Friday, July 21, 2017
“Free Grace”—John Wesley vs. George Whitefield
I came across the above video in which at around 40:30 minutes into the discussion RC Sproul Jr makes reference to a sermon preached by John Wesley in 1740 called “Free Grace” (Sermon 128), and a response given to it by George Whitefield in these words:
“What is interesting about the question is that it contrasts across time; and we actually have a powerful historical illustration of what Dr Sproul was saying if we connect with one of those guys: Wesley and Whitefield—had in their own lives the outworking of I think … an appropriate response to this issue. As you know, the two of them worked very closely together in the whole Methodist movement; they worked together very well in the great revival; but eventually Wesley ended up preaching a sermon that was not quite as bad as Jimmy Swaggart’s, but it was rather strongly condemnatory of the biblical doctrine of election. Whitefield responded with one of the actual best historical arguments against the Arminian position. It is short, it is well written, it is easy to read, and it is just really powerful. Whitefield’s response to Wesley was just magnificent and gracious. But it was strong. …”
Both Wesley’s sermon as well as Whitefield’s response are freely available on the Internet (see links below). I became interested, so I read both, and found that Wesley’s argument was far more cogent, coherent, logical, biblical, and persuasive than Whitefield’s. Whitefield’s argument is often circular and inconsistent, and boils down to accusing Wesley of teaching “universalism” which he doesn’t. On further research I have found no evidence that Wesley was a universalist, or ever believed or taught universalism. Belief in a universal or unlimited Atonement does not translate into “universalism”—much as Calvinists and Reformed theologians would like to portray it as such. This particular sermon by Wesley is in fact a very cogent and persuasive argument against the Reformed doctrine of predestination and unconditional election etc. It shows how well Wesley understood the Bible. George Whitefield doesn’t even come close to answering it properly. Wesley’s sermon is a logical, biblical, and damning indictment of Calvinism and Reformed theology which Whitefield basically does not have a good answer to.
Wesley’s original sermon (Sermon 128) is available in various formats from several places such as in html here, and an audio version of it on YouTube here. His collection of sermons (including Sermon 128) are also available in PDF format from here and here. George Whitefield’s response to John Wesley is available from several places on the Internet such as a PDF version here, and an audio version here. I recommend John Wesley’s sermon as an excellent refutation of the heresy of Calvinism and Reformed theology. George Whitefield does not have a valid answer to it. I also found a documentary about the life of John Wesley that can be seen here. It doesn’t discuss his theology, only his life story, which is also interesting and worth watching.