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"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

...st for the same sins which He will punish the sinner in hell. In this scenario, God would demand double payment, one by Christ on the cross, the other by the sinner himself in hell.

The logic of Limited Atonement in light of Unconditional Election is not disputable, rather what is disputed is if this logic is in agreement with the biblical testimony about Christ’s death. It is my purpose here to make a biblical case for Limited Atonement through looking at the purpose of the atonement, the extent of the atonement and trying to give some answers for texts used against the doctrine of Definite Atonement. But first, let us go to the intermediate section about John Owen's case for Definite Redemption.

John Owen's Case for Particular Redemption

(This section was added on the 22nd of March 2017 and may also be found as a separate post in here.)

Dr. John Owen’s work titled “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” is, by the admission of many Calvinists, the most extensive work on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, or better named, Particular/Definite or Atonement/Redemption. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to take a brief look at his case for Particular Atonement over against Universal Atonement. Dr. Owen is aware and acquainted with the material of the opposing position and he interacts with them and answers their objections. He is not writing against caricatures of the opposing side but has researched the materials and arguments of the opposing side and, in my opinion, utterly refutes their arguments.

Almost everyone who has any reasonable knowledge of the debates concerning limited or unlimited atonement must have heard of Owen’s trilemma, which we have presented above. The trilemma is really forceful, but it is merely one argument out many more from Dr. Owen’s arsenal. The trilemma is not his only argument for Particular Redemption. But it may be an accurate summary of his case. He argues each of his points biblically. For a good summary of his arguments see here.

Dr. Owen’s book is divided into four books and various chapters dealing with the issues related to the atonement.

  1. Book 1 (8 chapters) deals with the purpose of the Trinity in the design of the atonement.
  2. Book 2 (5 chapters) deals with the effects and application of the work of Christ.
  3. Book 3 (11 chapters) presents 16 arguments against Universal Atonement and for Definite Atonement.
  4. Book 4 (7 chapters) answers various interpretations and objections to Particular Atonement.

Note: All biblical references in the quotes are modernized (e.g. John i. 1 to John 1:1 for the ease of reading and the recognition by the Scripture Tag).

The General Purpose of Christ’s Death

First, he enquires about the “general of the end [i.e., purpose] of the death of Christ” (book I, chap. 1). What does the big picture of Scripture say about the death of Christ? What is indisputable there about it? He divides this question into two sections:

  1. “that which his Father and himself intended in it” (book I, chap. 1):
    1. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
    2. 1Tim. 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
    3. Matt. 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    4. Gal. 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
    5. Eph. 5:2...

John Owen's Case For Particular Atonement

...s (Luke 19:10; 1Tim. 1:15). He is said to deliver us from “the present evil age” and not to try to deliver us by the self-giving of Himself for our wickedness (Gal. 1:4). Well…did He or did He not? Not only do we see the intention of the atonement in Scripture, but also its effects and application, which correspond to the intention of God in it.

The Work of the Trinity

Secondly, he enquires about the intention of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in the work of redemption. What did the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit plan to accomplish through the death of Christ? This is still how many Calvinists at the present time argue for Definite Redemption (i.e. James White). What effect did God want the atonement to have, and is He able to bring it to pass?

  • God the Father (book I, chap. 3):
    1. “The sending of his Son into the world for this employment”:
      • John 3:16-17; 5:37; 10:36;  Rom. 8:3-4; Gal. 4:4-5; Isa. 19:20; 48:16.
      • An authoritative imposition of the office of Mediator:
        • Purpose: Ps. 2:7-8; 110:1, 4; Heb. 1:2; Rom. 1:4; 8:29.
        • Inauguration: John 5:22; Acts 2:36; Heb. 3:1-6; Dan. 9:24 [“anointing of the most Holy”]; Matt. 3:15-17; Heb. 10:5; 1:3; 2:7-8; Matt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11.
      • “entering into covenant and compact with his Son concerning the work to be undertaken”:
        • The Father’s promise to assist the Son in the accomplishment of redemption: Isa. 63:8-9; Zech. 13:7; Isa. 63:2-3 and 53:4-5; 49:2-3; Ps. 2:2, 4, 6; 118:22-23; Matt. 21:42; Isa. 28:16; Matt. 21:44.
        • The Father’s promise of “a happy accomplishment and attainment of the end of his great undertaking”: Isa. 49:5-6, 6-12; 53:10-12.
    2. “laying the punishment due to our sin upon him”:
      • Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31; Isa. 53:4, 6, 10; 2Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13.
  • God the Son (book I, chap. 4):
    1. The “agent in this great work”:
      • Heb. 5:6-7; Matt. 3:17; John 4:34; 6:38; 17:4; Luke 2:49.
    2. The Incarnation:
      • John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; 1Tim. 3:16 KJV; Heb. 2:13-14.
    3. His Sacrifice:
      • Heb. 9:14; Rev. 1:5; Eph. 5:25-26; Dan. 9:26 KJV [“but not for himself”]; John 17:19; Rom. 5:6; John 1:29; Isa. 53:7; John 10:17-18; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2; 1Pet. 2:24; Heb. 1:3; Matt. 26:28.
    4. His Intercession:
      • Ps. 2:8; John 14:2-3; Heb. 9:11-12, 24; 1John 2:1-2; John 17:9; 11:42; Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:33-34; John 17:24; Heb. 10:14.
  • God the Holy Spirit (book I, chap. 5):
    1. The Incarnation of the Son:
      • Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35.
    2. The Sacrifice of the Son:
      • Heb. 9:14; Rom. 1:4; 1Pet. 3:18.
    3. The Resurrection of the Son:
      • Rom. 8:11.

Some of the proof-texts provided may be strange and that’s why they have to be read as Dr. Owen explains them and thereby we will be able to see the reasonableness of using these references. I have tried to provide most if not all the references he provides.

We see that in this inquiry, Dr. Owen tries to establish the purpose and work of the Trinity in the plan of redemption. Thereby we can establish what the purpose of God is. Each Person of the Trinity has a unique role in the work of redemption, to the glory of the Triune God.

Sacrifice and Intercession

In chapters 7-9 of the first book, Dr. Owen deals with a most important and neglected point about this discussion, namely, the relation of the intercession of Christ to His sacrifice. For whom does Christ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

... behalf. This is a very strong exhortation and support for the Perseverance of the Saints, and we must keep in mind that this exhortation is in the same chapter as the #1 apostasy text. See also Hebrews 9:15ff.

7. Hebrews 9:11-12 claims that by the offering of Christ’s blood he has secured eternal redemption. For whom did Christ die? He died for the elect, those who are in the body of the covenant that He mediates. This is what the High Priest does, he intercedes for the people in the covenant, not those outside. See here the case for Definite Redemption. What does it mean that Christ has secured eternal redemption? It is interesting to note the way that Christ secured this redemption. He secured it because He entered the holy places in heaven, not with animals blood, but with His own blood. That is why He secured this eternal redemption because He brought His own precious blood. The HSCB says “having obtained eternal redemption”, the NET says “and so he himself secured eternal redemption.” For whom was redemption secured but for those for whom His blood was shed? It is for those in the New Covenant of which He is the Mediator and High Priest, that He has offered Himself as the sin-taking Lamb of God. If Christ the Lord by His blood has secured our salvation how then can we lose it? Did He, in fact, obtain and secure eternal redemption for His people, or not? We must also take notice of verse 14 in connection with this which says “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” This is an argument from the lesser to the greater. He had just compared the blood of animals to the blood of Christ. The blood of animals provided ritual purity (Heb. 9:13 NET), how much more Christ’s blood through which He obtained eternal redemption? He had to offer Himself once, and not daily and yearly as the earthly sinful priests. The blood of Christ is able to cause us to worship God in the way that pleases Him. The blood of Christ, in contrast to the blood of animals (Heb. 9:9; 10:1-4, 11) is able to cleanse our conscience (Heb. 10:14, 22). How is it possible for those who have the benefits and work of Christ applied to them be lost and perish? Were they at a time part of the New Covenant, but now they’re not? Did the Lord Jesus secure redemption for them, but they gave it up (where is such an idea in Scripture)? Were their consciences cleansed by His blood to serve God, but now have returned to their old condition?

8. After a discussion of few verses from Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 10:19-23 encourages us to have confidence and full assurance of faith. This assurance of faith is found in the fact that the Lord Jesus has gone to the holy places before us by His own blood and thereby securing eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12) and the nature of the New Covenant in that all our sins are forgiven. We come to the holy places by the blood of Christ and know that we will be accepted because His blood purifies us. It was His blood which was the means by which He secured eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12). The author exhorts us to draw near to God. We have the responsibility to seek God, but we know because of our depravity we won’t (Rom. 3:11). But all glory be to God Who draws us to the Son (John 6:44, 65), otherwise we would not come. We draw near to God through one way, that is through Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:14-16) knowing that w...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

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Chapter 3: Of God's Decree

What does it mean that God is sovereign? Does God control all things? Does God ordain and is sovereign even over sin? What about election? Does God choose who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? Did God predestine because He saw what was going to come to pass? Does it matter what we do? Does God ordain the ends as well as the means?


§1 God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity...whatsoever comes to pass

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably1 all things, whatsoever comes to pass2 yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; 3 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather establishedin which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. 5
    1. Prov. 19:21; Isa 14:24-27; 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9:19; Heb. 6:17[1]
    2. Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11
    3. Gen. 18:25; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5
    4. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 10:5-7; Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
    5. Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

God hath decreed in Himself means that He decreed by Himself alone without considering others. As the modern translation puts it: “From all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself.” He was not influenced when He decreed everything. But what does mean that God “decreed”? A decree, in this context, means putting everything in order and planning everything that is to occur in history. This decree of God was from all eternity and therefore is unchangeable. To further stress the “decreed in himself” part, the Confession adds that this decree was made freely. God was not limited by anything outside Himself. Furthermore, this decree was according to the most wise and holy counsel of His own will. It was not arbitrary or random. Rather, it was ordained by the Wisdom Himself Who does nothing without a goal, reason or a purpose (cf. Eph. 1:11). What did God decree? All things, whatsoever comes to pass. There is nothing that occurs that was not already decreed by God from all eternity. But this does not mean that God is the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein. God does not create sin or author it, nor does He have delight in it. Rather, He orders it and ordains it to be for His own holy purposes, according to the most wise and holy counsel of His will. Even evil and sin are ordained according to His holy purposes. Our redemption came about by the greatest sin committed by man, the crucifixion of the Son of God, which was ordained by God (Acts 4:27-28).

When God ordains sin, He does no violence to the will of the creature, nor is their liberty hundred or taken away. Everyone committing sin and evil does so because they will and desire so. In the example about the crucifixion of the Lord, everyone in the act was a willing participant: Judas, the Jewish leaders, the Romans. All really wanted to do these things and they were not forced to will so. Nonetheless, the Scriptures are clear that they came to “do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” According to Reformed theology, God's decree establishes the liberty of creatures, because their liberty is found within God's decree. This high and mysterious doctrine shows the wi...


Limited Atonement, Definite Redemption - Scripture List & Case

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Limited Atonement, Definite Redemption

Since it is God’s purpose to save a special people for Himself, and He has chosen to do so only through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Christ came to give His life “a ransom for many” so as to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The intention of Christ in His cross-work was to save His people specifically. Therefore, Christ’s sacrifice is perfect and complete, for it actually accomplishes perfect redemption.[1]

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation.[2]

For a defense of this doctrine see here.

The Atonement of the Lord Jesus was Penal Substitutionary/Vicarious

Penal substitutionary atonement refers to the doctrine that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve. This was a full payment for sins, which satisfied both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sinners without compromising His own holy standard.[3]

Isa 53:6 ​All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isa 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Rom 3:21-25 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

 2Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gal 3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Heb 9:25-28 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Heb ...


2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 'he died for all'

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

“Can it get plainer than this? Don’t you see that it says ‘he died for all.’” Well, we could take the “all’s” there to mean “every individual who has ever lived on this planet”, but we will lose biblically consistency.

This is going to be a little bit lengthy and that because I decided that we must deal with the clear context of the passage about Christ's death for a specific people rather than addressing verses 14-15 only.

The context speaks of the ministry of reconciliation which we as believers and evangelists have received to share with the world. We are to call everyone to repentance and faith in Christ.

In verse 14 Paul says that the love of Christ controls, constrains and compels us based on the fact that Christ has died for all. But we must dig deeper to understand the meaning of the word “all” in this context.

We must illustrate what verses 14 and 15 are saying in a table:

The action The Result
One has died for all All have died
He died for all “...no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised”

The death of Christ was also the death of all. How can this be if this speaks of all men without exception? For all men were already dead in sin and trespasses because of Adam (Eph 2:1-3), but this speaks of Christ substitutionary death. This is seen from the fact that Paul speaks of us being united to Christ in His death. See for example Gal 2:20 –

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Who else but the elect can say these words? Can any reprobate truly say that they were united with Christ in His death and they frustrated the purpose of His death? Because from Gal 2:20 it is clear that the result from being united with Christ in His death is to live with and for Him. So much so that Paul says that He no longer lives, because he considers himself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Rom 6:11). When the Lord Christ died on the cross for our sin, we also died with Him. We were united with Him in His death and that is the assurance to Paul in Rom 6:5 that we also will be united with Him in the resurrection.

Now we go back to 2 Corinthians, there the all are all who are in Him. All who are in the cov...


1 Timothy 4:10, 'Savior of all men'

...:42; Rom. 5:18-19; 2 Pet. 3:9). See full note at 2 Tim. 1:10. Possibly because of the little phrase "especially of believers" (where one would theologically expect "only") it may be used in its OT sense of Elohim, who is "protector" or "provider" of all life on earth (cf. Matt. 5:45; Acts 17:28).

A short comment is made by RC Sproul in the ESV Reformation Bible:[2]

4:10 Savior of all people. The general call to repentance and salvation is extended to all people (Matt. 11:28). See “Definite Redemption” at John 10:15.

especially of those who believe. Salvation is God’s gift, in particular to those who trust in His provision in Christ (Matt. 22:14; Rom. 8:30).

The ESV Study Bible explains:[3]

1 Tim. 4:10 to this end. The goal of Paul’s labors is that people attain “godliness” (v. 8) and its eternal “value.” Toil and strive is typical of Paul’s description of gospel ministry (cf. 5:17; Rom. 16:6, 12; 1 Cor. 15:10; 16:16; Gal. 4:11; Eph. 4:28). The statement that God is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe could seem to teach universalism, that every person will eventually go to heaven. However, the rest of Scripture clearly denies this idea (see note on 1 Tim. 2:4). There are several other possible explanations for this phrase: (1) It means that Christ died for all people, but only those who believe in him are saved. (2) It means he is offered to all people, though not all receive him. (3) It means “the Savior of all people, namely, those who believe” (a different translation of Gk. malista, based on extrabiblical examples). (4) It means “the helper of all people,” taking Greek Sōtēr, “Savior,” to refer not to forgiveness of sins but to God’s common grace by which God helps and protects people in need. (5) It means “the Savior of all kinds of people, not Jews only but both Jews and Greeks.” In any case, the emphasis is on God’s care for the unsaved world, and in the flow of the letter Paul is stressing once more (cf. 2:3–5) that God’s will that people would be saved is the basis of the universal mission (cf. Matt. 28:19–20). On God as “Savior,” see note on 2 Tim. 1:8–10.

The ESV MacArthur Study Bible provides a commentary about this verse:[4]

1 Tim. 4:10 hope. Believers are saved in hope and live and serve in light of that hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7; see note on Rom. 5:2). Working to the point of exhaustion and suffering rejection and persecution are acceptable because believers understand they are doing God’s work—which is the work of salvation. That makes it worth all of the sacrifices (Phil. 1:12–18, 27–30; 2:17; Col. 1:24–25; 2 Tim. 1:6–12; 2:3–4, 9–10; 4:5–8). the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Paul is obviously not teaching universalism, that all people will be saved in the spiritual and eternal sense, since the rest of Scripture clearly teaches that God will not save everyone. Most will reject him and spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:11–15). Yet, the Greek word translated “especially” must mean that all people enjoy God’s salvation in some way like ...


John 1:29, 'takes away the sin of the world'

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 ESV)

(For a better and more recent defense see here.)

Those who advocate the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement obviously take “world” everyone who has lived or will live, all without exception. Not world in the sense of many people, not world in the sense of from every “tribe and language and people and nation” as Revelation 5:9 would put it

Here is what the ESV MacArthur Study Bible says: [1]

John 1:29 The next day. This phrase probably refers to the day after John’s response to the Jerusalem delegation. It also initiates a sequence of days (v. 43; 2:1) that culminated in the miracle at Cana (2:1–11). the Lamb of God. The use of a lamb for sacrifice was very familiar to Jews. A lamb was used as a sacrifice during Passover (Ex. 12:1–36); a lamb was led to the slaughter in the prophecies of Isaiah (Isa. 53:7); a lamb was offered in the daily sacrifices of Israel (Lev. 14:12–21; cf. Heb. 10:5–7). John the Baptist used this expression as a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for the sins of the world, a theme which John the apostle carries throughout his writings (John 19:36; cf. Rev. 5:1–6; 7:17; 17:14) and that appears in other NT writings (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:19). sin of the world! See note on John 1:9; cf. 3:16; 6:33, 51. In this context “world” has the connotation of humanity in general, not specifically every person. The use of the singular “sin” in conjunction with “of the world” indicates that Jesus’ sacrifice for sin potentially reaches all human beings without distinction (cf. 1 John 2:2). John makes clear, however, that its efficacious effect is only for those who receive Christ (John 1:11–12). For discussion of the relation of Christ’s death to the world, see note on 2 Cor. 5:19.

The following is said by John Gill:[2]

  • and saith, behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world: he calls him a "lamb", either with respect to any lamb in common, for his harmlessness and innocence; for his meekness and humility; for his patience; and for his usefulness, both for food and clothing, in a spiritual sense; as well as for his being to be a sacrifice for the sins of his people: or else with respect to the lambs that were offered in sacrifice, under the legal dispensation; and that either to the passover lamb, or rather to the lambs of the daily sacrifice, that were offered morning and evening; since the account of them best agrees with what is said of this Lamb of God, who was slain in type, in the morning of the world, or from the foundation of the world; and actually in the evening of the world, or in the end of it; and who has a continued virtue to take away the sins of his people, from the beginning, to the end of the world; and their sins, both of the day and night, or which are committed every day: for as they are daily committed, there is need of the daily application of the blood and sacrifice of Christ, to remove them; or of continual looking unto him by faith, whose blood has a continual virtue, to cleanse from all sin: the Jewish doctors say {d}, that
  • "the morning daily sacrifice made atonement for the iniquities done in the night; and the evening sacrifice made atonement for the iniquities that were by day:''
  • and in various things they were typical of Christ, as that they were lambs of the first year, which may denote the we...