Home > Calvinism, Election > The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11c. CONCLUSION

We shall now turn our attention to Calvinism as an evangelizing force. A very practical test for any system of religious doctrine is, “Has it, in comparison with other systems, proved itself a success in the evangelization of the world ?” To save sinners and convert them to practical godliness is the chief purpose of the Church in this world; and the system which will not measure up to this test must be set aside, no matter how popular it may be in other respects.

The first great Christian revival, in which three thousand people were converted, occurred under the preaching of Peter in Jerusalem, who employed such language as this: “Him being delivered up by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hands of lawless men did crucify and slay,” Act 2:23. And the company of disciples, when in earnest prayer shortly afterward, spoke in these words: “For of a truth in this city against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass,” Act 4:27, Act 4:28. That is Calvinism rigid enough.

The next great revival in the Church, which occurred in the fourth century through the influence of Augustine, was based on these doctrines, as is readily seen by anyone who reads the literature on that period. The Reformation, which is admitted by all to have been incomparably the greatest revival of true religion since New Testament times, occurred under the soundly predestinarian preaching of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. To Calvin and Admiral Coligny belongs the credit of having inspired the first Protestant foreign missionary enterprise, the expedition to Brazil in 1555. True, the venture proved unsuccessful, and the religious wars in Europe prevented the renewal of the enterprise for a considerable period.

McFetridge has given us some interesting and comparatively unknown facts about the rise of the Methodist Church. Says he: “We speak of the Methodist Church beginning in a revival. And so it did. But the first and chief actor in that revival was not Wesley, but Whitefield (an uncompromising Calvinist). Though a younger man than Wesley, it was he who first went forth preaching in the fields and gathering multitudes of followers, and raising money and building chapels. It was Whitefield who invoked the two Wesleys to his aid. And he had to employ much argument and persuasion to overcome their prejudices against the movement. Whitefield began the great work at Bristol and Kingswood, and had found thousands flocking to his side, ready to be organized into churches, when he appealed to Wesley for assistance. Wesley, with all his zeal, had been quite a High- Churchman in many of his views. He believed in immersing even the infants, and demanded that dissenters should be rebaptized before being taken into the Church. He could not think of preaching in any place but in a church. ‘He should have thought,’ as he said, ‘the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.’ Hence when Whitefield called on John Wesley to engage with him in the popular movement, he shrank back. Finally, he yielded to Whitefield’s persuasions, but, he allowed himself to be governed in the decision by what many would rate as a superstition. He and Charles first opened their Bibles at random to see if their eyes should fall on a text which might decide them. But the texts were all foreign to the subject. Then he had recourse to sortilege, and cast lots to decide the matter. The lot drawn was the one marked for him to consent, and so he consented. Thus he was led to undertake the work with which his name has been so intimately and honorably associated ever since.

So largely was the Methodist movement owing to Whitefield that he was called ‘the Calvinistic establisher of Methodism,’ and to the end of his life he remained the representative of it in the eyes of the learned world. Walpole, in his Letters, speaks only once of Wesley in connection with the rise of Methodism, while he frequently speaks of Whitefield in connection with it. Mant, in his course of lectures against Methodism, speaks of it as an entirely Calvinistic affair. Neither the mechanism nor the force which gave rise to it originated with Wesley. Fieldpreaching, which gave the whole movement its aggressive character, and fitted and enabled it to cope with the powerful agencies which were armed against it, was begun by Whitefield, whilst ‘Wesley was dragged into it reluctantly.’ In the polite language of the day ‘Calvinism’ and ‘Methodism’ were synonymous terms, and the Methodists were called ‘another sect of Presbyterians.’ ….

It was Calvinism, and not Arminianism, which originated (so far as any system of doctrine originated) the great religious movement in which the Methodist Church was born.

While, therefore, Wesley is to be honored for his work in behalf of that Church, we should not fail to remember the great Calvinist, George Whitefield, who gave that Church her first beginnings and her most distinctive character. Had he lived longer, and not shrunk from the thought of being the founder of a Church, far different would have been the results of his labors. As it was, he gathered congregations for others to form into Churches, and built chapels for others to preach in.”[73]

It should also be said at this point that Wesley was a believer in witchcraft. Failure to believe in witches was looked upon by him as a concession to infidels and rationalists. Many of his biographers have passed over this subject in silence, although some of those most friendly to his cause have admitted that he stated his beliefs in words which cannot be misunderstood. In his Journal we read this report of a girl who was subject to fits: “When old Doctor Alexander was asked what her disorder was, he answered, ‘It is what formerly they would have called being bewitched.’ And why should they not call it so now? Because the infidels have hooted witchcraft out of the world; and the complaisant Christians, in large numbers, have joined them in the cry.” Although Calvin lived two and a quarter centuries before Wesley and had not the advantages of the scientific and intellectual progress that had been made during that time, we find no such strange credulity in him. His writings are not only free from witchcraft but contain numerous warnings against such belief.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

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