Part 4
Chapter 2—Of Redemption

Section 10—Lactantius. A.D. 320.

Lucius Coelius was called Firmianus from his country, Firmium in Italy, and Lactantius from his smooth and milky way of speaking; he was an auditor of Arnobins, and preceptor to Crispus, son of Constantine the Great, who died A.D. 326. He wrote seven books of Divine Institutions, besides some other treatises, in which he says some things which limit the sufferings and death of Christ, and the benefits thereof, to certain persons. Thus speaking of Christ, he says,[1] "which as he knew what would be, so he would ever and anon say oportare se pati atque interfici pro salute multorum,that he ought to suffer and be slain for the salvation of many;" and if for the salvation of many, then not of all. And in another place says he,[2] "The Jews use the Old Testament, we the New, but yet they are not different; for the New is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both the same testator is Christ; qui pro nobis morte suscepta, nos haeredes regni aeterni fecit;who having suffered death for us, hath made us heirs of the everlasting kingdom, having abdicted and disinherited the people of the Jews." From whence it is plain, that this writer thought that all those for whom Christ died are made heirs of everlasting glory: but all men are not made heirs, whence it must follow, that he did not die for all men; though Lactantius by us means the Gentiles, in opposition to the Jews, yet not all the Gentiles, but only some of them, who are called by the grace of God from among them: as appears from a passage of his a little after in the same chapter,[3] where having mentioned the new covenant made with the house of Judah and Israel, he observes, that "the house of Judah and Israel truly do not signify the Jews, whom he has cast off, but qui ab ea convocati ex gentibus,who are called by him (Christ) from among the Gentiles, who succeed in their room in the adoption, and are called the children of the Jews." And elsewhere,[4] speaking of the crucifixion of Christ, he says," He stretched out his hands in his passion and measured the world, that he might at that very time show, that from the rising of sun to the setting of it, magnum populum ex omnibus linguis, et tribubus congregatum,a large people, gathered out of all languages and tribes, should come under his wings, and receive the most great and sublime sign in their foreheads." And a little after in the same place, having taken notice of the passover lamb, and the sprinkling of its blood upon the door-post, whereby the Israelites were safe, when the Egyptians were destroyed, he observes, that "this was a figure of things to come; for Christ is a Lamb, white, without spot, that is, innocent, just, and holy, who being sacrificed by the same Jews, saluti est omnibus qui signum sanguinis, id est crucis qua sanguinem fudit in sua fronte conscripserunt, is for salvation to all who have written in their forehead the sign of the blood; that is, of the cross on which he shed his blood." Monsieur Daille[5] claims this writer on his side of the question, and produces several passages out of him on the behalf of the general scheme; and true it is that Factantius says,[6] that "the most abundant and full fountain of God is open to all, and the heavenly light arises to all; but then he, adds quicunque oculos habent, who have eyes to see;" but every individual of mankind has not eyes to see the well of living water the gospel points out, or that heavenly light which breaks forth through it. He also says,[7] that because God is gracious and merciful, that is to say, towards his own (that is, whom he has loved and chosen for himself), he sent him (his Son) to them whom he had hated (that is, the Gentiles, who by his neglect of them in former ages seemed to be the objects of his hatred), lest he should for ever shut up the way of salvation to them; but would give them free liberty of following God, that they might obtain the reward of life, if they would follow him; quod plurimi eorum faciunt atque fecerant,which very many of them do, and have done." Again he also says,[8] that "because of this humility, or low estate of Christ, they (the Jews) not knowing their God, entered into detestable counsel to take away his life; qui ut eos vivificaret advenerat,who came that he might quicken them;" which he might very well say, without having any notion of general redemption; since many of those who had a hand in the death of Christ, were afterwards converted and quickened by his grace. And in another place, giving the reasons why Christ died the death of the cross, he mentions this in the first place,[9] that "he who came mean to help the mean and weak, and point out the hope of salvation to all, was to suffer this kind of death, which the mean and weak were wont to do, lest there should be any who could not imitate him." His meaning is this, Christ has humbled himself so low, even to the death of the cross, that all sorts of men might have hope of salvation, even those of the lowest and meanest rank and form; which well consists with the doctrine of particular redemption; and accordingly he says,[10] that "we of every sex, descent, and age, enter into the heavenly road, because God who is the guide of the way, denies immortality to no man that is born," wherefore all sorts of men may hope for it.


[1] Lactant. Divin. Institut. 1. 4, c. 18, p. 319.

[2] Ibid. c. 20, p. 327.

[3] Page 328.

[4] Lactant. Divin. Institut. c. 26, p. 344.

[5] P. 772.

[6] Ibid. 1. 3, c. 26. p. 225, 356.

[7] Ibid. 1. 4, c. 11, p. 293.

[8] Ibid. c. 16, p. 314, 315.

[9] Ibid. c. 293, 343.

[10] Ibid. 1. 6, c. 3, p. 440.