virtue of their union with Christ.


  1. Finally: I object to the whole Calvinian view of the atonement as dishonorable to that transaction and its Author. It renders it a mere commercial transaction, a thing of bargain and sale–so many souls given for so much blood–so many sins remitted at so much price. The Father agrees to give the Son so many souls at so much price. The Son agrees to suffer such a quantum for the forgiveness of so many sinners. In the language of another:


This hypothesis measures the atonement, not only by the number of the elect, but by the intensity and degree of the suffering to be endured for their sin. It adjusts the dimensions of the atonement to a nice mathematical point, and poises its infinite weight of glory even to the small dust of a balance. I need not say that the hand which stretches such lines and holds such scales must be a bold one. Such a calculation represents the Son of God as giving so much suffering for so much value received in obedience and sufferings. This is the commercial atonement, which sums up the worth of a stupendous moral transaction by arithmetic and, with its little span, limits what is infinite.


Upon this view of the atonement it was one wittily and truthfully remarked:


God must have loved the devil much more than his Son, for he gave him the larger portion of the human race without any price, charging his Son full price for the meager share he allotted to him.


Further, if this be true, I cannot see any mercy or grace in the Father, and certainly there is no such thing as forgiveness. The punishment is fully inflicted, not a particle abated–not indeed upon the culprit himself, but upon his substitute. But where then is forgiveness? How are the elect pardoned! Has not their debt been paid to the utmost farthing? What remains to be pardoned? Is there any great clemency in relinquishing a claim when it has been fully liquidated–paid to the utmost farthing? Is such the mercy of our Lord? The atonement, regarded in this light, can be nothing short of a stupendous slander of the character of God so it seems to me.


Such are a part of the objections we bring against the Calvinian view of the atonement. It may be proper briefly to recapitulate here. The views of the atonement objected to are: First, that it is limited to part of the race. Second, all for whom it was made must be infallibly saved. Third, it consists in actually suffering and obeying for those for whom it was designed. To these views we have objected.


  1. The doctrine of a limited atonement has no foundation in the Scripture.


  1. It is directly contrary to the Scriptures which teach:


(1.) That Christ died for all.


(2.) Which contrast the extent of the benefits of Christ’s death with the extent of the evils of Adam’s sin.


(3.) Which represent those who are lost as purchased by Christ.


(4.) Which offer the benefits of Christ’s death to all.


(5.) Which require all men to believe in and receive Christ.


(6.) Which make the sinner’s damnation a result of his rejection of Christ.


(7.) Which teach that those who are finally lost might have been saved.


(8.) Which represent God as a being of universal love.


(9.) As willing the salvation of those who may come short.


(10.) As impartial, etc.


It will be perceived in a moment how all such Scriptures bear against a limited atonement.


  1. It is adverse to all our conceptions of God, converting him rather into a monster of cruelty, than the parent of all.


  1. It renders it impossible that a large part of the human race could be saved.


  1. It renders it equally impossible for a large part of our race to avoid sin.


  1. It destroys the obligation to do right, and subverts the obligation to virtue.


  1. It renders all punishments for sin unjust and tyrannical.


  1. It renders all general invitations to all men to come to Christ insincere and hypocritical.


  1. It renders unbelief on the part of the reprobates no sin.


  1. It would make belief on their part a sin.


  1. It renders the damnation of reprobates a damnation for not believing a lie.


  1. It commissions all ministers to preach a lie, and makes God the Father and the Son party to it.


  1. It renders the requisition upon all men to repent useless and insincere.


  1. It makes the damnation of men of the will of God, falsifying his own Word.


  1. It renders the atonement in its nature an eternal curse.


  1. It renders it certain that many men were created with an absolute necessity of damnation.


  1. It renders the strife between the devil and Christ a stupendous folly.


  1. It is liable to all the objections, additionally, that were brought against election and reprobation.


  1. It renders it unnecessary and impossible for the elect to do anything in order to their salvation.


  1. It makes it impossible for them to peril their salvation. They cannot avoid salvation.


  1. It imputes the obedience and suffering of Christ to believers in a manner unknown in the Scriptures.


  1. It destroys all the motives drawn from eternal destiny to influence human conduct.


  1. It renders it impossible for the elect ever to become guilty after regeneration.


  1. It dishonors and degrades the atonement into a mere commercial transaction–a thing of barter and sale.


To this list of objections many more might be added, any one of which is sufficient alone to damn the system embarrassed with it and its consequences to unspeakable and irreparable infamy.


And, now, may we again appeal to our Calvinistic friends to examine the grounds, and be not angry with us because of our plainness of speech? We have no contention but for the truth. Let us look well to it that we be not found in our pride clinging to prejudice and rejecting truth and the God of truth. That we have objected many things against you which you do not believe we know perfectly well; but we show you that these consequences flow from your premises. Now, what will you do? You know the consequences cannot be escaped. Can they? How? Will you, then, embrace consequences and all? How can you do this? But if not, will you discard the premises? One you must do or in the eyes of all reasonable men, of God himself, be found [foolish].