April 21, 2007

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on 'Did Christ Shed His Blood in Vain?'

Richard Baxter, in treating the issue of common and special redemption, states the first crimination as follows:
They make Christ to have shed his blood in vain; even for them that he knew were to perish for ever.
Baxter then replies:
How prove you it to be in vain? and that God can have no end in it, but actual salvation de eventu to each person for whom Christ died?

When the Scripture most clearly tells us de facto, that Christ died for all, even for them that perish, and that he bought them that denied him; be afraid of blaspheming God, by telling him, [If Christ died for any that perish, he died in vain.] I accuse you not, but ex natura rei warn you. I dare not tell God so.

God made man in Adam capable of salvation, as the very perfection and end of his faculties and nature, and put him under a conditional covenant accordingly. And will you say that God made Adam in vain in this capacity, and made the first Promise of Life, and the Tree of Life also, in vain; because Adam, and all of us in him, did sin, and come short of the Glory of God? Nay, God made not the Devils in vain in a state of blessedness, or the way thereto, though he knew that they would forsake that state and perish. It is dangerous reproaching the Counsels and unsearchable Works of God.

By your own reckoning it is not in vain: for you say that God's justice is glorified on unbelievers, and that this is his end. And what is that justice, but the punishing of men for rejecting a Christ that died for them, and grace that was procured and tendered to them?

But if you add all the other benefits and ends, you will see that it was not in vain. God demonstrated and so glorified his love and mercy to lost mankind, in the very greatness of the gift (of Christ, pardon and glory,) which the impenitent do refuse. And mercy is glorified not withstanding the refusal. God gives the Covenant aforesaid, or the conditional grant of pardon and life to the world. He reprieved them, and gave them time of repentance, and exercised patience toward them to that end, Rom. 2: 3, 4, 5, 6; Acts 17; Rom. 1: 19, 20, 21; John 3:16, 18, 19. He governs the world on terms of grace. He gives all men abundance of mercies and means of recovery and life. He keeps the world in order hereby; and makes the wicked serviceable to the salvation of believers. In a word, he will lose nothing by any mans sin against nature or grace. Where then is the vanity of the death of Christ, if in a common degree it be for all?
Richard Baxter, Catholick Theologie (London: Printed by Robert White, for Nevill Simmons at the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1675), 2:66–67. Some of the English has been updated.

Baxter elsewhere said:
4. And, (as to the cause hereof) you must distinguish between [being in vain through any defect of Christ's satisfaction, or on his part] and [being in vain, (as to their Salvation) merely through their own fault.] According to the last members of these two distinctions we confess Christ's Death is in vain to all that perish, but not according to either of the former.
Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption (London: Printed for John Salusbury, 1694), 453–454.


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