Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Dr. John Owen (1616-1683)

The Idol of Free Will

Our next task is to take a view of the idol himself, of this great deity of FREE-WI LL, whose original being not well known.

He is pretended, like the Ephesian image of Diana[1], to have fallen down from heaven and to have his endowments from above.
But yet considering what a nothing he was a this first discovery in comparison of that vast giant-like hugeness to which now he is grown, we may say of him as the painter said of his monstrous picture, which he had mended or rather marred according to every one's fancy, “It is the issue[2] of the people's brain.”

Origen[3] is supposed to have brought him first into the church; but among those many sincere worshippers of divine grace, this setter forth of new demons found but little entertainment.

It was looked upon but like the stump of Dagon with his head and hands laid down before the ark of God without whose help he could neither know nor do that which is good in any kind, still accounted but “a fig - tree log, an unprofitable piece of wood.”

The fathers of the succeeding ages had much debate to what use they should put it, and though some exalted it a degree or two above its merits, yet the most concluded to keep it a block still until at length there arose a stout champion,[4] challenging on his behalf the whole church of God, and like a knight-errant,[5] wandered from the west to the east to grapple with any that should oppose his idol; who, though he met with divers adversaries, one especially,[6] who in the behalf of the grace of God continually foiled him and cast him to the ground, and that in the judgment of all the lawful judges assembled in councils and in the opinion of most of the Christian bystanders.

Yet by his cunning insinuation,[7] he planted such an opinion of his idol's deity and self-sufficiency in the hearts of divers[8] that to this day it could never be rooted out.

Now after the decease of his Pelagian worshippers, some of the corrupter schoolmen,[9] seeing him thus from his birth exposed without shelter to wind and weather, to all assaults, out of mere charity and self-love built him a temple and adorned it with natural lights, merits, uncontrolled independent operations, [and] many other gay attendances.

But in the beginning of the Reformation—that fatal time for idolatry and superstition together with abbeys and monasteries—the zeal and learning of our forefathers with the help of God's Word demolished this temple and brake this building down to the ground.

In the rubbish whereof we well hoped the idol himself had been so deeply buried as that his head should never more have been exalted to the trouble of the church of God, until not long since some curious wits, whose weak stomachs were clogged with manna and loathed the sincere milk of the word, raking all dunghills for novelties, lighted unhappily upon this idol, and presently with no less joy than did the mathematician at the discovery of a new geometrical proportion exclaim, “We have found it! We have found it!” And without more ado, up they erected a shrine, and until this day continue offering of praise and thanks for all the good they do to this work of their own hands.[10]

And that the idol may be free from ruin, to which in himself they have found by experience that he is subject, they have matched him to contingency,[11] a new goddess of their own creation, who having proved very fruitful in monstrous births upon their conjunctions,[12] they nothing doubt they shall never [lack] one to set on the throne and make president of all human actions.

So that after he hath, with various success at least twelve hundred years, contended with the providence and grace of God, he boasteth now as if he had obtained a total victory. But yet all his prevailing is to be attributed to the diligence and varnish of his new abettors[13] with—to our shame be it spoken!—the negligence of his adversaries.

In him and his cause there is no more real worth than was when by the ancient fathers he was exploded and cursed out of the church. So that they, who can attain, through the many winding labyrinths of curious distinctions to look upon the thing itself, shall find that they have been like Egyptian novices, brought, through many stately frontispieces[14] and goodly fabrics with much show of zeal and devotion, to the image of an ugly ape.

Yet here observe, that we do not absolutely oppose free-will, as if it were a mere figment [or as if] there is no such thing in the world, but only in that sense the Pelagians and Arminians[15] do assert it. About words we will not contend. We grant man in the substance of all his actions as much power, liberty, and freedom as a mere created nature is capable of. We grant him to be free in his choice from all outward coaction[16] or inward natural necessity to work according to [choice] and deliberation, spontaneously embracing what seemeth good unto him. Now call this power free-will or what you please, [as long as] you make it not supreme, independent, and boundless, we are not at all troubled. The imposition of names depends upon the discretion of their inventers.

Again, even in spiritual things, we deny that our wills are at all debarred[17] or deprived of their proper liberty. But here we say, indeed, that we are not properly free until the Son makes us free . . .we do not claim such a liberty as should make us despise the grace of God, whereby we may attain true liberty indeed, which addeth to, but taketh nothing from our original freedom. But of this, after I have showed what an idol the Arminians make of free-will. Only take notice in the entrance that we speak of it now, not as it was at first by God created, but as it is now by sin corrupted; yet being considered in that estate also, they ascribe more unto it than it was ever capable of.

“Herein,” saith Arminius, “consisteth the liberty of the will, that all things required to enable it to will anything being accomplished, it still remains indifferent[18] to will or not.” And all of them at the Synod:[19] “There is,” say they, “accompanying the will of man an inseparable property, which we call liberty, from whence the will is termed a power, which when all things prerequired as necessary to operation are fulfilled, may will anything or not will it.”

That is, our free-wills have such an absolute and uncontrollable power in the territory of all human actions, that no influence of God's providence, no certainty of His decree, no unchangeableness of His purpose can sway it at all in its free determinations or have any power with His highness to cause him to will or resolve on any such act as God by him intendeth to produce! Take an instance in the great work of our conversion.

“All unregenerate men” saith Arminius, “have by virtue of their free-will a power of resisting the Holy Spirit, of rejecting the offered grace of God, of contemning[20] the counsel of God concerning themselves, of refusing the gospel of grace, of not opening the heart to him that knocketh.”

What a stout idol is this, whom neither the Holy Spirit, the grace and counsel of God, the calling of the gospel, the knocking at the door of the heart, can move at all, or in the least measure prevail against him! Woe be unto us then, if when God calls us, our free-will be not in good temper and well disposed to hearken unto Him! For it seems there is no dealing with it by any other ways, though powerful and almighty.

“For grant” saith Corvinus,[21] “all the operations of grace which God can use in our conversion, yet conversion remaineth so in our own free power that we can be not converted; that is, we can either turn or not turn ourselves,” where the idol plainly challengeth the Lord to work His utmost and tells Him that after He hath so done, he will do what he please. His infallible prescience,[22] His powerful predetermination, the moral efficacy of the gospel, the infusion of grace, the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit, all are nothing, not at all available in helping or furthering our independent wills in their proceedings. Well, then in what estate will you have the idol placed?

“In such a one wherein he may be suffered to sin or to do well at his pleasure” as the same author intimates. It seems then as to sin, so nothing is required for him to be able to do good but God's permission? No! For the Remonstrants[23] “do always suppose a free power of obeying or not obeying, as well in those who do obey as in those who do not obey”—where all the praise of our obedience, whereby we are made to differ from others, is ascribed to ourselves alone, and that free power that is in us.

Now, this they mean not of any one act of obedience, but of faith itself, and the whole consummation thereof. “For if a man should say, that every man in the world hath a power of believing if he will, and of attaining salvation, and that this power is settled in his nature, what argument have you to confute[24] him?” saith Arminius triumphantly to Perkins,[25] where the sophistical innovator[26] as plainly confounds grace and nature as ever did Pelagius.

That, then, which the Arminians claim here in behalf of their free-will is, an absolute independence of God's providence in doing anything, and of His grace in doing that which is good—a self-sufficiency in all its operations, a plenary indifferency[27] of doing what we will, this or that, as being neither determined to the one nor inclined to the other by any overruling influence from heaven. So that the good acts of our wills have no dependence on God's providence as they are acts or on His grace as they are good, but in both regards proceed from such a principle within us as is no way moved by any superior agent.

Now, the first of these we deny unto our wills because they are created; and the second because they are corrupted. Their creation hinders them from doing anything of themselves without the assistance of God's providence; and their corruption from doing anything that is good without His grace. A selfsufficiency for operation without the effectual motion of Almighty God, the first cause of all things, we can allow neither to men nor angels unless we intend to make them gods. And a power of doing good equal unto that they have of doing evil, we must not grant to man by nature unless we will deny the fall of Adam and fancy ourselves still in Paradise.

Endued we are with such a liberty of will as is free from all outward compulsion and inward necessity, having an elective faculty of applying itself unto that which seems good unto it, in which it is a free choice. Notwithstanding, it is subservient to the decree of God, as I showed before. Most free it is in all its acts, both in regard of the object it chooseth and in regard of that vital power and faculty whereby it worketh, infallibly complying with God's providence and working by virtue of the motion thereof. But surely to assert such a supreme independency and every way unbounded indifferency as the Arminians claim, whereby, all other things requisite being presupposed, it should remain absolutely in our own power to will or not to will, to do anything or not to do it, is plainly to deny that our wills are subject to the rule of the Most High...against its exaltation to this height of independency,

I oppose —
First, Everything that is independent of any else in operation is purely active, and so consequently a god; for nothing but a divine will can be a pure act, possessing such a liberty by virtue of its own essence. Every created will must have a liberty by participation, which includeth such an imperfect potentiality as cannot be brought into act without some pre-motion[28] of a superior agent. Neither doth this motion being extrinsical[29] at all prejudice the true liberty of the will, which requireth indeed that the internal principle of operation be active and free, but not that that principle be not moved to that operation by an outward superior agent. Nothing in this sense can have an independent principle of operation which hath not an independent being.

Secondly, if the free acts of our wills are so subservient to the providence of God as that He useth them to what end He will and by them effecteth many of His purposes, then they cannot of themselves be so absolutely independent as to have in their own power every necessary circumstance and condition, that they may use or not use at their pleasure. Now the former is proved by all those reasons and texts of Scripture I before produced to show that the providence of God overruleth the actions and determineth the wills of men freely to do that which He hath appointed. And, truly, were it otherwise, God's dominion over the most things that are in the world [would be] quite excluded: He had not power to determine that any one thing should ever come to pass which hath any reference to the wills of men.

Thirdly, all the acts of the will being positive entities, were it not previously moved by God Himself, “in whom we live, move, and have our being,” must needs have their essence and existence solely from the will itself; which is thereby made a first and supreme cause, endued with an underived30] being.
Let us now, in the second place, look upon the power of our freewill in doing that which is morally good, where we shall find not only an essential imperfection, inasmuch as it is created, but also a contracted effect, inasmuch as it is corrupted. The ability which the Arminians ascribe unto it in this kind—of doing that which is morally and spiritually good—is as large as themselves will confess to be competent unto it in the state of innocency, even a power of believing and a power of resisting the gospel, of obeying and not obeying, of turning or of not being converted.

The Scripture, as I observed before, hath no such term at all or anything equivalent unto it. But the expressions it useth concerning our nature and all the faculties thereof in this state of sin and unregeneration seem to imply the quite contrary: as that we are in “bondage” (Heb 2:15); “dead in sins” (Eph 2:1); and so “free from righteousness” (Rom 6:20); “servants of sin” (v. 17); under the “reign” and “dominion” thereof, (vv. 12, 14); all “our members being instruments of unrighteousness” (v. 13); not “free indeed” until “the Son make us free” (Joh 8:36); so that this idol of FREE-WILL, in respect of spiritual things, is not one whit better than the other idols of the heathen.

1 Diana – Acts 19:24-35 Greek goddess of the moon; her temple at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

2 issue – the flowing out, therefore, the product.

3 Origen (c. 185-c. 254) – theologian and Biblical scholar of the early Greek Church.

4 Pelagius (c. 354-c. 420) – British monk, who argued for a totally free human will to do good and held that divine grace was bestowed in relation to human merit. His views were condemned as heresy by the Council of Ephesus (431).

5 knight-errant – a wondering knight; a knight who traveled in search of adventures for the purpose of exhibiting military skill, prowess, and generosity.

6 Augustine of Hippo (354-430) – early church theologian born in Tagaste, North Africa.
Known by many as the father of orthodox theology; taught the depravity of man and the grace of God in salvation.

7 insinuation – to work one's self into favor subtly; to introduce gradually and by clever means.

8 divers – several; more than one but not a great number.

9 schoolmen – a term for the teachers of philosophy and theology in the Middle Ages. Also known as scholastics, examples would be Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) and John Duns Scotus (c. 1265-1308).

10 A reference to the followers of Arminius.

11 contingency – the absence of necessity; something that occurs only as a result of something else.

12 conjunctions – joining together, meaning the union of free-will and contingency.

13 abettors – to encourage, support, or assist in a criminal act.

14 frontispiece – the ornamental fa├žade or face of a building.

15 Arminians/Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) – Dutch theologian, born in Oudewater, The Netherlands. He rejected the Reformers' understanding of predestination, teaching instead that God's predestination of individuals was based on His foreknowledge of their accepting or rejecting Christ by their own free will.

16 coaction – force; urging to action by moral pressure.

17 debarred –hindered or prevented.

18 indifferent – impartial.

19 Synod of Dort (1618-19) – a synod is an assembly of church officials. Such was the gathering of Reformed theologians at Dordrecht (Dort) in The Netherlands to counter and condemn the teachings of Jacobus Arminius and his followers (Remonstrants).

20 contemn – to treat as despicable; to reject as disdained.

21 Johannes Arnoldus Corvinus – supporter of Arminius and signer of the Remonstrance.

22 prescience – knowledge of actions or events before they occur.

23 Remonstrants – a remonstrant is one who protests or rejects. The Dutch Remonstrants were the followers of Jacobus Arminius who rejected the teaching of the Reformed churches and provoked the Synod of Dort.

24 confute – refute decisively.

25 William Perkins (1558-1602) – influential English Puritan theologian. Referred to by some as the “principle architect of Elizabethan Puritanism.”

26 Sophistical innovator – one who introduces something new with elaborate and devious arguments. The reference is to Arminius.

27 plenary indifferency – a full, a complete impartiality or neutrality.

28 pre-motion – a previous motion or excitement to action.

29 extrinsical – external; outward.

30 underived – not obtained from another source.

From “A Display of Arminianism,” in The Works of John Owen, Vol X, reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust.

Friday, June 23, 2006


God’s Hatred of Esau (Romans 9:13)

"He who said, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,’ loved Jacob of His undeserved grace, and hated Esau of His deserved judgment"

"the love and hate of God towards men is immutable and eternal, existing, not merely before there was any merit or work of ‘free-will,’ but before the world was made; [so] all things take place in us of necessity, according as He has from eternity loved or not loved ... faith and unbelief come to us by no work of our own, but through the love and hatred of God" (

erome Zanchius:
"When hatred is ascribed to God, it implies
(1) a negation of benevolence, or a resolution not to have mercy on such and such men, nor to endue them with any of those graces which stand connected with eternal life. So, ‘Esau have I hated’ (Rom. 9), i.e., ‘I did, from all eternity, determine within Myself not to have mercy on him.’ The sole cause of which awful negation is not merely the unworthiness of the persons hated, but the sovereignty and freedom of the Divine will.
(2) It denotes displeasure and dislike, for sinners who are not interested in Christ cannot but be infinitely displeasing to and loathsome in the sight of eternal purity.
(3) It signifies a positive will to punish and destroy the reprobate for their sins, of which will, the infliction of misery upon them hereafter, is but the necessary effect and actual execution" (Absolute Predestination, p. 44).

Francis Turretin:
"For as he who loves a person or thing wishes well and, if he can, does well to it, so true hatred and abhorrence cannot exist without drawing after them the removal and destruction of the contrary" (Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 237-238).

"Nothing can more clearly manifest the strong opposition of the human mind to the doctrine of the Divine sovereignty, than the violence which human ingenuity has employed to wrest the _expression, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’ By many this has been explained, ‘Esau have I loved less.’ But Esau was not the object of any degree of the Divine love ... If God’s love to Jacob was real literal love, God’s hatred to Esau must be real literal hatred. It might as well be said that the phrase, ‘Jacob have I loved,’ does not signify that God really loved Jacob, but that to love here signifies only to hate less, and that all that is meant by the _expression, is that God hated Jacob less than he hated Esau. If every man’s own mind is a sufficient security against concluding the meaning to be, ‘Jacob have I hated less,’ his judgment ought to be a security against the equally unwarrantable meaning, ‘Esau have I loved less’ ... hardening [is] a proof of hatred"

A. W. Pink:
"‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’—not merely the works of iniquity. Here, then, is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner; Scripture says, ‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’ (Ps. 5:5)! ‘God is angry with the wicked every day.’ ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God’—not ‘shall abide,’ but even now—‘abideth on him’ (Ps. 5:5; 8:11; John 3:36). Can God ‘love’ the one on whom His ‘wrath’ abides? Again; is it not evident that the words ‘The love of God which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:39) mark a limitation, both in the sphere and objects of His love? Again; is it not plain from the words ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ (Rom. 9:13) that God does not love everybody? ... Is it conceivable that God will love the damned in the Lake of Fire? Yet, if He loves them now He will do so then, seeing that His love knows no change—He is‘without variableness or shadow of turning!’" (The Sovereignty of God, p. 248).

Homer C. Hoeksema:
"All history, in which vessels unto honor or unto dishonor are formed, is the revelation and realization of the counsel of God according to which He loved Jacob and all His elect people, but hated Esau and all the reprobate."

James Montgomery Boice:
"although hatred in God is of a different character than hatred in sinful human beings—his is a holy hatred—hate in God nevertheless does imply disapproval ... [Esau] was the object of [God’s] displeasure ... Since the selection involved in the words love and hate was made before either of the children was born, the words must involve a double predestination in which, on the one hand, Jacob was destined to salvation and, on the other hand, Esau was destined to be passed over and thus to perish"
(Romans, vol. 3, p. 1062).

"In a very real sense, God hated Esau himself. It was not a petty, spiteful, childish kind of hatred, but something far more dreadful. It was divine antipathy—a holy loathing directed at Esau personally. God abominated him as well as what he stood for"

D. A. Carson:
"Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, his wrath is on the liar, and so forth" (The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, p. 79).

Is God’s Election Unrighteous? (Romans 9:14-16)

Herman Hoeksema:
"A man wills because God shows him mercy. God does not show mercy because a man wills. But when God shows mercy to a man, the result is that he wills, he runs. His willing is not the cause, but the effect. God’s mercy is first. And although it is true that one cannot enter into the kingdom of God unless he wills, the cause of this willing is not in man, but in God. God’s mercy is sovereign." (Righteous By Faith Alone, p. 401).

Is God’s Reprobation Unrighteous? (Romans 9:17-18)

A.W. Pink on Pharoah:
"It is clear that God raised up Pharaoh for this very end—to ‘cut him off,’ which in the language of the New Testament means ‘destroyed.’ God never does anything without a previous design. In giving him being, in preserving him through infancy and childhood, in raising him to the throne of Egypt, God had one end in view" (Sovereignty of God, p. 107).

The Ultimate Theodicy (Romans 9:19-24)

Herman Hoeksema:
"The vessels of wrath are so constituted that their entire make-up and design and institution serves the purpose of reaching that end of destruction. If we abandon the figure of the vessel, the meaning is that there are men so instituted as to their personality, their power and talents, their position in the world and their place in the whole of the works of God, that everything tends to their destruction, serves the purpose of leading them, not to temporal destruction, but to eternal desolation. Unto this they are fitted" (God’s Eternal Good Pleasure, p. 93).

J. M. Boice:
"Every person who has ever lived or will ever live must glorify God, either actively or passively, either willingly or unwillingly, either in heaven or in hell. You will glorify God. Either you will glorify him as the object of his mercy and glory, which will be seen in you. Or you will glorify him in your rebellion and unbelief by being made the object of his wrath and power at the final judgment" (Romans, vol 3, p. 1108).


"The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

1. All the sins of all men, or

2. All the sins of some men, or

3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

a. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so none are saved.

b. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.

c. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, Because of unbelief. I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!"
Dr. John Owen (1616-1683), Vice Chancellor of Oxford University (cf. "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ," Works, vol. 10, pp. 173-174).


In a letter to his brother Charles in June 1766, the Arminian evangelist John Wesley, now in his sixties, confesses that he does not and never did love God, believe or have the direct witness of divine sonship or even of things invisible or eternal. Read for yourself.

"In one of my last [letters] I was saying that I do not feel the wrath of God abiding on me; nor can I believe it does. And yet (this is the mystery), I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen

And yet, to be so employed of God! And so hedged in that I can neither get forward nor backward! Surely there was never such an instance before, from the beginning of the world! If I ever have had that faith, it would not be so strange. But I never had any other evidence of the eternal or invisible world than I have now; and that is none at all, unless such as faintly shines from reason’s glimmering ray. I have no direct witness (I do not say, that I am a child of God, but) of anything invisible or eternal."

"And yet I dare not preach otherwise than I do, either concerning faith, or love, or justification, or perfection. And yet I find rather an increase than a decrease of zeal for the whole work of God and every part of it. I am borne along, I know not how, that I can’t stand still. I want all the world to come to what I do not know."

(quoted in Stephen Tomkins, John Wesley, A Biography [Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2003], p. 168; italics mine)

Chris Jesus' boy:
This is the fruits of Arminianism - they are rotten and soul destroying - reader, if you are fighting against the sovereignty of God in salvation you MUST repent, those who fight against the doctrines of election and grace do so to their everlasting shame.


"Wesley and Men Who Followed"

Author: Ian Murray

Banner of Truth, 2003, 263 pp.

ISBN 085151835-4

Perhaps no figure since Jacobus Arminius has polarized the church as much as the subject of Iain Murray’s recent portrait: John Wesley (1703-1791).

Murray introduces Wesley in the spiritually impoverished landscape of 18th century British Anglicanism. Starting from his early days of study at Oxford University, Wesley is portrayed as navigating a hostile terrain of contemporary religious indifference.

Towards the end, the book spends more time defending Wesley and his followers, than of clearly explaining the message of Methodism. Indeed, the book from beginning to end in seeking to preserve Wesley for evangelical Christianity turns a blind eye to much of his heretical doctrine and apostasy. The emotionally charged portrait of Wesley and his preachers is so captivating, that the reader is tempted time and again to overlook the historical reality and embrace the fictitious man of piety who is horribly confused and misunderstood.

In addition to the life and ministry of John Wesley the book provides an overview of the lives of three of his preachers, William Bramwell, Gideon Ousely and Thomas Collins. Regretfully in attempting to capture the heartfelt dedication of these men, Murray all but ignores what they were saying in favour of what they were doing. He even attempts to excuse their opposition to the sovereignty of God by pointing to their spiritual sincerity.

Murray writes "In theory, Methodists denied divine sovereignty … yet the prayerfulness which characterized their lives gives the clearest practical proof of their dependence on God" (p. 171). The sacrifices and hardships faced by these men fill many pages within the book and provide a useful deterrent to those who would seek to question their theology and doctrine. The book therefore attempts to seduce the reader with the satanic lie that sincerity and zeal are suitable replacements for truth and orthodoxy.

In the chapter entitled "The Collision with Calvinism," Murray provides a revisionist escape route by suggesting that Wesley, the great apostle of Arminianism who was intimately acquainted with Calvin and the Puritans, misunderstood what Calvinism really is (p. 74). Yet Wesley himself expresses his own understanding of Calvinism as teaching that "the salvation of every man" is dependent "wholly and solely upon an absolute, irresistible, unchangeable decree of God, without any regard to faith or works foreseen."

Wesley clearly understood Calvinistic theology and yet he continued to attribute it to Satan and refer to it as "deadly poison" (p. 74). He also warned his Methodist society members to stay away from Reformed churches that taught a particular atonement. Even Murray is forced to admit that over time, Wesley’s "opposition to Calvinism stiffened rather than weakened" (p. 68). How else could one honestly explain the vindictive barrage of attacks on the sovereignty of God in Wesley’s The Arminian Magazine?

With all this in mind, it is important to view Murray’s book as an apologetic work, not solely of John Wesley or his preachers, but of Evangelical Arminianism. Why else would so much ink be employed in the defense of one who said that Calvinism was his enemy?

Towards that goal, Murray excuses Wesley time and again as a sincere victim of his environment. When Wesley calls predestination "a doctrine full of blasphemy" and the God of predestination "as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust" this is excused as a well-meaning response to the hyper-calvinism of his day.

In similar fashion his erroneous view of Christian "perfectionism" is practically excused by Murray as a heartfelt attempt to counterbalance the false teaching of antinomianism.

Indeed Wesley and Men who Followed does much to promote the lie that the church today needs a little bit of both Wesley and Whitefield in order to achieve proper "balance." The book, therefore, misses a good opportunity to mark one whose writings have continued to plague the church with division and false doctrine (Rom. 16:17).

Murray’s revisionist portrait also extends to Wesley’s blasphemous view of justification. Wesley held to a theory of justification that is virtually indistinguishable to that of sanctification. He openly taught that justification is not only forensic (a legal declaration), but that it depends on the "moment to moment" obedience of the believer. Murray trivializes the issue and defends Wesley from criticism by suggesting that his inconsistencies on the subject were due to working "too fast and with too much indifference to strict consistency" (p. 225). Yet Wesley himself noted that his own position on the subject was "a hair’s breadth" from "salvation by works." His doctrine can perhaps be best summarized by his favorite writer, William Law who wrote, "We can not have security of our salvation but by doing our utmost to deserve it."

This concept of "deserving it" is a major theme within Wesley’s sermons and one could hardly be blamed for mistaking them as a byproduct of Rome’s Council of Trent. Wesley clearly affiliated himself with a conditional gospel of works when he insisted that election is based on the future works and faith of men.

Wesley comments:
This decree, whereby whom God did foreknow, he did predestinate, was indeed from everlasting; this, whereby all who suffer (allow) Christ to make them alive are elect according to the foreknowledge of God.

Another fatal weakness within the book is the omission of so much incriminating evidence against Wesley. For example, while Murray does briefly touch upon Wesley’s belief in baptismal regeneration, he completely overlooks his advocacy of prayers for the dead. Wesley writes "Prayer for the dead, the faithful departed, in the advocacy of which I conceive myself clearly justified." The book also ignores Wesley’s belief that there will be unconverted Moslems and other heathen who will be accepted on the basis of their good works.

The words of our Lord in John 3:7, "Ye must be born again," contrast sharply with Wesley’s own view that "the merciful God" sees Moslems and "regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas." Also neglected is Wesley’s very strange belief in ghosts and fondness for drawing lots.

Wesley’s ecumenical approach toward Romanism is also overlooked and can best be appreciated by Wesley’s own correspondence to a Roman Catholic, "Let the points wherein we differ stand aside; here are enough wherein we agree, enough to be the ground of every Christian temper, and of every Christian action. O brethren, let us not still fall out by the way."

In addition, while Murray hints at Wesley’s favourable disposition toward women preachers, he does not provide us with the clarity that we find in Wesley’s own writings. Wesley wrote the Manchester Conference in 1787 that we should "give the right hand of fellowship to Sarah Mallet, and have no objection of her being a Preacher in our connexion …"

In light of all these omissions one can only imagine what other skeletons Murray uncovered from the closet of one who was arguably the greatest enemy of evangelical Christianity in the eighteenth century.

In conclusion the target of Wesley and Men Who Followed Him could hardly be more clear. Murray offers far more critical fire on the Reformed detractors of Wesley than of a man who taught baptismal regeneration, promoted women preachers, maligned the saints of his day and fought against Calvinism his entire life. The target in the cross hair is the uncompromising Calvinist who will not accept Arminianism as a legitimate expression of God’s truth.

How else could one explain why Wesley’s well-documented campaign of lies against Augustus Toplady, the defender of sovereign grace, is hardly even mentioned in the book? Murray’s book is all about tolerance and acceptance of the Arminian lie of human sovereignty and diminishes the antithesis between grace and works. Murray has failed to offer anything other than a revisionist history that places the blame on everyone and everything surrounding John Wesley in order to preserve him for the modern day evangelical church. One wonders if the book would have been more appropriately entitled Wesley and Murray Who Followed Him.


(Slightly modified from an article first published in the British Reformed Journal)

John Wesley, A Biography

Author: Stephen Tomkins

Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2003, paperback, 208 pp.

ISBN 0 7459 5078 7

In 24 short chapters, Stephen Tomkins has given us an interesting and readable life of the heretic, John Wesley (1703-1791). This book is all the more valuable because it was written by one who is sympathetic to Wesley and his “gospel” of man’s free will.

Wesley was a remarkable man by any standards, “a man of rare ability, passion and commitment and unique energy” (p. 199). In his 87 years, he rode over 250,000 miles to preach over 40,000 sermons (p. 199).

He was a man of indomitable will, rising at 4 a.m. each morning and braving foul weather and hostile crowds. One reads of his escapes from angry mobs with wonder (pp. 110-120).

Tomkins writes that in his last few years he was widely received with “veneration;” indeed he was “almost a national treasure” (p. 183). In 1790, there were 61,811 Methodists in the United States and 71,463 in the United Kingdom (p. 190). Today, there are some 33 million Methodists worldwide. Last 2003 was the tercentenary of Wesley’s birth and accolades poured in from all over the world, with some of the most effusive coming from purported Calvinists.

Surely then John Wesley was a faithful servant of God, owned and honoured in the cause of Jesus Christ?

The Reformed believer is not dazzled by a man’s popular acclaim. Instead, he “judgeth all things” in the light of “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16) revealed in sacred Scripture and summed in the Reformed confessions. We bear record of John Wesley that he had a zeal for God, but was it according to knowledge (Romans 10:2)? We marvel at his endurance: riding from London to Bristol, Wales and Ireland in the west; and to Newcastle and Scotland in the north. But we also remember another who is even more assiduous, ever “going to and fro in the earth” (Job 1:7). Wesley studied extremely hard, even reading when on horseback. But the Scripture speaks of those who are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

And did not our Lord call down “woe” upon the scribes and the Pharisees for travelling across “sea and land to make one proselyte” because they made him “twofold more the child of hell than” themselves (Matthew 23:15)? The question is this: What was the gospel that Wesley preached? Was it the true gospel (with some weaknesses, perhaps) or was it “another gospel” “which is not another” (Galatians 1:6-7)?

Tomkins’ book alone provides enough information to answer this question. Wesley even quotes Whitefield as saying that the two of them “preached two different gospels” (p. 94).

Wesley’s gospel was the false gospel of salvation by the free will of the sinner. Free will, for all his talk of God’s grace, was the deciding factor in salvation. In loving free will, Wesley hated predestination calling it “blasphemy.” He declared, “It represents the most holy God as worse than the Devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust” (p. 78).

However, the Canons of Dordt state that the “decree of election and reprobation” is “revealed in the Word of God” and “though men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest [it] to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls [it] affords unspeakable consolation” (I.6). Where does this leave Wesley? Not with the “holy and pious souls,” but with the “men of perverse, impure and unstable minds” who “wrest” the truth of predestination “to their own destruction.”
In its “Conclusion,” the Synod of Dordt “warns calumniators to consider the terrible judgment of God which awaits them.”

Wesley certainly belongs in this category for he is guilty of the sins that the “Conclusion” proceeds to enumerate:
bearing false witness against the confessions of so many Churches [including the Church of England in which he lived and died] ... distressing the consciences of the weak; and ... labouring to render suspected the society of the truly faithful.
Remember that Wesley was not simply a church member but a church office bearer and that his church’s creed (article 17 of the Thirty-Nine Articles) taught election. Moreover, he was a founder of societies (and eventually a denomination) and he saw himself as a restorer of primitive Christianity! If church teachers shall receive a greater judgment (James 3:1), where will this leave Wesley?

A false apostle of free will.

With his faith in free will, not only predestination but also the doctrines of total depravity, particular atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints had to go (pp. 71, 96, 171), contrary to articles 9, 15 and 17 of the Thirty-Nine Articles. At the 1770 Methodist Conference, Wesley’s doctrine of justification by free will led him to espouse an even more crude heresy: justification by works (pp. 171-173). Briefly, Wesley dropped the formula that the conference had approved but “almost immediately afterwards” he printed a defence of the original minutes (p. 173).

Tomkins makes no reference to the controversial subject of Wesley’s denial of the imputed righteousness of Christ in justification.
Wesley’s corruption of the will of God in sovereign grace fits with his misunderstanding of the will of God in providence. Wesley believed in opening the Bible at random for guidance at critical junctures (pp. 54, 78), as did his brother, Charles (pp. 68-69). He also resorted to lots (pp. 54, 75, 78), dreams (p. 133) and intuitions (p. 71). This unscriptural understanding of divine guidance led him into further trouble.

Wesley and Whitefield had reached a truce on God’s decree, agreeing to “let sleeping dogmas lie,” as Tomkins puts it. But one day, Wesley “found himself inwardly called to speak out against predestination” (p. 71; italics mine). Tomkins continues, “After making the point at length, [Wesley] prayed aloud (again on divine impulse) that if he was right God would send a sign.” People began to fall down and cry out (pp. 72-73).

To Wesley, Almighty God was “stamping Divine approval” on his message (p. 73). “On one occasion,” writes Tomkins, Wesley even ascribed his recovery from illness “as a reward [from God] for preaching against the Calvinists” (p. 98)!

While mysticism led him to preach against predestination, the casting of lots brought him to publish against it: “he resorted to pulling God’s will out of a hat and was told ‘Print and preach,’ which he did” (p. 78). What are we to make of this? The Lord “put a lying spirit in the mouth” of John Wesley (I Kings 22:23) and He willed, in His sovereignty over the lot (Prov. 16:33), that Wesley’s lies be printed for the deceiving of the reprobate (II Thess. 2:10-12) and the testing of the elect. Not content to attack the truth of predestination merely in his preaching and his books, Wesley also used “hymns,” as did his brother, Charles (p. 93).

Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification by the free will of man fits with his teaching of justification by the free will of man, though not with articles 9 and 15 of the Thirty-Nine Articles. He was already teaching perfectionism in the “Holy Club” at Oxford University in 1733 (p. 38).

By 1739-1740, through a dispute with the Moravians, he reached the point were he would “castigate any who denied perfection as antinomians who were happy to accept their sinfulness” (p. 88). This was a doctrine in which Wesley “passionately believed” (p. 156). Tomkins sees perfectionism as a great “preoccupation” of Wesley’s, “the very heart” of his “spirituality.” “Faith, Wesley said, was the door of religion; holiness, ‘religion itself’” (p. 197). Thus he “preached” entire sanctification and “fought for it at length” (p. 156).

Wesley’s free will theology also carried over into his view of the church. Though an ordained minister in the Church of England, he organized a connexion of societies (along side the institute church) governed by his rules and regulations, i.e. his free will (e.g., pp. 166-167).

Methodist laymen were being used of God (p. 81), Wesley thought, so in 1739 he “gave his permission” for them to continue preaching (p. 82), contrary to articles 23 and 36 of the Thirty-Nine Articles. When a Methodist lay preacher administered communion in 1755, Charles states, “John was not greatly troubled” (contra article 23 of the Thirty-Nine Articles). Wesley “suggested that this was the logical conclusion of appointing lay people to preach: ‘We have in effect ordained already’” (p. 150). This is the slippery slope of disobedience, for if an unordained person may preach (the greater thing; cf. I Cor. 1:17), how can he be stopped from administering the sacraments (the lesser thing)?

Women preaching followed in the 1760s (pp. 159-160) with Wesley giving them rules (p. 167). Sarah Crosby “travelled nearly 1,000 miles a year, speaking at over 200 public meetings and 600 class or band meetings” (p. 175). Mary Bosanquet, another woman preacher, “married Wesley’s close friend and defender John Fletcher in 1781, and the couple operated virtually as joint ministers in his Madeley parish” (p. 190). As Tomkins says, Wesley “was a pragmatist;” this was “his deepest instinct” (p. 160). Remember too that when Wesley was a boy, his mother, Susanna, “led in prayer and discussion and read sermons” and missionary stories to 200 members-including men-of her husband Samuel’s congregation in their crowded parsonage on Sunday afternoons when he was away at Convocation (p. 16).

Wesley and the Methodists also corrupted God’s worship with their “testimonies” (p. 81) and hymn singing. The apostle of free will further attacked the Psalms by his “censored” version of them in the liturgy he drafted for the American Methodists. Tomkins writes, “He bowdlerized the Psalms, finding the honesty of biblical worship ‘highly improper for the mouths of a Christian congregation’” (p. 187). In other words, Wesley’s free willism could not survive the naked truth of God’s absolute sovereignty and the terrible imprecations upon the wicked set forth in the Psalms.

Both John and Charles wrote hymns, with the latter penning between 4,000 and 10,000 (p. 95). John published America’s first hymn book in 1736 (p. 51).

Tomkins writes,
These hymns were of vital importance to Methodism. They were used to gather crowds for outdoor preaching, they were a popular part of the societies’ worship, and they wrote Methodist teaching in the memory of the singers and in their hearts too ... They were also weapons in the war over predestination and perfection, and much of Charles’s sectarian propaganda survives in hymns sung all over the world today (pp. 95-96; italics mine).

Tomkins adds, “John was not above stopping the congregation halfway through to ask them if they really meant what they were singing” (p. 96). What about that for a way of catching a congregation in an Arminian, perfectionist trap! Write “exuberant and emotional,” anti-Calvinist hymns (p. 95); lead those assembled in the singing; then explain their meaning; and the people are snared.

Ulster fundamentalist, Ian Paisley, once stated that he could derive all five points of Calvinism from the hymns of the Wesleys. John and Charles would turn in their graves!

Methodist revivalist meetings were attended with charismatic phenomena. There were people crying out (pp. 65, 71, 105, 108) or laughing (p. 157), with children often playing “prominent parts” (p. 175) in both the wailing (p. 155) and the laughing (p. 157). Some fell down prostrate (pp. 72, 79, 105, 156-157) and others had visions and revelations (p. 156).

Was this a rare thing? No, Tomkins writes, “this kind of thing happened almost daily” (p. 71).

But did this occur where Wesley himself was preaching? Yes, his preaching provoked the “charismatic phenomena” (p. 65), including the “wailing and convulsions” (p. 103). Thus his preaching was a “noisy event” (p. 72). Tomkins writes that “charismatic phenomena ... were to surround Wesley throughout his life” (p. 39).

But did not Wesley oppose these things? No. He was “impressed,” “delighted” and “wholly positive” regarding the charismatic phenomena (pp. 73, 157) viewing the outbreaks “most favourably” (p. 105). Wesley “championed ... charismatic gifts” (p. 195) and “embraced” dreams and visions “unreservedly” (p. 65).

Of course! For not only other Methodists (pp. 60, 102, 123, 161), but also Wesley himself had dreams (p. 133). He also held to miraculous healing (pp. 162-163) and evidently believed that on one occasion he raised the dead or at least one “dangerously ill.” Concerning the latter, Wesley issued the challenge: “I wait to hear who will either disprove this fact, or philosophically account for it” (p. 106).
Tomkins traces Wesley’s belief in the paranormal back to his teenage days. While John was at Charterhouse School in London, his family thought that Epworth rectory, where they lived, was being visited by a poltergeist whom they named “Old Jeffery” (pp. 18-20). The ghost stories were passed on to John who was “fascinated” (p. 19).

Tomkins writes,
John was utterly convinced. He evidently had an innate taste for the supernatural and Old Jeffery brought it to the surface. Intrigued by his family’s accounts, he later collected and published them … His letters home often repeated other ghost stories he had heard. When he next went home, he wrote an account of the haunting from Samuel’s diary and the family’s recollections … In later years, he was to welcome the paranormal manifestations his preaching provoked in a way that upset even his closest colleagues (p. 20).

Other “bizarre religious phenomena of Methodism” include the man “who had the gift of preaching in his sleep.”

He would sing a hymn, recite a text and then preach a six-point sermon, sometimes breaking off to dispute with a clergyman who came to interrupt him (p. 144).

Then there was the Wesleyan lay preacher who spoke in tongues and the demon-possessed girl who recovered before Wesley was able to make it to her house (p. 144).

Tomkins sums up the role of charismatic phenomena in Methodism:
The importance of Methodism’s willingness to embrace the miraculous and charismatic has not always been recognised, but it was crucial. It was, though by no means uniformly, a religion of dreams and visions, healings, convulsions, ecstatic worship, exorcisms and messages and guidance from God. Such phenomena were exciting for participants and drew many spectators. They were also often decisive in Methodist conversions and played an ongoing part in their spiritual lives (p. 85).

Tomkins rightly sees Wesley and his Methodism as a forerunner of the Pentecostal movement (pp. 196, 198-199). This is where his free will gospel was to take many of his followers in years to come.

Moreover, the fusion of free will and emotionalism in modern Pentecostalism has much in common with Wesley who stressed “looking within” and “feeling” God’s love (p. 66) and who “put such store on his feelings as proof of his soul’s state” (p. 62). John Wesley’s love of the medieval mystics and his indebtedness to the “emotional” Moravians (p. 46) comes in here too. They placed a lot of “emphasis on experience and feelings in the spiritual life.” There is a lot to be said for Tomkins’ reckoning: “Moravian spirituality ... [had] an incalculable impact on the shape of Methodism” (p. 46).

Tomkins concludes that Wesley “certainly” was a “web of contradictions” (p. 195) whose accounts of his life and work contain “a dizzying degree of spin” (p. 196). This applies to his religion, spirituality, churchmanship, politics and even his relationships with the opposite sex (pp. 195-197).
In 1751, Wesley wedded Molly Vazeille, but their marriage was “distant and unhappy” (p. 167). In a chapter dealing with the period 1759-1763,

Tomkins states,
Wesley’s private life was far from perfect at this time. He saw little of his wife and received no letters from her. He gave her the benefit of his plain speaking, writing to her with a list of the faults he wanted her to mend and wishing her ‘the blessing which you now want above any other-namely, unfeigned and deep repentance’ (pp. 158-159).

Tomkins writes of Wesley’s “romantic debacles” (p. 196) with women both before and after his marriage to Molly. His conclusion is that Wesley’s
personal relationships with women were, even according to admirers, an ‘inexcusable weakness.’ He was surely not-with all due respect to Molly Wesley-an adulterer [in the sense of actual sexual intercourse with other women] … However, he suffered from a failure to discern between the romantic and pastoral, which blighted his romances and cast a shadow over his pastoring (p. 197).

Wesley plagiarised an anti-slavery work written by a Quaker and a book by Samuel Johnson in support of the British taxing of the American colonies (pp. 177-178). Augustus Toplady “publicly decried his disgraceful fraud” and “trumpeted Wesley’s intellectual bankruptcy in The Old Fox Tarr’d and Feather’d” (p. 179).

Tomkins writes,
Wesley was a serial plagiarist and simply saw nothing wrong with regurgitating other people’s work. As a writer, he inserted other people’s writings into his own as happily and as unannounced as he inserted his own into other people’s as an editor (p. 178).

Wesley also engaged in the same shameful practices in the field of theology.

Tomkins writes,
Protesting his hatred of controversy, Wesley entered the ring in March 1770 with an extraordinary blow, even for him: he condensed and distorted Toplady’s 134-page book Absolute Predestination into a 12-page tract, ending with these words:
The sum of all is this: One in twenty (suppose) of mankind are elected; nineteen in twenty are reprobated. The elect shall be saved, do what they will; the reprobate will be damned, do what they can. Reader believe this or be damned. Witness my hand, A- T- (p. 170).

Tomkins states,

“Now this fraud had proved [Wesley] a criminal worthy to be transported to America if not hanged” (p. 170). Wesley did not respond to Toplady, and this “was just as well, as it is hard to see what he could have said in his defence” (p. 171).

Tomkins quotes at length

“a most extraordinary letter [from John Wesley] to Charles in 1766” in which “he bares his soul in the most bleak and moving way:”
In one of my last [letters] I was saying that I do not feel the wrath of God abiding on me; nor can I believe it does. And yet (this is the mystery), I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word.

Therefore I am only an honest heathen … And yet, to be so employed of God! And so hedged in that I can neither get forward nor backward! Surely there was never such an instance before, from the beginning of the world! If I ever have had that faith, it would not be so strange. But I never had any other evidence of the eternal or invisible world than I have now; and that is none at all, unless such as faintly shines from reason’s glimmering ray. I have no direct witness (I do not say, that I am a child of God, but) of anything invisible or eternal.

And yet I dare not preach otherwise than I do, either concerning faith, or love, or justification, or perfection. And yet I find rather an increase than a decrease of zeal for the whole work of God and every part of it. I am borne along, I know not how, that I can’t stand still. I want all the world to come to what I do not know (p. 168; italics mine).

What are we to make of this bizarre letter of confession? Here, the apostle of free will, now in his sixties, confesses that he does not love God, believe or have the direct witness of divine sonship or even of things invisible or eternal; and that he never did. “I do not love God. I never did … I want all the world to come to what I do not know” (p. 168; italics mine). And can it be that Wesley never gained an interest in the Saviour’s blood?

Wesley’s heretical theology revealed itself very clearly in his (doctrinally significant) abridgement of the Thirty-Nine Articles for the American Methodists (1784).

Tomkins notes,
He left out 15 of the Thirty-Nine Articles, extensively abridging the remainder. The missing articles included ‘Christ Alone Without Sin’ [15], which denied perfection, ‘Predestination and Election’ [17], for obvious reasons, and most notably ‘Works Before Justification’ [13], which, with its overstatement [sic] of the contrast before and after justification, was maybe too much like hard-line evangelicalism for Wesley’s mature tastes (p. 187).
A further comparison of the Thirty-Nine Articles with Wesley’s American Methodist Articles of Religion (1784)-both found in Philip Schaff’s The Creeds of Christendom (vol. 3)-reveals other striking omissions. Gone is the confession of the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed (8), probably because of the “overconfident damnations” of the last (p. 187). More than half of the article on original sin (9) is removed, for it speaks of the inevitable conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Article 18, “Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ,” is gone, as is the second half of article 19, “Of the church,” which states that Rome has not only erred in ceremonies “but also in matters of faith.” The articles on ordination (36) and against lay preaching and lay administering of the sacraments (23) were omitted for obvious reasons.
Key phrases are dropped, for example, the denial of “passions” to God

(1) and the eternal generation of the Son, “begotten from everlasting of the Father” (2).

A defence could at least be made of some of the other omissions. Christ’s descent into hell is not clearly explained in article 3. The homilies (35, 11), the Erastianism of articles 21 (“General councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes”) and 37 (the monarch’s “chief government” of “ecclesiastical or civil” affairs), and the English provenance of articles 35, 36 and 37, would hardly fit with the new American situation.
But the doctrinally significant omissions are a sure mark of the apostasy of John Wesley. His heresies finally resulted in his “gutting” the creed; such is often the case.

Tomkins writes that Wesley “was a founding father of evangelicalism, but for his last 20 years, he consistently retreated from its stark certainties” (p. 196). This is where Wesley’s free will theology took him! Of course! Free will, itself, is the end of the certainties of the evangel, and Wesley’s followers today are still retreating—ever more consistently—from the gospel!
Rev. Angus Stewart

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Arminian Grace

(to the tune of "Amazing Grace")

Arminian "grace!"
How strange the sound,
Salvation hinged on me.
I once was lost then turned around,
Was blind then chose to see.

What "grace" is it that calls for choice,
Made from some good within?
That part that wills to heed God's voice,
Proved stronger than my sin.

Thru many ardent gospel pleas,
I sat with heart of stone.
But then some hidden good in me,
Propelled me toward my home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Because of what we've done,
We've no less days to sing our praise,
Than when we first begun.

Dennis Walter Cochran (Dennis the Poet)