Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Is Denying Common Grace a Novelty?

Dr. Jonathan D. Moore


Some people dismiss the denial of common grace as being completely alien to historic Reformed theology. Rather than indulge in wishful thinking, should we not become more familiar with what leading Protestant Reformers actually taught?

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562) was undoubtedly the greatest of all the Italian Protestant Reformers. He was an esteemed friend of Heinrich Bullinger, Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel. At Oxford he served as Regius Professor of Divinity and as Canon of Christ Church, during which time he was consulted over the drawing up of the Book of Common Prayer of 1552. He also held professorships in theology and Hebrew at the universities of Strassburg and Zurich. In short, Vermigli was a leading and influential Reformed theologian of international repute.

Vermigli’s manual of systematic theology, his Loci Communes, comprised over a thousand folio pages and by 1656 had been reprinted over a dozen times. In his chapter on grace, Vermigli states that grace has two senses in Scripture. Firstly, there is divine "good will" and "favour." This is limited to "the elect." Secondly, there are God’s "excellent gifts" but these too are given only to "his elect." Vermigli admits that "naturall gifts, as pregnancie of wit, strength of bodie, and such like are sometimes called graces" by certain people. However, "We denie not, but that these things are freelie granted by God; howbeit, we denie them to be graces," since graces "happen unto the elect, through the redemption of Christ" (1st English edition, 1583, Part 2, pp. 48, 52). It would appear that for Vermigli, grace was strictly particular and never common.

The way some people talk today, Vermigli therefore can’t really have been "truly Reformed." This is clearly a preposterous notion, and can only be entertained by those who live in ignorance of the breadth and depth of the Reformed tradition as forged by the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers. Lovers of that Reformed tradition will be glad to know that Vermigli’s works are currently being reprinted by the Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, Kirksville, Missouri, USA.