Posted On December 24, 2018

The Christian Letter Project – Whitefield to Wesley on Election

by | Dec 24, 2018 | Theology

The Christian Letter Project at ThingsAbove is about exposing our readers to one of the greatest traditions in our Christian history: writing letters! It is our goal to publish one each Monday. We are not endorsing everything found in each of these letters nor every doctrine held by those who wrote the letters. We hope these serve as a source of Christian encouragement and perhaps even a motivation to be a letter writer yourself. To save time and space we do not include biographical information about the letter writers, but entrust the research to you. The source for each letter is linked at the bottom. If you have questions, please comment below or contact us. To receive our blog posts in your email inbox, sign up on the sidebar.

NOTE: Because of the length of this letter (nearly 8,000 words!) we are only publishing it in part. What you have below is the beginning and end of the letter (the switch is signified by the ***). We encourage you to read the letter in its entirety here! Also, we are publishing it today because it was written this day, Christmas Eve, 278 years ago. This letter shows Whitefield’s strong stance on the Doctrine of Election, and how one can be charitable in disagreements over important doctrines.


Bethesda in Georgia, Dec. 24, 1740

Reverend and very dear Brother,

God only knows what unspeakable sorrow of heart I have felt on your account since I left England last. Whether it is my infirmity or not, I frankly confess, that Jonah could not go with more reluctance against Nineveh, than I now take pen in hand to write against you. If nature was to speak, I would rather die than do it; and yet if I am faithful to God, and to my own and others’ souls, I must not stand neutral any longer.

I am very apprehensive that our common adversaries will rejoice to see us differing among ourselves. But what can I say? The children of God are in danger of falling into error. No, indeed numbers have been misled, whom God has been pleased to work upon by my ministry; and a greater number are still calling aloud upon me to also show my opinion. I must then show that I know no man after the flesh, and that I have no partiality, Jas 2.9 any further than is consistent with my duty to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

This letter, no doubt, will lose me many friends: and for this cause perhaps God has laid this difficult task upon me — even to see whether I am willing to forsake all for him, or not. From such considerations as these, I think it my duty to bear a humble testimony, and to earnestly plead for the truths which I am convinced are clearly revealed in the Word of God. In the defence of it, I must use great plainness of speech, and treat my dearest friends on earth with the greatest simplicity, faithfulness, and freedom, leaving the consequences of all to God. For some time before, and especially since my last departure from England, both in public and private, by preaching and printing, you have been propagating the doctrine of universal redemption. And when I remember how Paul reproved Peter for his dissimulation, I fear I have been sinfully silent too long.

O then do not be angry with me, dear and honoured Sir, if I now deliver my soul by telling you that I think you greatly err in this. It is not my design to enter into a long debate on God’s decrees. I refer you to Dr. Edwards’ work, Veritas Redux, which, I think is unanswerable — except in a certain point, concerning a middle sort between elect and reprobate, which in effect he afterwards condemns. I will only make a few remarks upon your sermon, entitled Free Grace. And before I enter upon the discourse itself, let me take note briefly of what in your Preface you say is an indispensable obligation to make it public to all the world. I must admit that I always thought you were quite mistaken on that point.

The case (you know) stands thus: When you were at Bristol, I think you received a letter from a private hand, charging you with not preaching the gospel, because you did not preach election. On this you drew a lot: the answer was “preach and print.” I have often questioned, as I do now, whether in doing so, you did not tempt the Lord. A due exercise of religious prudence, without drawing a lot, would have directed you in that matter. Besides, I never heard that you enquired of God whether or not election was a gospel doctrine.

* * *

Dear Sir, these things should not be so. God knows my heart, as I told you before; so I declare again, nothing but a single regard for the honour of Christ has forced this letter from me. I love and honour you for his sake; and when I come to judgment, I will thank you before men and angels for what you have, under God, done for my soul.

There, I am persuaded, I shall see dear Mr. Wesley convinced of election and everlasting love. And it often fills me with pleasure to think how I shall behold you casting your crown down at the feet of the Lamb and, as it were, filled with a holy blushing for opposing the divine sovereignty in the manner you have done.

But I hope the Lord will show you this before you go from here. O how I long for that day! If the Lord should be pleased to make use of this letter for that purpose, it would abundantly rejoice the heart of, dear and honoured Sir,

 

Yours affectionate, though unworthy brother and servant in Christ,

GEORGE WHITEFIELD

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