(3). God’s Design and Result Exactly Co Extensive.I would like to point out the significance of several things that Dabney says above. He clearly wants to underline the fact that everything that the Godhead "designed" or "purposed" (he's referencing the decretal will by these terms) by the cross eventually has its result. The Calvinists who read the quote will quickly eyeball those sections. However, one needs to also realize the areas where he points out other revealed or general aspects to Christ's work on the cross.
There is no safer clue for the student through this perplexed subject, than, to take this proposition; which, to every Calvinist, is nearly as indisputable as a truism; Christ’s design in His vicarious work was to effectuate exactly what it does effectuate, and all that it effectuates, in its subsequent proclamation. This is but saying that Christ’s purpose is unchangeable and omnipotent. Now, what does it actually effectuate? "We know only in part," but so much is certain.
(a.) The purchase of the full and assured redemption of all the elect, or of all believers.
(b.) A reprieve of doom for every sinner of Adam’s race who does not die at his birth (For these we believe it has purchased heaven). And this reprieve gains for all, many substantial, though temporal benefits, such as unbelievers, of all men, will be the last to account no benefits. Among these are postponement of death and perdition, secular well being, and the bounties of life.
(c.) A manifestation of God’s mercy to many of the non elect, to all those, namely, who live under the Gospel, in sincere offers of a salvation on terms of faith. And a sincere offer is a real and not a delusive benefaction; because it is only the recipients contumacy which disappoints it.
(d.) A justly enhanced condemnation of those who reject the Gospel, and thereby a clearer display of God’s righteousness and reasonableness in condemning, to all the worlds.
(e.) A disclosure of the infinite tenderness and glory of God’s compassion, with purity, truth and justice, to all rational creatures.
Had there been no mediation of Christ, we have not a particle of reason to suppose that the doom of our sinning race would have been delayed one hour longer than that of the fallen angels. Hence, it follows, that it is Christ who procures for non elect sinners all that they temporarily enjoy, which is more than their personal deserts, including the sincere offer of mercy. In view of this fact, the scorn which Dr. William Cunningham heaps on the distinction of a special, and general design in Christ’s satisfaction, is thoroughly shortsighted. All wise beings (unless God be the exception), at times frame their plans so as to secure a combination of results from the same means. This is the very way they display their ability and wisdom. Why should God be supposed incapable of this wise and fruitful acting? I repeat, the design of Christ’s sacrifice must have been to effectuate just what it does effectuate. And we see, that, along with the actual redemption of the elect, it works out several other subordinate ends. There is then a sense, in which Christ "died for" all those ends, and for the persons affected by them.
First, he relates common grace to Christ's sacrifice. He says "the temporal benefits," "a reprieve of doom" or "postponement of death and perdition," "secular well-being," "the bounties of life," "a manifestation of God's mercies" such as the "sincere offers of salvation," and "a disclosure of the infinite tenderness" or "compassion of God" are related to the "general design" of Christ's death. These "general designs" are part of what Christ "died for." In other words, there must be a revealed will aspect to Christ's death, otherwise the benefits of common grace and the sincere offers of mercy make no sense.
Secondly, for the above reasons, the non-elect who spurn the sincere offers of mercy have an "enhanced condemnation" because of it. In other words, divine wrath is aggravated because they spurned the well-meant goodness involved in the "general design" of what Christ "died for." However, this does not nullify what God designed by his display of general tenderness, because the rejection of it by the non-elect ultimately redounds to the glory of God's compassion, truth, justice and purity "to all rational creatures."
Thirdly, he takes an occasion to rebuke Dr. William Cunningham for the "scorn" (derisive or contemptuous action or speech, to mock, to jeer, to ridicule or deride, to scoff at, to look down on with disdain, etc.) with which he shows with regard to the distinction between a "special and general design in Christ's satisfaction." Dabney even calls him "thoroughly shortsighted" because of that. Dr. Cunningham held to a strictly limited atonement view, and even separated the well-meant gospel offer from Christ's sufficiency. One may check his Historical Theology [(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996), 2:343–370] to see that fact. So, the excellent Reformed theologian R. L. Dabney took him to task in his own Systematic Theology. Too bad some of American Calvinism has forgotten these important issues. Some of them heap the same "scorn" on the "general designs" of Christ's death as Cunningham did. What a shame. We may also call them "thoroughly shortsighted." If they were consistent, they would not only reject well-meant gospel offers, but also common grace, since they are both ultimately rooted in the general accomplishment or revealed will aspect of Christ's death, at least according to Dabney.