For my second blog post, I share the stage with John Balguy (1686-1748), who appears to have coined the word “premial,” although it never caught on. He derived it from the Latin verb premiare, “to stipulate for a reward.” I have Timothy Gorringe to thank for citing Balguy in his superbly engrossing, though dauntingly documented, God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence, and the Rhetoric of Salvation (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 170-72. It makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the societal effects of the penal substitution doctrine of atonement. (See my link to Gorringe in the long list at the right.)
Briefly, Balguy was born in Sheffield and educated at Cambridge. He regretted wasting nearly two years reading romances before coming across Livy’s history, which prompted his pleasure in serious studies. After graduation he taught a while before entering the Anglican ministry in 1711. He was a talented writer (no thanks to romances?), which he directed at first to sermons and soon to controversial defenses of religious freedom amid ecclesiastical disputes. He wrote a number of esteemed defenses of contemporaries, then more philosophical works about moral virtue and the role of Christian Scripture. In 1730 he published his substantial Divine Rectitude; or, a brief Inquiry concerning the moral Perfections of the Deity, particularly in respect of Creation and Providence, in which he argued the superiority of “rectitude” to “benevolence” in explaining God’s governance of the universe. Then he indulged in polemical writing against deists, as was common during that era. Finally, in 1741 he published An Essay on Redemption: Being the Second Part of Divine Rectitude, of barely a hundred pages (and after that a single volume of sermons, among which “Of Revenge” has insights bearing on atonement). A second edition appeared posthumously in 1785 with a valuable preface by his son, Thomas, that tackled certain objections arising during the intervening four decades.
Balguy’s philosophical treatise on rectitude well prepared him for introducing his elegantly balanced articulation of double-faceted justice–premial as well as penal. His view of atonement, or “redemption,” proved appealing enough to recur in somewhat altered form in the able work of Dr. John Taylor of Norwich, later in the century. But enough of history; now down to riveting theology!
In the following excerpt, I’ll quote the context of Balguy’s only two uses of “premial” (which I put in boldface). This exercise, of course, is intended to highlight the value of reviving the term for contemporary discourse. I’ll venture some adjustments toward current American capitalization, spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, verse citation, etc. With apologies for its length, I commend this remarkable passage for its advance toward clarifying the nature of God’s restorative justice or premial “rectitude” on behalf of our redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. As should be clear, although a bare start, this approach has resounding implications for our re-understanding of both atonement and justification.
“I shall…return to the pursuit and discussion of the main point…. I mean the manner and method of our being redeemed from the guilt, or to speak more properly, the penalties of sin…. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous [Rom. 5:19]. Made sinners, and made righteous, in more senses than one: but in whatever sense the words be understood, the correspondence holds, and the contrast is visible.
“The former of these dispensations has been already explained and vindicated, and the latter remains to be now set in a clear light, which perhaps is all that is needful to be done in its defense and justification. Vicarious punishment appears an utter impossibility. And if vicarious suffering does not imply or amount to the same thing, it is to me altogether unintelligible. That by a supposed commutation of persons Christ should become our substitute for proxy and, as such, endured evils inflicted on account of our sins, seems to me at least running into needless obscurity and wrapping up a plain doctrine in clouds and darkness. If Adam was our substitute, our representative in sinning, then might it be allowed that Christ was the same in suffering. Or if we could be punished for Adam’s transgression, then Christ might be supposed, by the same rule, to be punished for ours. But whoever disowns the former of these doctrines will unavoidably be obliged to give up the latter.
“The great question then remaining to be considered is how redemption was practicable according to the principles and concessions here laid down. It has already been granted, and even maintained, that neither sin, nor demerit, nor punishment can possibly be transferred, because they are personal. And are not righteousness and merit and reward equally personal, and therefore equally nontransferable? I both own the premises and allow the conclusion and yet cannot find any just cause to be in pain about either. I readily acknowledge that, strictly speaking, it is altogether impossible that men should be either made sinners or righteous by the act and deed of other persons, and no less repugnant to truth that they should be either punished or rewarded for good or evil actions in which they themselves had no hand. The great purposes of redemption may, I hope, be fully answered without any recourse to such suppositions. Let it but be allowed that the first Adam deserved the sentence and punishment inflicted on him, and that the last Adam, the Lamb that was slain [Rev. 5:12], merited a high reward and was truly worthy to receive honor, and power, and glory, and blessing, as we find them ascribed to him in Scripture, and I apprehend these data will be sufficient for the vindication of either doctrine.
“By submitting to take our nature upon him, even under the greatest discouragements and disadvantages, in the lowest form and the most unwelcome condition; by humbling himself still lower and patiently enduring the greatest hardships, indignities, and distresses; by indefatigably seeking and promoting from first to last the glory of God and the benefit of mankind; but more especially by becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Phil. 2:8], our Redeemer was unquestionably most meritorious, in the sense above explained. To perfect innocence he joined the most extensive benevolence and the most exalted virtue, and thereby became entitled to the highest honor and most distinguished reward. So far, here is a perfect agreement with truth and rectitude, without all question and beyond all objection. That the reward conferred on him no way interfered with right and truth but, on the contrary, was most proper and suitable in all respects, most worthy of the Giver and most acceptable to the Receiver, will be my business to show after we have inquired wherein it consisted.
“Besides the exaltation of Christ and the accessions of power and dignity expressly mentioned in Scriptures, there is clearly implied, and sometimes expressed in conjunction therewith, a reward of a different nature. I mean that very remission of sins, or release of sinners, which is the subject of our present inquiry: their deliverance from the bonds of sin and death, and the restoration of immortality. This we are apt to miscall our reward, and to look upon it as such; but I must beg leave to assert and maintain that, strictly speaking, it is not our reward but our Redeemer’s—whom God hath exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins [Acts 5:31]. He merited by his obedience and suffering this glorious and sublime reward, and obtained it accordingly, and that with the utmost truth and propriety….
“That our redemption is really the effect of Christ’s sufferings or, in other words, that Christ’s sufferings are the real and meritorious cause of our redemption, I acknowledge and maintain. And it must be allowed that this is the very substance of the doctrine and all that can be reputed essential to it…. The present question is whether the accomplishment of our redemption is to be considered as penal or premial, whether as resulting from a vicarious punishment, or a personal reward….
“….When it is said that on him was laid the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6], what occasion is there to understand anything further than that he suffered as really for our iniquities as if they had been his own or, in other words, that to indemnify us he endured those evils which we only had deserved? Where we read that he was made sin, or a curse, for us [2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13], nothing more seems intended than that he, though entirely sinless, underwent an accursed death for our sakes and suffered as deeply on our account as if he had been a sinner, even the greatest of sinners.
“But why does every thing relating to our Savior’s sufferings run so much in a sacrificial strain, and in so exact a conformity with the legal expiations? May we not infer from thence that his sufferings were strictly penal, and that he was actually substituted in our stead?….I have already acknowledged that Christ offered a real and proper sacrifice. I own and contend that he gave himself an offering to God [Eph. 5:2] in order to accomplish our redemption. He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world [1 John 2:2], that is, by his meritorious death and sufferings he procured for all penitents the remission of their sins and their reconciliation with God. But I cannot see the necessity of supposing that in all respects, and in every circumstance, the Christian sacrifice must answer the Jewish, however it might be signified and prefigured thereby. In one point they are and must be essentially different. For how is it possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should afford a just representation of the meritorious and all-sufficient sacrifice of our Redeemer? Hence we find the apostle distinguishing so strongly between them and expressing himself so fully in diminution of the one and exaltation of the other.
“Neither can I think it reasonable or safe to lay so great a stress on typical correspondences as is frequently done on this occasion. A much greater stress ought, I think, to be laid not only on the reason of the thing, but on the original type and the doctrine which we have been considering, since, according to a foregoing observation, the two dispensations stand in direct opposition, and the one is represented in Scripture as the reverse of the other. Thus, the first Adam disobeyed and transgressed, the second Adam was all innocence and obedience; the first highly demerited, the second highly merited; the first was punished, the second rewarded. And as the effects of the former’s punishment fell upon his descendants, and occasioned the corruption of their nature as well as their mortality and misery, so the effects of the latter’s reward redounded to his subjects, producing the renovation and sanctification of their nature, immortality, and salvation. I might have added that the former was fixed in a joyful, prosperous, and glorious situation, and yet incurred sin and guilt; the latter was placed in a scene of adversity, ignominy, and sorrow, and yet was perfectly blameless and even most meritorious. And indeed there is scarcely any particular relating to our purpose wherein the same correspondence is not observable. To say it holds quite through every circumstance is neither agreeable to plain fact nor to the apostle’s observation. But it holds in so many, and the opposition is so general, as I believe affords us the best help and the clearest light for the explication of either doctrine. And if this be true, here is an ample confirmation of the account before given. For to suppose both the first and second Adam punished breaks in upon the rule in one of the main points and destroys the opposition.
“Before I quit this remark, I beg leave to add, in support of some foregoing observations, that as Adam’s transgression, demerit, and punishment, being all personal, could not be transmitted, so Christ’s obedience, merit, and reward, being alike personal, could not be communicated. Nevertheless as we sustained great damage through the demerit of the former, so we might and did receive inestimable benefit through the merits of the latter. However we might be affected by the punishment inflicted on Adam, it was really not our punishment but his; however we may be advantaged by the reward conferred upon Christ, it was truly his reward and not ours. The benefits of redemption being supposed the same, whether it was accomplished in a premial or a penal way, it may seem perhaps, to some, a frivolous controversy that is raised about them; but if the one is repugnant to reason and rectitude, and the other perfectly consistent therewith, I presume nothing more need be said to show the importance of the inquiry.” (Pp. 64-75. Accessed through Early English Books Online [EEBO].)