Peter Martyr Vermigli on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel





Predestination and Justification, trans., by Frank A. James, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 2003), vol., 8


45-6, Article 2, The Cause of Predestination, Contra Pighius


In one sense, God is said to will sins, either because when He does not prohibit them when He could, or because He does not allow them to burst forth except when and how and for what purpose He will, or so that by them He will punish other sins.  They add that God by no means wills sin, for it is written in Ezekiel, “As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he be converted and live.” (Eze. 33:11)  We answer that in this passage the prophet is not concerned with the absolute and hidden will of God, but his effective will—that will by which God “works all things as He wills both in heaven and on earth.” (Ps. 115:3)  Rather, He deals with that will which they call “the signified will.” [the Revealed Will]  By those signs and tokens expressed in the law, no one can conclude that God wills his death or condemnation.  For example, the Lord commands that his law should be proclaimed to all; He pours his great benefits upon all indifferently.  Therefore, by this will, which we call the signified will, He does not will the sinner’s deathRather He provokes them to repentance.  As to the other will, which they call the will of his good pleasure (beneplacitus), if by it He wills that no one perish, then surely no one would perish. 


p. 62.  HT: Tony Byrne


“They [the anti-predestinarians] also grant that “Christ died for us all” and infer from this that his benefits are common to everyone.  We gladly grant this, too, if we are considering only the worthiness of the death of Christ, for it might be sufficient for all the world’s sinners.  Yet even if in itself it is enough, yet it did not have, nor has, nor will have effect in all men.  The [Medieval] Scholastics also acknowledge the same thing when they affirm that Christ redeemed all men sufficiently but not effectually.”



p. 62-64,  HT: David Ponter

45. They also put forward the statement to Timothy, “God will have all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).” Pighius [Vermigli’s ‘Arminian’ opponent] regularly repeats this passage as if it were invincible.  Yet Augustine often taught that it may be expounded in such a way that it lends no weight at all to prove their fond invention [Augustin Corrept. 14.44 (PL 44.943); idem, Ep. 217.6.19 (PL 33.985-86); idem, C. Jul. 8.42 (PL 44.75940), idem, Praed. 8.14 (PL 44.971)]. First, we take it to be spoken of all states and kinds of men, that is, that God will have some of all kinds of men to be saved. This interpretation agrees perfectly well with the purpose of the apostle.  He had instituted that prayers and supplications should be made for all men, especially kings and those in public authority, so that under them we may live a quiet life in all piety and chastity (Tim. 2:l-2).  Therefore, to declare that no state or kind of person is excluded, he added, “God will have all men to be saved.”  It is as if he had said that no one is prevented by that calling and level in which he is placed, so long as it is not repugnant to the word of God, but that he may come to salvation; therefore, we should pray for all kinds of men. Yet we cannot infer from this that God endows everyone in particular with grace, or predestines everyone to salvation. Similarly, in the time of the flood, all living creatures are said to have been saved in the ark with Noah, but only some of every kind were gathered together in it.

Or we may understand it like this: God will have all men to be saved, for as many as are saved, they are saved by his will.  It is as if one should say of a teacher of rhetoric in a city that he teaches all men. This kind of speech does not mean that all the citizens are hearers of rhetoric, but that as many as learn are taught by him. It is also like someone pointing to the gate of a house and saying that everyone enters this way.  We must not understand from this that everyone enters that house, but that as many as enter do so by way of that gate alone.

Third, there are some who interpret these words of the apostle [“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:4] as referring to the signified will or antecedent will, that all men are invited since preaching is set forth to all indifferently.  No one fails inwardly to feel some spur by which he is continually stirred up to do well.  Thus if we relate this to the will of God, we will easily grant that He will have all men to be saved.  They will not have it to be understood of the hidden and effective will which they call the consequent will.  In this way one may understand such speech as “God illumines every man who comes into this world” and “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden,”(John 1:9; Matt. 11:21), for all are provoked by the oracles of God and all are inwardly moved by some spur.

All these interpretations are quite probable and also fitting, yet beside these there is another, both ready and plain.  The Holy Scriptures set forth two human societies: one of the godly and the other of the ungodly.  Both societies have universal propositions attached which should be restricted to their own category by the careful reader.  The prophets say, and Christ cites them: “All shall be taught by God (theodidaktos) and all shall know me from the least to the greatest”; and again he says, “When I shall be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself (John:4 5; Jer. 31:33). Unless these universal propositions refer to the godly who are elected, they are not true. This is also true of these passages: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and “All flesh shall come in my sight and shall worship in Jerusalem:’ and again, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God:’ and finally, “God lifts up all who fall (Joel 2: 28; Isa. 66:23; Luke 35; Ps. 145:14). Who does not see that these passages are to be understood only of the saints?

In contrast, these following passages refer to the ungodly: “No one receives his testimony” yet many believed, and “You will be hated by all.” Again it is stated, “They all seek after their own interests”; and “They have all turned aside together; they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one” (John 3: 32; Matt. 10:22; Phil. 2:21; Ps. 14:3). Those who are pious and regenerate are acceptable to God and endeavor to show him some obedience to the law, but these universal sayings should not be extended beyond their own society.

Augustine had this distinction in mind in his book The City of God, where he proves that there have always been two cities, one the city of God and the other the city of the devil.  Therefore, in these general propositions we must always give due consideration as to which class or group of men they refer.  If we do so here, we will apply the statement to the saints and the elect, namely, that “God will have all men to be saved”: and so all doubt is removed.  Otherwise, it seems that God does not effectively will the salvation of all men, as is demonstrated by the many infants who have perished without Christ and many also which have been born fools, and deaf, and never had the right and proper use of reason.  It often happens that some have had long lives, honest and faithful enough, and yet suddenly fall at last and are taken out of the world to perish eternally.  Others, on the contrary, who have perpetually led a life of wickedness, are at the end of their lives endowed with faith and repentance and are saved.  Yet they I might have been taken away first, so that evil would not have changed their minds.  Who will in these examples say that God wills the salvation of all with the same effectiveness?  They bring up a saying of Christ’s: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not?” (Matt. 23:37)  Here also it is the antecedent will of the sign that is meant.  God through his prophets, preachers, apostles, and Scriptures invited the Jews to fly to him by repentance time after time, but they refused, but by his effective will, which is called consequent, he always drew to Himself those who were his.  Nor was there any age when he did not gather as many of the Hebrews as he had predestined.  Therefore, as Augustine said, those that I would, I have gathered together, although you would not.


p. 64-5

46.  They bring up a saying of Christ’s: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not?” (Matt 23:37) Here also it is the antecedent will of the sign [the Revealed Will] that is meantGod through his prophets, preachers, apostles, and Scriptures invited the Jews to fly to Him by repentance time after time, but they refused, but by his effective will, which is called consequent, He always drew to Himself those who were his.  Nor was there any age when He did not gather as many of the Hebrews as He had predestined.  Therefore, as Augustine said, those that I would, I have gathered together, although you would not. (Augustine, Persev. (PL. 44.568/898?) and Ep. 186 (PL 33.827?))


p. 66

They [Vermigli’s opponents] also twist something from the prophet Isaiah that Paul has cited a little later in the same letter: “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Isa. 65:2; Rom. 10:11)  They gain nothing else from this place other than what has been said many times, namely, that God universally invites all men, that the prophets were sent indiscriminately to all, and that the Scriptures are given to all, but this says nothing about the efficacy of grace, of which we speak.  We also grant that He stands at the door and knocks, and indeed will enter if any man will let Him. (Rev. 3:20)  They should add that there is no one who can open the door himself.  It is first necessary that the goodness of God be given to him who knocks.


p. 143

Last, as if it were a victory from Colophon, they [Vermigli’s opponents] bring an objection from chapter 3 of the Apocalypse, where it is written: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man open to Me, I will enter and eat with him.” (Rev. 3:20)  Now we agree completely that these words indicate that from the outset God calls, inspires, and stimulates us to salvation, to which no one by his own strength can be brought without the impulse of God.  But we openly deny that of our own accord we can open our heart to God without his grace penetrating and changing the mind, nor can these men confirm it by the Holy Scriptures.



Whether God is the Author of Sin, in Philosophical Works, trans., by Joseph P. McLelland, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 1994), 4:217.  HT: David Ponter.

In the last chapter of 2 Chronicles there is a specific place where the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem is given, and ascribed to the sins of the people.  God is denied to be the author of sin so much that He declares that He wished that things were different.  Hence the cause must not be ascribed to God.  “He sent his prophets to them persistently,” it says, “but they hardened their heart.” (2 Chron 36:15ff)  Christ wept over the city of Jerusalem; He was sorry for its overthrow (Matt. 23:37).  If the effect displeased Him, much more the cause; He wept because they sinned and so deserved utter destruction.  If Christ mourned, being not only human but also truly divine, he was displeased with its sins; therefore God is not the author of sin. 




Providence and Predestination, in Philosophical Works, trans., by Joseph P. McLelland, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 1994), vol 4, p., 332.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“Not all those who are called are predestined.  For Christ said: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).  But they [Vermigli’s opponents] contend that the calling is universal and that God would wish everyone saved.  If it is understood as universal calling because it is offered to all and no one is excluded by name, it is true.  If it is also called universal because the death of Christ and his redemption is sufficient for the whole world; that also is most true.  But if this universality is meant so that it is in everyone’s hand to receive the promises, I deny it: because to some it is given, to others it is not given.  As if we did not see also that for a long time the very preaching of the Gospel was not given to many places, ages, and nations. God would have all to be saved, provided they believe.  He gives faith to whom it seems good to him. For he may justly do with his own what he will.”




Vermigli’s Endorsements

Vermigli endorsed The Consensus Tigurinus, 1549.

The Consensus Tigurinus on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel



Related Page

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel