Warfield: The Westminster Excluded Amyraldianism

The interest of the debate to us lies in the revelation which it gives us of the presence in the Assembly of an influential and able, but apparently small, body of men whose convictions lay in the direction of the modified Calvinism which had been lately promulgated by Cameron and Amyraut for the express purpose of finding a place for a universal redemption in the Calvinistic system. For the origin of this party Dr. Mitchell would point us to English sources: but Baillie especially mentions Amyraut in this connection; and it would seem that it was Amyraut and Cameron—both of whom Gillespie mentions in this debate—whom men had especially in mind during the discussion; and it would seem further to be clear that while the adherents of this universalistic view of the atonement in the Assembly held it with British moderation, and were not prepared to go all lengths with the French Divines who had lately promulgated it with such force, they yet looked upon them as of their school and sought support from them. The result of the debate was a refusal to modify the Calvinistic statement in this direction—or perhaps we should rather say the definitive rejection of the Amyraldian views and the adoption of language which was precisely framed to exclude them. Dr. Mitchell, reviving an old contention, suggests indeed that unless the clause of the Confession in question be read disjunctively rather than, as it is actually phrased, conjunctively, it will not operate for the exclusion of Amyraldians. It is not clearly obvious, however, that the word “and” here binds the several items of the enumeration so closely together as to make it appear that all that is affirmed is only that the whole of this process takes place in the case of the elect only: the natural sense of the clause is clearly that no one of the transactions here brought together is to be affirmed of the non-elect. And this impression is increased by the broader context, not to speak of the parallel passages in viii. 3 and 5. It might seem somewhat more to the point, possibly, to recall that in this section the language is so ordered as to seem to deal with the actual ordo salutis rather than directly with the ordo decretorum. It is asserted that the ordo salutis is the result of the decreeing of the means by which the elect are brought to glory. But what is subsequently asserted is that none but the elect are (actually) redeemed by Christ, effectually called, etc.—the mind being abstracted for the moment from the intention to the performance. The Westminster Amyraldians—if we may venture so to call them—had, of course, freely admitted the distinction between the elect and non-elect in the application: it was only in the impetration that they disputed it: and it might perhaps seem to them possible to confess that though Christ had died for all, the merits of His death had actually been applied only to some, and to contend that only this is actually expressed by saying that none but the elect “are redeemed by Christ.” Even this, however, appears more subtle than satisfactory; and in any event it would seem quite obvious that the Assembly intended to state in this clause with adequate clearness their reasoned and deliberate conviction that the decree of election lies behind the decree of the gift of Christ for redemption, and that the latter is to be classed as one of the means for the execution of the decree of election. This is the definite exclusion of the Amyraldian view, and anything that can be made really consistent with this conception of the ordo decretorum will be found to differ fundamentally from Amyraldism.

Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, vol. 6 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 142–44.

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  1. Speaking about creeds
    as Turretine contributed to the Formula Consensus Helvetica of A.D.1675 which was
    an anti-Amyrault polemic, would it be possible for you Professor to be able to speak to
    the relevant people there at the seminary who made the Christian Creeds & Reformed
    Confessions App. to be able to add the Formula Consensus Helvetica to it?
    Regards Robert.

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