May 9, 2008

An Excellent Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) Quote on Redemption

This is old news for some, but I still think this quote is fascinating. Edwards says:
From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby. As appears by what has been now shown, God has the actual salvation or redemption of a certain number in his proper absolute design, and of a certain number only; and therefore such a design only can be prosecuted in any thing God does, in order to the salvation of men. God pursues a proper design of the salvation of the elect in giving Christ to die, and prosecutes such a design with respect to no other, most strictly speaking; for it is impossible, that God should prosecute any other design than only such as he has: he certainly does not, in the highest propriety and strictness of speech, pursue a design that he has not. And, indeed, such a particularity and limitation of redemption will as infallibly follow, from the doctrine of God's foreknowledge, as from that of the decree. For it is as impossible, in strictness of speech, that God should prosecute a design, or aim at a thing, which he at the same time most perfectly knows will not be accomplished, as that he should use endeavours for that which is beside his decree.
Jonathan Edwards, "On the Freedom of the Will," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:88.

Since I recently sent this quote to a friend via email, I will include the comments I made in this post as well:

One can see that Edwards is advocating a form of dualism. Christ may be said to die for all, in that he redeemed all, but there is still something particular in his work in the case of the elect, such that he purposes that they alone should obtain the benefit through faith. Notice how he can use the same term to connote different things. "Redemption" can either mean the payment of the ransom price (redemption accomplished), or it can refer to the actualized liberation of the believing elect in Christ (redemption applied). It is in the latter sense that he speaks of a "limitation of redemption," even though there is no limitation in the price that was paid for all (contrarary to those Owenists who advocate a limited expiation or limited imputation of sin to Christ). Redemption applied is limited, but not redemption accomplished in Edwards. Owenists say both are limited, since Christ only substituted for the elect on the cross, as they see it. They have lost the classical Christological view that Christ substitutes for all he shares a nature with, i.e., all of humanity. Thus, it seems that Owenism would entail that the non-elect humans are no better off (concerning salvation) than the non-elect angels, since Christ didn't suffer for their sins either. It matters not that Christ shares humanity with the non-elect humans, since he does not bear the punishment they deserve. They are left without a remedy (they are "remediless" as Richard Baxter puts it); and thus there are still legal/physical barriers that stand in the way of their pardon or salvation, and not merely the barrier of their own moral depravity.

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