October 21, 2005

John Davenant's (1572–1641) Picture and Some Quotes on the Extent of Christ's Death

At the time I posted this, this was the only picture of Bishop John Davenant online.

The following are my posts that contain some of his material:

John Davenant on Colossians

Future Posts on John Davenant

John Davenant on John 3:16

(UPDATE on 8-21-07: Some of John Davenant's writings can be found online for free HERE).

There was a picture of Davenant on the SDG site, but it was low quality (Soli Deo Gloria Ministries Link).

SDG Ministries said this about Davenant:
Davenant was born in London and was educated at Queen’s College, Cambridge. He received his doctorate in 1609 and spent 12 years teaching theology there. In 1618 he was appointed by the King of England to the Synod of Dort, where he showed himself to be a moderate Calvinist, rejecting particular redemption. He was appointed Bishop of Salisbury in 1621.
It's true that he was a "moderate" Calvinist. However, it is misleading to say that he rejected "particular redemption." Davenant, who was a leading English delegate at Dort, did believe that Christ had a special intent to save the elect through His all-sufficient satisfaction, that resulted in the application of His death to the elect alone (redemption applied) through the effectual calling of the Spirit. It's just the case that He did not believe Christ only satisfied for the sins of the elect.

Notice carefully what Davenant says here:
No divine of the Reformed Church, of sound judgment, will deny a general intention or appointment concerning the salvation of all men individually by the death of Christ, on the condition if they believe. For the intention or appointment of God is general, and is plainly revealed in Holy Scripture, although the absolute and not to be frustrated intention of God concerning the gift of faith and eternal life to some persons, is special, and limited to the elect alone. So I have maintained and do maintain.—Davenant's Opinion on the Gallican Controversy.
Commenting on Colossians 1:22, Davenant says:
Now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death.

We gather from this place that a twofold reconciliation is to be seen in the Scriptures: The one general, accomplished by the sacrifice upon the cross, concerning which the Apostle speaks in a former sense, It hath pleased God to reconcile all things to himself by the blood of the cross. And John i. 29, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. This I call general, because it is considered according to the value of the sacrifice, which is not only general, but infinite; because also it is considered according to the mode of proposing it, the preaching of the Gospel, which mode is indefinite and general; for this expiatory sacrifice is proposed and offered to all by God, according to that declaration Tit. ii. 11, The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men. But besides this reconciliation accomplished upon the cross, and generally applicable to all, the Scripture also shews us a particular and applied reconciliation, effected in the heart and conscience of individuals; that is to say, when that sacrifice of Christ, which hath in itself an universal power of reconciling all, is actually applied to reconcile this or that man. Of this the Apostle speaks in saying You hath he now reconciled. He had before said, On the cross he hath reconciled all things to God, both which are in heaven and which are in earth, i.e. he hath paid an adequate price for the deliverance and reconciliation of all; but now he hath reconciled you by this particular and applied reconciliation (Commentary on Colossians [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2005], 254–255).
What Davenant is saying in the above quotes is that there is more than one purpose or intention that God has in sending his Son. There is a general as well as a particular intention. Davenant is not reductionistic in his view. He's a dualist with respect to the design of Christ's death. The limitation is in the special decree and in the application, and no where else (i.e. not in the extent of the satisfaction). The special design is seen in that the elect alone are granted the moral ability to believe, and thus they appropriate the benefits of Christ's work unto eternal life. This is what Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney and W. G. T. Shedd all say, as well as many other Reformed divines.

The expressions "limited atonement", "definite atonement" and "particular redemption" can be vague. What is limited? What is meant by "redemption"? Are we talking about redemption accomplished, or redemption applied? If one means that there is a special intent in Christ's coming to die for the sake of the elect just as there is a special love for them, then Davenant does not reject that. If one wants to say that is the only intent in Christ's coming to die, then Davenant doesn't agree. If one means by "particular redemption" that Christ's death is only applied to the elect alone by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of faith, then Davenant would agree. If one means by "particular redemption" that Christ's death secures it's own application by a literal purchase, then Davenant would disagree.

Davenant thought of "redemption" in a two-fold sense: 1) an objective redemption (God's removal of the legal barriers through Christ that stand in the way of any sinner being forgiven) and 2) a subjective redemption (i.e. the forgiveness of sins because the benefits of the death are applied by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality faith). The High Calvinists do not make this distinction (at least in the same way) due to their commercialistic way of thinking about Christ's death, or thinking of it in terms of a limited imputation of sin to Christ and literal purchase of things. In their view, Christ only "pays" for the sins of the elect and buys things for them such as faith, which is why they inevitably receive the purchased benefits when they exist and believe. It's as if Christ is only the last Adam for the elect (he only legally represents them since it's all seen exclusively through the eternal covenant of redemption), and they virtually die in him when he died.

Davenant is more like Wolfgang Musculus, an early Reformer, who said:
That reprobate and deplorably wicked men do not receive it, is not through any defect in the grace of God, nor is it just, that, on account of of the children of perdition, it should lose the glory and title of universal redemption, since it is prepared for all, and all are called to it.—Wolfgang Musculus Common Places, p. 151.
No one thinks William Twisse (President of the Westminster Assembly of Divines until his death) denied "particular redemption," but look at what he said about Christ's death as cited by Bellamy:
"I am ready to profess," says the famous Dr. Twisse, " and that, I suppose, as out of the mouths of all our divines, that every one who hears the gospel, (without distinction between elect or reprobate,) is bound to believe that Christ died for him, so far as to procure both the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul, in case he believes and repents." Again, "As Peter could not have been saved, unless he had believed and repented, so Judas might have been saved, if he had done so." Again, "John iii.16, gives a fair light of exposition to those places where Christ is said to have died for the sins of the world; yea, of the whole world, to wit, in this manner; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."—Dr. Twisse, on "The Riches of God's Love to the Vessels of Mercy," etc.
The above is quoted in "True Religion Delineated, in Two Discourses," in The Works of Joseph Bellamy, 2 vols. (New York; London, Garland Publishing, 1987), 1:294.

Unfortunately, the page reference to Twisse's work is not given in that work. Dallas Theological Seminary has a copy of this work by Twisse (with the Preface or Commendation by Owen I believe), but it is very large and the print is very bad in spots.

Even Zanchius, one who sounds like a High Calvinist at times, said this:
It is not false that Christ died for all men: for the passion of Christ is offered to all in the Gospel. But he died effectually for the elect alone, because indeed they only are made partakers of the efficacy of the passion of Christ.
Zanchius, Miscellanea Tract. de Praed. Sanct., p. 14. Quoted by Davenant, The Death of Christ (1650; repr. in his On the Colossians, ed. Allport, London, 1832), 2:548. This is also cited in Norman F. Douty's Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1998), 48.

How are the elect "made partakers of the efficacy of the passion of Christ"? It is through faith in Christ, of course.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Great post Tony!

Thanks be to God that there are works of men like Davenant available.

Well, my copy of Davenant's Dissertation on the death of Christ that I ordered back in January has just arrived! I hadn't reliased that it was coming by surface mail! I think it got re-routed via the Antartic.

I've also just got his commentary on Collossians from BOT so I'm hoping to become more familiar with his works because from the little bits you've posted so far I think he's been very good.

Keep up the good work and don't let them high's get you down - remember Esther (4:14)?

Martin (UK)