Part 4
Chapter 2—Of Redemption

Section 14—Anthanasius. A.D. 350.

It must be owned that Athanasius, who, as has been observed in the preceding chapter, bore so famous a testimony to the doctrine of eternal election in Christ, has said many things which upon first sight seem to favor the doctrine of universal redemption. M. Daille has cited[1] a considerable number of testimonies from him to that end, and he might have cited more. But I have the following thing to say in vindication of him; first, that when, in the passages referred to, he says that Christ died for all,and offered himself a sacrifice for all,and died for the ransom of all,and that his death is the ransom of all,he says no more than the Scriptures do, which are used in this controversy, and so may be understood in the same sense, of all the elect, or some of all sorts. Secondly, some of the citations only prove that Athanasius believed that Christ, being God as well as man, was dunatos kai ikanos,"able and sufficient to suffer for all, and give full satisfaction by his death for all." That Christ was able to redeem all mankind, and that his sufferings and death were sufficient for the redemption of all men, had it been the will of God to have appointed them for that purpose, none will deny. Thirdly, I observe, that in many places he says that Christ assumed a body, bore one subject to sufferings, and did endure death epi ti soteria ton panton, "for the salvation of all;" yea, that by his death, e soteria tasi gegone,"salvation is procured for all." Now if by salvation be meant spiritual and eternal salvation, these instances would prove more than they are brought for, namely, universal salvation. But it is easy to observe that Athanasius, in most of these places, is speaking of the resurrection from the dead, which he makes the grand end of Christ's incarnation, sufferings, and death; and if this is what he means by salvation, and by Christ's dying for all, and giving himself for all, this is no more than what some, who are far from giving into the universal scheme, allow of; who suppose that the resurrection from the dead is a benefit which belongs to all men by virtue of the death of Christ. Fourthly, it is very probable that one reason why Athanasius use those general terms so frequently, is with respect to the Gentile world, among whom a very large number have a special interest in the death of Christ, and redemption by his blood. In one place[2] he has these words. "What is the fruit of the Lord's death! what the profit of the Jew's conspiracy? the death of the Savior hath made the world;free, that the Gentiles might glorify God the wrath of the Jews hath destroyed the city with them, and hath blinded them, with respect to the knowledge of God. The death of the Lord hath quickened the dead, but the conspiracy of the Jews hath deprived them of life; for now they are without the Lord, and the cross of the Savior hath made ten ekklesian ton ethnon,"the church of the Gentiles, which was a wilderness, habitable;" in which he calls the Gentiles the world, in opposition to the Jews; and this world the church of the Gentiles, who enjoy the fruit of Christ's death. This citation is indeed made from a treatise which some[3] learned men have thought is not the genuine work of Athanasius; but inasmuch as M. Daille has made use of it before me, I take the same liberty. But, not to insist on this, there are some things in the genuine works of Athanasius, which manifestly limit redemption by Christ, and the benefits of it to some, as when he says,[4] "When was he (Jesus) sent, but when he clothed himself with our flesh? When did he become the high priest of our profession? but when he offered himself for us, raising the body from the dead, and now he brings and offers to the Father touv prosercomenouv autw th pistei, those that come unto him by faith, redeeming all, and expiating those things that belong to God for all;" that is, for all that come unto him by faith. And in another place, he thus expresses himself,[5] "God hath commanded the true Wisdom to take flesh, and become man, and to endure the death of the cross, ina dia thv en toutw pistewv pantev loipon oi pisteuontev swzwsqai dunwntai, that through faith in him, all henceforth that believe might be saved." The sense of which is that the design and intention of God in the incarnation and death of Christ is not to save all men, but such that believe in him. And elsewhere he says,[6] that Christ "took to himself a body of the virgin Mary; that offering it a sacrifice for all, he might reconcile to the Father pantav hmav osoi fobw qanatou dia pantov tou zhn enocoi hmen douleiav,all us, as many as through fear of death were all our lifetime subject to bondage." And a little after, in the same page, he has these words; "The Word was made flesh, that he might offer it for all, kai hmav ek tou pneumatov autou metalabontev qeopoihqenai dunhsqwmen,that we partaking of his Spirit might be made like unto God." Again, he observes,[7] that "as Christ being man is God, so being God became man, kai sozei tous pisteuontas en anthropou morphe,that he may save those that believe in the form of man." Moreover, and what is full against the universal scheme, having cited the text in Malachi 4:2, To you that fear him shall the Sun of righteousness arise;he makes this remark on it,[8] gar panton (emera) aute, alla ton apothanonton to amartia, zonton de to Kurio, for this day does not belong to all, but to them who die in sin, and live unto the Lord." By which he means not the day of the week he calls the Lord's day a little before, but the day of grace, which the Sun of righteousness makes when he arises and appears to any in a spiritual saving way, and which is special and peculiar to some persons only.


[1] Epist. 4, p. 777-782.

[2] In Passion. et Crucem Domini. vol. 1. p. 1025. 1026.

[3] Vide Rivet. Critici Sacra, 1. 3, c. 5, p. 2, 4, 6.

[4] Contr. Arian. Orat. 3, p. 377, vol. 1.

[5] Ibid. p. 452.

[6] Synod. Nic. contr. Arian. Decret. p. 262.

[7] De Salutar. Advent. Christ. p. 639.

[8] De Sabbat. et Circumcis. p. 968.