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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, October 17, 2008

Election and Reprobation in Article 17: Whitefield's Letter to Wesley

(Click on the title above for the full text of the letter. George Whitefield is clearly a 5 point Calvinist and cites Article 17 of the 39 Articles to defend the doctrine of the predestination of election and reprobation.)

A Letter from George Whitefield to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley

IN ANSWER TO MR. WESLEY'S SERMON ENTITLED"Free Grace"

"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11).


Excerpts from the letter:



"....I shall not mention how illogically you have proceeded. Had you written clearly, you should first, honoured Sir, have proved your proposition: "God's grace is free to all." And then by way of inference [you might have] exclaimed against what you call the horrible decree. But you knew that people (because Arminianism, of late, has so much abounded among us) were generally prejudiced against the doctrine of reprobation, and therefore thought if you kept up their dislike of that, you could overthrow the doctrine of election entirely. For, without doubt, the doctrine of election and reprobation must stand or fall together.But passing by this, as also your equivocal definition of the word grace, and your false definition of the word free, and that I may be as short as possible, I frankly acknowledge: I believe the doctrine of reprobation, in this view, that God intends to give saving grace, through Jesus Christ, only to a certain number, and that the rest of mankind, after the fall of Adam, being justly left of God to continue in sin, will at last suffer that eternal death which is its proper wages.This is the established doctrine of Scripture, and acknowledged as such in the 17th article of the Church of England, as Bishop Burnet himself confesses. Yet dear Mr. Wesley absolutely denies it."


And again:


"I would hint further, that you unjustly charge the doctrine of reprobation with blasphemy, whereas the doctrine of universal redemption, as you set it forth, is really the highest reproach upon the dignity of the Son of God, and the merit of his blood. Consider whether it be not rather blasphemy to say as you do, "Christ not only died for those that are saved, but also for those that perish." The text you have misapplied to gloss over this, see explained by Ridgely, Edwards, Henry; and I purposely omit answering your texts myself so that you may be brought to read such treatises, which, under God, would show you your error. You cannot make good the assertion that Christ died for them that perish without holding (as Peter Bohler, one of the Moravian brethren, in order to make out universal redemption, lately frankly confessed in a letter) that all the damned souls would hereafter be brought out of hell. I cannot think Mr. Wesley is thus minded. And yet unless this can be proved, universal redemption, taken in a literal sense, falls entirely to the ground. For how can all be universally redeemed, if all are not finally saved?"


This letter is perhaps one of the best defenses of the doctrines of grace I have ever seen. Whitefield's understanding of Reformed theology is second to none. You can read the entire letter at: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/wesley.htm

10 comments:

Christopher Lake said...

George Whitefield seriously disagreed with John Wesley on certain important secondary doctrines, but George Whitefield also accepted John Wesley as a brother in Christ. In fact, Whitefield once said that he did not expect to "see" Wesley in Heaven-- because Wesley would be so much closer to God in Heaven than Whitefield would!

Whitefield knew when to stand for particular doctrinal distinctives (such as the five points of Calvinism), and when to simply celebrate the Gospel. (Actually, one should *always* celebrate the Gospel, *especially* when disagreeing with a fellow believer over secondary doctrinal distinctives!)

Charlie J. Ray said...

You have the quote backwards. When Whitefield died Wesley said he would not see Whitefield in heaven because Wesley would be in the back while Whitefield would be on the front row.

Obviously, Whitefield was not afraid to rebuke Wesley to his face and publicly. The letter was published. It wasn't written in secret. Since Wesley went against Whitefield's wishes by preaching a sermon attacking particular election and particular atonement, Whitefield gave a public response. If you had bothered to read the entire letter you would have known this.

In fact, Whitefield answers several objections raised by Arminians. Whether you like it or not, "secondary" heresies are still heresies, which is why Whitefield publicly rebuked Wesley over these issues.

Yes, I will publicly say that modern "Reformed" theology has departed from the traditional Reformed positions. Common grace has its roots in a softening of the Reformed position by Charles Hodge at Princeton and by the Dutch Reformed theologian, Abraham Kuyper. Even Warfield was taken in by the teaching. However, that does not make it biblical.

Christopher Lake said...

I do not have the quote backwards, Charlie. One of Whitefield's "followers" asked him if they could expect to see Wesley in Heaven. Whitefield replied, "I fear not, he will be so near the throne, and we will be at such a distance, that we shall hardly get sight of him."

So spoke "Calvinist" George Whitefield (whom you quote positively here in this blog post) about "Arminian" John Wesley. Whitefield knew well that the *most* important thing is the *Gospel,* not secondary (though still important) doctrinal distinctives, such as the five points of Calvinism.

Christopher Lake said...

I didn't even address whether or not Whitefield rebuked Wesley in public or in private, Charlie. That was not a part of my comments to you here. Moreover, why do you assume that I haven't read the entire letter?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Sorry, but you have the quote wrong. Whitefield died first. Wesley preached his funeral. After the funeral a woman asked if Wesley thought he would see Whitefield in heaven. Wesley made the comment, not Whitefield.

Based on Philippians 1:12-20, one of Dr. Page's main points had to do with our motive in ministry. Within that point, he talked a bit about us as believers being "on the same team." He shared a story of John Wesley and George Whitefield, two famous Christian leaders in the 1700's who were good friends but had big disagreements about Christian faith and practice. One person reportedly asked Wesley, "Do you think you'll see Whitefield in heaven?" Wesley responded in the negative, to which the questioner responded with surprise that he thought Whitefield was not a true believer. Wesley explained that the other person misunderstood him - he said that he didn't think he would see Whitefield in heaven because Whitefield would be so close to the throne of God that Wesley would not be able to catch a glimpse of him so far up in the front.

http://theshockingalternative.blogspot.com/2006/09/on-same-team.html

Charlie J. Ray said...

See also: http://books.google.com/books?id=-oI3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA165&lpg=PA165&dq=Would+Wesley+see+Whitefield+in+heaven%3F&source=web&ots=6glLfWYcTS&sig=_P5xzok3hhd7LHOm3Jj249hCi94&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result

Charlie J. Ray said...

The temporary breach with Whitefield
was quickly healed, and in spite of their pronounced
differences in doctrine, and the bitter antagonism of
Whitefield' s Calvinistic followers, Wesley always accounted
the great preacher his trusted friend. "You
may read," he said, "Whitefield against Wesley; but
you will never read Wesley against Whitefield. " In
fact, after the brief alienation in 1741, Whitefield
never did write against Wesley, but responded with
all the warmth of his generous and impulsive nature
to the steadier flame of Wesley's friendship. When
he died in America, in 1770, it was in accord with his
request that Wesley preached his funeral sermon
in Whitefield's Tottenham Court Road Tabernacle,
and paid a just and moving tribute to his old friend.
The story is told that, some days later, a good woman
who could not quite forget the doctrinal differences
that separated Whitefield from the Wesleyan Methodists,
said to Wesley timidly and with great hesitation: "
Mr. Wesley, may I ask you a question? Do you
expect to see dear Mr. Whitefield in heaven?" After
a long pause, Wesley answered solemnly, "No,
Madam." "Ah," exclaimed his questioner, "I was
afraid you would say so." "But," Wesley added with
intense earnestness, "do not misunderstand me,
Madam; George Whitefield will stand so near the
throne that one like me will never get a glimpse of
him!" ....

http://books.google.com/books?id=-oI3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA165&lpg=PA165&dq=Would+Wesley+see+Whitefield+in+heaven%3F&source=web&ots=6glLfWYcTS&sig=_P5xzok3hhd7LHOm3Jj249hCi94&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result

Charlie J. Ray said...

I assume that you did not read the letter because it specifically says that Whitefield rebuked Wesley publicly. If you had read it you would know this.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Christopher, I have read Whitefield's letter to Wesley AND their relationship was strained after that for at least 2 years.

And if you read it you would see that Whitefield strongly disagreed with Wesley and urged him not to publish his sermon on universal atonement and general election. I might also point out that Wesley and Whitefield were both members of the Oxford Holy Club and knew each other personally.

I don't know you or R.C. Sproul personally. I have no idea who you are. Be that as it may, I make no apologies for attacking heresy wherever I see. Heresy is defined as something which divides. This is why there are different denominations.

As for the issue on paedobaptism versus credobaptism, I don't see this as that critical of a division. However, common grace leads to further decay and compromise of the Reformed position AND common grace was not even taught prior to Abraham Kuyper just prior to the 20th century.

Sorry, but I don't buy it. If God has "unmerited favor" for the reprobate, that implies that they have an offer of salvation and that salvation is possible for them. Since God has removed the gifts that enable men to not sin, they cannot do other than act in accordance with their own nature and by their own choice. Their will being enslaved by sin, it is therefore impossible for them to obey the command to repent because God has turned them over to the reprobate mind to do what their sinful desires want.

Therefore, any so-called "blessings" in this temporal world really only heap further condemnation upon them because they are in bondage to idolatry. They refuse to give glory to God OR to be thankful (See Romans 1:18 and following). I fail to see how Matthew 5:43-48 cancels out Romans 1:18-32. Clearly Paul says that unbelievers are without excuse. He also says that they "deserve to die."

Christopher Lake said...

Apparently, I was wrong on both the quote and who spoke at whose funeral. I concede; Mea Culpa.

The main point that I was making still stands though. Both Wesley and Whitefield showed a Christ-like, gracious love for each other, including in the *content of their speech and in their tone* with each other. Why do you not show this same graciousness and not use a similar tone with Christians who disagree with you, Charlie?

Whitefield rebuked Wesley in public with this letter, but Whitefield also did not call Wesley a "heretic," as you have called me (for disagreeing with you over lesser things than those over which they disagreed!)

Whitefield addresses Wesley lovingly at the beginning of the letter, calling him "Reverend and very dear Brother," and continuing with a loving tone throughout the letter, *even as* Whitefield expressed serious disagreement with Wesley! Why do I not see this loving spirit from you *anywhere* on *any* blog, Charlie?

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