Category Archives: history

Women Leaders in the Wesleyan Movements

This post contains some short biographies of women who were early leaders (prior to 1900) in the various Wesleyan inspired movements. The Methodist, Holiness, and Charismatic movements all have a rich egalitarian history.

Due to the length of this post, many worthy names are omitted. This list should not be considered exhaustive.

Sarah Crosby (1729-1804) Sarah was born in Leeds, Yorkshire. A former Calvinist, she became a Methodist after hearing John Wesley preach. In 1761 she became one of the first female preachers in Methodism. She traveled and preached extensively, with the encouragement of John Wesley.

Barbara Heck (1734-1804) An immigrant from Ireland, Barbara was instrumental in the founding of the Methodist movement in New York state. She is known as the mother of American Methodism. She was a loyalist (supporter of England). After the American Revolution, her family relocated to Canada and she continued her work there.

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815) Mary was an early leader in the Methodist movement. She was a preacher and teacher. She managed a house in London to take care of the poor and destitute. Later in life she married John Fletcher (a close associate of John Wesley). After Mr. Fletcher’s death, she continued in ministry for another 30 years.

Jarena Lee (1783-1849) Lee was the first female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was born in New Jersey (a free state). In 1819 she received permission from the AME to preach. She was an evangelist who traveled throughout the East and Midwestern United States, including the slave states of Virginia and Maryland. She wrote a small autobiography (online here), where she gives a moving account of her conversion, and how she was called to preach. ” For as unseemly as it may appear now-a-days for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God. And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper for a woman to preach? seeing the Savior died for the woman as well as for the man.”

Fanny Butterfield Newell (1793-1824) Fanny was the wife of a well known Methodist preacher, and also preached herself. They helped found a Methodist church in Sydney Maine, Fanny preached in the New England states.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) Sojourner was was a fiery Methodist, who spoke on the topics of abolition, women’s suffrage, prison reform, and capital punishment. Her early life contains the awful stories common to slave women. She was born in New York and became emancipated when New York outlawed slavery. “Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with Him!”

Juliann Jane Tillman (?-?) Tillman was preacher in the AME in the early part of the 19th century. She was probably an itinerant evangelist. In the early days of the AME, women were permitted to preach, but not to be in leadership in the local church. The lithograph below was done in 1844.

Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874) Palmer was an evangelist, author, and prayer warrior. She was instrumental in the founding of the American Holiness movement. She had a heart for the poor, and started an inner city mission in New York City. She wrote a book entitled “The Promise of the Father” which advocated women in leadership. “Earnest prayers, long fasting, and burning tears may seem befitting, but cannot move the heart of infinite love to a greater willingness to save. God’s time is now. The question is not, What have I been? or What do I expect to be? But, Am I now trusting in Jesus to save to the uttermost? If so, I am now saved from all sin.”


Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898) Laura was the daughter of Quaker leaders and later worked with the Wesleyan Methodists in the fight against slavery. She was a well known abolitionist, and active in the underground railroad (helping African slaves escape to free states). The Wesleyan Methodist church recognized her work by giving her a district appointment (the same authority that a pastor of a church would receive).

Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) Crosby penned the lyrics for more than 8000 poems and hymns. She sometimes used pseudonyms when writing because publishers were reluctant to fill their hymnals entirely with her work. Crosby memorized long passages of scripture. She was a frequent public speaker, and a sought after revival preacher. She was an advocate of education for the blind (being blinded herself in early childhood). Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Sarah Smith (1822-1908) Known as “Mother Smith”, Sarah was a believer in the power of God. She had little formal eduction, knowing only how to write simple print. Originally a timid person, she became a bold prayer warrior after a sanctification experience. At the age of 61, she first felt the call to preach. She joined a group of holiness evangelists who held revival meetings and planted new churches in many different states. These churches eventually formed the “Anderson Church of God” denomination.

Julia Foote (1823-1900) Julia was born in New york, a child of former slaves. She was a longtime member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ). By the late 1840’s she felt a call to preach, and became a traveling evangelist.

Mary Clarke Nind (1825-1905) Mary was a leader in the Methodist missionary movement. She founded the “Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society”. Originally a Congregationalist, Mary became a Methodist because of her interest in holiness doctrine, and because of her desire to preach the Gospel. She was affectionately called “Our Little Bishop”.

Annie Wittenmyer (1827-1900) Nicknamed “God’s angel”, Annie was best known for her work assisting wounded Union soldiers during the American civil war. President Grant is quoted as saying “No soldier on the firing line gave more heroic service than she did.” Annie had a special heart for children. She wrote children’s hymns, established Sunday schools, and dedicated time to assisting war orphans. She was was a writer and leader in the Temperance movement. She was active in leadership in the development of the state of Iowa.

Catherine Booth (1829-1890) William and Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army. Catherine’s leadership skills and strong Wesleyan theology were instrumental in the formation of the organization. She often preached to to more affluent audiences, urging them to minister to the poor. She was involved in the temperance movement, seeing the effects of alcohol abuse. Catherine was known as the “Army Mother”.

Jennie Fowler Willing (1834-1916) Willing founded the “New York Evangelistic Training School”, which was a missionary training center. She was ordained in 1873. She was an early Christian expert on Mormonism, and wrote a book entitled: Mormonism: The Mohammedanism of the West.

Mary Depew (1836-1892) Mary was an evangelist for the Wesleyan Methodists, and was a major influence in the Wesleyan Holiness revival. She preached throughout Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) Amanda was known as “the colored evangelist”. Born a slave, by 1840 her parents had saved enough money to purchase the family’s freedom. They moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, and joined the abolitionist movement. Amanda taught herself to read by cutting letters from the newspapers that her father brought home. By the 1870’s Amanda had become a well known holiness evangelist, frequently preaching at revivals and camp meetings. She traveled throughout the United States. She spent 12 years abroad, doing missionary work in Europe, India, and Africa. She founded an orphanage in Chicago.

Elizabeth Sisson (1843-1934) Elizabeth was a writer, missionary, and preacher. She was an early missionary to India, where she ministered among the Hindus. After returning to the USA she became a popular evangelist and speaker in the young charismatic movement. She was a co-editor for a publication called “Triumph of Faith” (with Carrie Judd, see below). Elizabeth was involved in the founding of the Assemblies of God, and was ordained in 1917.

Anna (Annie) Hanscome (1845? – 1899) Annie was a holiness preacher. In 1890, she founded a church in Malden, Massachusetts. She was ordained in 1892 by a holiness group that would later join the Nazarene church, thus making her the first of many ordained females in the denomination. The church she founded continues today, and is one of the oldest Nazarene churches in existence.

Emma Whittemore (1850-1931) Emma Whittemore was an unlikely leader. She and her husband Sydney and were wealthy New York socialites. They both felt called to serve the poor. Emma was quite timid and shy, until the Holy Spirit called her into service. She founded the “Door of Hope” mission in New York City, which ministered to street girls. The Whittemores became leaders in the Salvation Army, and were also active in the foundation of Gospel Rescue Missions. Emma was a popular public speaker.

Carrie Judd Montgomery (1858-1946) After being bedridden for a number of years, Carrie had an amazing healing experience. Afterwords she began to share her story with others. She was a well respected person, and preached to widely different audiences. She shared her message with multiracial groups, and with any church who would open their doors. She was involved with the Salvation Army, and was acquainted with many leaders in the various Wesleyan-Holiness movements. She was involved in the founding of the Christian Missionary Alliance, and of the Assemblies of God. At a time when many were suspicious of the new Charismatic movement, Carrie was a unifier who helped to promote unity between Holiness and Charismatic groups.

Rachel Bradley. Rachel’s motto was “The World for Jesus”. She was a Free Methodist. She founded a number of missions and outreach programs in Chicago, the oldest of which was the Olive Branch Mission, established in 1867. At the time, prostitution was rampant in the city, even among young girls, who were bought and sold by the brothels. Rachel took girls off the street and taught them skills in order to give them an alternate means to provide for themselves. The mission is still in operation today.

Helenor M. Davison Helenor M. Davison was a Methodist, and was ordained in 1866 by the North Indiana Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church, probably making her the first ordained woman in the American Methodist tradition.

Florence Lee (1859-1958) Florence was an ordained minister in the Pilgrim Holiness Church (A parent body of the Wesleyan Church). She was an evangelist, ran a rescue home in Colorado, was active in the PCH Bible college, and was an editor of a magazine called “The Mission Advance”.

Fannie McDowell Hunter (1860-1912?) Fannie was the grand daughter of a Methodist circuit rider. She was a holiness evangelist, and was involved in the founding of the Church of the Nazarene. She wrote a book entitled “Women preachers” which was a compilation of stories of contemporary women preachers.

Dr Lilian Yeomans (1861-1942) Lilian and her mother Amelia were physicians in Manitoba. They learned medicine in Michigan, as Canada did not admit women into med school at the time. They provided health care for women and children, the poor in their community. Lilian became addicted to morphine after using it on the job. After nearly dying, she was healed from the addiction. She gave up her medical practice, and became an evangelist and a missionary to the Cree Indians. She wrote about diving healing and how God had healed her addition. She was a popular speaker on the topic of healing.

Alma B. White (1862-1946) Alma was an amazing woman, yet not without controversy because of her racism. She founded the “Pillar of Fire” church denomination. She was the first female bishop of a denomination in the United States. She was involved in the temperance and woman’s suffrage movements.

Rachel Sizelove (1864-1941) Rachel was an itinerant evangelist. Initially a Free Methodist, she became Charismatic after hearing William Seymour preach at the Azuza Street revival in Los Angeles. She founded the original Assembly of God church in Springfield, Missouri.

Mary Lee Cagle (1864-1955) Mary was a holiness preacher from Alabama. She felt the call to preach at a young age, but was discouraged by her family from following the call. She married an evangelist named Robert Lee Harris, and first learned to preach by observing him. After Harris died of tuberculosis, Mary began preaching on her own. She traveled with a group of women evangelists. She also often preached to black congregations. This was quite unusual at the time for a white woman from rural Alabama. She helped to found a number of holiness churches in Alabama, Texas and New Mexico. She was involved in the formation of the Church of the Nazarene.

Santos Elizondo (1867-1941) Santos was born in Mexico. She became a Christian at one of Phineas Bresee’s Holiness revivals in Los Angeles. She founded at least two churches, one in El Paso, TX, and another in Juarez, Mexico. She lead Nazarene missions in Mexico for 35 years. While there, she founded orphanages and ministered to the poorest of the poor. Because of her servant heart, she was able to overcome much of the initial Mexican cultural hostility to her work (being Protestant and female were two big strikes). A number of prominent priests and officials attended her funeral.

Elsie Wallace (?-?) In 1897 Elsie founded a holiness mission in Spokane, WA. The mission was “literally filled on its four sides with saloons and places of wickedness.” In 1902 the mission was reorganized as a church, and Elsie was unanimously called to become the first pastor. The church exists today as “Spokane First Nazarene Church”. Elsie also started churches in Ashland, OR; Boise, ID; Walla Walla, WA and Seattle, WA. In addition, she was a district superintendent (in charge of all churches in a region). The Pentecostal Messenger reported that Pastor Wallace “is indeed one of the best pastors we ha[ve] ever seen anywhere, and is doing a great work.”

References:

In memory of my grandmother Lela Jackson. G’ma was an ordained minister (and many other things).

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Delegates to the Synod of Dort

Below is a complete list of the delegates to the Synod of Dort. The list is pulled from two different sources, so the spelling is not consistent (Some names are Latinized, others Anglicized).

There were no official delegates from several regions. The Dutch states of Holland and West Freisland were excluded. They had attempted to send Simon Episcopius as their delegate, and one of the first acts of the synod was to revoke his status. In France, Louis XIII opposed the synod and prohibited French participation. In Brandenburg (Germany), the Lutherans prohibited representation.

Only official delegates are listed. This excludes deputies, secretaries, observers, etc.

England:
George Carleton (1559–1628)
Joseph Hall (replaced by Goad) (1574–1657)
Thomas Goad (1576–1638)
John Davenant (1576–1641)
Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626).

Scotland:
Walter Balcanqual (1586–1645)
Samuël Ward (died in 1643)
William Ames (Guilielmus Amesius) (1576–1633).

Heidelberg (Palatine, Germany):
Abraham Scultetus (1566–1624)
Paul Tossanus (1572–1634)
Hendrik Alting (1583–1644).

Hessen (Germany):
Georg Cruciger (1575–1637)
Paul Stein (1585–1643)
Rudolph Goclenius (1547–1628)
Daniel Anglocrator (1569–1635).

Switzerland:
Johann Jakob Breitinger (1575–1645)
Wolfgang Mayer (1577–1653)
Sebastian Beck (1583–1654)
Mark Rütimeyer (1580–1647)
Hans Conrad Koch (1564–1643)

Krefeld (Germany):
Herman op den Graeff (1585-1642) [This may be incorrect, see the comment from David below.  op den Graeff was a Mennonite, and attended a different conference in 1632]

Geneva:
Giovanni Diodati (1576–1649)
Theodore Trochin (1582–1657)

Bremen (Germany):
Ludwig Crocius (1586–1653)
Matthiuas Martinius (1572–1630)
Heinrich Isselburg (1577–1628)

Wetterau (Germany):
Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588–1638)
John Bisterfeld (died in 1619)
Georg Fabricius.

Emden (Germany):
Ritzius Lucas Grimersheim (1568–1631)
Daniël Bernard Eilshemius (1555–1622).

Dutch Theologians (at large)
Johannes Polyander, (1568-1646)
Sibrandus Lubbertus, Professor, Friesland
Franciscus Gomarus, (1563-1641)
Antonius Tysius, Professor, Gelderland
Antonius Walaeus, Professor, Middelburg

Gelderland-Zutphen (The Netherlands)
Gulielmus Stephani, Pastor, Arnhelm
Ellardus a Mehen, Pastor, Harderwick
Johannes Bouillet, Minister, Warnesfield
Jacobus Verheyden, Elder, School Rector, Numeghen

South Holland (The Netherlands)
Balthasar Lydius, Pastor, Dort
Henricus Arnoldi, Preacher, Delf
Gisbertus Voetius, Pastor, Huysden.
Arnoldus Musius, Elder, Dort
Johannes Latius, Elder, Leiden

North Holland (The Netherlands)
Iacobus Triglandius, Minister, Amsterdam
Abrahamus à Dooreslaer, Minister, Enchusen
Samuel Bartholdus, Pastor, Monichodam
Theodorus Heyngius, Elder, Amsterdam
Dominicus ab Heemskerck, Elder, Amsterdam

Zeeland (The Netherlands)
Godefridus Udemannus, Pastor, Zurick-zee
Cornelius Regius, Pastor, Tergoose
Lambertus de Rycke, Pastor, Bergen up Zoon
Josias Vosbergius, Elder, Middleburg
Adrianus Hofferus, Elder, Zurick-zee

Utrecht (The Netherlands)
Johannes Dibbezius, Minister, Utrecht
Arnoldus Oortcampius, Pastor, Amersfoort

Friesland (The Netherlands)
Florentius Johannis, Church member, Snek
Philippus Danielis Eilshemius, Pastor, Harling
Kempo Harinxma à Donia, Elder, Leuerdin
Tacitus ab Aysma, Elder, Buirgirt

Overijssel (The Netherlands)
Casparus Sibelius, Pastor, Deventer
Hermannus Wiferding, Minister, Swoll
Hieronymus Vogelius, Pastor, Hasselt
Iohannes Langius, Preacher, Woolenhoof.
Wilhelmus à Broickhuysenten Doerne, Elder’s deputy
Johannes à Lauwick, Elder’s deputy

Groningen (The Netherlands)
Cornelius Hillenius, church member, Groningen
Georgius Placius, Pastor, Apingdam
Wolfgangus Agricola, Minister, Bedam
Wigboldus Homerus, Minister, Midwold
Egbertus Halbes, Elder, Groningen
Ioannes Rufelaert, Elder, Stedum

Drenthe (The Netherlands)
Themo ab Asscheberg, Pastor, Meppelen
Patroclus Romelingius, Pastor, Rhuine

Wallon (The Netherlands)
Daniel Colonius, Minister and regent, Leyden
Joannes Crucius, Minister, Harleim
Joannes Doucher, Minister, Vluisshing.
Jeremias de Pours, Minister, Wallon
Everardus Beckerus, Elder, Wallon
Petrus Pontanus, Elder of the Church in Amsterdam

Sources used:
Dutch Delegates: English Translation of the Synod of Dort, 1619
Foreign Delegates: Answers.com

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The Calvinists Who Became Arminians at Dort

One of the fascinating facts of history is the “conversion” to Arminianism of several of the Calvinists who participated in the proceedings at the Synod of Dort. Below are accounts of three Calvinists, two whom changed their views during the actual proceedings, and one who had already changed his opinion prior.

John Hales (1584-1656): Hales was an English theologian. He was a quiet and gentle man. He was well read, had an excellent memory, and is reported to have had an “exact knowledge of the Greek tongue”.1 For some time he was a professor at the college of Eton, where he taught Greek. He was affectionately referred to as “The Ever Memorable Hales”. During the proceedings at Dort, Hales was a chaplain for Sir Dudley Carlton, the English ambassador to the Netherlands. He attended Dort at the request of Sir Carlton. During Dort, Hales is reported to have “bade John Calvin good night”.2 He became convinced of the merits of Arminianism after hearing Simon Episcopius’ defense of Unlimited Atonement and exposition of John 3:16.

Thomas Goad (1576-1638): Goad was an English clergyman. He was fond of poetry and known for his skill in verse. He was a chaplain for George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury. He was a rector in several locations, and was also precentor (music leader) at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Goad was sent to Dort by King James at the request of Abbot. Goad went to the Dort as a Calvinist, but like Hales, he became convinced of Arminianism during the course of the synod. He switched sides and began to defend the Arminians. As a result, he lost much prestige among his colleagues, and his name was omitted (perhaps accidentally) from the acts of the synod. After the synod, Goad returned to his chaplaincy.3

Daniel Tilenus (1563-1633): Tilenus was a Huguenot (French Calvinist). He was a professor at the Presbyterian college of Sedan. He was a staunch Calvinist in his earlier days, but had already embraced the Remonstrants by the time of Dort. Risking his position at Sedan, Tilenus strongly criticized the behavior of the Calvinists at Dort, stating that they treated their Arminian brethren according to “the methods of the Turks”4. As a result of supporting and identifying with Arminians, Tilenus was deposed from his professorship at Sedan. He moved to England at the request of King James, and became a capable defender of Arminian theology.5

(1) The 1917 Harvard Theological Review, Volume 10 Short biography about the life of John Hales.
(2) The Life of John Goodwin by Thomas Jackson, 1872, page 441
(3) Dictionary of National Biography (British) 1885-1900, entry on Thomas Goad
(4) Religious currents and cross-currents: essays on early modern Protestantism, 1999, page 9
(5) Memoirs of Simon Episcopius, By Frederick Calder, 1838, page 456

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A Meal on the Moon

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It is not often told, but one of the first things Buzz Aldrin did after landing on the moon was to take communion. He originally planned to quote scripture (John 15:5 – “I am the vine and you are the branches…”). He was asked by NASA not to do this because they were involved in a legal dispute with Madelyn Murray O’Hare. So Aldrin simply asked for a moment of silence, and then privately gave thanks to God.

Here is an account of the story from Guideposts: A Meal on the Moon

Here is a more detailed account: First Communion on the Moon

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Reformation Era Scholars who Moved Away from Limited Atonement

I thought some others might find this interesting:

The Appendix of The Life of John Goodwin (Thomas Jackson, 1872) has a list of some scholars (Reformation Era to the mid 1800s) who moved away from Limited Atonement to “enlarged views of Divine Philanthropy”. The author includes himself in the list, as well as Luther, Calvin (?!), and others. Very interestingly, a number of those listed were involved with the proceedings in Dort. (Goad, Davenport, Tilenus, Hales of Eton).

APPENDIX.

It is a fact, which is highly worthy of attention, that several of the greatest divines, who have adorned the different Protestant churches by their learning, talents, and virtue, were, in the early part of their lives, “straitened in their bowels” respecting the extent of CHRIST’S REDEMPTION, and as they advanced in years and knowledge, they entertained enlarged views of the Divine Philanthropy. The following are some of the examples of this kind which may be specified:

MELANCTHON

Luther’s friend and coadjutor, was at first Luther’s scholar, and drew from him his earliest religious opinions. But being a learned and dispassionate man, pursuing truth, he saw his errors and abandoned them; and espoused sentiments concerning the respectiveness of God’s decrees, widely different from those he had formerly held. [A circumstance which is very conveniently passed over in silence by Dr. Cox, his late English biographer.] — Pierce’s Divine Philanthropy Defended, p. 14, Edit. 1657.

LUTHER

Also went on long as he at first set out, with so little disguise, that whereas all parties had always pretended that they asserted the freedom of the will, he plainly spoke out, and said the will was not free, but enslaved. Yet, before he died, he is reported to have changed his mind on this and other kindred subjects : for though ho never owned that, yet Melancthon, who had been of the same opinions, did ; for which he was never blame by Luther. — Burnet on the Seventeenth Article.

ARMINIUS

Himself was education at Geneva, and in the early part of his life embraced those doctrines concerning predestination, which Calvin and Beza had taught in that city. Afterwards, however, when actually engaged in vindication of those doctrines, he was convinced that they were indefensible; and embraced the principles of those whose religious system extends the Divine benevolence and the merits of Jesus Christ to all mankind.— Mosheim’s Eccles. Hist. Vol. V. p. 440, Edit. 1806.

DANIEL TILENUS

Professor of Divinity at Sedan, a man not less acute in judgment, than versed in all kinds of learning, distinguished himself by decided hostility to the sentiments of Arminius. Convinced at length by the arguments of his opponents, he changed sides; and proved the genuineness of his conversion by submitting to share with the Remonstrants in those severe persecutions which were inflicted upon them by the Dutch Calvinists. — Brandt’s History of the Reformation, Vol. II. p. 137, Edit. 1721.

DR. THOMAS JACKSON

President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, is thus characterized by the noted Prynne : “Dr. Jackson is a man of great abilities, and of a plausible, affable, courteous deportment. — Of late he hath been transported beyond himself with metaphysical contemplations. The University of Oxford grieves for his defection” [from the doctrine of absolute predestination] . — Anti-Arminianism, p. 270, Edit. 1630.

BISHOP ANDREWS

Is generally allowed to have been one of the most learned and pious men of the age in which he lived. Concerning him, Dr. Pierce observes, “That that inestimable bishop, in his most mature and ripest years, was very severe to those doctrines which are commonly called Calvinistical, is a thing so known, that I cannot think it will be denied.” — Divine Purity Defended, p. 125, Edit. 1657.

DR. CHRISTOPHER POTTER

Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, who was esteemed by all who knew him, as a divine of an amiable disposition, and of great probity, industry, and learning, has given a pleasing account of his conversion from Calvinism to the Armiman tenets; and the piety and meekness of temper displayed in the narrative add weight to his judgment, and are honourable to the cause for which he pleads. — Collection of Tracts on Predestination, p. 225, Cambridge, 1719.

DR. THOMAS PIERCE

One of the ablest opponents of Calvinism that system has ever had, states concerning himself: “I was, in my childhood, of the opinions [concerning Election, Reprobation, &c.] Mr. Barlee doth now contend for. But, through the infinite mercy of God, I have obtained conversion: and being converted from the practice, as well as from the opinion, which I was of, I will, to my poor utmost, endeavour to confirm or convert my brethren.” — Divine Philanthropy Defended, p. 15.

THE EVER-MEMOBARLE HALES, OF ETON

Who was a Calvinist in his younger days, used frequently to say, that when he heard Episcopius argue in favour of General Redemption at the Synod of Dort, he “bade John Calvin good night.” — Hales’s Golden Remains, Preface.

MR. SAMUEL HOARD

Author of a very able work entitled, ” God’s Love to Mankind Manifested,” — a work which produced a considerable effect among the national clergy, in the early part of the seventeenth century, — says, ” I have sent you here my reasons which have moved me to change my opinion in some controversies, of late debated between the Remonstrants and their Opponents.” — See the tract itself, p. 1, Edit. 1G38. W1tiston’s Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 10, Edit. 1749.

DR. THOMAS GOAD

Was a person every way eminent, having the repute of a great and general scholar, exact critic and historian, a poet, orator, schoolman, and divine. He was a member of the Synod of Dort, and acquitted himself there with great applause, in opposition to the opinions of the Remonstrants. He at length saw cause to alter his judgment ; and, in defence of those principles ho had formerly opposed, wrote a very able work entitled, “A Disputation concerning the Necessity and Contingency of Events.”— Echard’s History of England, Vol. II. p. 122, Edit, 1718. Collection of Tracts on Predestination, Preface.

ARCHBISHOP USSHER

Who is generally acknowledged to have been one of the most learned men in Europe, in the early part of his life held the doctrines of strict Calvinism; but as he advanced in years, avowed his belief of General Redemption; and is said, before his death, to have expressed his dislike of the whole doctrine of Geneva. — Pierce’s Christian’s Rescue from the Grand Error of the Heathen, Appendix, Edit. 1G58. — Bird’s Fate and Destiny Inconsistent with Christianity, p. 74, Edit. 1726. — Parr’s Life of Ussher, Appendix, p. 61, Edit. 1G86. — Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Biography, Vol. V. p. 504, Edit. 1810.

DR. ROBERT SANDERSON

Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, has given an interesting account of the progress of his mind, from the sublapsarian scheme, to the mild sentiments of Melancthon and Arminius. — Hammond‘s Pacific Discourse concerning God’s Grace and Decrees, p. 8, 1660.

MR. RICHARD BAXTER

At the commencement of his theological career, was eager in his attachment to the peculiar doctrines of Calvin. But when his judgment was more matured, though he still maintained the absolute Election of some men to Life Eternal, he contended strenuously for General Redemption, and for Universal Grace. — Baxter’s Catholick Theologie, Preface.

BISHOP DAVENANT

Appears to have undergone a change of sentiment similar to that of Baxter. For Archbishop Ussher “freely declared himself for the doctrine of General Redemption, and owned that he was the person who brought both Bishop Davenant and Dr. Preston to acknowledge it.” — Calamy’s Abridgment of Baxter’s Life and Times, p. 405, Edit. 1713.

DR. DANIEL WHITBY

Says, “They who have known my education, may remember that I was bred up seven years in the University, under men of the Calvinistical persuasion; and had once firmly entertained all their doctrines.” The zeal with which he afterwards opposed those doctrine’s, in his Commentary on the New Testament and in his Discourse concerning the Five Points, is universally known. — Whitby on the Five Points, Preface.

CALVIN

Himself, according to Dr. Watts, is entitled to a place among those divines whose attachment to the doctrines of limited mercy and partial redemption abated as they advanced in years. After noticing the difference between his sentiments as expressed in his Institutions and in his Commentaries, the Doctor says, ” It may be proper to observe, that the most rigid and narrow limitations of grace to men are to be found chiefly in his Institutions, which were written in his youth. But his Comments on Scripture were the labour of his riper years, and maturer judgment.”— Works, Vol. III. p. 472, Edit. 1800.


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Theology and the Slave Trade

I was recently reading the blog Ancient Christian Defender. The author Jnorm888 had a provocative post entitled Was Jonathan Edwards a racist?

It is a well known fact that Edwards was a proponent of slavery, and owned slaves himself. Unlike many contemporary slave owners, Edwards did not will freedom to his slaves upon his death. Due to Edward’s position on slavery, there is some division in the African American community today on whether or not he is a person worthy of being honored.

Jnorm’s post triggered some questions in my mind: Did the Calvinistic assumptions of Edward’s theology contribute to his support of slavery? How did prominent Calvinists of the era approach the issue slavery, and how did prominent Arminians address the issue? Was there a difference in their approaches?

I think a difference can be demonstrated. In short, Calvinists of the era were more likely to support the institution slavery, and Arminians of the era were more likely to support abolitionism. For example (Calvinists) Edwards and Whitfield both supported slavery, while (non-Calvinists) Wesley, Asbury, Wilberforce, and Finney all advocated abolishing slavery.

There were some notable exceptions to the examples above – John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”) was a Calvinist and also an abolitionist. And over time many Calvinists joined the abolitionist movement. In fact Jonathan Edwards Jr fought against slavery. However, it is noteworthy that many of “trail blazing” abolitionists were from Non-Calvinist backgrounds, and argued against slavery using Arminian theological concepts.

When one looks at the two theological systems, this makes sense. Calvinists focus on the sovereignty of God. Part of that focus is a belief that the world is the way it is because God wants it that way. Thus on the issue of slavery a Calvinist might reasonably argue that slavery is ordained by God and gives Him glory.

Arminians focus on the love of God for all. God cares about each and every person. Each person is of great value, because he is created in the image of God. Thus on the issue of slavery one would expect an Arminian to advocate for the freedom of all, because every person is valuable, and every person is loved by God.

We see this Arminian heart in the abolitionist writings of John Wesley. Notice how he used Arminian concepts of God to advocate on behalf of the slave (bold mine):

O thou God of love, thou who art loving to every man, and- whose mercy is over all thy works; thou who art the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and who art rich in mercy unto all; thou who hast mingled of one blood all the nations upon earth; have compassion upon these outcasts of men, who are trodden down as dung upon the earth! Arise, and help these that have no helper, whose blood is spilt upon the ground like water! Are not these also the work of thine own hands, the purchase of thy Son’s blood? Stir them up to cry unto thee in the land of their captivity; and let their complaint come up before thee; let it enter into thy ears! Make even those that lead them away captive to pity them, and turn their captivity as the rivers in the south. O burst thou all their chains in sunder; more especially the chains of their sins! Thou Saviour of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!
(Thoughts upon slavery, 1774)

Notice how Wesley’s arguments against slavery flow directly from his Arminian understanding of God:

  • God is love
  • God has mercy on all
  • Jesus “purchased” slaves with his blood
  • Jesus is Savior of all
  • Jesus wants us to be free

Arminian Theology is more friendly to the cause of the downtrodden, and Wesley demonstrates why here. God loves us. We all have value because we are made in the image of God. Jesus died for all. We ought to be free. These assumptions impact how we treat others.

This Arminian friendliness to the downtrodden seems to apply to other issues as well. We can see differing approaches in Calvinist/Arminian theology regarding:

  • the value of women
  • compassion for the poor
  • love for the homosexual
  • the death penalty
  • prison reform
  • reasons for going to war
  • the treatment of “heretics”
  • race issues

There is even a recent example on the issue of race: Apartheid. Apartheid in South Africa is a clear example where Calvinist theology was used as a method to promote racial division. Between 1652 to 1835 a large number of European Calvinists settled in South Africa. They became known as “Afrikaners” or “Boers”. They imposed Apartheid upon South Africa, and used their Calvinist theology to justify it. Apartheid was not dismantled until 1994, and then only after great pressure from the international community.

It is my firm belief that Arminian Theology is more friendly to the state of the lost and downtrodden.

May God continue to give us compassion for all. Let us be the salt of the earth. May the world see in our lives the light of Jesus, and praise our Father in heaven. May our understanding of God be a help and hope to the world, instead of a hindrance.

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Filed under Calvinism, history, John Wesley, slave trade, Theology