The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Another question on the Confession of Faith

with 9 comments

OK, folks, we are still in chapter eight, this time in paragraph six, which reads in the original as follows:

6. Although the price of Redemption was not actually paid by Christ, till after his Incarnation, (*) yet the vertue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the Elect in all ages successively, from the beginning of the World, in and by those Promises, Types, and Sacrifices, wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the Seed of the Woman, which should bruise the Serpents head; (h) and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World: (i) Being the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

* 1 Cor. 4.10. Heb. 4.2. 1 Pet. 1.10,11.

h Rev. 13.8.

i. Heb. 13.8.

Here I offer two questions for the price of one:

First, in modern glosses, the word “successively” is almost invariably dropped altogether. I am not sure why this is (enlightenment appreciated). However, my question is, what might be the precise signification of the word? Let me offer some possibilities (feel free to suggest others): could or does “successively” mean “in their turn” and/or “by increasing degrees” and/or “continuously”?

Second, and this is one where no-one has yet offered me a satisfactory answer, one of the proofs for the price of redemption paid by Christ following his incarnation is 1 Corinthians 4.10, which reads: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonoured!” I understand that in considering the reasons why certain proofs were chosen you have to take into account the whole interpretive tradition but I am intrigued by what the framers of this document intended, and am still trying to work out precisely what sense and nuance they had in mind. Any answers, ideas or suggestions are welcome.

So, fire away, with thanks.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 07:44

9 Responses

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  1. ‘Let me offer some possibilities (feel free to suggest others): could or does “successively” mean “in their turn” and/or “by increasing degrees” and/or “continuously”?’

    I’d say successively probably does mean ‘in their turn’, as in, all ages were beneficiaries of Christ’s redemptive work.

    I’d say it also means ‘continuously,’ as in, there was no age when the benefits of Christ’s redemption were not applicable.

    I’d say that it does NOT means ‘by increasing degrees’ as the referants of the successively are the vertue, efficacy and benefit’ of Christ’s redemptive work which are surely constant and not variable (the main point of the paragraph). Now, the clarity of the revelation of how those benefits were achieved did increase progressively through the ages, and indeed even the knowledge of the benefits themselves may have increased progressively, but not the benefits themselves or the beneficial nature of those benefits!

    As to the proof text – I have nothing thus far to offer!

    JP Wallace

    Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 08:12

    • Agreed with the above, and would like to add what has occurred to me, that the word ‘successively’ (within the scope of the meaning ‘in their turn’) also adds the sense of God’s ongoing and active work in Salvation – that it is not a matter of something once accomplished and obtainable on request (although of course that is true in one sense), but something individually applied to needy souls in all ages, through the ongoing plan and purpose of God.

      Jonathan Hunt

      Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 08:40

  2. I’ll play. :)

    (1) on “successively”, I concur with JP Wallace, above. Here’s why: I think (just a hunch) these gentlemen had Latin in their heads, and were using this as an “anglification” of Lat. “seriatim”.

    From OED: “One after another, one by one in succession; in serial order; in turn.”

    The oldest attestation OED cites comes from 1495. They also quote Lancelot Andrewes, XCVI sermons by the Right Honourable and Reverend father in God, Lancelot Andrewes, late Lord Bishop of Winchester 2nd ed; 1631 (London: printed by Richard Badger). This quote runs:

    (1629) iv. 758 “Our books teach us, ever to consider them, first conjunctim, joyntly, altogether; then, seriatim each in order, as they stand.”

    So = sequentially. “Seriatim” remained in current use in particular as a technical term in law, and is still used by pompous and pedantic writers of academic prose. (Who? Moi?!)

    The span of the “sequence” or succession is bounded in the paragraph by the “protoevangelium” to the end of history (represented by the Rev 13:8 reference), and all points in between — hinted at by “Promises” (e.g. patriarchs, David), “Types” (e.g. tabernacle, temple), and “Sacrifices” (defined in Mosaic legislation).

    (2) On 1 Cor 4:10 : that’s a poser and no mistake. Speaking of “mistake”, could it possibly have been intended as reference to 2 Cor 4:10? Both Calvin and Hodge comment on it such a way that suggests it could make sense as citation in support of the benefits enjoyed the elect from the Incarnation.

    Just guessing, of course.

    (Hope my HTML markup survives the commenting filter!)


    Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 10:21

  3. […] Head on over there if you can help answer. […]

  4. OED: Successively–“3. Continuously or without interruption”. It then cites several 16th & 17th century sources including this from 1683: “And there [Oxford] the exercise of printing hath continued successively to this day.”

    1 Cor. 4:10 is almost certainly a typo for 1 Cor 10:4. You have to keep the possibility of typos in mind, especially when looking at the proof texts.


    Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 14:25

    • @IRBSPROF – the suggestion of 1 Cor 10:4 is a much better fit, isn’t it. This text demonstrates that the benefits of the Son’s redemptive acts post-incarnation, were already felt by the elect before the incarnation — in fact, “from the beginning of the world”. Better, I think, than my suggestion of 2 Cor 4:10! Thus Calvin: “…though his flesh did not as yet exist, it was, nevertheless, food for them”.


      Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 15:59

    • You know, I have found those sorts of mistakes before, and have worked through all the variations of this one, but missed the significance of 1Cor 10.4 in the context. For some reason, looking at it in this new format made it obvious. One of the problems, as you know, is that modern editions switch to footnote numbers (which are retrospective in their placing) while the original uses prospective footnote letters. I had been looking too far along when comparing 1Cor 10.4 with the text, and therefore overlooked the key and immediate element to which it referred. Obvious now, and frustrating not to have seen that before. Thank you.

      Jeremy Walker

      Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 16:05

  5. my hunch was confirmed by IRBSPROF.


    Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 14:42

  6. […] and caveats about how we treat the Scripture references in the 1677/1689 Confession (here and here, plus the delightful fact that – in the original – the footnotes are letters that point […]

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