A SIGNIFICANT DISPUTE
In the year 1703 John Wesley was born and so it is inevitable that the year 2003 should be one in which this event should be remembered. It is to John Wesley’s ministry that the existence of the Arminian branch of Methodism owes its beginnings.
If there is a particular point at which Wesley and his followers became a distinct movement it must be the time when he both published and preached his attack on the Doctrines of Grace as they were so strongly proclaimed by George Whitefield. At the centre of the dispute were the doctrines of predestination and election, personal and effectual redemption (often referred to as Particular Redemption), and the question of the attainment of perfect holiness in the believer’s life.
It seems to be an opportune time to re-print the letter Whitefield wrote to Wesley in response to Wesley’s sermon entitled ‘Free Grace’, a sermon in which he spoke with great severity of the doctrine of predestination as ‘a doctrine full of blasphemy.’ Later he declares, This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination.’ In his book on the life of George Whitefield,* Arnold Dallimore comments, ‘This was the sermon which became Methodism’s first rock of division.’ Anyone wishing to read this sermon in full will find it in various editions of Wesley’s works but Whitefield’s reply gives a fair representation of its contents in the extracts he quotes.
*Published by Banner of Truth, 1980. Vol. 2. Supplement, pp.551-569