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words of the recognized authorities of the system. The leaders of the antinomian patty at that time were William Cudworth and James Relly, who separated from Mr. Whitefield. “These were properly antinomians; absolute avowed enemies of the law of God, which they never preached or professed to preach, but termed all legalists who did. With them, preaching the law was an abominatian.” (History of Methodism.)
The next tract on the subject was “Serious Thoughts on the Perseverance of the Saints.” Eight portions of Scripture are quoted, and eight strong propositions are deduced from them, against the unconditional and final perseverance of Christians, and to show that they may fall and finally perish. The tract also rebuts false interpretations, wrong conclusions, and various objections. Like the other treatises on the Calvinistic controversy, it is clear, concise, to the point, earnest, and effective. Singular is the tenacity in which the predestinarians hold fast to the point of final perseverance. St. Paul declares that one may be destroyed or lost “for whom Christ died.” (Rom. xiv, 15.) No, say the predestinarians, none can be lost for whom Christ died. No, says the commentator, Mr. Scott; "the apostles did not write in that exact systematical style which some affect, or they would scrupulously have avoided such expressions," namely, as that any could be destroyed for whom Christ died. The commentator forgot that his author wrote not for a system but from inspiration of God.
The Rev. James Hervey—now remembered as the author of the florid and piously sentimental composition of “Meditations among the Tombs, in a Flower Garden,” etc.-published a predestinarian work in the form of Dialogues of Theron and Aspasio. Mr. Wesley sent letters to the author (bis former pupil, and one of the Oxford Methodists) objecting to various parts of the dialogues Mr. Hervey prepared eleven letters in reply, but hesitated to publish. In 1758 he died, and his executors published them. They were noted for great asperity, and were very injurious to the spread of Methodism, especially in Scotland. In his Preface to Goodwin's treatise on Justification, Mr. Wesley notices and refutes twelve of the personalities. Some of these accused him of acting unworthy a gentleman, a Christian, or a man of sense; of impudence; of denying justification by faith, and being an enemy to the righteousness of Christ; of being a heretic, propagating poisonous doctrine; of being an antinomian; of teaching popish doctrine; and of being a knave, a dishonest man, one of no truth, justice, or integrity. It was thought that these ornaments in the eleven letters were interpolations of the publisher, William Cudworth, the Antinomian.
The Rev. Dr. Erskine, a Scotch minister, wrote a defense of Mr. Hervey's writings. Mr. Wesley published in 1766 "some remarks”
“ on the defense, complaining of the bitter spirit of Dr. Erskine, and of his recommendation of the eleven letters:
"You ushered into this part of the world (Scotland) one of the most bitter libels that was ever penned against me; written by a dying man, (so far as it was written by poor, well-meaning Mr. Hervey,) with a trembling hand, just as he was tottering on the margin of the grave. . . . He then fell on one to whom he had the deepest obligations, on one who had never intentionally wronged him, who had never spoken an unkind word of him, or to him, and who loved him as his own child. O tell it not in Gath! The good Mr. Her. vey (if these letters were his) died cursing his spiritual father! And these letters another good man has introduced into Scotland, and warmly recommended.”
After this he answered the question “What is an Arminian?" and signed himself in the tract "a lover of free grace.” Many looked upon an Arminian as a mad dog, and yet knew not what an Arminian was. The answer shows that the chief difference in the Calvinist and Arminian is, that the former holds to unconditional and the latter conditional election. The whole predestinarian dispute may be resolved into the two words, conditional election or unconditional!
Accompanying the tract is another, showing “Thoughts upon God's Sovereignty.” One expression in the treatise comes to the verge of Calvinism:
“ It may be allowed that God acts as Sovereign in convincing some souls of sin, arresting them in their wild career by his resistless power. It seems also that, at the moment of our conversion, he acts irresistibly. There may be likewise many irresistible touches during the course of our Christian warfare."
So far he speaks as a Calvinist; but as an Arminian, he says that every individual may, after all that God has done, either improve his grace, or make it of none effect.”
In 1770 came out the celebrated Minutes of the London Methodist Conference, kindling up as a wind the predestinarian dispute to the highest flame. The Minutes asserted that the Methodist preachers, in their care not to offend, had leaned too much toward Calvinism, 1. In not enough insisting on the necessity of man's faithfulness; 2. In not sufficiently showing that there is working for life as well as from life; and, 3. In not insisting enough that man must do (not nothing, but) much in order to justification. The Calvinists were exceedingly displeased. Lady Iluntingdon and her friend, Rev. Mr. Shirley, sounded an alarm that Mr. Wesley and his preachers had broached principles “injurious to the very fundamental principles of Christianity,” forming "dreadful heresy." Here was the occasion of the Rev. John Fletcher entering on the
path of controversy. First, he published a Vindication of the Minutes, or his first Check to Antinomianism. Then followed his second, third, and fourth Checks. The new Arminian defender did the work so well, and was found so able to cope with the dispute and the disputants, that Mr. Wesley did not enter the arena.
But in 1772 he sent out “Some Remarks on Mr. Hill's Review of all the Doctrines taught by Mr. John Wesley.” He laments Mr. Fletcher's gentleness and mildness in writing to the bitter Calvinists, which were interpreted as “mere sneer and sarcasm;" as for himself, he says: “I have humbled myself to these men for these thirty years; but will do so no more. Whatever mercy you show, you are to expect no mercy from them. “Mercy,' did I say? Alas! I expect no justice; no more than I have found already. As they have wrested and distorted my words from the beginning, so 1 expect they will do to the end." Here we have an insight into the bitterness of the predestinarian writers of the eighteenth century. Next to Mr. Hervey, Mr. Richard Hill (afterward Sir Richard) was the most angry controversialist:
“ Growing desperate, and making toward him
With a determined gladiatorial air.” Mr. Wesley contends that all the objections in the Review were old, and had been answered again and again, excepting one, a note in the New Testament, which he promised to correct. Having drawn the sword in the new predestinarian campaign, he also threw away the scabbard. Says he:
“ I will no more desire any Arminian, so called, to remain only on the defensive. Rather chase the fiend, Reprobation, to his own hell, and every doctrine connected with it. Let none pity or spare one limb of either speculative or practical antinomianism; or of any doctrine that naturally tends thereto, however vailed under the specious name of free grace.”
Mr. Ilill replied to Mr. Wesley, who replied again in “Some Remarks on Mr. Hill's Farrago Double Distilled,” in 1773, and related the following little anecdote:
“ One Sunday, immediately after sermon, my father's clerk said, with an audible voice, . Let us sing to the praise and glory of God a hymn of my own composing.' It was short and sweet:
King William is come home, come home!
King William home is come!
The hymn that's called Te D'um !""
his mature and old age. He scrupled not to call the venerable Wesley “ the lying apostle of the Foundry,” and spoke of the claws of the designing wolf;" designated the conference “ Wesley's ragged legion of preaching tinkers, scavengers, draymen, and chimney sweepers ;” and asks, “ Why do not they keep the shatter-brained old gent locked up in a garret ?” Next came on the arena the Rev. Augustus Toplady; but all Mr. Wesley wrote against this “ young bold man” was a tract of four pages. Nor did he soil his fingers any more with these virulent predestinarians, but left them in the grip of Mr. Fletcher, Mr. Oliver, and Mr. Sellon. Still he kept up a fire on Calvinism in his Arminian Magazine, begun 1778, as long as he lived.
The predestinarian controversy, we see, occupied a large amount of the attention of our founder, as well as his brother, and the preachers generally. They all looked upon Calvinism as the deadly enemy of Scriptural holiness, and therefore fought it with all their might. “All the devices of Satan, for these fifty years, have done far less toward stopping this work of God than that single doctrine. It strikes at the root of salvation from sin, previous to glory, putting the matter on quite another issue." (Larger Minutes, quest. 74.)
2. The philosophical and religious subject of Necessity, a kindred topic to predestination, attracted the thoughts of Mr. Wesley, and he published two tracts on the inquiry, Whether man is under the law of necessity? or, Is he a free agent? He takes notice of and opposes different theories, as the vibrations of the brain, the animal spirits, the inward mechanism as clock-work, and the scheme of motives by President Edwards. The latter argues that actions are caused by motives, that motives are not under our power, and therefore what we do is from necessity.
3. One of the earliest controversies of Mr. Wesley was on the subject of Miracles. The Rev. Dr. Middleton, librarian of Trinity College, Cambridge, published, in 1748, a "Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers which are supposed to have subsisted in the Christian Church from the Earliest Ages." Several writers attacked the work, (of nearly four hundred quarto pages,) which was generally condemned by the clergy. "I had designed to set out with a friend for Rotterdam,” says Mr. Wesley, January 2, 1749, “ but being much pressed to answer Dr. Middleton's book against the Fathers, I postponed my voyage, and spent almost twenty days in the unpleasant employment." The answer is called “A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Conyers Middleton, occasioned by his late Free Inquiry.” The promise to work miracles is Mark xiv, 17, 18. Another Scripture for the exemplifications of the power is Acts ii, 16, 17.
And a further account is 1 Cor. xii, 4-11. The chief spiritual or miraculous gifts were eight, namely: "(1.) Casting out devils ; (2.) Speaking with new tongues; (3.) Escaping dangers, in which otherwise they must have perished; (4.) Healing the sick; (5.) Prophecy, foretelling things to come; (6.) Visions; (7.) Divine dreams; and (8.) Discerning spirits.” After the lifetime of the apostles, these gifts remained with the Church until the fourth century, as is proved by the testimonies of the early writers, and by the traditions handed down from generation to generation. Middleton (not a strong believer in the Scriptures, though a reverend) attacked the evidences, argued that they only proved frauds and no miracles; or if miracles, then the same kind of evidence proves the frauds of the Romish Church miracles. In reply, Mr. Wesley contended that the testimonies of the Fathers for the miracles of the three first centuries is good; but not so the testimonies for the popish frauds. He also declares that in overturning the testimonies of the early Fathers, he overturns the testimony of the earlier Fathers, the writers of the New Testament, for the miracles of Christ, the apostles, and the first Christians. Middleton is closely followed by his logical opponent, who convicts him of many false conclusions, of no little ignorance of the Fathers, of various instances of self-contradiction, and for affording ground for suspicion of his own orthodoxy. The letter is still worth reading on the important subject of the Miracles of the Primitive Church. Dr. Middleton's work excited much interest (as well as some other of his works) in their day, chiefly by their excellent style. The Inquiry is noted for effecting the conversion of Gibbon, the historian of the Roman Empire-then a student in Oxford—from the Protestant to the Roman Catholic Church in 1753.
4. The defense of Methodism, as the new system was called by the enemies of it, engaged the controversial pen of the founder for many years of his life. He began in 1740, and in a reply to “a late pamphlet, entitled, '. A brief History of the Principles of Methodism,' written by a Dr. Tucker.” His reply gave the real “ Principles of a Methodist," and was, he considered, his first appearance as a controversialist. Says he:
“ I have often wrote on controverted points before, but not with an eye to any particular person; so that this is the first time I have appeared in controversy, properly so called. . . . I now tread an untried path with fear and trembling; fear not of my adversary, but of myself. I fear my own spirit; lest I fall where many mightier have been slain.”
He considered a controversialist should " keep steadily and uniformly to the question, without ever striking at the person;" and his many controversies show that this he ever kept in view.