October 4, 2008

Edward Polhill (1622–1694) on the Universal Terms in Relation to Christ's Death

7. I argue from the general and large expressions in scripture touching Christ and his death: Christ died for all, (2 Cor. v. 15), for every man, (Heb. ii. 9); he gave himself for the world, (John vi. 51), for the whole world, (1 John, ii. 2); he is styled the Saviour of the world, (I John, iv. 14); and his salvation is called a common salvation, (Jude, ver. 3), a salvation prepared before the face of all people, (Luke ii. 31), and flowing forth to the ends of the earth, (Isai. xlix. 6); the gospel of this salvation is to be preached to all nations, (Matth. xxviii. 19), and to every creature, (Mark xvi. 15); there is χάρις σωτήριος, grace bringing salvation to all men, (Tit. ii. 11); a door of hope open to them, because Christ gave himself a ransom for all, (1 Tim. ii. 6); I know not what could be more emphatical to point out the universality of redemption. But you will say, all these general expressions do but denote genera singulorum, some of all sorts, the world of the elect, or the all of believers.

In answer to which I shall only put two queries.

1. If those general expressions denote only the world of the elect, or the all of believers, why is it not said in scripture, that God elected all and every man, the world and the whole world? In that sense it is as true that God elected them all, as it is that Christ died for them all; why, then, doth the Holy Spirit altogether forbear those general expressions in the matter of election, which it useth in the matter of redemption? Surely it imports thus much unto us, that redemption hath a larger sphere than election; and therefore, the scriptures contract election in words of speciality only, whilst they open and dilate redemption in emphatical generalities.

2. If those general expressions denote only the world of the elect, or the all of believers, why doth the scripture use such very different language in the same thing? Sometimes Christ is called the Saviour of the body; sometimes it is said, that Christ died, or gave himself for all, or for the world, and sometimes it is said that he died, or gave himself for the church, or for his sheep. Who can imagine that such words of universality, and such words of speciality should be of the same latitude? that one and the same thing should be imported in both? Moreover, the scripture doth make a signal distinction; when it speaks of his giving himself or dying for all, it says only that he died for all, or gave himself a ransom for all. But when it speaks of giving himself for his church, it says that, "He sanctified himself that it might be sanctified through the truth," (John, xvii. 19); and that "he gave himself for it, that he might purify to himself a peculiar people," (Titus, ii. 14); and that "he gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the word, and present it to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle," (Eph. v. 25, 26, 27). Never in all the scripture, is it said that he gave himself for all, or for the world, that he might sanctify or cleanse it, or make it a peculiar people, or glorious church; which yet might have been truly said, if the all were no more than all of believers, or the world than the world of the elect; wherefore, to me it seems clear from those various expressions and the observable distinctions in them, that the all for whom Christ died is larger than the all of believers; and the world for whom Christ gave himself, larger than the world of the elect.
Edward Polhill, "The Divine Will Considered in its Eternal Decrees," in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 166. The Works of Edward Polhill was first published in 1677.

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For a similar argument, see this post by Wardlaw.

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