Robert Oliver and the Twists and Turns of Historical Revisionism.
In July, 1988 an anonymous article appeared in the Banner of Truth magazine, surprising and shocking many readers. It was a fierce attack on the person and testimony of William Huntington, known affectionately as ‘the Immortal Coalheaver’. The article, which followed a similar attack on John Gill by Robert Oliver the previous year, was planned to start off what the BOT calls an ‘important controversy’ to warn readers against the traditional Calvinism of these men.
In Huntington’s case (though Gill’s was not dissimilar) the BOT were faced with two difficulties. First, it was obvious that Huntington had the largest congregation in London during the latter part of the 18th century and was the most popular and most read Calvinistic preacher and evangelist of his day. This historical fact alone still persuades many Christians to take Huntington’s message seriously. The Banner is now finding it necessary to play these facts down, portraying Huntington as an eccentric bother-causer in some hole-in-a-corner of church history with no lasting testimony to the present generation.
The second difficulty was that Huntington was a Five-Point Calvinist of the type that had become very rare indeed as the 18th century ended. This led the Banner to make two very strategic moves. The first was to suggest that though Huntington was sound on the Five-Points, he was far from sound on other doctrines, thus shifting the fulcrum of Calvinism from the doctrines of grace to a new area of discussion. Then as they could neither prove that Huntington was deficient on the Five-Points, nor come up with a contemporary name who was more proficient in those matters, they began to emphasise that Huntington stood alone amongst evangelicals in general and that anybody viewing Huntington as the most vocal preacher and teacher of his day, can only do so if they ‘denigrate’ (their very strong word) his evangelical contemporaries in all denominations . It would now seem that the Banner has stopped looking for a Five-Point man to rival Huntington and is widening its search through all evangelical Christendom to find a greater than he for their argument’s sake. A by-product of the Banner’s new stand, however, is that, in their eyes, in making claims for the historical veracity of Huntington’s position, one is putting oneself outside of their view of evangelicalism. It will soon become apparent what their new view is.
The BOT Editorial Director himself claimed responsibility for publishing the 1988 attack and authored the much criticised October, 1994 onslaught. These articles have been shown irrefutably to be written by a man who was not master of his subject and was too emotive and polemic to be objective. This is probably why the Banner refused to print prepared expert criticisms of Mr. Murray’s article yet published shredded snippets of his prejudiced choice from the letters of his private correspondents without seeking their permission. This stratagem alone proves the lost nature of the BOT’s cause.
I informed Mr. Murray of my coming book Pastor of Providence and he timed his October attack on Huntington to coincide with its publication, not informing me, though we were in correspondence at the time. After publication, the BOT realised that they needed an ‘expert’ to tackle the new problems which my book brought for them, in particular my well-documented proof of Huntington’s contemporary and lasting importance. They thus approached Dr. Robert Oliver who had already assisted them in labelling Gill as a Hyper-Calvinist. Oliver’s credentials are that he has written a thesis on the 18th century and was brought up amongst Huntingtonians but reacted strenuously against their views and became a fierce opponent of Huntington. The BOT did not think it worth their while to invite a scholar who was sympathetic to Huntington’s stand or one who had benefited from his teaching. This is a great pity as Oliver has obviously a strong emotive prejudice against Huntington. Though I admit that I am highly biased in a positive way in my regard for Huntington, a reviewer who feels nothing but abhorrence for his subject, is hardly the man to look to for an objective evaluation. Oliver, I know, would say the same thing about my views concerning Fuller but Huntington was the subject of my book, not Fuller. Oliver acknowledges that Fuller was one of Huntington’s ‘sternest critics’ and this is the only reason why he comes into my story.
In the two alleged reviews of Pastor of Providence written by Dr Robert Oliver in the BOTM and the EN, he calls my well-documented evidence ‘historical revisionism’, hoping by this to pave the way for his own version of history. My questions then to the Oliver/ Murray team are, “What is your version? If Huntington was not the most vocal, influential and useful preacher of his day, and a Five-Point man to boot, who was?
The answer is as obvious as it is dubious. Andrew Fuller (1754-85), the introducer of Anglican Latitudinarianism into Baptist faith and practice and the disciple of Hugo Grotius the Dutch moral philosopher and anti-Calvinist, is presented as the one who fulfils all that I claim for Huntington. Oliver’s BOT review is thus not so much an evaluation of my book on Huntington but a presentation of Oliver’s candidature for evangelical honours. This view gives rise to more than a few problems. Fuller did not have anywhere near as great a preaching ministry as Huntington, nor as great a ministry in writing. Indeed, the bulk of Fuller’s written work deals with heavy criticism from evangelicals of all kinds and from numerous denominations who all say truthfully that Fuller has departed from orthodoxy in his controversial work The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.
Oliver is fully aware of these problems and his offering Fuller as a substitute for Huntington obviously causes him some embarrassment. He is not ‘happy’ with Fuller’s heretical doctrine of figurative imputation and he finds Fuller’s heretical view of the Fall ‘unhelpful’. Orthodox Calvinists of his day, including Huntington, found Fuller’s doctrines sheer heresy! My portrayal of Huntington’s doctrine shows that he is perfectly orthodox on the matter of the sin, the fall, redemption, penal substitution, the vicarious suffering of Christ and the imputation of our sins to Christ and His righteousness to us. These are doctrines which, in contrast to Calvin, Fuller says are merely figures of speech and not the ‘proper’ signifiers of what actually happened. Yet Oliver still puts Fuller forward as his man. If Oliver expects us to believe that Fuller represents mainline Calvinism, as he claims, he will expect us to believe anything! If this is not historical and theological revisionism, what is?
The extraordinary thing about Oliver’s reviews is that though I have scrutinised Huntington’s life and testimony by the light of over 200 passages from Scripture, Oliver does not bring one Scriptural reference of his own to back up his fierce criticism. He does mention one verse I quote, arguing polemically that I ‘pour scorn’ on Fuller’s use of a verse, a use with which he obviously agrees, and quotes Calvin in Fuller’s support. The passage is John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent’. My argument is that Fuller has completely misunderstood the text and Oliver’s quote from Calvin in no way backs up what Fuller claims.
The context of Fuller’s application of John 6:29 is in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation where he is talking of those in Isaiah 55:1-7 who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness and pardon. The context concerns the elect Bride of Christ of whom we read, “For thy maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name: and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel” (54:5). The Bride is promised everlasting kindness and mercy from the hand of her Lord (v.8) which will never fail. Christ’s Bride is also told that her righteousness is of the Lord (v.17). The elect are then called to faith and repentance in Isaiah 55. The whole passage is deeply spiritual and as deeply soteriological.
Fuller rejects any spiritual interpretation of this passage. He says “The thirst which they are supposed to possess does not mean a holy desire after spiritual blessings, but the natural desire of happiness which God has implanted in every bosom.” Thus Fuller sees no spiritual response required from the sinner here but a mere natural response. He then goes on to say that ‘the New Testament is still more explicit than the Old’ and quotes John 6:29 to underline what man in his fallen nature is expected to do i.e. respond to his natural abilities. This is the Latidudinarianism of Toland and Tillotson not the doctrine of Huntington or Calvin. Let us look closely at John 6:29 which cannot possibly carry Fuller’s meaning.
In verse 27 Jesus is teaching that the believer’s labour is determined by God who marks him out and seals him for that purpose. Next Christ’s general hearers ask him what is to be done so that they might be sealed and be given everlasting food. “You must believe in me’”, Christ tells them (v. 29). Now Christ’s hearers do not ask him how they can work to obtain this belief but how Jesus will work to give them that belief (v. 30). They even remind Jesus that their believing fathers had found life through God’s works, without their own works. They were given bread from heaven. (v. 31). An Arminian will say, ‘Yes, but they would never have eaten the manna and lived if they had not picked it up and put it in their mouths’. To which the Reformed answer must be, ‘Yes, but they were apprehending the gift that they had already been given. They were (going back to the theological interpretation) working from belief, not working in order to believe. There may have been some unbelievers present who scoffed at their friends and told them not to be silly as it was all a mirage – but they will not have lived long enough to boast of their worldly wisdom.’
Jesus then goes on to say that such an earthly miracle has its parallels in heavenly ones. The heavenly bread of God is none other than Christ Himself who gives that life which brings eternal salvation with it (vs. 33-35). Then in verse 37 Christ graciously and with heavenly authority, says, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’
This text of all texts makes it very clear whence faith comes. Anyone, however, concluding from this exposition that human responsibility is not required must be an Antinomian indeed. Natural abilities are not the custodians of faith but God-given responsibilities through God-given grace are. God’s eternal standards, reflected in his eternal Law, also reflect His eternal nature and the eternal nature of His Son. These eternal standards are now our eternal standards. They were never recognised as such before we were saved as we could never attain them to make them are standard. We were at enmity with them in our sinful state and could not comprehend their holiness so as to use them to reach God. Christ has not only taken away our enmity towards Him but also our enmity towards the Law. We can now love God but we can also love the Law. We love it because it killed our sinful pride and we love it because we are now under the Law to Christ whose standards we wish to obey. To serve Him in holy living is our aim, though the old Adam still wars against us.
Oliver is obviously frightened that such an interpretation takes man’s responsibility too lightly, so he sides with Fuller who lays the onus of activity on man. This is not Christian logic. No true Christian would deny that man is responsible for not believing but he would, I trust, deny that man has any natural abilities to exercise faith. When Fuller says, ‘men have the same power, strictly speaking, before they are wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, as after; and before conversion as after; that the work of the Spirit endows us with no new rational powers, nor any powers that are necessary to moral agency; ‘ he is both implying that fallen man has still the natural ability to believe and also denying the total depravity of man whose sin ‘marred all’ and even drew nature itself down with his total fall. Nevertheless Oliver challenges my statement that Fuller taught that God would never demand of man what he could not naturally do. A brief glance through his The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation will show that Fuller majors on this very point. Arthur Kirkby is quite correct when he so succinctly sums up Fuller’s belief in the words ‘I could if I would’.
Oliver accuses me of misusing sources whereby he means that he either lacks information which I have or he interprets these things differently, or, as in at least five cases, he has overlooked my evidence. I am, for instance, accused of getting Abraham Taylor’s Arminianism and Thomas Newton’s Evangelicalism wrong, yet I was quite correct. Modern research is coming round to the opinion that Taylor took the ‘wrong’ side in the Arminian-Calvinist controversy . His contemporaries such as John Gill and John Brine were convinced of this and Brine wrote his A Refutation of Arminian Principles in 1743 against Taylor. Gill combated Taylor’s Arminian views on election and good works in his God’s Everlasting Love to His Elect (1732) and The Necessity of Good Works unto Salvation Considered (1738) It was Taylor, of course, who helped Fuller change his views concerning the fall and redemption and Taylor who turned radically from the Five-Point Calvinism of his own father. It would be an anachronism to call Taylor a Fullerite as, in many ways, he is the father of Fullerism, but he cannot be called a traditional Calvinist. Dr Thomas Newton, of course, was the darling of Evangelicals for many years and his 3 volume Dissertation on the Prophesies which have been remarkably fulfilled (1754-58) was highly regarded by evangelicals as irrefutable. He developed his ‘general armistice for all including the devil’ theory in later life. Some modern evangelicals hold this theory yet are still called ‘evangelicals’. Iain Murray is now circulating a printed defence of Oliver admitting that Newton was an Anglican Evanglical but arguing that I refer to Newton as a bishop and Newton ceased to be an evangelical on becoming a bishop, so Oliver was correct to say that ‘Bishop Newton was not an evangelical.’ This is sheer sophism. The whole point of my one-off reference to Newton was to show how he was leaving the straight and narrow and taking others with him i.e. departing from the evangelical path. Oliver has obviously missed the point.
My use of the generic term ‘Baptist’ for Independents on p. 166 of the biography, for which Oliver makes a special point of criticism, reflects the church organisation I have been familiar with on the Continent for over 30 years. I have been told that this is no longer British practice but in 18th century England the terms ‘Baptist’, ‘Congregational’ and ‘Independent’ were interchangeable to a certain extent. Gill’s Baptist church at Higham-Ferrers, for instance, was called an Independent church and in Huntington’s day a good number of Independent and Baptist congregations were mixed communion churches and could hardly be distinguished. I admit the unsuitable nomenclature but do not find that it affects my argument in any way.
Oliver accuses me of misusing quotes concerning Ryland and Haweis and advises readers to check for themselves in the sources I give. I trust they will call his bluff. I have been just and accurate in my assessment of Haweis and have been guarded in my quotes on Ryland because of his friendship with Gill and Hervey and because he stands head and shoulders over Fuller. If readers look up Jay, they will find comments on Ryland that are utterly frightening such as his threat of violence, his lack of self-control, his eccentricity which Jay admits might appear ‘like a degree of derangement’, and ‘his bursting forth into a dreadful imprecation’. See also Robert Hall’s statement that Ryland was a ‘bloody-minded master’ quoted by Underwood. Out of respect for Ryland, and the fact that he became more and more eccentric as old age crept on, I declined from quoting the more extreme cases, though they would have been wind in the sails of my argument. Oliver, because of his bluff, now forces his readers to wade through such information. Similarly, if Oliver believes that Jay gave Haweis a glowing testimony, he is satisfied with less than I am. Further information regarding Haweis can be gathered from my book Poet of Paradise.
Oliver is likewise inaccurate in his criticism concerning my portrayal of Ryland’s revolutionary views. He challenges the fact that Ryland was apprehended by a King’s Messenger for anti-government remarks in the pulpit although this is given in Bull, a book which I quote and with which Oliver claims familiarity . Oliver is aware that there are at least three reports of Ryland’s revolutionary politics in circulation (i.e. such were aired in the school, in the parlour and in the pulpit) yet he claims that the three are identical and were made in the parlour. There is no cause for this harmonising of evidence. Ryland was the kind of man that spoke his mind everywhere – but especially at his barber’s. Surely Ryland’s revolutionary ideas were dangerous wherever they were uttered, especially as they were uttered before highly influential Baptists in all the cases mentioned. These revolutionary views spread through Northamptonshire and Norfolk and brought the Baptists into disrepute both at home and abroad . Church historians, whether Anglicans such as Plummer or Dissenters, such as Bogue and Bennet, argue that Dissenters in general supported the revolution. John Gill and John Martin were two of the few Baptists who protested at this lack of respect for their government. Huntington, as an Independent, took the same line.
Oliver, moved by my portrayal of what happened to Huntington’s critics, and possibly worried about what might happen to him, has the nerve to state that “Dr. Ella . . . has to admit that Rowland Hill the most persistent critic outlived Huntington” (p.19). He then gives a page reference to back up this slip of the tongue where Hill is not even mentioned. No such statement or hint occurs anywhere in my book! In fact, I stress that Huntington always respected Hill more than his other critics. Here Oliver is obviously insinuating that I grudgingly have to face the fact that Hill did not die as punishment for criticising Huntington. Must we drop to such levels in a controversy, however ‘important’?
Dr Oliver also accuses me of dismissing ‘the early missionary movement in a footnote ‘ though I do no such thing. 17th century John Eliot, the ‘Apostle to the Indians’ has been a hero of mine since my youth, as also Brainerd, who followed in his footsteps. Cranz in Greenland and Ziegenbalg’s work in India have long fired me with a zeal to evangelise the nations. August Hermann Franke and Cotton Mather on missionary strategy have thrilled me for years. Even those missionaries of a later time such as William Carey and J. G. Paton, about whom I have a shelf full of precious books, are a constant encouragement. I am trying to get Paton’s biography published in German at present. Who, too, would not praise God for the zeal of a John Howard, serving the Lord in the prisons of eastern Europe? I was called to the European mission field spontaneously with my conversion and my first testimony to a stranger of my new birth and calling was to Omri Jenkins, then Chairman of the European Missionary Fellowship. As soon as my studies were over, I took the gospel to northenmost Lapland teaching Scripture in a nomad school and wandering 25-35 kilometres a day through bog-lands to visit the Lapps with the gospel. I have witnessed for Christ in the mountains, woods and valleys as well as in the rugged mining and steel-working areas on this Continent for 30 years without ever going back to live for more than two or three weeks in England, a country I love. Then Oliver misreads a remark in a footnote and drops an innuendo as if I despise missionary work!
Oliver overlooks the fact that I not only mention Huntington’s valid cause for complaint in a lengthy footnote on p. 331 but I also deal briefly with this topic, which is not central to Huntington’s biography, on pages 171 and 172. Huntington’s main criticism (here aimed at the recently formed, non-church-based LMS) was directed against para-church activities and sending inexperienced men into the dangers of the foreign mission field. These were criticisms shared by many of Huntington’s evangelical contemporaries including Thomas Scott . This was also Spurgeon’s well-known criticism of the Baptist Missionary Society. If Oliver were to examine Huntington’s missionary strategy – and mine – he would find that he was all for a Bible and church-based evangelism but not for substituting membership of a society for the real thing. Huntington’s and Spurgeon’s criticisms still need to be remembered in modern missionary work, although much has been learnt since their days. Again Oliver has been careless with his criticism. I distinctly refer in the context to the para-church situation contemporary to Huntington and not to the Europe-wide church-based activity of ‘the early missionary movement’ which pre-dated Huntington by at least a century.
Henry Sant points out in his review of The Pastor of Providence in this issue how inaccurate Oliver is in claiming Huntington as the first offender in the DeFleury/Ryland versus Huntington debate. Miss DeFleury actually opened the debate in 1787 in her A Letter to the Rev. William Huntington. A Reply to the Modern Plasterer and in 1788 with her Serious Address, with Remarks on Mr. Huntington’s Sermon. and her An Answer to the Daughter’s Defence of her Father, the ‘father’, being Huntington, the ‘daughter’ being Elizabeth Morton, whom Huntington rescued from Romanism and led to Christ. Huntington did not retaliate until several broadsides had been fired by DeFleury.
Oliver has no case for claiming that Huntington used ‘lambastic language’ against DeFleury though he is shocked because Huntington accuses her of being what she was, ‘intemperate’, in her language. How would he describe DeFleury’s name-calling? For instance, her taking away Huntington’s S.S. (Sinner Saved) and giving him the title MBA (Master of the Black Arts)? A fuller consideration of this matter is necessary but, I believe I have made my point.
The reviewer also claims unconvincingly that Huntington’s language is abusive though his quotes from Fuller contain stronger language than those from Huntington (p. 18). Oliver, quotes odd words which misrepresent Huntington’s language completely. Typical of modern Fullerism is that they are shy of references to the ‘killing’ nature of the law and the fact that it makes ‘Pharisees’ of those who approach it with a legalistic spirit, to mention two of Oliver’s examples. The Biblical word ‘bastard’ is also too down to earth for Oliver’s delicate ears. Fuller taught that as all children know instinctively what the wish of their father is, so all sinners know instinctively what God expects of them. Huntington taught the Biblical doctrine of sons, who know their father’s will and bastards who do not. If Oliver were to compare Huntington’s language in controversy with that of Wesley or Hill, he would be surprised how sober it is. Yet, whenever Huntington lost his temper, his friends found him spending hours on his knees pleading for mercy and forgiveness. His private letters are full of remorse at his personal failings.
Oliver accuses me of tarring Fuller, John Collet Ryland, Dr Ryland and Dr Rippon with the same brush although I merely mention the points where they agreed against Huntington. It was beyond the scope of my work to examine their entire theology. Ryland Sen. certainly did not accept Fuller’s theory concerning a restricted depravity, nor his theory of imputed righteousness but he went even further than Fuller in his doctrine of Adamic restitution. Dr Ryland, I believe was led more astray by Fuller than his father, who took his own path. Neither the father nor the son accepted Fuller’s strong condemnation of Gill, nor did they share Fuller’s view of baptism and criticism of Evangelicals in the Anglican Church. Dr Rippon neither shared Fuller’s criticism of Gill nor much of Fuller’s Latitudinarianism. He was too practical for such theological suicide. Yet he often followed Fuller’s advice, at times very closely. He, too, was caught up in the catching enthusiasm of Fuller’s personality. It was deep admirable friendship which bound these men, not theology.
Huntington, Oliver believes, misrepresents law and grace, though his evidence does not indicate this. He produces nothing from Huntington’s works which cannot be found in the old Puritans, especially Traill. It is amusing to notice that Traill is highly respected by so-called ‘moderate Calvinists’ but when Huntington, almost verbatim, says the same things as Traill, whom he obviously studied closely, the same people cry, “Antinomian”. In his Evangelical Now review, Oliver puts his own orthodoxy at jeopardy by disagreeing with Huntington who believed that ‘the ten commandments, exclusive of other parts of Scripture, are not a sufficient rule for the real believer’s life, walk and conversation.’ Is Oliver saying that he was converted and became a Christian and learnt to love Christ and walk by faith, trusting in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit by striving to keep the ten commandments? Is there no New Testament in Oliver’s canon?
In keeping with modern legalists, Oliver objects to my using Acts 13:39 “By him (Christ) all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” as an antidote against legalism. He puts ‘over against’ this, with obvious approval, the words of Fuller, “To allege there are things in the precepts of the New Testament which are not specifically required by the decalogue is mere evasion.” Is this really Oliver’s view? This is the position of Christian Pharisees who argue that Christian perfection is attainable through obeying the Law and one evades this issue when one talks of a Better Way. Such Fullerites always evade this vital issue in debate as it spoils their legal system completely. This is perhaps why there is no reference to Acts 13:39 (actually, it occurs once in a list of Scriptures without a comment: later note by author) in all of Fuller’s works! But we are still “justified from all things from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses”, however Fuller or Oliver try to ‘evade’ the fact.
Oliver rejects all I have to say concerning Fuller’s remarks on Huntington, which makes me feel he has not considered them very deeply. The case of The Picture of An Antinomian, which Oliver will not accept at all as referring to Huntington is interesting. After the BOT had accused Huntington of Antinomianism, I requested evidence from Iain Murray. This was because Huntington’s numerous writings against Antinomianism and for the eternal nature of the Law had helped and influenced me for the good. His doctrine of sanctification – which Oliver has fully misunderstood – had shown me the true Biblical conception of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord and rescued me from thinking, even as a converted man, that if I did my bit, God would do His. As ‘proof’, Mr Murray sent me, along with other friends, a cutting of the Portrait of an Antinomian.. I replied that the article neither referred to Huntington nor bore Fuller’s name and seemed to be mere vicious gossip. Mr Murray assured me of the identity of both author and subject. After checking the sources (which Oliver’s footnotes show he possesses), I agreed with Mr Murray’s judgement and thus used the article in a defence which I wrote for the Banner but which they rejected and which became the nucleus of my book. If Oliver is now arguing that this document is no longer a basis for presuming that Huntington was an Antinomian, then the BOT should announce this openly and withdraw their faulty conclusions drawn from it. The evidence for the article’s reference to Huntington is that on December 21st 1801, Fuller wrote that someone had asked him to write on spiritual pride, to which he answered, ‘I feel myself much more capable of depicting Antinomian pride, than the other. For this purpose I have procured Huntington’s works. But, in reading them, I am stopped for a time. I have eight or nine volumes! I never read any thing more void of true religion. I do not think of naming him, or his works, or those of any other person; but merely to draw pictures , and let the reader judge who they are like.’ Thus, after procuring Huntington’s books, Fuller drew his own discoloured Picture of an Antinomian which would be so obvious that the readers would know who he was writing about. Besides, who else could Fuller be referring to as Oliver and Murray argue that Huntington stood quite alone amongst ministers in his heresy?
I cannot possibly dwell on all of Oliver’s attacks against Huntington, though I believe he could not be more wrong on every point. One further instance must suffice. In his Evangelical Now review, Oliver appends a comment to a reference from my book on p. 47 with the astounding claim that Huntington believed that saved sinners may sin with impunity and are indeed required of God to do so and thus remain sinless. I make no such allegations, nor is evidence forthcoming in the references Oliver gives from Huntington’s works. Oliver is quite simply either guilty of a reading error or an over-heated imagination. Huntington is arguing, in the passage Oliver cites, that if the Law actually did lead to Life and not Grace, then there would be no Old Testament saint who could stand before Christ’s Judgement Seat and claim he had deserved and thus gained that Life. Oliver has also here failed to consider the Pauline doctrine of the two Adams which explains why there is both sin and sanctification in man at the same time. This teaching is at the heart of Huntington’s theology and would help Oliver with most of his problems concerning Huntington’s writings on sin’s presence in the believer and the doctrines of sanctification and justification. (Note: I was not aware at the time of writing this article that the BOT rejected the Two Nature doctrine).
Oliver responds to my loving portrayal of the grace of God in the life and testimony of William Huntington with a breathtaking display of negative, destructive enthusiasm. He will not give Huntington brotherly support in condemning the sins and follies of the age he lived in and he finds no cause to praise God in the story of Huntington’s enormous outreach. He sees no comfort in Huntington’s sermons about being reconciled to Christ and having the glorious privilege of being endued with our Saviour’s imputed righteousness. He brings Huntington’s high view of holiness and sanctification down to mud-level. The holy lives of a Rusk or a Brook or a Burrell leave him cold. Even the testimony of Lloyd-Jones fails to move him. Instead, as in the previous two Banner articles on Huntington, he brings long-refuted prejudices to bear which, to this writer, reflect a paucity of spiritual understanding, insight and experience which is terrible to behold. Oliver professes to be an expert on Huntington and to have studied him carefully. Huntington always taught people to study with their heads and their hearts and make experimental the blessings of their reading. Oliver is apparently still taking Huntington in rationally and has yet to apply Huntington’s teaching to his heart.
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