A Definition of
Gospel Preaching: Calvinistic or Arminian?
Rev. Angus Stewart
I think the right
method of preaching is this. At our first beginning to
preach at any place, after a general declaration of the
love of God to sinners and his willingness that they should
be saved, to preach the law in the strongest, the
closest, and the most searching manner possible; only
intermixing the gospel here and there, and shewing it, as it
were, afar off ... I mean by preaching the gospel, preaching
the love of God to sinners, preaching the life,
death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ, with all
the blessings which in consequence thereof are freely given
to true believers.
Who said these
things? Who presented this as his view of preaching and his
definition of preaching the gospel? Who here begins his
statements of gospel preaching as a declaration of a
universal love of God for all men absolutely (common grace)
and His will or desire to save everybody (free offer)?
It was not free offer
advocates like Louis Berkhof, Phil Johnson, Iain Murray or
John Piper. It was that arch-Arminian John Wesley
Even more than Jacob
Arminius himself, Wesley has probably done more to further
Arminianism than any other man. Through the 40,000 plus
sermons he preached in Great Britain, Ireland and America;
his vast writings (including his sermons, journal and
Notes on the New Testament), totalling 32 volumes in one
edition; his Arminian hymns (along with those of his
brother, Charles) sung all over the world; the many
ministers his movement produced, including lay preachers and
women preachers, on all continents; the many societies and
churches he established or spawned across the world; Wesley
has promoted global Arminianism more than any other.
He provided the seeds
not only for the Methodist movement and other Arminian
churches, but also for the Holiness movement (for his
Arminianism led him to embrace and promote perfectionism),
as well as for Pentecostalism and Charismaticism (which are
typically Arminian and which develop Wesley's endorsement
and promotion of charismatic phenomena, such as dreams,
visions, healings, "gifts," etc.), with their many
respective churches and numerous denominations across the
No wonder Wesley had
to "gut" the Thirty-Nine Articles, the confession to
which he was sworn as an Anglican minister! His
unfaithfulness to his ordination vows and creed have also
been widely followed throughout the church world. Many are
the ways in which he has sought to undo the Reformation! The
wise words of Solomon certainly apply to John Wesley:
"almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation" (Prov.
Centuries after his
death, Wesley continues to be the darling of millions of
Arminians and even, sadly, professed Calvinists, the world
over. The latter would have especially pleased him for he
hated the gospel of particular grace, calling it a
"blasphemy" that represents "God as worse than the Devil, as
both more false, more cruel, and more unjust."
John Wesley sought to
weaken and destroy the truth of the sovereignty of God
anyway he could, even resorting to condensing, distorting
and falsifying Augustus Toplady's 134-page book
into a 12-page tract, ending with these scurrilous words:
The sum of all is this: One in twenty (suppose)
of mankind are elected; nineteen in twenty are reprobated.
The elect shall be saved, do what they will; the reprobate
will be damned, do what they can. Reader believe this or be
damned. Witness my hand, A- T-.
Toplady neither wrote nor held any
such thing. Wesley biographer Stephen Tomkins is right: "Now
this fraud had proved [Wesley] a criminal worthy to be
transported to America if not hanged."
Toplady understandably declared of John Wesley: "I believe
him to be the most rancourous hater of the gospel system
that ever appeared in England."
Earlier in the letter
from which the quotation at the very beginning of this
article was taken, Wesley rightly declares that the nature
of the gospel to be preached is a "very important" issue: "I
have had many serious thoughts concerning it, particularly
for some months last past; therefore I was not willing to
speak hastily or slightly of it, but rather delayed till I
could consider it thoroughly."
And what was his
conclusion? The Arminian Wesley does not here define the
gospel as universal atonement or the opportunity that man
can be saved if he uses his free will aright.
Rather, Wesley, after "many
serious thoughts" and "some months" of thorough
consideration, distils and defines the Arminian gospel as "a
general declaration of the love of God to sinners and his
willingness that they should be saved"—the very gospel of
common grace and the free offer, so beloved of many
in Horton Davies,
Worship and Theology in England,
Book 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), I:152-153;
John Wesley, A Biography
(Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2003) p. 78.
Quoted in Tomkins, John Wesley, p, 173.