May 17, 2014
Over the past several months, I have been refuting the false doctrine put forth in the e-Sword module “5 Points of Calvinism Refuted”, and we have finally come to the author’s arguments against the doctrine of Preservation. (To see the rest of the posts in this series, select ‘Steve Rudd’ from the ‘Categories’ drop down list to the right.) Today’s post is a guest post: a sermon on the doctrine of Preservation by Marc D. Carpenter.
December 4, 2011
Appendix A: John Wesley’s Vicious Attacks On Augustus Toplady
For those who believe I am too harsh in saying that Wesley made “vicious attatcks” on Augustus Toplady, consider the following incidents. (Please note that this appendix is not intended as an endorsement of either Augustus Toplady or James Hervey; it is only intended to illustrate a specific instance of the conflict between the two of them and John Wesley. For more discussion on the spiritual state of Augustus Toplady, see here.)
In 1769, Augustus Toplady published his translation of Jerome Zanchius’ Absolute Predestination. Consequently, we find among Wesley’s collected letters the following, addressed to Walter Sellon, and dated December 30, 1769:
And pray add a word or two to Mr. Toplady, not only with regard to Zanchius, but his slander on the Church of England. …. He does certainly believe himself to be the greatest genius in England. (13:44)
Apparently Sellon was contemplating a reply to Toplady on a number of issues. But the final form was not entirely decided upon. Wesley’s next letter to Sellon, dated February 21, 1770, reads:
Do not make too much haste. Give everything the last touch. It will be enough if the papers meet me at Manchester before the end of March. I believe it will be the best way to bestow a distinct pamphlet on Mr. Toplady. Surely wisdom will die with him! I believe we can easily get his other tract, which it would be well to sift to the very foundation, in order to stop the mouth of that vain boaster. (13:45)
Apparently, something was brewing. Now, considering the opposition between Wesley and Toplady, one would have certainly expected Wesley to make an attempt at refuting a book entitled Absolute Predestination. But what came next was beyond belief. In March of 1770, a tract was quietly circulated among the Wesleyan Methodists, bearing the title The Doctrine Of Absolute Predestination Stated And Asserted By The Reverend Mr. A— T—.(14:190) Notice that the initials in the title of this tract are not Wesley’s, but those of Augustus Toplady. The “Advertisement” reads:
It is granted that the ensuing tract is, in good measure, a translation. Nevertheless, considering the unparalleled modesty and self-diffidence of the young translator, and the tenderness wherewith he treats his opponents, it may well pass for an original.
1. When all the transactions of providence and grace are wound up in the last day, he (Christ) will then properly sit as judge, and openly publish, and solemnly ratify, if I may so say, his everlasting decrees, by receiving the elect, body and soul into glory: and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for having done what they could not help, but) for their wilful ignorance of divine things and their obstinate unbelief; for their omissions of moral duty, and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions; Doctrine Of Absolute Predestination
2.In the last day Christ will sit as Judge and openly publish and solemnly ratify his everlasting decrees, by receiving the elect into glory, and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for having done what they could not help, but) for their wilful ignorance of divine things and their obstinate unbelief; for their omissions of moral duty, and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions which they could not help. Wesley’s Abridgement, p.9
The final paragraph of this abridgement reads:
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 shall be damned, do what they can. Reader, believe this, or be damned. Witness my hand, A– T–.
Again, the initials are those of Augustus Toplady, but the name of John Wesley or Walter Sellon does not appear anywhere within it. This despicable tactic is, if anything, worse than plagiarism or rumor-mongering. It is putting words into Toplady’s mouth, words that he certainly would never have uttered himself. Toplady wrote a scathing reply, dated March 26, 1770, entitled A Letter To The Rev. Mr. John Wesley Relative To His Pretended Abridgement Of Zanchius On Predestination2.
Whether my view of the doctrine itself be, in fact, right or wrong is no part of the present enquiry: the question is, have you quoted me fairly? Blush, Mr. Wesley, if you are capable of blushing. For once publicly acknowledge yourself to have acted criminally: unless, to use your own words on another occasion, “shame and you have shook hands and parted.”
In almost any other case, a similar forgery would transmit the criminal to Virginia or Maryland, if not to Tyburn. If such an opponent can be deemed an honest man, where shall we find a knave? –What would you think of me, were I infamous enough to abridge any treatise of yours, sprinkle it with interpolations, and conclude it thus: Reader, buy this book, or be damned, Witness my hand, John Wesley? 3
You have obliquely given me a sneering lecture upon “modesty, self-diffidence,and tenderness” to opponents: and it must be owned, that the lesson comes with a peculiar grace and quite in character from you. The words sound well: but, like many other prescribers, you say and do not. Go now, sir, and dazzle the credulous with your mock victory over the supposed reprobation of “nineteen in twenty.” Go on to chalk hideous figures on your wainscot; and enjoy the glorious triumph of battering your knuckles in fighting them. But father no more of your hideous figures on me. Do not dress up scare-crows of your own, and then affect to run away from them as mine. I do not expect to be treated by Mr. John Wesley with the candour of a gentleman, or the meekness of a Christian; but I wish him, for his reputation’s sake, to write and act with the honesty of a heathen. 4
In January of 1771, the letter was republished with an introduction that contained the following:
Nine months are now elapsed since the first publication of this letter; in all which time Mr. W. has neither apologized for the misdemeanor which occasioned his hearing from me in this public manner, nor attempted to answer the charges entered against him. Judging, probably, that the former would be too condescending in one who has erected himself into the leader of a sect, and that the latter would prove rather too difficult a task, and involve him in a subsequent train of fresh detections, he has prudently omitted both. …. The reason is obvious. Mr. W. is a red-hot Arminian: and the sagacious doctors can discern, with half an eye, that Arminianism lies within a bowshot of Socinianism and Deism. 5
In March of 1771, Wesley published a revision of his collected works, with a Preface that contained the following incredible statement:
In revising what I had wrote on so many various subjects and occasions, and for so long a course of years, I found cause for not only literal or verbal corrections, but frequently for correcting the sense also. I am the more concerned to do this, because none but myself has a right to do it. (1:iii, Preface To The Third Edition)
In August of 1771, Wesley finally responded to Toplady’s Letter with a tract entitled The Consequence Proved, which began with these words:
Mr. Toplady, a young, bold man, lately published a pamphlet, an extract from which was soon after printed, concluding 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 shall be damned, do what they can.” A great outcry has been raised on that account, as though this was not a fair state of the case; and it has been vehemently affirmed, that no such consequence follows from the doctrine of absolute predestination.
I calmly affirm, it is a fair state of the case; this consequence does naturally and necessarily follow from the doctrine of absolute predestination as here stated and defended by bold Mr. Augustus Toplady. (10:370, The Consequence Proved)
Several points should be made about these paragraphs. Notice first, that Wesley made no attempt to deny his involvement in the production of this pamphlet. Secondly, observe that in his quote of the final paragraph, Wesley has entirely omitted the phrases “Reader, believe this or be damned”, and “Witness my hand, A– T–.” Thirdly, notice that he has entirely sidestepped the issue of whether he had a right to abridge Toplady’s translation of Zanchius. Toplady had never insisted that “this was not a fair state of the case.” Rather, he had said, “Whether my view of the doctrine itself be, in fact, right or wrong is no part of the present enquiry: the question is, have you quoted me fairly?” And lastly, let us also notice that it happens to be gloriously true that “The elect shall be saved, do what they will:” while “The reprobate shall be damned, do what they can.” The elect shall be saved no matter how worthless and defiled their good works are, while the reprobate shall certainly be damned, no matter how much they sin (for that is all they can do). This, of course, isn’t quite what Wesley had in mind.
Presumably, Wesley meant that a belief in predestination naturally produces a fatalistic Antinomianism, causing people who fancy themselves elect to live dissolute lives, believing that it makes no difference to their election. Further, he apparently meant that a belief in predestination discourages those who fancy themselves reprobate from repentance. There is also the unspoken charge that Toplady thought he knew the number of the elect and the number of the reprobate. Then Wesley went on to say that, on the basis of Calvinism, sin could not exist, and God could not judge the world:
Mr. Toplady says, “God has a positive will to destroy the reprobate for their sins.” (Chap. 1) For their sins! How can that be? I positively assert, that (on this scheme) they have no sins at all. They never had; they can have none. For it cannot be a sin in a spark to rise, or in a stone to fall. And the spark of the stone is not more necessarily determined either to rise or to fall, than the man is to sin …. God himself did “predestinate them to fill up the measure of their iniquities;” …. So, “God decreed the Jews to be the crucifiers of Christ, and Judas to betray him.” (Chap. 4.) Whose fault was it then? You plainly say, It was not his fault, but God’s. For what was Judas, or ten thousand reprobates besides? Could they resist his decree? (10:372, The Consequence Proved)
How then can the Judge of all the earth consign them to everlasting fire, for what was in effect his own act and deed? I apprehend, then, this is no fallacious objection, byt a solid and weighty one; and defy any man living, who asserts the unconditional decree of reprobation or preterition (just the same in effect,) to reconcile this with the scriptural doctrine fo a future judgment. I say again, I defy any man on earth to show, how, on this scheme, God can “judge the world in righteousness.” (10:374, The Consequence Proved)
These accusations are serious, and shall be dealt with in turn.
The charge of Antinomianism is one that has been leveled against salvation by the grace of God even since the days of Paul the Apostle (Rom 3:8). Modern predestinarians would do well not to panic when such an accusation arises, let alone concede the argument; instead they should take a lesson from Paul:
Rom 3:31 Then do we make law of no effect through faith? Let it not be! But we establish the law (emph. mine – CA).
The doctrine of predestination doesn’t encourage lawlessness, it makes obedience to the law possible! A belief in the doctrine of predestination allows a saint to seek to please God out of gratitude for what he has already done in the person of Jesus Christ, and confidence that God himself will complete the work, all based on the certainty of eternal election. Just as it gives Christians assurance that our efforts in evangelism will be successful (no matter what the outward appearance), so it provides for us a basis for true repentance, obedience, and good works.
We have already seen that Wesley’s Perfectionism produces Antinomianism. But the foundation of Perfectionism is the Arminian doctrine of Free Will. The following quote, cited by Augustus Toplady, shows us the that the true foundation of Antinomianism is, not Unconditional Election, but Free Will:
“This … was the refuge and χρεσφφυδετοον of that grand propagator of Arminianism, Mr. Thompson [one of the translators of the 1611 KJV — CA]. When he was in a fit of intemperance, if any one reminded him of the wrath of God threatened against such courses, he would answer, I am a child of the devil to-day; but I have free-will; and to morrow I will make myself a child of God.” Hickman’s Animadv. on Heylin, p.91, and 227.
Free-Will, in exalting Man above God, is the very essence of Antinomianism, and careless living. It encourages independence from God, and therefore causes Man to sit in judgement over God, reject any Scripture which Man doesn’t happen to like, speak peace to those who also believe in Free Will, and persecute those who don’t.
Toplady responded to The Consequence Proved with a public letter entitled More Work For Mr. John Wesley:
The point of enquiry, then is, Whether the elect themselves can be ultimately saved without being previously sanctified by inherent grace, and, (if adult) without evidencing that sanctification (according as ability and opportunity are given), by walking in the way of God’s commandments. …. The elect could no more be saved without personal holiness than they could be saved without personal existence. And why? because God’s own decree secures the means as well as the end, and accomplishes the end by the means. The same gratuitous predestination which ordained the existence of the elect as men ordained their purification as saints: and they were ordained to both, in order to their being finally and completely saved in Jesus Christ with eternal glory. …. God resolved that Hezekiah should live fifteen years longer than Hezekiah expected. Hezekiah might therefore, according to Mr. Wesley’s plan have argued thus: “God has promised me fifteen years of life to come. Ergo, Live I shall, do what I will: die I shall not, do what I can. I will therefore neither eat, drink, nor sleep. Nay, I will tie a millstone round my neck and throw myself headlong into the sea, from the highest precipice I can find.” I answer, No. For it was as much comprised in God’s decree that Hezekiah should eat, drink, and sleep, during those fifteen years; and that he should not jump into the sea with a millstone about his neck; as that fifteen years should be added to his life. 6
In response to the charge that “the reprobate shall be damned, do what they can”, Toplady wrote:
… John offers a query: “Can they avoid it” [i.e. can the reprobate avoid punishment] “by any thing they do?” Let me also put a query to the querist: can you prove that any one of them ever did what he could to avoid it? If this cannot be proved, it does not follow that “the reprobate shall be damned, do what they can.”7
Wesley was proceeding from the assumption that Man has a Free Will, and can repent any time he feels like it. But these verses teach otherwise:
John 1:13 who were born not of bloods, nor of [the] will of [the] flesh, nor of [the] will of man, but [were born] of God. [emph. mine — CA]
Acts 5:31 This One God [has] exalted [as] a Ruler and Savior to His right [hand], to give to Israel repentance and remission of sins. [emph. mine — CA]
Philippians 1:29 because it was granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf. [emph. mine — CA]
That God does not give justifying faith to all is no excuse for those who continue in sin. No one is discouraged from repentance on the basis of their reprobation, just as no one is called to repentance on the basis of their election. Both of these assertions are really caricatures of biblical predestination. They are both false because, just as we must not approach the Father through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, so we must not approach the Father through the electing work of the Father himself. Rather, we are called to approach the Father through the atoning work of the Son.(Jn 14:6) No sinner should ever be discouraged from seeking the Lord for fear he might not be elect. Let that sinner look to the Crucifixion, not Election, to be saved. (Jn 12:32)
We have already examined the accusation that Predestination eliminates the accountability of Man. But here, Wesley asserts further that there can be no Final Judgment. Toplady responds:
For absolute predestination is the very thing that renders the future judgment certain: God hath appointed [εστησεν , hath fixed] a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained [ωρισεν , decreed:] Acts xvii. 31. –Nay, says Mr. John, “It requires more pains than all the men upon earth and all the devils in hell will ever be able to take:” viz. to reconcile the doctrine of reprobation with the doctrine of a judgment day. Be not quite so fiery, meek Mr. John. It might perhaps be for your interest … to find that reprobates cannot be judged. But feed not yourself with such delusive hope. I have already shewn that even the most flagrant sinners sin voluntarily, notwithstanding the inevitable accomplishment of God’s effective and permissive decrees. Now they who sin voluntarily are accountable: and accountable sinners are judicable: and if judicable, they are punishable. 8
Lastly there is the desperate accusation that Toplady could determine the number of elect and the number of reprobate all by himself. In his A Letter To The Rev. Mr. John Wesley ,Toplady had already written:
Let me likewise ask you when or where I ever presumed to ascertain the number of God’s elect? Point out the treatise and the page, wherein I assert that only “One in twenty of mankind are elected.” The book of life is not in your keeping, nor in mine. The Lord, and the Lord only, knoweth them that are his. He alone who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names, calleth also his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out, first from a state of sin into a state of grace, and then into the state of glory. Yet, … it is but too certain that in the Scriptures are such awful passages as these: Broad is the way and wide is the gate which leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: while on the other hand, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few therebe that find it”. — “Many are called, but few chosen.” –“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” — “There is a remnant, according to the election ofgrace”. Declarations of this tremendous import, instead of furnishing you with fuel for contention, and setting you on a presumptuous and fruitless calculation of the number that shall be saved or lost, should rather bring you on your knees before God, with your hand upon your breast and this cry in your lips: “Search me, O Lord, and try me; prove me also and examine my thoughts. Shew me to which class I belong. Give me solid proof that my name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, by making it clear to me that I am in the faith.9
Now he adds:
In his printed letter to the late truly reverend and amiable Mr. Hervey, he charged that incomparable man, and the Calvinistic party in general, with holding the reprobation of “nine out of ten (See Wesley’s Preservative, p.235). In March 1770, we were charged with holding as above, that “nineteen in twenty are reprobated (See Wesley’s pretended Abridgment of Zanchius, p. 12.).” In February 1771, we were charged with holding the reprobation of “forty-nine out of fifty (See a Scurrilous Letter, signed John Wesley, in Lloyd’s Evening Post, for Friday, March 1, 1771.).” And now, about five months after, the glass is sunk 30 degrees lower, and in “The Consequence Proved” stands again at “nineteen out of twenty.” Next spring I suppose it will rise to ninety-nine out of a hundred.10
No predestinarian (so far as I am aware) has ever attempted to calculate the exact number of the elect; or the reprobate either, for that matter. This is simply a straw-man. Yet Wesley was so enamored with this straw-predestinarian that he wrote, in reference to the “The Gospel Magazine” (edited by Wm. Gadsby):
[It] intended to show, that God is not loving to every man; that his mercy is not over all his works; and, consequently, that Christ did not die for all, but for one in ten, for the elect only.
This comfortable doctrine, the sum of which, is, God before the foundation of the world, absolutely and irrevocably decreed, that “some men shall be saved, do what they will; and the rest damned, do what they can.” (14:279, General Preface to The Arminian Magazine: …1778-1791)
In 1778, Wesley published A Letter To The Rev. Mr. Thomas Maxfield, dated February 14. It ended with the following astounding question:
Bitterness and wrath, yea, low, base, virulent invective, both Mr. Richard and Mr. Rowland Hill (as well as Mr. Toplady) have poured out upon me, in great abundance. But where have I, in one single instance, returned them railing for railing? (11:483)
Later in 1778, Augustus Toplady became severely ill, and did not expect to live long. At this time, a rumor circulated that he had died in a delirium, recanting his Calvinism, and requesting to see John Wesley. On Sunday, June 14, to the great surprise of his congregation, Toplady appeared, ascended the pulpit, and was able to speak a few words. His testimony was printed a week later, under the title The Rev. Mr. Toplady’s Dying Avowal of his Religious Sentiments.
“Whereas, some time since, a wicked, scandalous and false report was diffused in various parts of this kingdom, by the followers of Mr. John Wesley; purporting, that I have changed some of my religious sentiments, especially such of them as relate more immediately to the doctrines of grace, I thought it my indispensible duty, on the Sunday after I received this information, which was the 13th of June last, publicly to declare myself … Now, I do publicly aver, that I have not, nor ever had, any such intention or desire; and that I most sincerely hope my last hours will be much better employed than in conversing with such a man. To which I added “so certain am I, of all that I have ever written, that were I sitting up in my dying bed with a pen and ink in my hand, and all the religious and controversial writings I ever published (more especially those relating to Mr. John Wesley, and the Arminian controversy), whether respecting facts or doctrines, could at once be displayed to my view,I should not strike out a single line relative to him or them.11
He went on to say:
Toplady died August 11th, 1778. Very soon after this a second rumor was circulated that he had “died in black despair, uttering the most horrible blasphemies;”. Richard Hill wrote a public letter to Wesley:
Nay, it was even positively alleged, that you told Mr. Thomas Robinson of Hilderthorpe, near Bridlington, in Yorkshire, and the Rev. Mr. Greaves, curate to Mr. Fletcher of Madeley, that the account published concerning Mr. Toplady’s death was a gross imposition on the public; for that he died in black despair, uttering the most horrible blasphemies; and that none of his friends were permitted to see him. …. Now, sir, as many living, respectable witnesses can testify that Mr. Toplady departed this life in full triumph of faith, … you are earnestly requested, for the satisfaction of your friends, thus publicly to assure the world, that you never advanced any thing of this sort to Mr. Robinson, Mr. Greaves, or to any other person; or else that you will produce your authority for your assertions; 13
A few months later, this letter was republished with a second letter to the same effect, and a list of names of people who had been present with Toplady at the time of his death. They were all “willing to testify upon oath, if required, that all the particulars published to the world in the late Memoirs, relative to the illness and death of the late Rev. Augustus Montague Toplady are strictly true;” This list included Toplady’s doctor and nurse. Here was a golden opportunity for Wesley to publicly clear himself from the charge of violating the Ninth Commandment, yet he never seems to have answered these letters.
June 12, 2010
Last time, I wrote about John MacArthur’s promotion of Common Grace, where he put forth the view that God blesses people apart from the righteousness of Christ. Today, I want to look at MacArthur’s definition of saving Faith. John MacArthur is perhaps best known for his position on Lordship Salvation, which is his way of combating Antinomianism. Regrettably, however, he does it by redefining the nature of Faith:
The Bible says that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved. However, the Bible does not present faith as simply “mental assent to the facts of the gospel.” (What is the nature of true saving faith?, 5/30/10)
This is completely untrue. We know this because we just happen to have a definition of faith in the Bible:
But without faith it is impossible to please God. For it is right that the one drawing near to God should believe that He is, and that He becomes a rewarder to the ones seeking Him out. (Hebrews 11:6, LITV)
Here the apostle says that the person with faith must (A) know some facts about God (such as his existence and goodness) and (B) assent to these facts, and believe that they are true. This is what faith is, whether it be faith in the Gospel, or faith in anything else: mere mental assent. Adding new things to the definition of faith is destructive of faith, even if those things, like obedience and good works, are commanded in the Bible.
MacArthur goes on to say this about the nature of faith;
True saving faith involves repentance from one’s sin and a complete trust in the work of Christ to save from sin and make one righteous. The Reformers spoke of three aspects of faith: recognition of the truth claims of the gospel, acknowledgment of their truthfulness and exact correspondence to man’s spiritual need, and a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ who, by virtue of His death, provides the only sufficient sacrifice for one’s personal sin. Any one of these three aspects of faith, taken by themselves, is insufficient to meet the biblical definition of saving faith. However, the presence of all three components together results in saving faith. In other words, saving faith consists of mental, emotional, and volitional elements. (What is the nature of true saving faith?, 5/30/10)
So in addition to knowledge and assent, here MacArthur would like to add “repentance” and “a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ” to the definition of faith. I’m sure this sounds like a great idea, one that is necessary to combat the easy-believism so common in the professing church, but it sets up an impossible standard. An infinitely holy God could never accept anything less than total and perfect commitment. Thus it would be impossible for any mere human being to meet that standard, and all would be eternally lost.
Praise God that Jesus Christ has already met that standard on behalf of his people, establishing a perfect righteousness on their behalf. And praise God that he has also revealed that when he imputes that righteousness to one of his own, he always gives them a desire to repent of their sins and obey his commands and laws. Thus, if someone claims to believe the Gospel, yet has no desire to repent of his sins or obey God’s commandments, we know that that person has not been given faith. Contrary to MacArthur, faith always results in commitment to Christ, not the other way around.