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Amyraut on the Mercy of God
Debating Calvinism, Predestination, and Atonement
Moïses Amyraut was a pastor and theologian of the Saumer academy in seventeenth century France. Amyraut was concerned about the hardening of Calvinism into a scholastic and dogmatic system with little room for a universal grace as arguably took place under Theodore Beza in Geneva and by the declarations of the Synod of Dort. The contribution of Amyraut was to construct a system of covenant theology whereby God had two covenants. First, an absolute and unconditional covenant whereby God saves the elect out of sheer grace. Second, a hypothetical covenant whereby God saves anyone upon the condition of faith. These covenants corresponded to God’s electing will and God’s saving will. Amyraut explains these two covenants this way:
And truly, the mercy of God consists in two degrees: one which, as it is said, does not go beyond presenting to us the forgiveness of our sins through the Redeemer and takes sovereign pleasure in our salvation providing that through unbelief we do not reject this grace; the other goes so far as to make us believe and prevents salvation from being rejected by us. The first degree is universally manifested to all through the preaching of the gospel, inviting men to faith with the firm and immovable resolution to save them if they believe. Accordingly, the gospel cries through the entire universe, Grace, Grace. The second is not particularly manifested to anyone except by its fulfillment, that is, by the feeling of faith engendered in one’s soul.
Amyraut stands with Arminius among those who wanted to soften the hardness of the developing dogmatic Calvinism. However, unlike Arminius, Amyraut was self-consciously attempting to stand within the Calvinistic camp by appealing to a biblical theology of covenant and grace that would prove to be convincing to the exegetical sensibilities of his Calvinist colleagues.
If one had to summarize Amyraut’s theology it would have to be God’s sovereign and free mercy. For Amyraut, God shows “his mercy with complete freedom” and is “sovereignly free in the dispensation of his graces” and in the end God wishes to “overwhelm the world with mercy.”
See Matthew Harding (trans.), Amyraut on Predestination (Great Britain: Charenton Reformed Publishing, 2017).