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THE PROGENY: Anglicans of Augustinian Conviction Continue.

By Roger Salter
May 21, 2021


"There are few subjects about which English people are so ignorant as they are about the real doctrine of the Church of England. Many persons know nothing of the theological opinions of the English Reformers, and of all the leading English Divines for nearly a century after the Protestant Reformation." Bishop J.C. Ryle

Indubitably, one feels, Augustinianism is the superior human interpretation of the biblical account of the salvation of mankind. For inevitably, in the hope of salvation, the Augustinian notion of the human plight and peril fastens guilty and helpless man to God, without option, in a total and indissoluble manner of desperate necessity. This mutual attachment is sustained on the human side by the powerful adhesive of a conscious and complete dependence (clinging attachment) on mercy, and on the divine side by the unfailing faithfulness (almighty grip) of an omnipotent God.

There is no alternative for the helpless sinner than to cast himself wholly upon the supreme help of God. Nothing avails for the individual who discovers that they are lost beyond recovery apart from an uncaused intervention from above. Human desire, strength and righteousness are of no account whatsoever in the matter of divine deliverance and transformation, which is exclusively and solely a work of omnipotent grace. This is the case initially before any co-operation is elicited from ourselves.

Subsequently, and ever thereafter, there is a work of "second grace" performed in us and through us by the heavenly implanting of a compliant disposition and behavior toward holiness and good works. Christ indwells us. The avowed renunciation of autosoterism (self-salvation) can only increase in pressure and intensity in the regenerate individual. Augustinianism is the only accurate expression of this salvific phenomenon - the staying of the soul upon the sovereign good will of the Lord, which only has one solicitation: "Lord, have mercy!"

Should anyone surmise that the human hold on God in this redeeming union could tragically slip into a plunge toward final destruction, it is guaranteed by Scripture that "underneath are the everlasting arms". The Augustinian scheme guarantees that salvation of the believer is certain. Given the frightening frailty and changeability of the mind of man to yield under pressure of temptation and trial, our fallibility, and the stupendous fact of the unfailing firmness of divine election, no other option (the temporary salvation of semi-Pelagianism) is a worthy contender for credence as far as our sense of weakness is concerned:

"The creature cannot stand without the divine upholding, and must fall on the withdrawal of that upholding, while the upholding is not a matter of right, but sovereignty." (John "Rabbi" Duncan).

"That doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is, I believe, as thoroughly bound up with the standing or falling of the gospel as is the article of justification by faith. Give that up, and I see no gospel left . . . . I think few doctrines more vital than that of the perseverance of the saints, for if ever one child of God did perish, or if I knew it were possible that one could, I should conclude at once that I must, and I suppose each of you would do the same. And then where is the joy and happiness of the gospel? (Charles Haddon Spurgeon).

"As long as that abides in us which animates, quickens, gives life, so long as we live; and we know that the cause of our faith abides in us forever. If Christ the fountain of life may flit, and leave the habitation where once he dwelt, what shall become of his promise, 'I am with you to the world's end'? If the seed of God which contains Christ may be first conceived and then cast out, how does St Peter term it immortal? (1 Peter 1:23). How does St John affirm that it abides?" (Richard Hooker).

Salvation from sin and evil is an inestimable benefit, and deliverance from Satan and the second death a massive blessing beyond calculation. Divine preservation is the cause of Christian perseverance, and the believer's certainty is the foundation of a permanent source of joy. The Savior's pledge is that no one who comes to him will ever be cast out -never! - for that is the clear meaning of Jesus' words. They bear a long term sense beyond the simple extension of an ever-open, indiscriminate invitation. There is a divine, pre-ordained purpose going on, and moving forward, that secures its ineluctable end. "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37).

The divine intent is inescapable. John speaks of a very solemn compact between the Father and the Son that embraces the present life in its full duration and ushers in the believer's hold on life through death; and then comes death's total negation in the supreme moment of the "last day" when every regenerate person will be raised again. "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day" (John 6: 39). Christ's competence, capability and reputation are at stake here. Christ's ultimate will cannot be frustrated. Arminianism is logically the first slippery step towards atheism.

The teaching in John 6 refers to an eternal plan, its effectual operation, and an eternal duration. John is dealing repeatedly in this chapter, and throughout his gospel, with the adorable reality of electing love, the sweetest influence in human experience. Believers are associated in the divine mind with the Son Jesus Christ before the act of creation and, as considered in union with him, they are drawn out of the world, being absolutely and uniformly hostile to him (Romans 8:5-8), into the family of God by a sovereign exercise of indisputable predilection (undeserved favor).

"This is the essence of God's love. Here is that point where above all others God's love is distinctive. It is not so much the case that God rejects this one or that one, but in some cases we can see that God does more than is required" (the moderate position of Norman H. Snaith, The Over-plus of God's Love, p140, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, Epworth Press 1955). "Charis is therefore prevenient Grace. It is the basis of the first stirring in the human heart by which we are brought to God -- that is , it is effectual election-love" (op. cit. 176).

The whole point of Augustinian/Calvinistic theology is to glorify Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient Saviour gloriously successful in every aspect of our salvation. Our advocacy of predestination is principally pastoral and in praise of God, the absolute Ruler of all conceivable reality. Beyond that it is not theoretical or abstract, but simply in accord with plain text of Holy Scripture as it is faithfully expounded with consistency and a panoramic view (analogy of Scripture). It is the pastoral consolation and assurance derived from the truth of divine election that insists that free and unfailing grace must be the undergirding of the preaching of the gospel. There is no injustice in it. All who are hailed by the gospel are called, without discrimination, to avail themselves of the benefits to be found in Christ, and yet God, by right, may ensure the salvation of those whom has chosen. None who sincerely desire Christ will be deprived of his mercy (Article 19, BCP).

"Our relief lies in the wisdom and sovereignty of God. He reveals his salvation to whom he pleases - for the most part to babes; from the bulk of the wise and the prudent it is hidden. Thus it hath pleased him, and therefor it must be right . . . it is of grace that any are saved; and in the distribution of that grace he does what he will with his own, --a right which most are ready enough to claim in their own concerns, though they are so unwilling to allow it to the Lord of all" (Letters of John Newton edited by Halcyon Backouse, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989).

God is not obligated to save any; he deigns to save many. Sin condemns all. Sovereignty saves the underserving. Justice rewards the impenitent. "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? (Romans 9:20).

It is the fact of the Lord's effectual call that impinges so dramatically upon our conscious experience of grace and which raises the issue of divine selection so keenly. It is a key concept in our lead-in to a comprehension of the divine choice of his people. We can well recognize our total depravity as the Spirit searches our hearts, and we can conclude the fact of unconditional election from the grammar of Holy Scripture, but it is the irresistible grace of God (Jesus Christ's wooing of us through his revealed beauty and aptness to our condition) that introduces to us, through careful deduction and the witness of the Spirit, our encounter with intervening mercy, i.e. " the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, etc (Article 17).

"I think that as God could bend my will, and bring me to Christ, he can bring anybody."

Why was I made to hear his voice,
And enter while there's room;
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?

'Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced me in:
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perish in my sin.

"Yes, 'sweetly forced me in;' -- there is no other word that can so accurately describe my case." Charles Haddon Spurgeon

It is the context of the gospel proclamation that the divine ingathering and passing-by both take place. The divine decree works out in the historical response, a matter of human responsibility that devolves upon us all. Everyone hears the same promise, and the assured outcome if accepted. It is the Lord's prerogative to assist those whom he will and he is perfectly at liberty to leave others to their own free and negative choice of refusal emanating from their sinful nature.

It is in this gospel arena of human crisis and decision that human destinies are decided. No human being is wronged in terms of due justice, but the elect are called out by divine summons - effectual grace. No one can read the ultimate divine determination, but all are signaled with the way of eternal peace through Christ, we all line up at the same starting line, and those deprived of the gospel blessedness have expressed their own fixed mind as to the desirableness of the Savior and repudiated him without compulsion alien to their natural inclinations. Election is eternal love "going the extra mile' in the lives of the equally recalcitrant, and distinguishing them from the fate of all rebels who hold out against God, both angelic and human.

This crucial issue is that which conditioned the Reformers and their 17th century successors to carefully define the doctrine of grace - its loveliness, freeness, power, accessibility, and location in the Lord Jesus. Their flock needed to know the way of redemption, and what its author intended and accomplished, to give them the components and dimensions of the plan of salvation and its inherent wonders, features and beauteous design.

The Reformers disclosed the structure of grace as against false notions of coming together as holy God and evil man. The Reformed men of the 16th and 17th centuries felt compelled to explicate the procession of grace in its offer and approach to sinners, hence the various synods and confessions to compile the biblical information organically and consistently. Diverse opinions multiplied in their age and it was their pastoral concern to clarify wholesome doctrine for the spiritual welfare of the people. The confessions were important stepping stones to promulgation of Christian truth.

In spite of setbacks engineered by Archbishop Laud and the royal Charles Stewart, Anglicanism possessed noble men of the Word of God who remained faithful and who ably ministered the truth of Sacred Scripture undiluted by the inroads of excessive concern for ceremony reminiscent of the Romish orientation of the past and sympathetic to the notions of Arminianism. The names of valiant Anglicans loyal to the pure gospel are many: John Davenant, Samuel Ward, Joseph Hall, each of these respected English delegates to the Synod of Dort, and in the Puritan era William Gurnall, John Trapp, John Preston, William Perkins, Richard Sibbes, and even the English Augustine and non-Puritan John Donne, whose soteriological theology chimed with that of the Puritans.

Donne speaks of those whose conversion illustrates "the infallibility (irresistibility), and the dispatch of the grace of God upon them, whom his gracious purpose hath ordained to salvation: how powerfully he works; how instantly they obey" Sermons 1:254.

The poet continues, "Without such Grace and such succession of Grace our Will is so far unable to predispose itself to any good . . . we have no interest in ourselves, no power to do anything of, or with ourselves, but to our destruction. Sermons 1:293. And commenting on prevenient grace, "no man can prepare that work, no man can begin it, no man can proceed in it of himself. The desire and actual beginning is from the preventing grace of God" Sermons 2:305. These three quotes taken from The Poetry of Grace, William H. Halewood, Yale University press, 1972, pp 62-63.

Donne further remarks, "God did not choose me as a helper, nor create me, nor redeem me, nor convert me, by way of helping me, for he alone did all, and he had no use at all of me. God infuses his first grace, the first way, merely as a Giver; entirely, all himself; but his subsequent graces, as a helper; therefore we call them Auxiliary graces." John Donne, Selected Prose, Neil Rhodes, Penguin Classics, 1987, page 242. Rhodes goes on to comment, "Donne takes a (similarly) moderate line on predestination in Sermon 40.3, but his position is ambiguous, as he also believed in first judgment "before all times' (Sermons, 2: 319, note 21, Selected Prose).

Davenant and Hall shared very interesting correspondence with each other following the conclusions of Dort, and in his straitened circumstances in later life Hall treasured the medallion awarded to him for his association with Dort, shortened as it was by ill health. Hall's insistence was that the discussions of Dort should come to agreement "by simply allowing the "Word of God" to speak for itself (Bishop Joseph Hall, Frank Livingstone Huntly, D.S. Brewer Ltd, Cambridge, 1979, p106). Those conclusions meant so much to Hall and Davenant that they considered the doctrine of Dort to be wholly consonant with the teaching of the Church of England.

"Though the English delegates at Dort knew better than most Englishmen (including perhaps the king) that Arminianism and 'Socinian gangrene; were not identical, nevertheless they had to side with the Calvinist majority because of their ordination vows to uphold the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. Writing on this question to Bishop Davenant, Hall said,: 'I will live and die in the suffrage of that synod of Dort; and I do confidently avow that those other opinions (of Arminius) cannot stand with the doctrine of the Church of England.' To which his fellow delegate replied: 'I know that no man can embrace Arminianism in the doctrines of predestination and grace, but he must desert the Articles agreed upon by the Church of England' (Huntley p109). We see here as to why the Articles are virtually jettisoned by the majority of Anglican clergy and lay academics. Therefore, worshippers in the Anglican communion are not aware of their precious heritage.

Again, it is in the 18th century Awakening and the context of graphic and divinely empowered gospel preaching that electing love comes to the fore of public attention. The names of Whitefield, Grimshaw, Romaine, Toplady, Berridge, John Cennick, Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris (lay preacher) come to mind immediately, and their ministries were supported by numerous others, both Anglican and non-conformist. The Anglican Articles and Liturgy pronounced a strong and comely Augustinianism throughout the land, the whole of Britain, ultimately to influence the colonies of the time.

Whitfield was vocal as to his adherence to Scripture, the Articles of the Church of England and the Westminster Confession.

"The doctrines of our election, and free justification in CHRIST JESUS, are more and more pressed upon my heart. They fill my soul with a holy fire, and afford me great confidence in God my Saviour. Surely I am safe, because put into his mighty arms. Though I may fall, yet I shall not utterly be cast away. The Spirit of the lord Jesus will hold, and uphold me."

"Since I saw you, God has been pleased to enlighten me more in the comfortable doctrine of Election. At my return, I hope to be more explicit than I have been. God forbid, my dear brother, that we should shun to declare the whole counsel of God."

"Put them in mind of the freeness and eternity of God's electing love, and be instant with them, to lay hold on the perfect righteousness of JESUS CHRIST by faith. Talk to them, oh talk to them, even till midnight, of the riches of his all sufficient grace. Tell them, oh tell them, what he has done for their souls, and how earnestly he is now interceding for them in heaven."

"I hope we will catch fire from each other, and that there will be an holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the LORD JESUS. Nothing but the doctrines of the Reformation can do this. All others leave freewill in man, and make him, in part at least, a Saviour to himself. My soul come not near the secret of those who teach such things, mine honor be not thou united to them. I know CHRIST is all in all. Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God work in him to will and to do his good pleasure. It is God must prevent (go before), God must accompany, God must follow with his grace, or JESUS CHRIST will bleed in vain. That God may continue his blessing to us both, is the hearty prayer of, reverend and dear sir, your obliged friend and servant, G.W." (All quotes from George Whitefield's Letters, 1734- 1742).

Augustus Toplady effectively established the Reformational character of the Church of England in his many literary endeavors and particularly in his two extended essays entitled respectively, Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England, and The Church of England Vindicated From The Charge of Arminianism, these works warmly commended by Bishop Ryle, with some little concern at the sometimes heated tone and vigorous expression of Toplady's presentation. [See Christian Leaders of the 18th Century -- and also Rock of Ages, a biography of Augustus Toplady written by Thomas Garrett Isham and published by Solid Ground Books].

Subsequent generations have produced many able exponents of the doctrines of grace in Anglicanism, both in its English birthplace and in associated provinces overseas. The roll is long and distinguished: sagacious John Newton, captivating commentator Thomas Scott, officially ill-treated Thomas Charles, engrossing Henry Law, elegant Charles Simeon, excellent John Charles Ryle, bold Hugh McNeile, penetrating Charles Bridges, charming Rowland Hill who started as an Anglican, ever faithful Americans Stephen Tynge and Charles Petit McIlvaine. In more recent times a galaxy of advocates of Augustinianism such as T.C. Hammond (from Ireland to Australia). Marcus Loane, Donald Robinson, Leon Morris, Broughton Knox (Downunder), Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Geoffrey Bromiley, Alan Stibbs, J.I. Packer, J.A. Motyer (Church of England), and many, happily, still alive, and vigorous in the cause -- senior, middle-aged and young.

The historic witness endures. May it flourish. And in good time may Anglicanism recover its true identity as unswervingly Scriptural, Augustinian, and Reformational, and be conspicuously recognized as a clearly classical Evangelical Church.

But that the vast majority of all Churchmen in that day (16th C overlapping 17th C) held the doctrines which are now called Calvinistic and Evangelical, is to my mind as clear as noon-day -- Bishop J.C. Ryle

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