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The Grace of Love and the Love of Grace
Continuing Ch. 8
III TO THE ANSWER
Consideration of Love and Grace in Wesley's Emphasis
and something of Whitefield's Reply
to Illustrate the Power of Partisan Combat
and its Perilous Vanities
in the Relevant Arena of Predestination;
and of the Underlying Answer Available in Biblical Terms
Now in answer to your questions, we can hope for some perspective.
First, yes I do think that the God of Wesley is the God of the Bible, and that Wesley, just like Calvin, got some things wrong. As noted, I cannot DETERMINE the personal issue, since that is the prerogative of God; but as you ask me what I think, this is it. Just as Wesley had strange notions about the KEEPING POWER of God in this context, so Calvin had equally unscriptural notions about the exercise of LOVING POWER of God in the world context. Wesley, in his famous sermon on Free Grace, excoriates the view (supposedly of Whitefield since much trouble had arisen between these formerly close associates on the point) that you can call it biblical love which has some persons in some mysterious way excluded by a direct divine fiat.
It is indeed Wesley who, on this love issue, has the pre-eminence in terms of closeness to scripture in its actual articulation. The implications are not as well handled, but the elemental fact is by comparison excellently treated.
Your rather dramatic double exclamation marks seem to indicate something other than a mere spirit of enquiry, and I shall bear this in mind. For some reason you seem to wish to relate the odd expression of Wesley on justification, to the love issue, with God. So be it. In any case, when this issue became a torrential engagement between Whitefield's people and Wesley's, there was a statement to remove on Wesley's behalf what he states he never meant. I am not here to consider the stylistic and revision aspects of Wesley, just his definitive statement.
Thus in the two-volume work on History of
Methodism, by Abel Stevens LLD, we find on p. 416
of Volume I, that in 1771 a Declaration was made. Its affirmation is so far from what you cite that
it both shows the variability of expression in the ultra-practical Wesley and the impact on your query.
This Declaration of the Conference is listed as follows.
"Whereas the doctrinal points in the Minutes of a Conference held in London, August 7, 1770, have been understood to favour justification by works, now we, the Rev. John Wesley, and others assembled in Conference, do declare that we had no such meaning, and that we abhor the doctrine of justification by works as a most perilous and abominable doctrine. And as the said minutes are not sufficiently guarded in the way they are expressed, we hereby solemnly declare, in the sight of God, that we have no trust or confidence but in the alone merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for justification or salvation, either in life, death or the day of judgment. And though none is a real Christian believer (and consequently cannot be saved ) who doth not good works when there is time and opportunity, yet our works have no part in meriting or purchasing our justification, from first to last, either in whole or in part."
Since firstly, this is a clarification; secondly, it is acknowledged that their earlier statement was not aptly rendered, a pleasant piece of due modesty which helps; thirdly, the notably erroneous doctrine in view is said to be ABHORRED; fourthly, they avow that it was not in the earlier instance at all intended; fifthly, they comprehensively dismantle aspects of the doctrine with some skill and care: we draw a conclusion.
Without seeking to adorn the world in consistency of expression, they at least seek to disavow what any lack in expression led to, and to assure us that such contrary things were not in the first or in the last their intention.
We perceive that in the way which has been common for thousands of years, Wesley and company were lacking in restraint in their earlier statement, apparently meant to be vehement in denouncing the sort of thing Isaiah denounces in Isaiah 1 and 29, and not to inveigh against salvation by grace, but against mock salvation. As to that, as is so roundly declared over and again in the Bible, it is horrendous to God; it is like mock turtle soup, not the same, not having the same flavour; indeed in the mock case, there is not then the same testimony of the power and grace of God following it, so that its lifeless corpse litters the spiritual vales of the earth. A dead faith is one without works, James asseverates
(cf. TMR 2, Section 2 -see other refs. there, esp. pp. 54ff., TMR 4, Allegory 7;
SMR Ch.7, pp. 520-532; TBW Appendix on Faith, DD 5);
and what wrath it evokes we see as in Isaiah, so in Matthew 23.
We conclude, then, on the basis of your quotation, that you have or should have no problem with the position later made clear, and in seeing that the backdrop is now exposed, their intention being not least to shake up holy blamelessness which stops with words, and does not affect the heart (which Wesley was forever stressing, just as the Bible makes such enormous emphasis on it as in the chapters of Isaiah noted and of course in many such places). Wesley likewise stressed holiness which is no small thing, since as he cites, "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12 :14). The thrust seems also to stress that any orange tree which thought fruit superfluous does not have sap; that indeed 'Christians' whom love does not constrain to work for the Lord, run the risk which Christ assigned to them in Matthew 7:17-22 in the sermon on the mount.
While all this helps us understand the motivation and thrust of Wesley, the words astray are corrected in the official and formal way of the Conference in any case.
Indeed, such a vagrant walk as led to some of Wesley's thrusts has long stirred the saints in many milieux, and runs foul of what James means when he spoke in James 2:26 (treated in depth and detail in SMR in the reference above, and relating to the others just given). Inter alia: Whitefield was wanting people saved, to rejoice in the magnificent saving power of the God who is obligated to none, and freely confers grace which it is His to give, where He will, exultant in the confined premises of absolute certainty as His; and Wesley was wishing people to realise the awesome splendour of the grace and love of God which would stoop so low as to raise so high, and not to presume in artless acts of arrant sinfulness as if such astounding love and grace were trivial.
Since, although it is left rather elliptical, you appear to be asking us whether in view of the quotation you first give, we still consider Wesley to be a notable evangelist who had a primary thrust in the love of God, then it is easy indeed to answer. To condemn someone whose testimony of evangelism is perhaps broader than anyone else's in centuries, in terms of means then available, whose impact has been so much towards closeness to Christ in the heart, whose penetration to the poor has been phenomenal, whose financial contribution and sacrifice has been vast, whose testimony to justification by faith is so strong, as NOT being a notable evangelist whose primary thrust is the love of God: it would on this basis appear suicidal to intelligence. If such a slur on Wesley is desired - and it seems as if this may be the direction of your queries, though your letter lacks some clarity - then it assuredly is not to be gained relative to his emphasis either on Gospel or love of God, in this field in terms of your citation.
That is an easy one. It is just necessary to have some understanding of what he, like so many others, probably including the Calvinist pastor mentioned in the last letter, is trying to do. In Wesley's case, the formal corrective being available, the fault is cleft from the man, who seems to be an issue with you.
At least Wesley condescended to make himself clear on a crucial point at issue, in the Declaration from the Conference just cited, which being a self-humbling, is of the nature of love. In strict accord with this most necessary clarification, indeed rectification, is Wesley's dedication to the free grace in free giving of himself in the service of it. Thus, on p. 523 of Vol. 1 of Abel Steven's History of Methodism, we read of his declaration, in answer to the question, "Have we a right view of our work ?"
His answer is given as follows:
"Perhaps not. It is not to take care of this or that society, or to preach so many times; but to save as many souls as we can; to bring as many sinners as we can to repentance, and with all our power to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord."
That would be consistent with his passion for the explosive release in the Gospel of the love of God.
Again, on p. 557 of the same volume, we find his lament for American.
"What are these to watch over all that extensive country ? I mourn for poor America, for the sheep scattered up and down therein - part of them have no shepherds at all, and the case of the rest is little better, for their shepherds pity them not."
To be sure, there is a need to have the church in order, but to have this incandescent desire to spread the flame of the Gospel is a primary duty of any Church, in whatever way God ordains, enables and directs. Wesley's bursting insistence on travelling internationally, intra-nationally, on horse, by vessel, on sending others, on organising lay preachers, suggests no small evangelistic zeal, and if this at times indeed outshone his systematics! (and it did, and that with some variability ...), yet for all his academic status, this was not his forte. Thus you hear him (Abel Stevens, op. cit. p. 198), declaring this, concerning his opponents, who would separate from him. He was concerned at this.
Why ? he asks. "If you say, 'Because you hold opinions which I cannot believe are true,
' I answer, Believe them true or false, I will not quarrel with you about any opinion.
Only see that your heart be right toward God, that you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ; that you love your neighbour, and walk as your Master walked, and I desire no more.
I am sick of opinions, I am weary to hear them. My soul loathes this frothy food."
This gives some insight into the eruptiveness he seemed at times to show, even injudiciousness, quite apart from any actual error. Interestingly enough, without going nearly so far, yet even Andrew Murray*1 in The True Vine gives an impression of fruit as winning souls to the point that there seems also a certain inadequacy in the beauty of his ardour, for all its most winning and attractive aspects.
To be sure, the winning of holiness, which Wesley stressed, so to speak, is not less important than the other aspects, such as the winning of souls; for if God is denied in words that are much marred in deeds, it is one default; but if His word is diluted by a failure to seek with entire passion to implement it, and in particular, in the winning of souls, then that too is a failure and a grand one. Some are called more to this than others; and of course evangelists are called especially to it (Ephesians 4:11); but it is not wise to dwell unduly on one's own call when outlining the call of Christ to ALL, in such a way as even verbally, to squeeze or squash other elements.
Thus Church order is not some dull topic, when it is seen as the cleansing of the household of faith for service, the purging of the temple; and the presentation of the temple of holy stones, of praise to God in real co-ordination and co-operation; just as the shining of holy character not only in action, but in attitude is a gleam of light divine also. Multi-faceted is the leading, the love and the work of the Lord, though it be one jewel which is Himself.
Sometimes even great men will enunciate at times things which are narrower than their normative doctrine; and such is the imperfection which, we all have to realise, is only too pleased to grab our sleeves.
In the case of Wesley, then, we even have this tendency to 'get on with it' and hence, however eloquent the giving grace of evangelical passion (and how he gave himself to this enveloping thrust concerning the love of God towards this world!), there was the danger of no matching measure in the mouthing of doctrine. This is far from suggesting that he lacked method, for some laud his methodical attention to detail, order and system; it is rather that passion could so outrun verbal discretion that he added to the impediment of his error, by the manner in which he sometimes expressed it.
We need however erect no statue to a perfection, found only in Christ, in order to recognise an evangelist whose words, though dimmed at times by error, were insistent on the power, the grace, the love and the mercy of God in free pardon for Christ's sake, and on the proper zeal in pursuing His life who is within; and who intended to act in accord with a love of that dimension, as far as he could.
In correcting error from the scripture, then, we need firstly to ensure it is not a casual breach; and secondly to ensure that we do not do so by following some sect or sectarian schism of another or possibly opposite kind in a sort of unglamorous clamorousness, and at worst, a calamitous clamorousness, a verbal parallel to feasting and gluttony: but use the word of God only; and at that, ALL of it!
Your second quotation is from my own work. Thank you. In fact, Wesley in the above quotation has already covered this point, so it is inapplicable. Was Wesley a fake, fraud ? Heaven forbid, such a suggestion! Do you not study his disavowal in this field! It is perspicuously clear.
Now if you had instead asked me if Wesley could make some apparently extemporaneous and ill-considered formulations, I would have to answer differently. Even he admits as much! However, since this is not your question, it is not my answer.
In your last charge against Wesley, as it at
least seems to be intended, you mention what many err in - including the Pulpit
Commentary. Yes Wesley is erring concerning Hebrews, and in this case, it
appears a continuing error in his work. He appears to esteem that the conditions of Hebrews
6 and 10 are applicable to the Christian, though Hebrews 6 at its ending, 18-20, shows
this not to be the case
(cf. Light of Dawn... Ch. 5, Divine Agenda Ch. 9, Outrageous Outages, Awesome Inputs and the Courage of Christ Ch. 4).
It is possible to taste and to savour and to feel and not to know God, as in Matthew 13 and the case of the seed which indeed had a 'rejoicing for a season' experience (Matthew 13:20-21, Mark 4:16ff.). It is possible to be as near in formal proximity as Judas Iscariot and yet not to know God, and never to have known Him - even to have been, indeed, a thief all along, ostensibly a Christian, yet to be one who is a devil, into whom the devil comes in his disastrous assumption in the end. If then Wesley failed to see the implications of his error here, are we to decide that he is not an evangelist, is not an exponent of the love of God in a notable fashion ?
Before deciding this, read his sermon on Free Grace, and you will find such emphasis on the undeserved status of salvation, the enormous wonder of the love of Christ, such detestation of the idea of some limit, that it is impossible to declaim that he has botched this specific love issue as Calvin did. Instead, Wesley here failed in two measures: one, to apply it as the Bible does say in John 5:24, 6:50ff., and secondly, he failed to watch the exact texture of the language of Hebrews 6 and10, and to correlate this with Matthew 13; and hence added without due scriptural correlation, a doctrine about falling away strongly contrary to Hebrews 6, John 6,10, I Thessalonians 5:9-10, I John 3:9 with I John 5:11ff. and so on. (See Christian Assurance.)
Now you need to ask yourself a question. It is this. Is any evangelist who fails to realise necessary perseverance - once saved by the salvation of the electing God, always saved - however much he may nevertheless at least STATE explicitly that he MEANS that there is NO VESTIGE of your own works in salvation in ANY respect, and with whatever correlative failure (as Calvin fails to realise the clearest scriptures on the scope of the love of God): is such a person to be deemed not to have a primary stress on the love of God ? Or is he to be dubbed a fraud or failure ?
What then ? Is a failure in systematic theology the same as that ? Is a failure to think through implications and to be resourceful enough to see an error, the same as that ? Is impassioned insistence and exhortation to recognise the wonder of the intensity and scope of the love of God in its consuming wonder and pardoning power, free grace and purging parameters the same as lacking a primary emphasis on that love ? or even lacking credibility as an evangelist ? or worse ? If so, then many great theologians will pass, on this or some allied point of doctrine that is on the difficult side, and you would stand to become their mentor or even judge; an undesirable result.
Direct rebellion against the word of God is one thing; confused extremism such as Calvin and Wesley showed in some things, is another; and when it is in the arena where great passions pursue wonderful rays of divine light, but do not stop in the confines of that light, but rather exceed, as both of these did, each in his own way, then one has to reflect that it is well that God is judge of men; but for our own part, we seek merely to direct doctrine aright, and leave nothing amiss in that glorious testimony of truth which, only when groomed with fidelity to the word of God, has that perfect harmony, balance and grace which is in the original. As a Christian Apologist, often labouring in a sub-division of Theology, I am peculiarly sensitive to this; but as a Christian, I have to be no less restrained in the light of Matthew 7:1ff.. What Peter calls self-control remains an imperative in the way of Christ (II Peter 1:6).
In this respect, such errors are those which confront us here, are rather like car accidents; they mar the beauty of the car, but so long as the wheels and engine are left, they do not of necessity prevent motion in the desired direction. Thus the things of God are much better judged than the men of God; and in the latter case, daring rebellion of the most conspicuous kind, or subtle deviation, is not the same at all as controversy of this highly regrettable and unnecessary character such as has arisen in the realm of the Wesleyan and Calvinism clash.
It is not that it does not matter; it matters very much; but what matters no less is that it be resolved biblically, and the judgment of men in such cases left to the God of grace, who has the great advantage of knowing all. If it does when no concession is made, possibly lead to separation, yet let us pre-empt the judgment of God. In this, the varying desires, words and desires of Wesley and Whitefield towards each other are an apt testimony, for how keenly they felt drawn to co-operate and to love, and how severely this clash crashed like giant breakers on the sides of the vessels of their lives, leading to no small rupture.
Ironically, Wesley's error in the interests of the REAL THING and not fraud or fake, is much the same as that of Calvin in his treatment of Romans 1, where he wishes to exclude from the love of God anything not really lively in righteousness. Each is seeking the same thing in this; both are wrong in one aspect of the way they do it; each has made an error which has afflicted Christendom, which in any case, in significant measure asked for the trouble it got when instead of thanking God for the contributions of each, it tended almost to make quasi-theological popes, and to name and follow men in precisely the way forbidden by Paul in I Cor. 3.
Is this severity of result however entirely attributable as the fault of that magnificent thinker, Calvin, of that most earnest and practical Wesley ? (Calvin's gross error does not remove this designation, since although grave, it is unusual). By no means. It is not least the fault of foolish partisanship which afflicts both itself and the church. The fault is that of Calvin and Wesley of course in being inaccurate in the first instance, but the affliction has become all but an epidemic because of wrong attribution of place to individuals, to 'leaders', and that in the very face of scriptural prohibition of this very thing!
Is therefore Calvin, in losing the biblical depiction of the scope of the love of God, expressly, and Wesley in failing to see the system of the thing, to be deleted ? You asked questions, so let me return some of my own. These I do not ask or leave in the air, but they are for consideration by all.
What then is our answer to this question ? I think not.
Should each have been more careful ? Calvin in super-systematics, Wesley in improper extensions of his practical passion into fields scripturally covered ? Of course.
Is a failure in due care, leading to a thing called an error the same as making a God of your own ? I think not. It is an expression of human weakness; and indeed, young man, is it not at least thinkable that you too will make, have made some ... error ? albeit unintentionally, as they did. Are you then also worshipping in the fragmental way you seem to suggest to be applicable ?
I think and hope not. It seems then that making a God is not at all the same as making an error on a scriptural issue, when there is some depth involved. It is rather a failure to receive aptly all that God declares concerning Himself, in these cases, and this apparently in a way that was neither in innovative intention nor creative mode!
I believe Baptists make a staggering error too, but would not cut them from fellowship, nor for that matter, cease to challenge them; but everything in its place. (Cf. Questions and Answers 11, Ch. 6 above, What is the Chaff to the Wheat! Ch. 1, and see Index.)
When the Israelites make (Deuteronomy 32) gods of their own, new gods, do you really think that this was the work of comparable innocence, or unguided zeal ? or was it rather alienation quite expressly and a grossly and directly provocative, a joining intentionally with the calves of Egypt, or the asherahs of the Philistines ? I think therefore Paul in Romans 14 must be heeded, and we should avoid a veritable binge in the direction of acting the censor. If any such thought is in mind, or motion in action, it must be subjected to this scrutiny, this biblical restraint.
Before we leave this point, it would be good to think on the positive aspect a little more.
|If Whitefield found that the marvel of his being rescued from the sin,|
|which amply deserves eternal destruction,|
|moves him to relish the concept of free, undeserved, distinguishing grace,|
|not in its
historical impact there for
|yet Wesley found the wonder of the love of God|
|which is not in
some aristocratic or divisive way limited
in its actuating force as if to select only the most lovely or attractive,
|so that it could and would penetrate whatever the barrier, in its own integumental magnificence,|
|and man had only himself to blame,
|to be no less wonderful.|
God FINDS in His own inimitable way, says one; God LOOKS in His own pervasive munificence, sys the other. Each had much to marvel at. In reality, there is no barrier to BOTH these emphases, since each is in the Bible, as in Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, on the one hand, and in Romans 9 and John 1 on the other, to mention but two of the vast array related to these arenas, for each.
The love as we see in Predestination and Freewill and others of the references given in the first part of this letter, is just as broad as Wesley and John 3:16 with I Timothy 2 unequivocally declaim; and the mystery of the wonder of God's actual selection, having shown that love whether here or there, now or then, in predestination or application, so that He removes by His active transformation of the sinner in sovereign rescue, is just as practically selective, in that phase, as Whitefield feels and may cite from Romans 9 or John 6. It is the truncation effected upon the word of God in one or other aspect, instead of upon the philosophic trends which were pulsing past it, or lagging beneath it, which is needed. It is not the word of God but the word of man, however which needs the truncation.
In my work just cited, it was my aim first to find from scripture alone propositions and principles clearly asserted, without reference to desire or tradition; and then to show the wonder of the harmony, since it is demonstrably there. That in turn became an apologetic device, since nothing else in philosophy or theology can match this scriptural harmony, which is there because there is nothing self-contradictory in God, who does not deny Himself (Proverbs 8:8, II Timothy 2:13). The imagination of irresolvable problems in such matters is the product of tradition; it is contrary to the word of God, and it has been a privilege to demonstrate this very thing, to the glory of God and the verification of His word.
Now with reference to your question about psychic fragments and so on, which you cite, when people make their own gods, the remaining thing is to consider the context of that. Here it is.
Q. How can I know God?
A: First by believing in Him.
Q: Oh I have no trouble about that - the trouble is this: I tend to make my own. I find it cheaper in cigarettes too.
A: Any 'god' you make is a word, or possibly a psychic fragment, a mental spawn, dependent on you; except that it may be of interest to the fraud friends who love to invade human kind, not only in wars on earth but in wars for the life of man. The sheer, fermented LUST which man often finds within him, not sexual, that is small by comparison in some ways, but spiritual - to be, to find, to know, to direct, to have the vision, to implement it at the cost of a few tens of millions of lives if necessary, as with Hitler and Mao. He KNOWS all except this, that his knowledge, being self-derivative, is self-confined, and what is needed is knowledge unconfined to the culture, history, genetics and prejudice of the latest artisan of mankind.
This is the context from which you statedly drew.
Thus you see in the site from which you quote for some reason, that there is nothing remotely akin to involuntary clumsiness or confusion in view in this context, such as appears in the zealously scripturally inclined Calvin and Wesley. Rather and emphatically we find in this citation above, a self-confining creation of pseudo-gods by man's own pseudo-divine pretensions. It does not really relate at all to the case in hand or the issue in view. Indeed, the citation from my works and the topic in view are so far apart that it becomes an interesting thought to see why any person would even try to put them together.
Since both the principle you invoke, from my words, and the matter you cull, from Wesley, are far removed from each other, each sailing on a different sea, the question is doubly irrelevant. I do not mind your making such mistakes, provided you are in earnest! You may say you were only asking ... if so, then I am only replying; but your exclamation marks and your flitting about to gain these varied words in their respective spheres, both suggest an element of design, as does the tendency to accumulate one idea with another and the type of drift of it all, which however lands nowhere. If then it is instructive to you, it is still well.
As to the love of God, Wesley was inveterate in his passion to proclaim it. It would seem fitting in answering the scope of your enquiry to show something of this.
Here is an extract from the sermon on Free Grace which he preached. To be sure, he seems as far from realising that the WAY of predestination INCLUDES the very LOVE of Christ which he so strenuously wishes to protect from intrusive erosion, for in this Christ pre-incarnate was present WITH that very love (Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 13:8); and he is as aloof from seeing the presence of this love in predestination as Calvin is from doing so! Yet Wesley at least stresses its NATURE and REALITY, though he erroneously fails to discern the scriptural presentation of its presence unremitting in predestination, which removes all his criticism, though he does not realise this (cf. Predestination and Freewill and the references given in the preceding chapter). Calvin does not so stress; and while it is not an attempt to rate the one and the other, when it comes to the highly specific point of whether Wesley was a prime advocate of the love of God, it is simply a fact.
That he made a foozle in applying this to predestination is regrettable; we are not here to judge the man, but to determine his emphasis.
That Calvin made such an extravagant omission of the same love in the very attitude of God, this too is a foozle; but until we learn to humble ourselves and not to regard it as lèse-majesté when we err, in sincere confusion or tangential thought, we are too important. It is not so very surprising when we err; but it is imperative in the fear of God to seek to avoid it with all our hearts, avoiding partyings in theological clans, and seeking irenically, with stout words if necessary but happy and hopeful hearts, the resolution which we are assured is there.
And it is there, as I have found and if you wish, experimentally found and attested in many a volume. It is included in the list of references given in the first part of this letter; and it is found ONLY by following ALL the word of God, without equivocation or interruption.
Discounting then Wesley's errors in application, we still can see the dazzling passion to protect the love of God from minimisation, to expand it to its proper purlieus, its profound and scriptural dimensions. In this, then, he was indeed a prime mover. There are many prime movers; and the host of sincere and passionate lovers of the Lord must not be lost sight of, just because all do not write. When you read the History of Methodism as I have done, you must be struck with the passionate attribution of free grace of man, out of pure love, which stuns the recipients and brings amazement to their souls, that such grace and love could be. This is exemplified in the case of Charles Wesley*2, John's brother, who expresses such thoughts in hymns such as Amazing Love - asking how can it be that You, my God, should die for me!
When this is seen, then the clouds of unfitting words can be seen through, as when one peers through mist; just as the intensity of Calvin can be regarded before the aweful majesty of scriptural truth, which he too seeks to preserve, but in one point fails, seeking like Wesley to PROTECT: but in his case, it is to protect the sovereignty of God, as for Wesley it was the love of God.
Neither need have done so, or to have erred in their strenuosity. The scripture protects itself.
However, let us hear, for all their mistaken application, the words of Wesley, to see the imposing emphasis, which is the point which you raised.
1. And "the same Lord over all is rich" in mercy "to all that call upon him:" (Romans 10:12) But you say, "No; he is such only to those for whom Christ died. And those are not all, but only a few, whom God hath chosen out of the world; for he died not for all, but only for those who were 'chosen in him before the foundation of the world.' " (Eph. 1:4) Flatly contrary to your interpretation of these scriptures, also, is the whole tenor of the New Testament; as are in particular those texts: -- "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died," (Rom. 14:15) -- a clear proof that Christ died, not only for those that are saved, but also for them that perish: He is "the Saviour of the world;" (John 4:42) He is "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;" (John 1:29) "He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world;" (1 John 2:2) "He," the living God, "is the Savior of all men;" (1 Timothy 4:10) "He gave himself a ransom for all;" (1 Tim. 2:6) "He tasted death for every man." (Heb. 2:9)
2. If you ask, "Why then are not all men saved?" the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, "As I live," saith the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." (Ezek. 18:3, 32) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" (2 Pet. 3:9) "He willeth that all men should be saved." And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, "Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life." (John 5:40) "The power of the Lord is present to heal" them, but they will not be healed. "They reject the counsel," the merciful counsel, "of God against themselves," as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, "How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37)
Thus manifestly does this doctrine tend to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, by making it contradict itself; by giving such an interpretation of some texts, as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture; -- an abundant proof that it is not of God. But neither is this all: For, Seventhly, it is a doctrine full of blasphemy; of such blasphemy as I should dread to mention, but that the honour of our gracious God, and the cause of his truth, will not suffer me to be silent. In the cause of God, then, and from a sincere concern for the glory of his great name, I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. But first, I must warn every one of you that hears, as ye will answer it at the great day, not to charge me (as some have done) with blaspheming, because I mention the blasphemy of others. And the more you are grieve with them that do thus blaspheme, see that ye "confirm your love towards them: the more, and that your heart's desire, and continual prayer to God, be, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!"
1. This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, "Jesus Christ the righteous," "the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth," as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden." If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying one thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in "whose mouth was no guile," you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity; -- then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, He wept over it, and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, -- and ye would not;" EthelEsa -- kai ouk EthelEsate. Now, if you say, they would, but he would not, you represent him (which who could hear?) as weeping crocodiles' tears; weeping over the prey which himself had doomed to destruction!
2. Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, "He willeth all men to be saved:" More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit "seeketh rest and findeth none;" so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!
It is well, therefore, consider such of the things Wesley urged on the love of God; for in this field, he is most passionate and his concept of the scope of it, per se, is that of the Bible precisely as in John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Luke 19:42ff., and so on; and hence he is rightly indeed thought of as one emphasising it. He did so in the teeth of strong and sophisticated opposition and in this, for all his manifest errors, he was something of a hero. For that matter, so was Samson, but alas, he made too many mistakes! Nor are these alone in that ...
Thus I would advise that instead of answering yes to any of your double exclamation mark atmospherics, I answer, no; but one continues to note that there were faults of another kind, for all that, shared not least by Calvin, with whose system, largely right, but critically wrong in one antecedent element, it shares the role of contributor with strength not surrounded by accuracy. It is the errors which should now be abandoned, just as those of Calvin should be abandoned. As to their persons, it is not necessary to mock them, or act as if to exclude them or take whatever similar action some may seem to find attractive; it is necessary to use scripture to correct the error, and heart to appreciate the contribution outside this element. This would be the general character of my response in surveying this field.
In fact, for my part, for the sake of Paul's command in I Corinthians 3, and the love of God, I COULD not call myself a Calvinist, for it is misleading in spirit as well as in terms of his major error, so to do; and far less an Arminian, since this interferes heavily with dogmatics and systematics adequately derived from the Bible and the use of the term, derived from the leader's name, likewise in the personal and forbidden field as enunciated by Paul.
Such terms should be put where Paul indicates, OUT OF PLACE ALTOGETHER as labels for one's doctrine. Rather, with thankful hearts, we should continue to absorb what is provided, but to excel in this one thing in doctrine: following what is written before and above all that people whosoever they may be, write about it! That is the outcome of the matter; and it is also the income of it! This is the point I have made on ISSUES, not this and that person whether today or then; it is THIS which must be met and which is a commanding challenge; and understanding is the thing to be sought.
Thus we read in Proverbs 9:10-11:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:
and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased.
If you be wise, you will be wise for thyself: but if you scorn, you alone will bear it."
How much more often the first part of this quotation seems to be mentioned, than the second!
Indeed, emphatically, I would respond that it is
high time the churches ACTIVELY sought to be rid of this
I am of Apollos rigmarole, which Paul equates with immaturity, this partisanship; it is time to think again carefully and avoiding sides, to return irenically to all the scripture. Both Calvin and Wesley in this have served the church: that in the clangour from their opposing statements, sparks have come, and some have begun to think. There has been at least some tendency to avoid the provocative and often ultra-scriptural statements which the 'sides' have set up. If more of Arminianism is systematically wrong than of Calvinism, and if indeed Calvin's five points, taken in a scriptural context, are good, yet the pre-systematics of Calvin is especially lacking. Wesley having with some vigour (and with no small attendant error) shown this up: yes, he is indeed one who has emphasised the love of God.
Past the anguish and the ecstasy of philosophy, religious enthusiasms and aborted séances, there is this simple fact that God so loved the world, that God would have all to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth, yes whether in heaven or on earth, He would have all reconciled. There is the majesty of beneficence, the mastery of munificence, the guilelessness of mastery and the advent of holiness, wholesome in its beauty, serene in its amplitude, knowing in its results, deprived of nothing but what is self-deprived, seeking nothing but to give, and in giving, to gain what is beautiful in spirit, made so freely by His grace. The emphasis on such things is evangelical in its outreach and a jewel bursting with light.
Failure to see further aspects as here, is like an interference pattern in the light; but God has blessed both emphases, and each has been attended with great outpourings of blessedness. The restoration of ALL the emphases, however, is most blessed, and as with all doctrines from the word of God, is to be sought with zeal.
Is it not wonderful that neither you nor I have to worry about the destinations of these liberal givers to the Church; but just consider the issues they addressed and as they sought to do, PROGRESS in the word, growing both in GRACE and in KNOWLEDGE as Peter indicates (II Peter 3:18). Actually, it is entirely delightful to follow the word of God, once you get rid of the barracking phenomenon about parties. For one thing, it is then and only then that all mysteries stand solved, that are basic to man's thought, and light makes darkness flee. If in heaven, Christians will know as they are known, yet even now, the divine word has nothing writhing or twisted, crooked or unsusceptible to light, as it states (Proverbs 8). In fact, as it states, so one finds and so one writes to show it, and has written.
How the verifications multiply: for the word of God verifies itself in its harmonies WHEN and only when followed carefully; and again it is marred in presentation in the disharmonies which result when it is not so closely followed; for it is majestic and unique and not susceptible to man-handling; and again, it declares that it is plain to him who understands, not being intrinsically twisted. In some ways, it is like radioactive material and the critical mass for explosion.
You either have it or you do not; and it is not to be guessed at, but sought with great care. The critical mass for scripture is faith in God, in His word, in His biblical deposit of it, in His power and grace, in His sovereign will and in the power He has to move in the hands of men, in His ability to resolve mysteries and dissolve doubts, to answer those who challenge the faith in whatever way not in our wisdom or knowledge, but by His own donated power and such things as these. In the church, some have this work to do and some that, but in the Church God provides.
As to the Bible itself, that grand spectacle of
the needed thoughts of the heart of God for man, it stands like a witness, a
tower, a rock of incredible magnitude, on which to be built: never shuddering,
no tide able to over-tower it, overpower it, overturn it; no, not even the greatest wave
can subvert or hurt it.
This is faith; it is also empirical fact; seen in history, it is found in experience alike.
The sheer majesty of its perspective when it is taken as it is, not as it is moulded to be for this reason or that, is all but overpowering in the intensity of its immensity; yet as with field glasses seeing distant sights, what one sees is clear and soon to be shown in its delicious detail when one travels to that place: so in heaven is all to be revealed, just as its outline is on earth. It is like seeing a glorious view and waiting with delighted anticipation the revelation of its detail.
It is TRUTH which Christ is, which His word is, and to the jot and tittle it stands, undimmed, undiminished, incomparable in objective fact; for nothing can solve as it can, predict as it can, resolve tensions, solve dark mysteries, accommodate all that is offered, and then presiding in beauty, bring peace in its mutually harmonious ministrations. That, it is what truth is like. It has no problems with errors, since it lacks them; with obscurity, for where the brilliance of divine light is present, darkness has no place. Christ in leading us into all truth (John 16:13-15), is not leading us where darkness dominates; and this, it is that heuristic and empirical fact which is its own verification. This, as I often point this out in field after field, it is only to do it justice!
If more is to come, and it is, then what is to be lost is not confusion or unclarity, but the firstlings which yield as when a car surging forwards to a mountain chain, draws closer to the leading mount, leading to the full revelation of beaming day. What more then is to come but more of Christ, the very exact image of the Father, more of the Trinity which He so exhibits and manifests, more of that truth which puts all things to be in Christ, as Lord (Ephesians 1:10, Revelation 5), for ever and ever. Growing up in grace in such an environment is like living in a spiritual Garden of Eden; but this, it is the garden of the Love and Grace of God in Truth and Peace.
Now in the scope of my answer to your query, it seems most fitting to show something of Whitefield's reply concerning this sermon of John Wesley, which apparently he did not present until Whitefield had left the country. This will enable us to see in some detail the nature of that evangelist's emphasis on the love of God, so that it will become easier, in such famed and eloquent company, to see what Wesley was saying on this topic, in a broader perspective of his times. Such extracts from Whitefield's reply, for this purpose, and what follows from it in one's duty to the Lord, are given below. It is to be borne in mind, in fairness to Whitefield, that some of Wesley's non sequiturs, mistaken inferences broaching even the infernal, though they came from a failure to perceive the nature of predestination (in which many gave him but little help, to be fair there also), were in need of correction indeed!
This is so, just as the provocations Wesley suffered were in need of correction. Two planes on wrong courses may well collide; correct placement from the source, in this case the Bible, is imperative for each as for ALL.
Let us then hear from Whitefield a little.
Bethesda in Georgia, Dec. 24, 1740
Reverend and very dear Brother,
God only knows what unspeakable sorrow of heart I have felt on your account since I left England last. Whether it be my infirmity or not, I frankly confess, that Jonah could not go with more reluctance against Nineveh, than I now take pen in hand to write against you. Was nature to speak, I had rather die than do it; and yet if I am faithful to God, and to my own and others' souls, I must not stand neutral any longer. I am very apprehensive that our common adversaries will rejoice to see us differing among ourselves. But what can I say? The children of God are in danger of falling into error. Nay, numbers have been misled, whom God has been pleased to work upon by my ministry, and a greater number are still calling aloud upon me to show also my opinion. I must then show that I know no man after the flesh, and that I have no respect to persons, any further than is consistent with my duty to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
This letter, no doubt, will lose me many friends: and for this cause perhaps God has laid this difficult task upon me, even to see whether I am willing to forsake all for him, or not. From such considerations as these, I think it my duty to bear an humble testimony, and earnestly to plead for the truths which, I am convinced, are clearly revealed in the Word of God. In the defence whereof I must use great plainness of speech, and treat my dearest friends upon earth with the greatest simplicity, faithfulness, and freedom, leaving the consequences of all to God. For some time before, and especially since my last departure from England, both in public and private, by preaching and printing, you have been propagating the doctrine of universal redemption. And when I remember how Paul reproved Peter for his dissimulation, I fear I have been sinfully silent too long. O then be not angry with me, dear and honoured Sir, if now I deliver my soul, by telling you that I think in this you greatly err.
Here we see how predestination and its godly truth does require sacrifice, as do many other elements in the Christian life, whether practical or doctrinal; and one must indeed be willing to be regarded as a crank or some other luscious enunciation of the spiritually lascivious lips of those who condemn, if one is to be faithful to God. This is good in Whitefield, as is the drive to be true to what he can assuredly see; and predestination, albeit to be understood with all the other concurrent teaching of the Bible, is certainly one of the basic features of the Bible. Thus Whitefield appreciates that this is a test to him, that it means he must resolve whether he should he love Wesley's contentment or God's word the more. He finds it costly indeed, but acts for the Lord, as must any servant of God.
Both found it hard to diverge, each from the
other; but since each had
scriptural basis for some of their divergence, there was an impulsion of duty.
If it was not carried out in either case as it should have been, entirely, this
does not impute a lack of motivation.
But, I fear, taking it for granted [that election was not a biblical truth], you only enquired whether you should be silent or preach and print against it. However this be, the lot came out "preach and print"; accordingly you preached and printed against election. At my desire, you suppressed the publishing of the sermon whilst I was in England; but you soon sent it into the world after my departure. O that you had kept it in! However, if that sermon was printed in answer to a lot, I am apt to think, one reason why God should so suffer you to be deceived, was, that hereby a special obligation might be laid upon me, faithfully to declare the Scripture doctrine of election, that thus the Lord might give me a fresh opportunity of seeing what was in my heart, and whether I would be true to his cause or not; as you could not but grant, he did once before, by giving you such another lot at Deal.
Indeed, honoured Sir, it is plain beyond all contradiction that St. Paul, through the whole of Romans 8, is speaking of the privileges of those only who are really in Christ. And let any unprejudiced person read what goes before and what follows your text, and he must confess the word "all" only signifies those that are in Christ. And the latter part of the text plainly proves, what, I find, dear Mr. Wesley will, by no means, grant. I mean the final perseverance of the children of God: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, [i.e., all Saints] how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). [He shall give us] grace, in particular, to enable us to persevere, and every thing else necessary to carry us home to our Father's heavenly kingdom.
Here once more Whitefield is in sound territory, directly taking what the Bible states, for the 'all' in this instance is undoubtedly to those who will receive all things, and hence is a Christian encompassment, and is not at all here inclusive of the field of the whole world. The offering as of old, was presented that all may come and take it by faith (I John 2:2); but not all do (Deuteronomy 29:14-20), nor is it operative for such, but for those who so receiving Him, have Him so delivered up for them, as Paul puts it, so that all things are theirs.
The substitutionary atonement of Christ is strictly for many (as in Isaiah 53:1-6, Matthew 26:28, Romans 8:32), decisively limited, just as the love which sent Him is statedly as we have repeatedly cited from the word of God, NOT so limited.
This latter point of course is a major contention of Wesley, who however allowed false implication to move him to 'defend' the love in other aspects as he conceived them, where there is neither need nor scripture; just something similar led Calvin to defend the sovereignty, where there was just the same lack of need and scripture for his conception in the field of the extent of the love of God towards salvation.
What flurries false implications can cause; and did cause!
Whitefield proceeds to an analogy which is less appealing as an encomium for truth, however.
The instance which you bring to illustrate your assertion, indeed, dear Sir, is quite impertinent. For you say, "If a sick man knows that he must unavoidably die or unavoidably recover, though he knows not which, it is not reasonable to take any physic at all." Dear Sir, what absurd reasoning is here? Were you ever sick in your life? If so, did not the bare probability or possibility of your recovering, though you knew it was unalterably fixed that you must live or die, encourage you to take physic? For how did you know but that very physic might be the means God intended to recover you by? Just thus it is as to the doctrine of election. I know that it is unalterably fixed (one may say) that I must be damned or saved; but since I know not which for a certainty, why should I not strive, though at present in a state of nature, since I know not but this striving may be the means God has intended to bless, in order to bring me into a state of grace?
In this case, Whitefield slips or rather slithers in his argument. The whole point and nothing but the point is a simple one. Is God the author of an election which in its final bases lacks the love which would have all men to be saved, as He expressly states, so that having made peace by the blood of the cross, He might reconcile all things, yes all, whether in heaven or on earth, to Himself; or is He not! Is the scope of His repeated assurances right or wrong ? Is His word here to be believed or not ? (Cf. Great Execrations Chs. 7 and 9).
Whitefield and many of his error, think of the scope that it is not so. Wesley and many of his justice, think that it is so; and the Bible STATES so. Wesley is squirming almost in torment, feeling the truncation of the love of God is not only not truth, but approaches blasphemy, as it does. When God IS love as He states categorically likewise, and affirms the categorical scope of His love in an arena of categories, God and man, and someone nevertheless truncates the attribution of this love, it is no small offence.
Now it is unwise to be pontifical. If it is a serious offence, yet it is not mere rebellion, for there is a profound confusion which has belaboured the ears and infected the mouths of many for long on this issue; and it is deep. Yet its depth is no ground to cut from the stanchions of His word; and in fact, it is only then that drowning is terribly near. On the other hand, this love is of this stated quality, and all the failures in the world of Wesleys to realise the truth of universal double predestination (cf. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11) do nothing to excuse this truncation made by many on the contrary part. Another man's error is no ground at all for making one of one's own; and another man's truncation, in this case of the scope of God's crucial love, is no ground for truncating something else, in this case predestination with its attendant assurance, as Wesley does. It works both ways, it works for one and for all affected or afflicted.
Further Wesley's talk of assurance which nevertheless, he makes clear, is not to be misinterpreted into eternal in the normal sense of chronologically or for all time and for ever assurance, in his sermon, is mere misuse of terminology.
To be assured that you may have no ground for assurance in objective fact, this is no assurance at all. On Wesley's part, in his theology, this misses the point just as thoroughly as does Whitefield here on the other side: for on the one hand the latter has someone with a HOPE that just MAYBE he may be cured of sickness, in his analogy, as if in the lifelike case for medical illness; but on the other hand, the man is supposed to know assuredly that the case is fixed. Whitefield asks us, Does he not in ignorance of which way it is fixed, still hope and take physic ? Yes he may, but it is not the hope of one who knows the desire for his cure to be at the crucial level. Where this is known or knowable, how vastly the case changes!
In the case in question, on the basis presented, the sick man in the truncated love situation might be seeking health in the teeth of a gale of affliction adapted specifically to his demise. That, on that model, is one of the possibilities, and it is not a lean one.
Hope in such a case is a small thing compared with that where the underlying desire is known to be for his recovery (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).
There is no doubt that Wesley, in the field of love, is here onto something correct, and Whitefield is not meeting the scope of the case aptly. The solution for both is simple: God does LOVE as much as Wesley declares, for GOD HIMSELF declares it over and again; and He HAS PREDESTINATED just as surely as Whitefield correctly asserts, for GOD HIMSELF declares it over and again as in Romans 8 and 9, Ephesians 1:4. If it is a horrible decree, as became a customary usage in the phrasing of it, this is only because God is not taken at His word, so that a predestinative caricature - it is little less - comes into vogue, as if doing something BEFORE TIME means that it is done WITHOUT this DECISIVE and PERVASIVE LOVE of which God speaks. What amazing and even appalling confusion is this!
WHEN it is done is not the point at issue; but HOW and WHY it is done. What is moving in the heart of God in actuating His mission is statedly repeated, categorically and clearly. That, this being so, the matter is resolved and known and to be applied is equally clearly depicted.
It is for the omission of the scriptural fact of ultimate scope of the divine love and its direction, on the part of Calvinism and the omission of the scriptural fact of the actuality of the before-time predestination (both ways) on the part of Arminianism that the futile quarrel has proceeded. IT IS perfectly possible, to pursue the analogy of medical sickness, that the patient will recover, and no qualification is possible. GOD WOULD HAVE IT, though He does not force it, even weeping rather than force as we have often seen (cf. SMR Appendix B), and weeping in sorrow that it is not to be so, proclaiming the calamity that they did not know the day of their opportunity, with grievous importunity (Luke 19:42ff.), as so often in the Bible.
It is not something indifferent to Him; it is not something unknown; and thus the aweful and wonderful desire is to find Him and so to be saved: for this is His appeal and stated desire. There is no possibility that you will be finding Someone who never has had thought for your health, or considers it outré altogether. He is there, and His inclination being known, you seek Him with zeal, with passion to find Him, knowing that cold, determinative headwinds are not in His heart to frustrate you in every way, but rather warm, loving thoughts to impel you in any way fitting.
The divine ATTITUDE in all this is clearly crucial and could make all the difference to seeking Him, quite logically, in the analogical terms. To be sure, since the human spirit is limited, the time may come when the person no longer seeks the Lord, is filled with folly so that light is obfuscated and only judgment remains. Operations on tissue too often repeated, and not completed, may in time remove scope for any operation! Thus in II Chronicles 36, long was the entreaty time from God, the sending, the passion; but in time, the wrath arose without remedy! So it states.
Yet whether this is the condition or not, it is a resultant as in II Chronicles, where the wrath of the longsuffering Lord was aroused to that point over the centuries, that there was "no remedy"! If the person seeks the Lord there is no pretervailing position which excludes a priori. Foreknown before all time, the outcome, yet not foregone the income in the surging love of God. Those who seek find; and when they do not seek, that is their own. The point is that the love is there, and it is not pre-empted out. It may go, but that it is not because in all eternity, it never came!
The contrary is the scriptural assertion, and it is therefore to be believed. When it is applied, as we have seen in the list of references in the first part of this letter, then the harmony is found. It is like this, quite often, in human life. When a misconception concerning someone's nature or personality or reliability is in one's mind, then there seems a vast contradiction arises with other aspects of that person. When the misunderstanding is cleared away, then all is seen in a perspective understandable because not marred by error.
IF the man is certainly going to die because this is an established fact IN GOD'S PREDESTINATION, based on something less than this pervasive love which HE declares, this has little to do with the case of someone who does not (because unsaved) KNOW where he stands in this respect, but DOES know that the One who loves has gone to the cross in human form rather than let any in this world perish without Him (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).
The cases are so disparate as to possess an entirely diverse dynamic. The effect on health, in the illustration, could be crucial. Grace is far more gracious that is so ample; and the grace of God, the love of God does have this scripturally stated amplitude; and it does matter both in the harmonies of His word and the wonder for man in the preaching of the love of God.
Those who see and so do, have in this, a primary thrust on the love of God.
The one case is alluring; the other could be a subject of bitterness, if not for oneself, then for others. If before salvation, the sinner does not credit this divine declaration on His love, so be it; it is not in the omission of God, but of man that the fault or if you prefer, limit lies. Sin is a fatal disease; it DOES disenable from spirituality (I Corinthians 2:14); it is entirely up to God to save, and there is nothing in man in his pathological state, to which salvation pertains, he being without God and without hope as Paul declares in Ephesians 2:12.
However this is no sad case, for if it were entirely up to your billionaire brother to pay your million dollar fine, this would be entirely relevant IF HE LOVED YOU enough to die for you! People get different glimmers of truth in their darkness as the Lord acts; and here is one perpetually therapeutic, enlivening, delightful, and true. It is when the truth is the best and the most wonderful that people like Charles Wesley justly write as they wrote in Amazing Grace.
It would be cold comfort if the Lord's actions were like statistical data, simply unforeseeable and His heart unknown as to what charity He held towards to any human nature, such as desiring to meet the need of the one who calls on his name, desiring their salvation BECAUSE He so loves (Psalm 145, John 3:16). Where there IS such a desire, and He states it to be so, then the situation arises to new blessedness.
The case then ultimately is always there, for God IS love and SO loved the world and WOULD have all, and WAS pleased that all fulness dwell in Christ that through the blood of the cross ALL THINGS should be reconciled. This is the testimony of the love, its power and its purvey and NOTHING truncates it.Even if, when it is seen in the eternal sight of God, hatred for the reprobate becomes the shaft of destiny, still this is the final repudiation, and it is in the face of the impelling love which He so often, so clearly and so passionately attests. This is the radiating reality, the attested magnificence, the enthralling scope of it.
The application of this is dealt with in some detail in a working hypothesis, which nevertheless is close to all the scriptures, in SMR Ch. 8 in its opening sections, and in no known way contrary in principle to any. However the thing is WORKED, however, the fact of this attitude in God, that firstly He would have all, and secondly that those preferring darkness in the very presence of His light are rejected indeed and become the object of hatred, remains (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4). It is HE who, in the face of this stated love of His own, ascribes the will of man as relevant in His sight to His exclusion which known from the first, sets in at the last (cf. SMR Appendix B, John 3:17-19). While it is indeed His own operation, these are His stated criteria of operation.
It is not profitable to be forever hedge-clipping the scriptures and using one of these potent facts as if the other did not exist. It is ALL scripture which is profitable; and ALL omission which is entirely unprofitable (II Timothy 3:16); and indeed as here, such omission (or addition for that matter) is productive of endless clash and confusion. Good is the desire first for truth, then for peace, then for the love of the brethren, to avoid this partisan piece of theological politics, and avoiding callow camps and their rivalries. Instead, it is good and seemly to get back to the holy, wholesome and vitalising facts.
In analogy, it is like returning from a spree in some scientific laboratory in which a whole REGION of facts is omitted because people either cannot or will not put them together with another relevant area of fact, so that at last such escapade coming to an end, sobriety is restored, and the solution found by honest and assiduous investigation.
Alas, the analogy is too near the point for comfort, for in another realm, in much of so-called science, pseudo-science in such great demand today, where for religious reasons it veers from all the facts, in insisting on the myth of 'creation' by organic evolution, from creative forces neither there nor attested, either in performance or in principle, and this despite lethal anti-verifications (cf. Secular Myths and Sacred Truth, SMR pp.140ff.), and continual confirmations of divine fiat creation. Once again, and here for direct, secular reasons in decisive rebellion from the word of God, this is precisely what has happened.
What grief it is in man, and how grievous for him when his errors reach the escape velocity of direct rebellion and the creation of gods that are not there: for what pity can at last remain for our race in these Race Riots, not of one kindred, but of the whole camp of our human race, riots against both divine truth in the Bible and natural data in this world! They go together and they hasten towards the hell of wilful disjunction from truth; and except the mercy of God intervene, there is for all this no hope. While pity plays, truth must at last interrupt its musings; for where factious fiction is chosen, truth is not appreciated, even if it is the fountain of life and light.
Hope meanwhile there is ONLY because God is love, is merciful, and goes to any godly extent whatever to find the lost and to forgive the wandering, calling as in Psalm 107 again and again to Himself, willing to forgive, in attitude the very epitome of love, of that love with which He SO loved that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but instead have eternal life, an attitude for ALL THINGS, yes on heaven and on earth.
Hence we do not despair for our race, for who knows in the LOVE of God
|whom He will yet save, and yet deliver from the blasphemies which abound,|
|whom in His understanding and wonderful heart, in grace exhume, and|
|whom restore to the light.|
It is well it is not of our works, for these would never save us. Indeed the Calvinist emphasis on this depravity is most just, and on the divine sovereignty in election is most true; except that it is not so limited in the love input that is associated with it, for God declares to the opposite effect. Delimited is the result, but unlimited is the actuating love.
Determinate are the sheep and goats, but no goat is God who has elected in grace. It is not in terms of a penchant or preference, as if love gave way to desire, and desire to preference as in the case of any who prefers this or that one; but in terms of that very love which needing sovereign intervention to save ANY in their pervasive sinfulness (whether in pride of not being so, or lust in being so), and desiring to save all, in purity of love saves whom He will, and this not in such a way as to defy and defile the image of God status, but to recover it; nor in such a way as to make exclusion an ultimate aim of His heart and purpose of His thrust. He knows the end, and He knows how it arrives, and He deplores the non-arrival where folly rejects His mercy (cf. Luke 19:42ff.), even to the point of weeping.
It is WHEN he is saved, that the sinner rightly knows whom he has believed and is properly persuaded that God is able to keep that which he has committed to Him against that day, as for Paul (II Timothy 1:12). God we then realise has indeed called us and saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace as Paul also declares (II Timothy 1:9) so that those justified are those foreknown and to be gloried (Romans 8:29ff.). This is the testimony which He makes in us generically (Romans 8:16), the thing being sure from the foundation as Whitefield makes so clear so well in his letter, following Paul in this.
The thing being known and worked into by the Lord, it is not subject to the ebb and flow of any chance, whether psychological, geological, chronological or medical! It is known to God, instituted in history, attested by His Spirit, proclaimed by His word and will be worked out by God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2). In all this, Whitefield and Calvin are perfectly correct ; just as Wesley is, concerning the love which went into it, God BEING love as Wesley, for his part correctly and relevantly asserts from I John 4.
Thus, in the analogy, either the man knows he is certainly and irrevocably going to go from his sickness to death, or he does not. If he does, then there is no hope, and no joy in 'physic' or medicine. If he does not, then there may be. If the man is irrelevant to God, who has sovereignly acted past all question of 'mere' love for ALL THINGS relevant, a love He Himself asserts to be there, then the sick person may indeed feel it hopeless, having nothing in God on which to lay hold, no assurance of a divine felicity of love to which, despite all his sin, he can look with absolute assurance. Far off, he may not be moved at all to call on the name of a god of this uncertain sort. He may even find it repulsive, as Spurgeon statedly did.
Whitefield can assert that if the sick man does NOT know this certainty, then he has hope and acts as a man sick might. Wesley's point of view however remains relevant in this respect, that if it is beyond himself entirely, there being no point of contact, then he might feel that the universe is cold and hard toward him, that God has nothing standing on which to place oneself, and that for all he knows the case is closed. Moreover such a Being is very different to the aspiring affections than the actual one.
Here then there is confusion and truncation in doctrine; but though it is error, it may not be merely wilful error, and sight obscured does not match blindness.
In these areas and arenas of life, where confusion and incomprehension may come, where the case is challenging, it is wise then to leave to God the ingredients and the judgment involved. HE, He not only knows all and has to estimate nothing, being in possession of all the facts, but knows the spirit of man infinitely in wisdom, truth and justice. He knows who has done what, in intensely variable circumstances, and what is the spirit of each; and why whatever has happened has happened; and in His infinite wisdom, He can do what neither man nor angel is commissioned to perform.
To be sure, in the lesser case of hope, the man, the patient might still hope that God might have something; but it is a groundless wish, not enticing as would a certain knowledge of at least a love toward Him which was not truncated into exclusion of his case from its ambit of interest in his salvation. He might relapse into a lack of interest as in a lottery, as it might appear to him. In his pain, this distance might seem mere obscuration, and in his tempest, lead only to frustration. If we are going to be practical, as Whitefield suggests, then let us indeed be so!
The Gospel as it is has everything, since the truth is that God is love. It lacks nothing, either from the error of Calvin or from that of Wesley. The love is there as stated; the power is there as slated; and the time will come as dated, for God indeed knows the number of His elect. That of course has NOTHING to do with HOW He has made them so; only with the results of it, and THIS confusion is so frequently found as to make it a delight to leave the judgment to God in such questions and affairs.
In the unscripturally truncated case, the character of the Saviour then lacks lustre, becoming rather more like an aristocracy selection for whatever seems attractive or meaningful to God. How wonderful therefore in His sovereign love God KNOWS who are His, and ensures that they are given to His Son. So do we read in John 6:35-36.
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger,
and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
It is indeed not a horrible decree, decretum horribile, but a wonderful decree, decretum mirabile, since all hangs on it and it is sure; but this is so ONLY because of the stated pervasive character of the love of the One whose it is, whose will it represents. It is wonderful because it is NOT ONLY freely given when it was not necessary for the gift to be made at all; NOT ONLY because it is given in such a way that it cannot miss, but ALSO because its gift is directed towards all.
Though God indeed hates some, this is in terms of the scriptures cited, not the elemental, eternal and original fact as if to prevent the applicability of the stated love, but the consequence of its application; for to imagine that God is love and that in any of His actions for eternity this fact is overlooked is not merely ludicrous, but a gross caricature of the divine love. Indeed, it is a just use of such a phrase to designate Spurgeon's declared response to such a treatment of the divine love. Such horror he rightly expresses for the concept that because God's grace in the field of salvation is freely available without contribution from man, that therefore we may justly work backwards or in reverse, and assert that where it is not found it is because it did not exist (cf. Predestination and Freewill Section II).
What then do we find ?
Overall, in all his letter of reply, Whitefield seems just as immune to Wesley's thrust and focus of passion as does Wesley to Whitefield's aspiration and delight of doctrine. They talk and miss the target, churning the surrounding seas. Each speaks well of what is indeed scriptural in places; but ignores the appeal of the other where that focus is in view. Each takes his own focus way past scripture or short of it; though each equally is insistent on much substance in what actually is there, as well. Dividing from the word, in these respects, they do not conquer. For all that, each in his own way contributed wonderfully to the kingdom of heaven with passion for the truth when seen, for souls, to overcome mere encumbrance, in seeking fidelity to God. It is humbling to see it, and it is well that our hope, who believe and seek to follow His word in all things, rests on Christ and in nothing on ourselves.
Indeed, it would seem that this very failure on the part of two such zealous evangelists, Wesley most prominent in presenting the love of God and Whitefield His sovereignty, though for each there were wheels within wheels, Whitefield being eloquent on the settled character of the love of God for His people, and Wesley on the horrible nature of rejecting a love so pervasive: it is well that it is instructive!
It is NOT that the word of God is unclear, for He asserts that it is; and when one is always willing to be CORRECTED by it, however elevated may be one's post or pride, it is indeed a self-verifying matter, for its coherence, its answers to all the questions men ask philosophy, informed from their own wits, which cannot adequately reply, these its divinely given responses by contrast are a marvel like the surging seas. The answers all stay there in power, the coherence continues and one's awareness of it continually increases, while its applications act, its predictions pound into reality in history and the promises of God to one's own life accrue like bank interest, constant and sure; yes and more, for that interest may fail, but this simply does not. It is not seasonal; it is not limited; it is like His love, pervasive in kind, though the results of its rejection are also imposing, however rebellious the folly which leads to it.
That, it is the pity, the everlasting pity of pride, rebellion and self-assertion, autonomy and independence even away from God. How lovely to be in His tabernacles, to behold the beauty of the Lord, to be in His love and in His stock, like a branch in the vine; but if one will not, so be it. It is horrible; but as to the decree, it is not this which is horrible, for it but advertises the result of such love in contrast to the calamities it paid to remove for all who would come, with power and certainty. No, it is the refusal which is as horrible as Proverbs 1 and 8 show it to be in the face of the explicit divine entreaty and action, call and exhortation to the contrary.
There has been a misplacement of terms here, and it is time they were put back once and for all, where they belong. Let us move to another aspect.
Let us, then, hear Proverbs 1:20-27 in this field of impact.
"Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
"She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
"How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
"Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
"Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you."
Look at that awful hiatus marked with periods, above, where the appeal and the provision is magnificent, for God will even MAKE His word known; but no, so BECAUSE He called and they refused, the rest follows, just as in Luke 19:42ff., and cases all but innumerable throughout the Bible.
Yet this is but one of the features. We need a little more exposure to another.
Just as we presented some of Wesley's imperfect (in application) but strong thrust (in pith and point), concerning the universal love, so from the letter of Whitefield do we find this excellent cover of some of the thrust of excellent predestination.
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:33-39).
This, dear Sir, is the triumphant language of every soul that has attained a full assurance of faith. And this assurance can only arise from a belief of God's electing everlasting love. That many have an assurance they are in Christ today, but take no thought for, or are not assured they shall be in him tomorrow-nay to all eternity-is rather their imperfection and unhappiness than their privilege. I pray God to bring all such to a sense of his eternal love, that they may no longer build upon their own faithfulness, but on the unchangeableness of that God whose gifts and callings are without repentance. For those whom God has once justified, he also will glorify.
This covers the fact of predestination and its beauty, which is sure; but it does not touch the point, the scope of the love of God ... if we may put it so, as advertised!
Nevertheless, proclaiming this provision is fine, for God is a great lover and the exercise of His mercy free; and proclaiming the excellent virtues of the divine predestination, both ways, pervasive also, is fine also, since it is wrought in love and prevents any chance or change from intervening, attesting the unalterable impact of a love which this world does not know, but which is directed towards it. It is all fine, and participates in what is great, being facets of the grace of God. We may exult in this as in the other. The placing of these divine and holy things to be understood, however, in any kind of adversative position is pathetic in the sense, that it excites pity, and makes deplorable confusion.
The point is simple: it should ALL be proclaimed, for ALL scripture is profitable for instruction. And how great is that profit, when neither floor one nor floor two being omitted, the whole glorious construction shown in the word of God is seen. No tower falls, and it all stands irrevocable, more than the soaring mountains. This is true, even when in foolish controversy, men at as if to limit God, and speak as if HIS delimitations involved a contradiction of His assertions, of His wishes, or as if His love meant a mutability or a minimisation, when the opposite is both reasonable and revealed.
Thus when the issues are considered in their full scriptural amplitude,
and one becomes accurate in what one asserts concerning those of the past,
and when one applies what is applicable to its own field, and not to something divorced from it,
alien to it, and when one avoids the use of language for one thing, made superficially and inaccurately of another, and fails to confuse error with rebellion, and the creation of gods
with confusion in seeking even in deep matters to serve the One who is revealed:
then there is no ground for such suggestions as made in the enquiry addressed to this site,
and which in these two chapters we have answered.
The answer to each query, then, is this: first correct your conceptions,
accuracy and relevance considerations, and then receive the answer to the corrected
and placed questions in the perspective of the Bible. This done, to one and to all points made,
the answer is this.
No, it is not so. It is good that you are so interested, but no interest will buy the capital of these assertions which you present for evaluation.
Since saddened centuries have passed while these issues have been continued in partisan theological politics, the cocky tending to be assured of this and blasting, and the partisan forces of the other side to be assured of that, and often both belittling belligerently, it may be that discussion could usefully be continued on points for clarification; though it may be doubtful indeed if they are not by now covered in more than thousand pages in The Predestination Quaternion.
Let us however, if such discussion is to be, keep STRICTLY to the Bible, seeking only to interpret it, and avoid the mere rehash of things which do not originate in it. What we have cited here is because the matter began on citation; but what is the end of the matter, is the issue and truth itself before the Lord and before His word. Here alone is it profitable at last to dwell, and here for discussion to move, as if to look at the lab work, and not at the records: it is then that there is much profit, seeing it for oneself direct.
If indeed, the Bible is to be interpreted, and this is the issue here, it alone needs to be cited, and if a case is to be made, here is the laboratory! Our excursus has been illustrative of this, and shown the danger where reaction displaces reason, and reason displaces revelation, growing lax in its use, and failing to realise the dominance of truth which is in the very Source of its own existence in mankind, without which it becomes like a snipped branch, withering because of displacement!
In all these things, then, it is back to the word of God, the Bible, and on with the application, using examples and conceptions germane to your questions, to adorn the point, illustrate the principles and proceed to the elements. How rewarding it is, moreover, when this is done consistently: for it is rather like the mathematical answer at the back of the book.
After all the student's efforts (as in philosophy), here is the actual working answer which meets the case; and there is no other; nor is there any room for dancing and prancing about, for the Bible is a precise instrument, grand in style, exact in delineation, the word of the very God who made our DNA, and made liberty with which its results can be deployed. The Bible does indeed give the wisdom of God; and it is not merely as a source book, but as a teaching and presentation organ without parallel, from God Himself.
That its fidelity is so extreme that when you follow ALL it says continually, constantly being willing to adjust to all it has, you find the resolution of problems, the light on issues, the harmony of concepts and the beauty of it all more overpowering than any sunset or floral munificence: this is an added delight*3 and a determinate verification of it. Such things are shown in some detail in the Quaternion, and this therefore is verification of the word of God, the Bible, of its glorious origin.
The teaching of the Bible is indispensable, inevacuable, ineluctable, permanent, profound and stable. It never runs into trouble; and the trouble is all in those who depart from now this, now that part of it. This author or any other merely human instrument is no criterion; but That Author has so appointed His word. It is because it is His word, the word of God, the Bible, that it is our business to expound, showing a reason for the faith to those who ask, and the wonder of it to those who see.
As to this author, it is nothing in him, for it is all a matter for the Lord whose help is sufficient and whose power none can limit; indeed, one has had to change in this very area, some forty years ago; but the word of God does not change. It is this which is munificent in magnificence, in dissolving doubts in the presence of the Lord, the living God.
Psalm 119, Psalm 111 and Psalm 12, like Matthew 5:17ff.: these state it as it is.
As to the first, it will be edifying as to atmosphere and passion, to hear the first 20 verses at this point.
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
"Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
"Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
"How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
"Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You!
Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
"I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
"Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times."
Andrew Murray in this work, p. 17 gives one of his major stresses, and it well put. He states this:
" And then there is the lesson of undoubting confidence. The branch has no care; the vine provides all; it has but to yield itself an receive. It is the knowledge of this truth that leads to the blessed rest of faith, the true secret of growth and strength, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
"What a life we could have if we could just consent to be as branches! Dear child of God, learn this lesson ..."
When however he comes to the chapter on fruit, in particular pp. 18-20, he narrows the confines of this aspect far beyond Galatians 5! Rather he states this: "No, Christian, the one object with which you have been made a member of Christ's body is that the Head may have you to carry out His saving work. The one object God had in making you a branch is that Christ may bring life to men through you."
This of course is not the case. Such passion as
Wesley had is sound in its flaming; but it is not the be-all and end-all.
Timothy is given careful instruction about the care of his own soul; growing in
grace and in
the knowledge of Christ is a major emphasis of II Peter (1 and 3), which indeed is strong on virtue, temperance, longsuffering, brotherly love and knowledge, as additions as natural as clouds to the sky. Nor is it a matter of tension between 'me' and 'others' or 'saving souls' and being sanctified. It is all a part of the divinely given life. Does a surgeon not cut his finger nails ? and if he does, is it only to avoid infecting patients ? Does he not have a duty to be a clean vessel, and to cut also other nails in his heart and soul, so that whether souls be won or not, all are edified, to the glory of God and he has taken care (as a Christian) of the temple of the Holy Spirit which he then is! Then whether men believe or not, he is still a testimony to divine truth and grace in practice. God is glorified in one way, in many.
Our duties are indeed often so misconstrued in this race of men, that others are forgotten; but there is far more to knowing God than ignoring or downgrading the church, just as there is much different understanding than any upgrading of it as if it could complete with the Saviour in His own Lordship! (cf. SMR pp. 98-99).
All has its place; and the true issuance from such writings in this sphere as those of Murray, it would seem is to make it clear that there is a dangerous trend towards pre-occupations, including that with one's own growth, which can make outreach unfruitful, or exhibit but a dim love. This is a true exhortation; but so many churches in the Billy Graham period, were failing to correct false teaching in their own midst and in their own seminaries, even gross and vile misconstructions and explicit rampagings and rebellions against the word of God, as many evangelical members sought refuge or help from him, as others earlier had from Wesley, that many a Church declined about them. This brought contumely, persecution and false propagation of teaching to the detriment of those who should have been served.
Thus it becomes obvious that the love of one's neighbour does not terminate in the saving of souls, but includes the purging of one of the chief means of forwarding this, the church, which polluted, can weaken much and impede the recognition for many of the glory of the Lord. Once more, the passage noted is not the criterion of judgment on the man, Murray; it is merely a case where this was his expression, and since it is made, one must not be misled by it.
That sort of action, in turn, is one reason for apologetics (another is of course that it is commanded - I Peter 3:15); for it helps to bring back the appreciation of what is really there, the glory of the repast of the truth in Christ Jesus, and of the wonder of His gift, not only in experience, but in structure, not only in power, but in reason. The testimony of Christ, its foundation, its fountain, its features, its functions, it has all.
It is quite remarkable how large a number of Charles Wesley's Methodist hymns are in the Presbyterian hymn book which we use, 29 appearing in the A's alone, in the alphabetical list of hymns!
Charles Nutter, in his work on Hymn Writers of the Church, calls Watt and Wesley the two princes in hymn writing, and makes this interesting point:
Watts's great theme was divine majesty, and no one approaches him in excellence upon this subject. Wesley's grandest theme was love--the love of God--and here he had no rival.
Wesley's contribution is cited as 6500 hymns, following his conversion, which he declared to have occurred on May 21, 1738. He also laboured as itinerant preacher. The reason that Charles Wesley's hymns are so used even by those who are far from Arminian, is not least their content, as seen in the case of the famed Amazing Love case, 5 verses of which are given below, for it is best always to look and see that of which one talks in such matters.
1 And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
2 ’Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds enquire no more.
3 He left his Father's throne above -
So free, so infinite his grace -
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me!
4 Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray -
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
5 No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.
In emptying Himself He did not of course cease to be Himself, who DID the emptying, as in Philippians 2; and so losing the FORM of infinite majesty, He took the FORM of man, as it states, and being God as man, so arrests the amazement of Wesley at such things as His nobility, compassion, urgently construed help, transformative power and of course, His love.
The use of the Methodist hymns in churches more in the Calvinist direction is a testimony to the open door to a far greater unity which I have long desired, with the removal of these needless contentions. Irenic results must often be sought with ironic means, for these may pierce only to puncture and let out the puss of inflammation from the wounded tissue (cf. Matthew 23, Acts 6:7). The unity of John 17 must be sought, not in loose WCC type constructions, direct in rebellion, but with biblical care by finding in the word of God itself, the base too loosely left.
The irenic wish I have is not based on desire alone, however proper this is as in John 17; but it is based also on the wonder of the word of God, the magnificent unity of which, being defiled by uncurbed dynamics of the mind of man, is too soon abandoned by many in partisan pursuits. Thus the glory of God is often not shown to its uttermost; and this being undesired, one seeks both justice to its wonder and unity in the result, when it rules; for this comes more freely when the divine word taken is without philosophic addition or removal, conscious or otherwise.
TEST ALL THINGS (I Thessalonians 5:21), remains crucial and is most rewarding. Research is always ready to be rewarding when it is made in the right place, and when the right place is the place where rests in its integrity, the very word of the living God, the Bible in its stark purity and wonderful precision. All the philosophers ever read cannot begin to touch it in this frank power, rigorous harmony, practical applicability and directive oversight of the affairs of men.
See for example:
SMR Ch. 5,
Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11, esp. pp.172ff.;
Great Execrations Ch. 9;
His Wounds Opened Eternity Ch. 4 (also contrasted with Islamic deficiencies);
Sparkling Life ... Ch. 7,
Earth Spasm Ch. 6).