April 14, 2016

Joseph Hacon (1603–1662) on the Extent and Intent of Christ’s Death

Since Joseph Hacon appears to be very similar in his position to James Ussher, John Davenant, Richard Baxter, and Edward Polhill, particularly in his idea of an ordained sufficiency for all and other things he says, I thought I would post his comments on the dispute. He wrote:
Qu. 93. For whom was his Death a satisfactory ransom?
A. For all.
Qu. 94. How doth that appear?
A. The Scriptures plainly affirm it so, telling us, that he died and gave himself a ransom for all, tasted Death for every one.

The controversy is not, Whether Christ did die for all, or no: but how, and in what sense, it is so said. There be many places of holy Scripture, and many arguments, not easily solved; because, as I think, insoluble; which are brought to prove, that Jesus Christ did suffer death for all men: But when it is also said, that he died for his sheep; and for his Church; and that for whom God delivered up his son, to them he giveth all things; and when his Death, Resurrection, and Intercession, do as in a chain, one draw the other, Rom. 8. And when it is certain, that God doth not give all things to all men, as namely, not Faith and Repentance; we are of necessity put upon it to distinguish: which we do so as to satisfy our selves; yet finding withal, that Contention is fed with a fire that is unquenchable.

We believe, as our Church [of England] hath made profession, and taught us, that the Son of God did offer a full, perfect, and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and that he died for every man. And although notice of this be not given to every man, or all the world; yet may it be given, and truly declared to them.

Such love did God bear to Human nature, or all mankind, more than to the lapsed Angels; that there was, and is a possibility for every man whatsoever to be saved, though he do not perform the Law, or Covenant of works. God’s justice is so far satisfied, that way is made for mercy, pardon, and favour. Nevertheless, for the actual participation of benefit by Christ’s Death, and application to each particular person, there is more to be done, than what is done by Christ for all the world. The fruit of his passion, as to life eternal, is derived only to his body mystical, to such as are more nearly united to him, than by the common Relation, or kin, or claim of human nature, which he took upon him, and for which he suffered. And although by his blood he obtained, as well Universal, as eternal Redemption; yet by Faith in his blood are we justified. And he who is said to be the Saviour of all men, is said also to be the Saviour of his Body; that is, of such as partake of his Spirit, and are subject to him, and joined to him, as the parts of the Body are to the Head: So all men are not.

In this Nation at some especial times, comes forth a General Pardon: in which case though we set aside the Exceptions, or the excepted; Those persons to whom it is really and truly intended, must sue out their pardon: otherwise, they may be supposed not to accept of it. And if then, any shall urge the Term, and Title of the General Pardon, and insist, without end upon this, That a pardon it is, and such a pardon as is general to all the people, without taking notice of any thing else further to be done; he that hath but small skill, can easily see, how weak such kind of reasoning is.

Now whereas Faith is God’s gift, and he bestoweth his Spirit where he will, and man cannot believe of himself, nor perform the condition required; here beginneth the first overture of that secret difference that is betwixt man and man: and here first openeth it self, the great mystery of Election, in that the Ransom, or Satisfaction which God hath accepted, as general, and sufficient for all men, that whosoever believeth should not perish; doth not actually, and efficaciously, profit all men to life eternal, because to all men it is not given, to believe and perform the condition.

Whereas others think best to distinguish here, the universal particle All; all, both Jews and Gentiles: or all, that is, the several kinds, or estates of men: or all, that is, all the Elect. I do now distinguish the Intentional particle, For: which denoteth the end, or intention; and sometimes moreover the effect of the Intention.

The death of Christ was for all, but not for all alike, or in the same manner, or with the like issue & event. He gave himself, and suffered sufficiently, with a general Intention for all; but efficaciously, with a special Intention, for some only.

When we say sufficiently, we do not mean a mere or bare sufficiency, as if there were only price and worth enough in Christ’s blood, to redeem all. As a rich man may have money enough in his chest, to relieve all the poor in the Town: But we mean a sufficiency with promise and proffer of benefit for all, yet not without a condition to be performed: As when a rich man doth give such a sum of money, to be by dole distributed to all the poor of that Town where he liveth: provided that they orderly attend at such a time and place to receive it. The Gift is intended for them all. But some it may be, had no notice of it: and perhaps some others have no mind to take it. Yet were the alms intended for them all, and to each of them who did absent themselves, it may be truly said, Had you waited as was appointed, you had received your dole. But so it cannot truly be said to such poor, as live in distant places, because it was not intended, nor provided for them.

There is no possibility for Satan and his angels to be saved by the death of Christ, not only because their nature was not assumed, but because Christ’s death in the purpose of God, was not ordained for them, as it was for mankind. This Proposition therefore [If Satan believe, he shall be saved] is not true, because Christ died not for him. But this Proposition [If Judas Iscariot believe, he shall be saved], was true, because Christ died for him.

A favourite may procure a place at Court, for his friend in the Country; who nevertheless doth choose to live retiredly, and in the shadow, rather then in the view and glory of the world: the preferment in the mean time being ready for him, intended for him, and proffered him.

And that in this sense, our Blessed Saviour did suffer death for all men: as our Church [in the Thirty-Nine Articles] hath framed the Answer; Jesus Christ redeemed me and all mankind, may be proved out of those words, 1 John 3:23. This is his Commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son. There is not only a Command or Commission to the Apostles, to preach the Gospel to every Creature: But a Command also to every one that hears it, to believe it. Now, first, God doth not command any thing to be believed that is not true: and whosoever believeth in the Son of God, must believe, this at the least, that he died for him; therefore God commandeth every man that heareth the Gospel, to believe that the Son of God died for him. Now whatsoever I believe, is not therefore true because I believe it; but it must be true before it be believed: so for all those that are commanded to believe, did Christ suffer Death, and offer Sacrifice.

And if any man shall hold on the contrary, that Faith doth not consist in believing this or that proposition, as, Jesus Christ gave himself for me; but in laying hold on, and apprehending and receiving Christ a Saviour, and that this is the right object of that kind of Faith, which is given in command to every one that heareth the Gospel; Then I argue, secondly thus: God doth not command any thing that is impossible. I mean not, that is impossible to such a person as now he is, and at such a time; but that is impossible in it self to be done. But now it is a thing not possible or any way feasible, for me to lay hold on Christ a Saviour, unless he be ordained and appointed a Saviour for me: and this cannot be, but by God’s appointment and institution, setting him forth to be a common Sacrifice and propitiation: thus it is in life spiritual, even as in corporal life, and the course of nature, it is impossible to be fed and nourished by a stone, because it never was ordained of God for food. Therefore Jesus Christ did give himself a Sacrifice for all men that hear the Gospel: and as for them who never heard of him, he offered Sacrifice for their sins also: and whosoever shall go and tell them so, shall tell them but the truth. Although, until they hear it, they do not sin, in not believing it; as they do, who hear, and believe not. So much for the general intention, and ordination of Christ’s Death for all men.

But as there is this general Redemption, by means of that one Sacrifice for all men; so there is proper to those who are chosen to life, A special Redemption; which, as it proceeds from Election, Eph. 1:4. so it consists in actual forgiveness of sins, v.7. in whom we have Redemption, the forgiveness of sins. All men are no where said to be elected, All men are no where said to be forgiven. So some Redemption belongs to all; but, not every kind of Redemption.

And that the intention of benefit by Christ’s Passion, was not alike to all, on his part; but more to some than to others; appeareth hence, that there was not the like application of it, made by him to all. He who offered himself a Sacrifice for the sins of all men, yet did pray for some only, Joh. 17:9. And God who gave his son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, did absolutely intend, that the benefit of that promise should infallibly take place, in some, by removing that infidelity, which might have hindered them, and by giving faith which enabled them, to perform the condition, and lay hold on the promise, for want of which faith, others are lost. If in time, and in execution, he dealeth not alike the fruit of Christ’s Death to all men; then may we safely gather, that his purpose and intention, touching the fruit of Christ’s Death was not alike to all men. Executio est speculum Decreti, we may safely behold and view, God’s purpose and determination, in what he doth in time effect and bring to pass.

And if any man shall now murmur within himself and say: I know not whether I be of that selected number, for whom Christ’s Death was intended to be actually & every way efficacious; nor whether God’s love and good will be as much to me, as it is to any other, and shall thereupon neglect the duties of God’s law, and the means of his own eternal safety, giving ear to the whispers of some false teachers, by whom he is encouraged so to do, or at leastwise excused for so doing, rather than listening to the grave and wholesome advice, of our Church-Articles; which is, To receive God’s promises, in such wise, as they be generally set forth in holy Scriptures; I shall only desire him to call to mind that saying of Moses Deut. 29. Secret things belong to the Lord, our God; but things revealed belong to us. In which words the Man of God setteth bounds to our knowledge, and to our search, as once he did to the people at the foot of the mount, that they might know their distance and keep it, and not at their utmost peril, break through, and gaze. And whosoever he be that shall refuse, to entertain and embrace points of belief, and the Doctrine of godliness fully revealed; and in the mean time busily intermeddle with secrets reserved; shall add to disobedience, the sacrilege of curiosity, and may fear that God will set his face against him, that shall dare to cross and thwart, in such a manner, so severe an Edict made known and published.
Joseph Hacon, A Review of Mr. Horn’s Catechisme: And Some few of his Questions and Answers noted by J.H. of Massingham p. Norf. (Cambridge: Printed by John Field, 1660), 53–61. Some of the spelling has been updated and modernized.

Hacon was a native of Topcroft, Norfolk, where he was born on the 17th of May, 1603. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and, after entering Holy Orders, was made Rector of Massingham in his 40th year. After a few years, he was made Registrar of the Parish. He was buried at Massingham Parva on the 18th September, 1662. See Ronald F. McLeod, Massingham Parva: Past and Present (London: Waterlow & Sons, 1882), 113–114.

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