August 24, 2006

James Ussher (1581–1656): Christ Offered For You And To You

Having truly and plainly showed our sinfulness, wretchedness, and cursedness by nature, I come unto the remedy, our redemption by Christ. And God forbid that He should create man, the best of His creatures, for destruction! "What gain and profit is there in our blood?" (Psalm 30:9). God is full of grace and compassion, and He considers that we are but dust. And happy are we that we are but dust. Had we been more glorious creatures, like angels, we would not have had the benefit of a Savior. When they rebelled, God considered their makeup; and as with a high hand they rebelled, "so the Lord reserved them in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). They fell without a Redeemer. It is well for us that God considers that we are but dust. By Jesus Christ He saves us from the wrath to come. It would have been better for us never to have been born than to be born firebrands of hell.

But the point is that we are "brands plucked out of the fire" (Zechariah 3:2). It is fitting, therefore, that we should know who our Redeemer is. It is Jesus Christ, and here consider that Christ Jesus offered for us for the satisfac­tion of God's justice, and this is His priestly office.

Also, as there was no remission without shedding of blood, therefore after the blood is shed and the priest of­fered Himself, there comes a second thing, or else we would never be the better. Christ offered Himself to us, and this makes up our comfort. Many talk of the extent of Christ's death and passion, saying that He died sufficiently for us, which is improper. For what comfort would it be that Christ was offered for us if there were no more? A bare sufficiency in Christ does not serve the turn; this would be a cold comfort. Suppose a man who was in debt, afraid of every sergeant and every sheriff, should be told, "Sir, there is money enough in the king's account to dis­charge all your debts." This may be very true, but what good is that to him? What comfort does he have by it un­less the king offers to come and freely assume his debt? And it would be a cold comfort to us to know that Christ is sufficient for us unless He invites us to take freely of the waters of life. But "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters" (Isaiah 55:1). Thus, unless Christ is offered to us as well as for us, we are never the better.

Now to make this more clear, observe that in every sac­rament there are two acts of the minister. The first one has relation to God; it is a commemoration of the sacri­fice, in which respects the ancient fathers called it a sacri­fice. The other is the breaking of bread and pouring out of wine, wherein there is a commemoration of the broken body and the shed blood - not as they are concomitants, the wine in the bread, as the foolish papists dream, for that would rather be a commemoration of His life, when the blood runs in the veins, than of His death. The com­memoration of Christ's death is made by separation of the blood from the body, and as there is one act of the minis­ter in consecrating by breaking the body and pouring out the blood, so there is a second act that is ministerial. When the minister says, "Take, eat; this is My body," it is as if Christ were present, saying, "Come, take My body." You have as free an interest to it as when you are invited to your friend's table you have a right to the meat before you. So that as Christ is offered for you, so He is offered to you. And what now should hinder you, unless you are one who will obstinately oppose your own salvation, and say, "I will not have this Man to rule over me." You cannot mis­carry. But if you will be your own lord, then you must per­ish in your infidelity. Here are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given unto God's ministers, unless you willfully op­pose your own salvation and shut the door of salvation which Christ has opened so wide for you. The ways of God are plain. Christ has paid a great price for you, and then, as great as it is, He offers it to you.
James Ussher, "The Satisfaction of Christ," in The Puritan Pulpit: The Irish Puritans, ed., Don Kistler (Orlando, Florida: Soli Deo Gloria, 2006), 116–118.

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When Ussher says that some say "that He died sufficiently for us, which is improper," he's talking about those who merely teach an internal or bare sufficiency. He's not saying that the formula "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect" is improper. He's just saying that some conceptions of that formula are improper, and that it offers no real comfort for the despairing sinner. What good is it for sinners to know that Christ, the great King, has infinite worth (enough money in his account, so to speak)? They must know, as Ussher says, that the bible teaches that he suffered sufficiently for them (the money has been put down for them that they might be released from their debt, but in a conditional way). Thus, Christ is offered for them and to them in particular, but it will do them no good if they do not believe.

For more on Ussher's classical conception of Christ's sufficiency (i.e. an ordained sufficiency as opposed to a bare sufficiency), see John Davenant's Sufficiency Distinctions.

James Ussher’s (1581–1656) Sermons

(Update on 9-3-07: It appears that many, if not all, of these sermons can be found in an older edition available for free on Google books HERE.)

Soli Deo Gloria has a new book available that contains sermons preached by James Ussher in 1640. I first learned about this from the Irish Reformation blog. My copy arrived in the mail last Tuesday :-)

The book contains 19 sermons. Here's the table of contents:
Sermon 1 - Speedy Conversion the Only Means to Prevent Imminent Destruction, Part 1

Sermon 2 - Speedy Conversion the Only Means to Prevent Imminent Destruction, Part 2

Sermon 3 - All Men Are Dead in Sin

Sermon 4 - The Sinner's Disease and Remedy

Sermon 5 - The Purpose of the Law

Sermon 6 - The Consequences of Sin

Sermon 7 - Death, the Wages of Sin

Sermon 8 - The Place of Torment

Sermon 9 - The Satisfaction of Christ

Sermon 10 - The Humiliation of Christ

Sermon 11 - The Sacrifice of Christ

Sermon 12 - Faith

Sermon 13 - Come to the Throne of Grace

Sermon 14 - Peace with God, Part 1

Sermon 15 - Peace with God, Part 2

Sermon 16 - Peace with God, Part 3

Sermon 17 - Peace with God, Part 4

Sermon 18 - The Seal of Salvation, Part 1

Sermon 19 - The Seal of Salvation, Part 2

I've mentioned in other places that Norman Douty, in his book Did Christ Die Only for the Elect?, has this interesting comment about James Ussher:
"Richard Baxter, reporting a personal interview with Ussher, says that he "declared his judgment for that doctrine of Universal Redemption which I asserted, and gloried that he was the man who brought Bishop Davenant and Dr. Preston to it" (page 144 in Douty). This comment has a footnote (#39) which cites Morris Fuller's work The Life, Letters and Writings of John Davenant, D. D. (London, 1897), p. 521.
I will be try to read these sermons as soon as possible and provide some insightful quotes by Ussher that touch on the nature of the death of Christ. Ussher is outstanding on the subject.

I bought my copy of Ussher's sermons from Reformation Heritage Books.

August 16, 2006

Peter Toon's Writings

I just found this web page that contains many writings by Dr. Peter Toon:


It has a copy of his book on The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1765 (part 2) published in 1967 (yes, I read this years ago from a copy at Dallas Theological Seminary), as well as several works on meditation. Admirers of John Owen will also find some interesting material about him in the history section.

Update on 1-28-16:

Here is the Quinta Press edition (click).

August 14, 2006

Paul Testard's (1594–1650) Dualistic View of the Atonement

Paul Testard, along with his friend Moïse Amyraut, was acquitted of heterodoxy at the national synod at Alençon in 1637. These men are often portrayed as if they taught that Christ died equally for all without making important qualifications, i.e. as if they deny all versions of “limited atonement.” As in the case of Amyraut, one can also see that Testard was a kind of dualist as well. Here’s what I mean.

While Testard did maintain that Christ died to save all, he also thought that Christ did so with a particular or special intention to save the elect. The satisfaction was equal for all (i.e. Christ did not suffer so much for one and not so much [or not at all] for another – rather, he suffered all that the law required of all sinners), but his intention in doing so was two-fold or dual (unequal intention). There is a general or universal mercy shown to all as a result of Christ's work by the will of God, but there is also an efficacious grace given to the elect (according to the special decree/will) when the Holy Spirit applies Christ work to them through the gift and instrumental condition of faith. These men should not be represented as if they said there’s no special particularity that concerns the elect alone in Christ’s intention in dying (which is typically done in the secondary sources that critique them), as the following quote shows:
When Testard attempts to explain the difference between universal and particular mercy, he says that although Christ died for all, he did not die equally for all. In Les véritables Sentiments et raisonnements.... Testard says:
However, Christ did not die equally for all men....But he died particularly for those he chose and elected, he gives light particularly to them, he is their Redeemer and Savior of a particular intention, so that he wanted absolutely to obtain them and obtained by his death and his illumination not only the power to be saved by the grace explained previously which is made sufficiently to all, but also even their actual salvation.1
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1. Testard, Les véritables Sentiments et raisonnements....[1649] Chap. VIII, p. 21, par. 1: “Neantmoins Christ n’est pas mort également pour tous hommes….Mais il est mort particulierement pour ceux qu’il a choisis & esleuz, il leur esclaire particulierement, il est leur Redempteur & sauveur d’une intention particuliere, entant qu’il a voulu absolument leur obtenir & a obtenu par sa mort & son illumination non seulement la puissance d’estre sauvez par la grace cy devant expliquée qu’il fait suffisamment a tous, mais aussi leur salut actuel mesmes.” See also Testard, Eirenikon....[1633] thesis 95, pp. 70–71.
Donald Davis Grohman, The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrine of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635–1685 (PhD diss., Knox College, Toronto, 1971), 46.

The point of this post is not to endorse every view of Testard (or Amyraut for that matter), but to clarify one of their positions because of the constant misrepresentations given by their "orthodox" opponents. Disagree with them if you wish, but at least try to represent them fairly. Isn't this what Calvinists demand of the Arminians on the subject of Calvinism? Then why don't the "evolved" Calvinists accurately represent Testard and Amyraut on the issue of the design of Christ's death?