Murray on Catholicity

Posted by Bernard Rosario On 4:18 PM 0 comments

This post is a survey of Iain Murray's article on the historical background of Whitefield's letter and is intended to be the third in a 3-part study:
Part 1 - Wesley on Predestination
Part 2 - Whitefield on Free Grace
Part 3 - Murray on Catholicity

Whitefield's life and practice teach us several points on handling opposition within the Body of Christ:

I) Acknowledging the essential doctrines that bind the Church.
"Whitefield [though Anglican] linked the Evangelical movement to Puritanism; Wesley linked it to Laud, for Laud was one of the founders of the Arminian movement." (Dr. H. B. Workman, as a footnote of Murray)

No wonder, therefore, that in a letter you sent me not long since, you should tell me that no Baptist or Presbyterian writer whom you have read knew anything of the liberties of Christ. What? Neither Bunyan, Henry, Flavel, Halyburton, nor any of the New England and Scots divines? See, dear Sir, what narrow-spiritedness and want of charity arise from your principles, and then do not cry out against election any more on account of its being "destructive of meekness and love." (Whitefield to Wesley)

II) Getting rid of entanglement into unnecessary debates over secondary issues.
It is interesting to note that although Wesley's sermon was published in August 1739, Whitefield's reply is dated December 24, 1740, and was not published till early 1741.
One of the reasons, according to Murray, was
Whitefield longed to avoid an open breach and still hoped that his friend might be brought to a clearer understanding of the truth. Such sentences as the following are typical of Whitefield's attitude: "How would the cause of our common Master suffer by our raising disputes about particular points of doctrines!"
III) Confronting controversies especially when the Body is disturbed.
As the year 1740 advanced, the reports that he received from his friends like [John] Cennick and Howell Harris made it increasingly obvious that harm and divisions were being wrought by the Wesleys' insistence on their Arminian views. Wesley's pamphlet "set the nation disputing." As Harris wrote to Wesley: "You grieve God's people by your opposition to electing love; and many poor souls believe your doctrine simply because you hold it." A situation had developed in which it was imperative that Whitefield should declare his mind and do something to arrest the drift from evangelical orthodoxy.
IV) Considering GOD's glory and the Church's edification in addressing opposition.
Doctrinal differences between believers should never lead to personal antagonism. Error must be opposed even when held by fellow members of Christ, but if that opposition cannot co-exist with a true love for all saints and a longing for their spiritual prosperity then it does not glorify God nor promote the edification of the Church.

The attitude that I badly need: "But when his time is come, God will do what man cannot, namely, make us both of one mind." - Wesley to Whitefield

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