August 7, 2014

Thomas Ball (1590–1659) on the Discussion Between John Preston (1587–1628) and Francis White (c.1564–1638) on Redemption

Some of the Lords proposed that, instead of this book which Mr. Montague promised to write, the Synod of Dort might be received & established as the doctrine of the church of England, seeing there was nothing there determined but what our delegates approved. But Dr. [Francis] White [an Arminian-Remonstrant] opposed this mainly; for, said he, the church of England, in her catechism, teaches to believe in God the Son, who redeemed me and all mankind, which that Synod did deny.

Dr. Preston answered, that by redemption there was only meant the freeing of mankind from that inevitable ruin the sin of Adam had involved them in, and making them savable upon conditions of another covenant. John 3:16-17. So that now salvation was not impossible, as it was before the death of Christ; but might be offered unto any man, according to the tenor of that commission, Mark 16:15-16. This could not however be applied unto the devils, for they were left in that forlorn condition whereinto their sin & disobedience put them, Heb. 2:16 & 2 Pet. 2:4. On the other hand, the jailor, Acts 16:24, 27. was a boisterous, bloody fellow, yet Paul made no doubt to tell him (verse 31) that, if he believed in the Lord Jesus, he should be saved with his house. But Dr. White would in no sort admit this, but affirmed earnestly that Christ died for all alike in God's intention and decree; for Cain as well as Abel; for Saul as well as David; for Judas as much as Peter; for the reprobate & damned in Hell as well as for the elect and saints in Heaven.

To which Dr. Preston answered, that there was a special salvation offered to believers, 1 Tim. 4:10. That Christ was indeed a ransom for all, 1 Tim. 2:6. yet the Savior only of his body, Eph. 5:23. That he redeemed all, but called, justified, & glorified, whom he knew before, & had predestined to be formable to the image of his son, Rom. 8:29-30. That to whom in this sense Christ was given, to them were given also all things appertaining unto life & godliness, 2 Pet. 1:3. As says, 2 Pet. 1:1. Phil. 1:29. Eph. 2:8. Repentance, Acts 11:18. 2 Tim. 2:25. A new heart, Ezek. 36:26. His Spirit, Gal. 4:5-6. So that nothing can be charged on them, Rom. 8:31-34. So that they can never perish nor be taken out of Christ's hand, John 10:28-30. But as they are begotten again unto a lively hope, 1 Pet. 1:3. so they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (verse 5). Whereas Judas was lost, John 17:12. and is gone to his own place, Acts 1:25.

And there are many nations & people of the world, that have no outward offer made unto them in the Gospel, Psa. 147:19-20. Acts 16:6-7. And those that enjoy the means of grace, have not all hearts given them to understand & believe it, Deut. 29:2-4. Isa. 6:9-10. Matt. 13:13-15. and therefore they are lost, 2 Cor. 4:3-4. and are damned. 2 Thess. 2:10-12. He showed them, in Adam all men were lost, Rom. 5:12. and none recovered but by Christ; therefore, such as had not Christ's intercession could not recover; That Christ prayed not but for some, John 17:9. and therefore none but such only could be saved, Heb. 9:15.

Dr. White acknowledged there was a difference; for, though all had so much as by good improvement might serve their turn, yet the elect had more, for God abounded towards them, Eph. 1:8-9. Rom. 5:15, 17, 20. Thus, by example, all the troop have horses, but the officers have better; two travelers have staves to leap over a ditch, yet the one a stronger & better then the other; the worst men had grace enough to keep corruption & the evil of their nature down, but the elect such as would do it easily. Christ had tasted death for every man; Heb. 2:9. he died for those who might notwithstanding perish, 1 Cor. 8:11. and bought those that yet might bring upon themselves swift damnation, 2 Pet. 2:1. because they did not husband & improve the favor offered to them.

Dr. Preston answered that Christ was in himself sufficient to save all; and might be said to be provided for that end & use; as a medicine is to cure infected poison, though it cures none actually but those that drink it. "Habet in se quod omnibus prosit, sed, si non bibitur, non," as in 1 John 5:11-12. But many did not thus apply Christ, because they had him not so offered & exhibited as others had, Matt. 11:21. Luke 10:13. for God gave some faith & repentance, as I have showed. The serpent (Moses was commanded to make), was in itself sufficient to cure those that were bitten, Num. 21:8-9. yet cured none but only those who looked on it. "So, as Moses lifted up the Serpent in the wilderness, shall the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life," John 3:14-15.
Thomas Ball, The Life of the Renowned Doctor Preston, ed. by E. W. Harcourt (London: Parker and  Co., 1885), 130–136.

Joel Beeke and R. J. Pederson acknowledge that John Preston was moderate in Meet the Puritans: With A Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 491–92. They say, “Preston espoused a modified and moderate form of Calvinism. Especially his later sermons reveal that he embraced the system of English hypothetical universalism, teaching that Christ died for all without exception and placing great stress on human responsibility in the covenant relationship” (Ibid.).


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