Skip to content

Erroll Hulse on John Gill

July 13, 2009

Hulse:

The essence of hyper-Calvinism is to minimise the moral and spiritual responsibilities of sinners. Hyperism undoubtedly affects preaching and teaching and is very dangerous because it can stultify and destroy the witness and life of a church. There are few exceptions. There have been some like William Gadsby, who although they intellectually adhered to hyperism nevertheless preached with such power and warmth that many were converted. They were better than the system to which they adhered. Gill’s church on the other hand shrunk and we are not surprised. When Gill declared, “that there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny”, he was expressing with accuracy the deficiency of all his writings and works. Valuable though they may be in many other ways they are destitute of pleadings with sinners to repent, believe and be saved.

Erroll Hulse, The Free Offer of the Gospel: An Exposition of Common Grace and the Free Invitation of the Gospel (Worthington and Haywards Heath, Sussex,. UK: Carey Publications, 1973), 15.

The above comment was found by Tony over at Theological Meditations.

I have told this story a few times now to folk. Back in the ’90s when I was coming out of hypercalvinism, I used to correspond with quite a few folk in England, Maurice Roberts, Erroll Hulse and others. The common consent from all these folk I was writing back and forth to was that Hypercalvinism was bad, and John Gill was one of the leading culprits. One correspondent would always refer to John Gill and the contemporary hypercalvinsits as “deformed” Calvinist.

When I came to the USA, or when I would speak to many Reformed Baptists over here, what struck mew as the reverse attitude. There was either endorsement of Gill, or silence.  For a lot of this I attribute to Nettle’s attempt to sanitize Gill in his work “By His grace and for His glory : a historical, theological, and practical study of the doctrines of grace in Baptist life.”

Here is what is interesting though. If I were to say what Hulse said way back then, I would be shouted down as slandering Gill.  Today on a some blogs, if you identify Gill as a hypercalvinist you are mocked and scorned.

I am confident that of one really understands how John Gill morphed “calvinism,” to the point that he really did believe that not only is there no offer of grace to sinners, and not only that sinners are not duty-bound to directly believe on Jesus Christ, but that somehow, God in Christ calls sinners to a mere external reformation and external righteousness and faith, how  obscene that should appear to true evangelical Christians.

If we factor in Gill’s morphing and distorting the older Puritan “sensible sinner” idea to the point that the sinner can have no proper assurance of his or her salvation, apart from some special revelation of their election or like idea, then the picture is worse. Needless to say, the idea that a sinner could have no assurance until he or she had some revelation of an inward working of the Holy Spirit smacks right in the face of mainstream Reformed theology.

Two last things. Firstly,  from where I sit, the trend of quite a few blogs, sites, forums, boards, is towards hypercalvinist theology.  Evangelical Calvinists need to be a tad more self-aware of this drift.  Secondly, I have noticed over the years that Evangelical Calvinists are becoming less and less equipped in being able to set forth a rebuttal of hypercalvinism and to set out a positive case for the well-meant offer of the Gospel.

David

Advertisements
7 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin T permalink
    July 13, 2009 4:59 pm

    David, I wonder whether your concern is to a large degree the product of the ‘circles’ in which you ‘move’? There are, on the other hand, a growing number of what Colin Hansen calls the young, restless and reformed whose main concerns are the gospel, church planting, missional living and doctrine only so far as it leads to orthopraxy. A group who are radically committed to the free offer the gospel and largely unconcerned about the things that get Highs hot under the collar. Also, we have seen several move from high to our view to be fair. But we press on. Our goal must ultimately be the Glory of God. Perhaps all would benefit from some advice from John Newton?

    Martin

  2. Flynn permalink*
    July 14, 2009 8:12 am

    Hey Martin,

    Sure you have a point here. In real life the drift may be the other way. We have the work of Driscoll, Piper, John Mac and many others. On the net tho, I am not so confident. We see many leading bloggers advocating hypercalvinist tenets. And it is going on unchallenged from what I can see. Also we have seen the transformation of Puritanboard over the last few years. And hypercalvinism is active on email list-servs etc.

    Thanks,
    David

  3. July 14, 2009 11:48 pm

    And don’t forget the increasing amount of disinformation that is being printed in recent books. Even if there is a growing amount of people that fit within Martin’s description, they most likely have a huge blindspot when it comes to issues involving the well-meant offer of the gospel. They may have a theologically strong right arm to fight varieties of free will theology, but their left arm is too limp and unexercised to fight off the subtle kinds of hyper-Calvinism that exists today. They will be easily shouted down and intimidated by aggressive hyper-Calvinists, so that they won’t even have the courage to say someone like Steve Hays is hyper on the point of the free offer, much less deal with his arguments for God giving “ill-meant offers” to the non-elect.

  4. July 14, 2009 11:49 pm

    Even D. A. Carson, in an audio interview with Mark Dever [9 Marks], couldn’t even bring himself to say John Gill was a hyper-Calvinist. Gill just “comes too close to it” for Carson to care for his books and commentaries.

  5. Robert permalink
    July 15, 2009 8:35 am

    Find me one time where Christ pleaded with the damned. You won’t. Instead you will find places where Christ told people that they wouldn’t come to Him that they might be saved, that they were of their father the devil, that they weren’t of God, that they would die in their sins, that they believed not because they were not of His sheep. For these people Christ prayed not in John 17. You call that position hyper-calvinism. I call it the bible. You want preachers to do things that neither Christ nor His apostles did, and you call any that objects and points out the biblical method of preaching and salvation a hyper-calvinist because he/she does not agree to your unintentional twisting of scripture.

  6. Flynn permalink*
    July 15, 2009 10:03 am

    Hey Robert,

    You say:

    Find me one time where Christ pleaded with the damned. You won’t.

    Jesus: John 5:34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.

    David: Now I admit that the word “pleaded” or cognates is not present, but the point is clear: Jesus witnesses to them with the intent that they should be saved. The hina purpose clause with the subjunctive is clear. C.f., John 3:17.

    Jesus is doing what John did before him:
    John 1:7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.

    Indeed, the context of John 5 concerns John’s witness.

    We also have:
    Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

    David: Of course, while one can draw a distinction between the leaders and the children, the children are the children nonetheless, even the masses of the city.

    Robert says:
    Instead you will find places where Christ told people that they wouldn’t come to Him that they might be saved, that they were of their father the devil,

    David: Exactly. The same people Jesus rebuked he says he came to seek their salvation.

    Robert: that they weren’t of God, that they would die in their sins, that they believed not because they were not of His sheep.

    David: Agreed.

    Robert: For these people Christ prayed not in John 17.

    David: Agreed.

    Robert: You call that position hyper-calvinism.

    David: Caricature. If you read my post again you will see that I was very specific. I did not label someone hypercalvinist if they believed any of the following:

    1) That Christ told people that they wouldn’t come to Him that they might be saved, that they were of their father the devil

    2) That they weren’t of God, that they would die in their sins, that they believed not because they were not of His sheep.

    3) That Christ did not pray for the non-elect.

    Can you point to me any part of what I said in the post which implied or entailed your caricature?

    Robert: I call it the bible.

    David: Okay…

    Robert: You want preachers to do things that neither Christ nor His apostles did, and you call any that objects and points out the biblical method of preaching and salvation a hyper-calvinist because he/she does not agree to your unintentional twisting of scripture.

    David: Robert, I dont get the impression you came here to have a conversation with us. :-) But thanks for the concession regarding our motives, the “unintentional” twisting. But with respect, you also have twisted my words in the post above (unintentionally I am sure).

    Thanks for stopping by,
    David

  7. Jim permalink
    July 21, 2011 12:19 pm

    I think one of the most amazing prayers of Jesus was in the midst of His agony,

    And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,
    for they know not what they do.”
    (Luke 23:34)

    Sure, Jesus pleaded with sinners to repent on many, many occasions.

    turn back, turn back from your evil ways,
    for why will you die, O house of Israel?
    (Ezekiel 33:11)

    From that time Jesus began to preach,
    saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of
    heaven is at hand.”
    (Matthew 4:17)

    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy
    laden, and I will give you rest.
    (Matthew 11:28)

    The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”
    And let the one who hears say, “Come.”
    And let the one who is thirsty come;
    let the one who desires take the water
    of life without price.
    (Rev 22:17)

    Cheers,
    Jim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: