Predestination or Freewill Part 1: The Great Debate Ground Rule

2 Timothy 2:24, 25
       The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Give men time. I took three years of constant study, reflection, and discussion to arrive where I now am.

AUGUSTUS TOPLADY (1713-1778): Though awakened in 1756, I was not led into a clear and full view of all the doctrines of grace till the year 1758, when, through the great goodness of God, my Arminian prejudices received an effectual shock in reading Thomas Manton’s sermons on the seventeenth chapter of St. John. I shall remember the years 1756 and 1758 with gratitude and joy in the heaven of heavens to all eternity…It pleased God to deliver me from the Arminian snare before I was quite eighteen. Up to that period there was not―I confess it with abasement―a more haughty and violent free-willer within the compass of the four seas [than I].

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I remember, when I was converted to God, I was an Arminian thoroughly―when I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): I am sure we are all Arminians by nature; and, therefore, no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): John Wesley was an Arminian in doctrine.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): Wesley was not in all matters a safe guide.

J. C. RYLE:  I fully admit the seriousness of the objection. I do not pretend either to explain the charge away, or to defend his objectionable opinions…If I am asked whether I prefer Whitefield’s gospel or Wesley’s, I answer at once that I prefer Whitefield’s: I am a Calvinist, and not an Arminian. But if I am asked to go further, and to say that Wesley preached no gospel at all, and did not real good, I answer at once that I cannot do so…Whether we like it or not, John Wesley was a mighty instrument in God’s hand for good; and, next to George Whitefield, was the first and foremost evangelist [during the Methodist Revival of the 18th Century].

FRANCES BEVAN: Whilst deeply thankful to God for the grace given to him we must not make excuses for that in him which was contrary to the mind of God.

C. H. SPURGEON: I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I remember speaking once a little on the difference between the theological standpoints of Whitefield and Wesley, [and] I made a remark which I repeat on this occasion. I said that John Wesley was to me the greatest proof of Calvinism. Why? Because in spite of his faulty thinking he was greatly used of God to preach the gospel and to convert souls! That is the ultimate proof of Calvinism—predestination and election…Though a man may be muddled in his thinking, as John Wesley was at certain points, God may nevertheless bless him and use him. And if He cannot do this, then there is no such thing as the sovereignty of God, and His omnipotence.

J. C. RYLE: That Wesley would have done better if he could have thrown off his Arminianism, I have not the least doubt.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Are you persuaded you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point me out a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture.

AUGUSTUS TOPLADY: You complain, I am told, that the evangelical clergy are leaving no stone unturned “to raise John Calvin’s ghost, in all quarters of the land.” If you think the doctrines of that eminent and blessed reformer to be as formidable as a ghost, you are welcome to come to do all you can towards laying them [to rest]. Begin your incantations as soon as you please! The press is open, and you never had fairer opportunity of trying your strength upon John Calvin than at present.

J. C. RYLE: Arminianism seems to have precisely the same effect on [Toplady] that a scarlet cloak seems to have on a bull.

JOHN WESLEY: To say, “This man is an Arminian,” has the same effect on many hearers as to say, “This is a mad dog.” It puts them into a fright at once: they run away from him with all speed and diligence, and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I readily believe, that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by, the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse was always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who, for want of clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord. And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to abase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit…Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.

JOHN WESLEY: If I linger in the path I have been accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little; take me by the hand and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace; I can go but feebly and slowly at best.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: John Wesley was an Arminian, but he believed in original sin and also that a man could do nothing about his salvation apart from grace. But he also believed that this grace was available to all, and that it was left to man himself to decide whether to take advantage of it or not…What if he is an Arminian? What if he does not understand the doctrines of grace? How are we to treat him? Are we to despise him, are we to dismiss him as a fool, or as a nonentity, or as a man who knows nothing—is that to be the attitude?

HULDRYCH ZWINGLI (1484-1531): If we blacken our opponents with rough words, the stain may well become so great that the truth is lost, as in the old saying: In the multitude of strife, truth is forfeit. For that reason I ask scholars not to overload the matter with their hostile clamour, but conduct themselves with sobriety. Otherwise as much evil will issue from the roughness of the words as good is wrested from their meaning and force.

JOHN WESLEY: May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring into the right way? Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong―this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way. Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If anger once arise, this smoke will so dim the eyes of my soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God’s sake, if it be possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be loss, rather than gain?

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Let no man hesitate to acknowledge, that he is incapable of understanding the mysteries of God, any further than he has been illuminated by Divine grace…We must now discuss the matter.


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