Whitefield on Free Grace

Posted by Bernard Rosario On 4:11 PM 2 comments

This post is a survey of A Letter from George Whitefield to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley and is intended to be the second in a 3-part study:
Part 1 - Wesley on Predestination
Part 2 - Whitefield on Free Grace
Part 3 - Murray on Catholicity

Whitefield's Definition of Free Grace
[Hopefully] You will caution believers against striving to work a perfection out of their own hearts, and print another sermon the reverse of this, and entitle it "Free Grace Indeed." Free, not because free to all; but free, because God may withhold or give it to whom and when he pleases.
Even before tackling the main sermon points of Wesley, Whitefield had already pointed out three errors of Wesley: (1) tempting God by casting a lot to determine whether he should preach and print against election or not; (2) choosing a text against predestination from Romans 9, "where this doctrine is so plainly asserted;" and, (3) providing poorly definitions for "free" and "grace."

Whitefield's Seven Antitheses
I) Answer to Wesley's First Point
Hath not God, who hath appointed salvation for a certain number, appointed also the preaching of the Word as a means to bring them to it? ... And if so, how is preaching needless to them that are elected, when the gospel is designated by God himself to be the power of God unto their eternal salvation?
II) Answer to Wesley's Second Point
Were you ever sick in your life? If so, did not the bare probability or possibility of your recovering, though you knew it was unalterably fixed that you must live or die, encourage you to take physic? For how did you know but that very physic might be the means God intended to recover you by?

Just thus it is as to the doctrine of election. I know that it is unalterably fixed (one may say) that I must be damned or saved; but since I know not which for a certainty, why should I not strive, though at present in a state of nature, since I know not but this striving may be the means God has intended to bless, in order to bring me into a state of grace?

III) Answer to Wesley's Third Point
I believe they who have experienced it will agree with our 17th article (of the 39 Articles of the Church of England), that "the godly consideration of predestination, and election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing their minds to high and heavenly things, as well because it does greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation, to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God."

It [doctrine of election] has a natural tendency to rouse the soul out of its carnal security. And therefore many carnal men cry out against it. Whereas universal redemption is a notion sadly adapted to keep the soul in its lethargic sleepy condition, and therefore so many natural men admire and applaud it.

IV) Answer to Wesley's Fourth Point
Do not the elect know that the more good works they do, the greater will be their reward? And is not that encouragement enough to set them upon, and cause them to persevere in working for Jesus Christ? "Chosen . . . through sanctification of the Spirit?" (2 Thess. 2:13). Nay, is not holiness made a mark of our election by all that preach it? And how then can the doctrine of election destroy holiness?
V) Answer to Wesley's Fifth Point
It is only by the Christian revelation that we are acquainted with God's design of saving his church by the death of his Son. Yea, it is settled in the everlasting covenant that this salvation shall be applied to the elect through the knowledge and faith of him.

[Who ever thought] that the unchangeable purpose of God, that harvest should not fail, rendered the heat of the sun, or the influence of the heavenly bodies unnecessary to produce it? No more does God's absolute purpose of saving his chosen preclude the necessity of the gospel revelation.
VI) Answer to Wesley's Sixth Point
For God is no respecter of persons, upon the account of any outward condition or circumstance in life whatever; nor does the doctrine of election in the least suppose him to be so. But as the sovereign Lord of all, who is debtor to none, he has a right to do what he will with his own, and to dispense his favours to what objects he sees fit, merely at his pleasure.

For if foreknowledge signifies approbation, as it does in several parts of Scripture, then we confess that predestination and election do depend on God's foreknowledge. But if by God's foreknowledge you understand God's fore-seeing some good works done by his creatures as the foundation or reason of choosing them and therefore electing them, then we say that in this sense predestination does not any way depend on God's foreknowledge.

It may not be amiss to take notice, that if those texts, 2 Pet. 3:9 and Ezek. 33:11 — and such like — be taken in their strictest sense, then no one will be damned.

God taketh no pleasure in the death of sinners, so as to delight simply in their death; but he delights to magnify his justice, by inflicting the punishment which their iniquities have deserved.

VII) Answer to Wesley's Seventh Point
Consider whether it be not rather blasphemy to say as you do, "Christ not only died for those that are saved, but also for those that perish."
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2 Response for the "Whitefield on Free Grace"

  1. There is No One Righteous

    "As it is written: There is not any man just... (Rom. 3:10-18).

    These verses are twisted by Reformers to support their doctrine that Man is totally depraved, incapable and uninterested in seeking after God.

    But what about the Reformers' premise? It is decidedly destroyed when one considers that in almost every Psalm quoted; Ps. 14:1-6, Ps. 53:1-6, Ps. 5:4-10, Ps. 140:1-12, Ps. 10:3-12, Ps. 36:1-10, there is some mention of "the just," "the righteous," "them that are right in heart," and so on.

    How can the Psalmist be saying that there is literally no one who is righteous, who seeks after God, when he then goes on to use phrases like, "But as for the just, they shall give glory to thy name: and the upright shall dwell with thy countenance," and "For the Lord is in the just generation?"

    The Reformer must concede that he has utterly missed the point of St. Paul's argument, and that he has done what St. Paul would never do: wrenched Old Testament texts out of context.

  2. All Under Sin

    The mention of "the just" or "the righteous" or "them that are right in heart" does not in any way debunk total depravity. It does not establish anything that says they have something in them that is not consumed by depravity. Nothing from all these texts (classified under "some mention") says the just's being just and righteous are inherently from themselves. With these verse, the farthest we can go is to affirm that there are fools and there are just. But where did these get their righteousness? "Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness" (Psa. 5:8).

    Besides, this longest chain of OT references is not to be excluded from the foundation statement preceding it "all under sin."

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