It is said that the first person to use the term Antitrinitarianism was Henry Bullinger who coined the word in his Responsioministorium Tigurinae ecclesiae ad argumenta Antitrinitariorum Italopolonorum (A Response of the ministers of the Zürich Church to the Arguments of the Italopolish Antitrinitaarians) of 1563. Around 1560 a group of Italians in Geneva quarreled with Calvin and fled to Zürich where they asked Bullinger to mediate. Bullinger urged them to return to Geneva and make their peace with Calvin. The Italians claimed that this would be pointless as Calvin had wrongly accused them of heresy and would have no fellowship with them and had threatened them with the death penalty. Calvin indeed claimed that the Italians, led by Matteo Gribaldi, Giorgio Biandrata and Giampaolo Alciati were followers of Servetus. His accusation was certainly correct concerning Gribaldi who had written an Apology for Servetus and other tracts questioning the Trinity. Most of the others, however, were what I would call ‘borderline cases’. Though professing to be Trinitarians, they held to distinctions of nature and will within the Trinity which, they believed, still kept them within the bounds of Orthodoxy. In other words, they strove to stretch the nomenclature of the Reformation as far as possible, introducing new terms for the distinctions in the Persons of the Trinity. This, however, eventually made any belief in the unity of the Trinity impossible for them.
Most of these radicals eventually settled down in Poland and gradually infiltrate Polish society from the Royal family down to the ordinary church-goer and departed further and further from Biblical teaching concerning the Trinity. Rome was quick to seize on this departure from both Reformed and Roman Catholic doctrine but claimed that the necessary corollary of the Reformation was Antitrinitarian heresy. So this controversy led eventually to the collapse of the Reformation in Poland and the return of the iron grasp of Rome which has controlled Poland ever since.
Such conjurors and jugglers of new terms are still considered within the borders of orthodoxy by many modern claimants of the duty-faith-common-grace gospel which teaches that Christ, on behalf of man, had desires for them which were against the Father’s will. It is interesting to note that before this controversy arose, Bullinger had been dealing with the trouble caused by Reformed Christians who believed that a Christian could be led to faith through the outworkings of Providence in nature. This led to two extremes in the budding Reformation. One side rejected Providence as a means of saving grace and preached election and predestination as a direct fiat of God, irrespective of man’s place in nature, indeed, irrespective of man’s Fall. The other believed that the way to God was first paved in stones of natural theology, a belief in which would automatically lead to a belief in the gospel when they heard it preached. The slogan being that all are duty-bound to accept any revelation from God whether ‘natural’ or ‘in the Word’. Bullinger saw the folly of both these extremes which today go under the headings of ‘Hyper-Calvinism’ and ‘Moderate Calvinism’. Bullinger took the middle way of truth as outlined in Scripture. God’s revelation to man is through creation, the story of Eden, the Fall, the Law, the Prophets, and culminates in the Life and Work of Christ. There can be no salvation outside of this Providential plan of God’s. Thus, there is no election or predestination, outside of God’s eternal and historical plan in Christ for the elect. Any doctrine of predestination and election must be centred in God’s original plan for mankind as a just steward and his restoration to a higher Eden in Christ.
Modern evangelists who believe in leading their hearers into the full gospel of salvation by preaching natural law and common grace, often claim Bullinger as their own, but this would be wrong. Bullinger rejects the ancient idea that a benign providence can lead sinful man directly to God. For Bullinger, this is a futile faith because God’s just Providencebrings with it both curses and blessings but not saving graces. Thus, though our modern evangelists tell us that God’s common grace (their misleading name for providence) shows sinners that God has provided for their salvation, they omit to tell us, like Paul in Romans 1-2, that in point of fact God’s providence leaves all men accursed because they have sinned against the just providence of God. Thus a gospel that is not based on a true understanding of providential creation is a false gospel which goes against providential justice and is thus itself equally accursed.
When the Italians and Calvin appealed to Bullinger’s mediation on the subject, he did not know what to believe at first as each side obviously exaggerated the position of the other. Also Sozzini, who had settled down in Zürich and Gribaldi drew up confessions of faith which appeared highly orthodox. When Bullinger heard how things were developing in Poland, he realised that he had been dealing with wolfs in sheep’s clothing and that once the Church departs from the Word and the ancient creeds of the Church in their formulas, one can make words mean whatever one will. He became especially critical of the Italians when he heard that their efforts to stretch Biblical Christianity to the limit of their new terminologies were claiming that they were re-creating the original Christian faith. He thus wrote the above mentioned book to show that to emphasise the supposed distinctions in the nature of the Godhead is to walk blindly into heresy. He argued that though Scripture tells us plainly that we are dealing with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each with different characteristics, these characteristics do not rule out the undeniable Scriptural fact that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in their works and will and there is nothing that divides them in this capacity.
I write this with the works of a number of modern nominal Reformed men in memory, such as those of John Murray, David Gay, K. W. Stebbins who are claiming that their neo-nomenclature of the Trinity is a step back to the true Reformed faith. They thus strive to bamboozle us with talk of the different wills, delights, pleasures, desires within the Trinity so that the Godhead is presented as a chaos of confusion. The only conclusion one can draw from this is that these critics of the Trinity wish to abolish the Scriptural revelation concerning the Godhead as being ‘un-Christian’ in their modern warped view of what faith entails. That their faith does not entail much is shown by the parallel emphasis of these modern scoffers as these are the very people who talk of their gospel being a free-offer of Christ and a warrant of true faith which all, under a common grace, are duty-bound to believe. This faith offered, however, is an empty gospel of deceit which tells us that Christ’s desires contradict the Father’s will and that though the Father wishes to save all, He is no position to do so because of His psychological instability. It is sad to note that though such men as Bullinger debunked these views centuries ago, these people who hold themselves to be Modern Prophets have learnt as little from history as they have from the Scriptures.
It was with this in mind that I took up my pen to challenge David Gay’s antitrinitarian and anti-Scriptural statements culled from the pages of the BOT magazine and the Evangelical Times. As Gay wrote two articles in the Banners pages in which Gay challenged the orthodox faith, I take it that Gay was supported in his views by the BOT editor. The ET, however, state that they do not necessarily agree with the views of Letters to the Editor and reviews in their newspaper and as Gay criticized the Word of God in a review article, I can thus hold him to be the sole offender and not the ET, though I would think they should exercise some control over what their reviewers say.
My brief mention of Gay’s errors in my booklet The Free Offer and the Call of the Gospel, referring to the misuse of gospel preaching under the disguise of a ‘free offer’, produced a whole book from Gay’s pen which he called The Gospel Offer is Free: A Reply to George M. Ella’s The Free Offer and the Call of the Gospel. On reading the book, I was amazed at the freedom the author took in totally missing the point of my remarks and his way of building up a mock, ill-argued defence against a position claimed to be my own but actually invented in the fury of Gay’s deep feeling of having been criticised. Obviously most conscious of the feeling that he has merely written to get his wrath off his chest, he pleads with his ‘reader’ not to read my booklet but merely read his angry outburst against it. Throughout his book, Gay pleads for personal sympathy and caring understanding but not for the cause of God and truth.
Though I knew that the Banner of Truth were involved in Gay’s attack on the faith once committed to the saints, I still was amazed to read how they patted Gay on his shoulder and, leaving the topic of my protest fully aside, used a theological swearword against me which they know from a correspondence of many years about these issuers with me, does not apply at all. The February issue, 2005 of the BOT magazine features the following statement in its News Column:
“The spate of good books continues un abated and there are two, particularly, to which we want to draw attention. In the August/September 1994 edition of this magazine we published an address by David H. J. Gay on ‘Preaching the Gospel to Sinners.’ This testimony brought criticism from Christians of Hyper-Calvinistic persuasion, including George M. Ella, and to this Mr Gay has now replied in The Gospel Offer Is Free. This book is an important addition to the understanding of a vital subject. The author is right to be concerned that preachers should ‘confront their hearers with the immediate responsibility of trusting Christ, directly encouraging them to trust him, and appealing to them to do so now!”
Wondering what on earth had moved the BOT to write something so obviously false, I quickly looked up the BOT’s usual definitions of Hyper-Calvinism, applied it to myself and sent them the following Dementi:
Please use this letter to inform your readers of a slip of the pen in the Feb. issue.
‘Dear Christian Friends,
I was surprised to find myself labeled a Hyper-Calvinist in your February issue with your corollary that I am not amongst those who “confront their hearers with the immediate responsibility of trusting Christ, directly encouraging them to trust him, and appealing to them to do so now!” Naturally, when one starts with a false premise one draws a faulty conclusion. Actually, I abhor Hyper-Calvinism and have aired my views against it in many publications and lectures. I am particularly suspicious of the Supralapsarian kind as found in Calvin’s Institutes, Book III, Chap. XXIII:7 and his Articles Concerning Predestination. I reject Calvin’s studies regarding predestination and election which leave out the covenant of grace and salvation in Christ as in Calvin’s works against Pighius. Not that I care for Pighius, but two wrongs do not make a right. Concerning confronting hearers with Christ and pleading with them to believe, that has been my calling since I was a teen-ager!
David Gay is no doubt a better Calvinist than I am but this is missing the point. Gay’s critical, psychological evaluation of the Trinity and the Word of God make it, I believe, impossible for him to grasp the full height, width and depth of the glorious gospel of salvation. My point is that though Gay would preach the gospel to all, and is to be recommended for his zeal, his mistaken theology sadly hinders that good work. I trust that both Gay and myself are not too old to learn and grow in grace and the knowledge of our Saviour.
George M. Ella”
Walter Chantry replied on behalf of the BOT, telling me that he wished to be ‘plain but not unnecessarily provocative’. In his reply Brother Chantry again avoided my criticism concerning Anti-Trinitarian teaching in BOT publications and said, “You deny being what we call ‘hyper-Calvinist’ because you give that term another description.” Actually, I gave the BOT the description which I had formerly obtained from the BOT. Furthermore, Chantry did not politely tell me what his new definition was so that I could apply it to myself. Chantry also wrote, “You feel free to criticize those who, like us, find in Scripture a well-meant divine offer of the gospel to all sinners which those called to preach the gospel are obligated to convey to mankind.” Again, though true in the case of BOT’s and Gray’s mock-gospel, this was not my point. I went deeper than that in my criticism and rejected the gospel that Anti-Trinitarians preach because it is not the gospel of God and His Word. The BOT position I quoted in my criticism of Gay was that God’s volitional will in delighting to save all is contrary to his decretal will to save some but God allows His decretal will to gain the upper hand against His volitional will. The corollary of this outlined in the Banner article quoted, is that Christ’s desire is other than His Father’s will. I answered thus:
Dear Brother Chantry,
Thank you for your prompt reply. I see that there is a great mountain of misunderstandings to be cleared up but I believe that our God is also a God who is patient with His children and teaches us to be patient with each other.
“It is apparent that you and we at Banner of Truth give differing definitions to the term ‘hyper-Calvinism.”
I was particularly careful to use definitions of Hyper-Calvinism from Banner publications so that there would be no misunderstanding concerning what we are talking about.
You also write
“You feel free to criticize those who, like us, find in Scripture a well-meant divine offer of the gospel to all sinners which those called to preach the gospel are obligated to convey to mankind.”
This is not the point at all. If you mean by this that you believe in preaching the full gospel to the whole man wherever He is, urging him to repent and believe, I have no quarrel with you, though the expression is misleading. I have explained in several publications why I do not use it myself, though I fellowship sweetly with those who do. Gay, however, defines the term quite differently from this, and argues to boot that I do not preach repentance and faith indiscriminately to all men as the spirit leads, which is most untrue. My quarrel with Brother Gay is not that he preaches the true gospel to all but that he does not. His Freudian gospel of a deity who is not in charge over His own nature and desires that which He does not do is quite un-Biblical. So, too, Gay’s attitude to the Word of God is within the context of a similar psychoneurosis. To argue the unity of the Godhead and the unity of Scripture away with idle talk of paradoxes, and linguistic tingle-tangles that are merely built on English nigh-synonyms which are impossible to imitate in the Biblical languages, is merely being artificially clever and wasting the perishing sinners precious time. We are to preach “Thus saith the Lord!” Why make the gospel so complicated? Why not preach the Word as it stands? I do not quarrel with Gay concerning his desire to save sinners, I quarrel with Gay for thrusting on the simple gospel complicated psyco-analytical patterns which are foreign to it.
“If you take our comments as critical, we are only exercising the same liberties which you practice toward our views.”
I wish you would. However, I have never denied you the right to speak your mind to the BOT’s readers, of which I am one, but you do not grant me the same liberty. Instead, you deny me the right to serve you with a Dementi for publication which, I believe, is the polite gesture that all English newspapers, according to law, make to those who believe they have been wronged.
“If we were to print your letter, we would feel obliged to give evidence supporting the statements in our news item which you deny. You would not be pleased with our doing so and would want to reply again.”
Providing you defined Hyper-Calvinism as you now use it, and explain why you use that definition concerning myself, I would have no objection. This is why I sent you my Dementi. I feel, however, that you will admit that I have related my own teaching to the usual definition of Hyper-Calvinism used by Banner writers and, as I gather from several BOT readers who have approached me during the last few days, they too, understand the term as I have stated it. We are not Humpty-Dumpties who make terms mean anything that they want it to mean at the moment. What did you find wrong with my definition?
‘We are not going to open a running debate in the pages of our magazine. Therefore we have no intention of printing your letter.’
This does not figure. You say I am a Hyper-Calvinist, I say I am not and give proof of it. What is ‘a running debate’ about that? You have given your mistaken view of my faith and calling, backing it up with no evidence whatsoever. I have given you my Dementi, backing it up with evidence, so what more is there to this misunderstanding? Cannot we leave it at that and remain in fellowship as brethren, agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable? If you insist on calling me a Hyper-Calvinist, you will be required of your readers and of God to explain why you have condemned one who denies the accusation and is seen by many to be one who argues strongly against the position you give me.
I loath Hyper-Calvinism and I love to tell sinners of the Saviour whether in school, in church, on a bus or wherever. If you are of the same opinion, and I believe you are, then you are my brother and fellow labourer in God’s vineyard. You obviously have a faulty opinion of my faith and calling but this is no new thing amongst us saved sinners, still earth-bound in Old Adam. We are told, however, to put off the old man and we can best do this by giving a sympathetic ear to our brethren and trusting that they will do as they would be done by.
I wish you great blessing in your most difficult work.
Yours in the Saviour’s Love,
As no response came, I sent the following open letter to Walter Chantry and the BOT trustees and added a brief review of Gay’s highly questionable ‘defence’ which they had praised so much and used as equally highly questionable ‘evidence’ that I was a ‘Hyper’.
Dear Brother Walter, Dear BOT Trustees,
I had expected a speedy reply from you as it would certainly have been in your interest to take up my fair offer of a gentleman’s way out for the BOT so that peace might reign. You appear not to realize the seriousness of your situation in defending Anti-Trinitarian views and beliefs which go absolutely contrary to the doctrines of the Reformation concerning the Godhead and the word of God. Of course, Gray’s claim to preach the gospel properly and your claim that I do not is a mere thin whitewashing of the horrible heresy that lies behind Gray’s (your?) interpretation of a well-meant offer, which appears very ill-meant to orthodox Bible Christians.
I have received most sympathetic letters from Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians who have read your wild accusations of Hyper-Calvinism against me, including the editors of three Christian magazines, one a most ancient one. The gist of these letters is that the BOT has broken the bonds of Christian decorum, become abusive and has lowered their Banner. Most are very concerned about what is happening behind the Banner walls. From what ‘insiders’ tell me, it appears that two very different factions are operating, the old Presbyterian and the new Anabaptist. They cannot possibly agree. Gay has made his Anabaptist stance clear in his Battle for the Church but many of us thought that never in a thousand years would the Banner take over his extremely radical position. I will therefore try to spell out the problems involved in the BOT’s February manifesto clearer.
A few years ago, I wrote a wee booklet called The Free Offer and the Call of the Gospel. I was led to do so because of the new connotations given to these two terms by modern Anti-Trinitarians and those who disrespect God’s Word. My argument was that if we have a faulty view of the Godhead and a faulty view of the Word of God, we cannot preach the gospel as we have no gospel to preach. Thus, whether we speak of inviting, exhorting, commanding, pleading with or compelling sinners to believe in Christ, or even if we profess to give sinners ‘a well-meant offer’, it is all sounding brass and tinkling cymbals if we reject the God of the Bible. Such fallen preachers merely give their fellow-sinners an empty invitation and mock them in their plight. I thus took up my pen against such a bogus-gospel.
My booklet was a mere 71 pages long. On three of these pages, I dealt, amongst other matters concerning other writers, with Anti-Trinitarian statements made by David Gay in the Banner of Truth Magazine and the Evangelical Times. Gay professes to have answered me in a book of 173 pages, claiming that my concern is but a ‘red Herring’ to disguise the fact that I am a Hyper-Calvinist and do not believe in urging sinners to repent and believe. In his book, Gay has not faced the central issue of my criticism and has brought no evidence whatsoever to back up his accusations. Instead, he has painted a scenario of what I am supposed to believe and not believe that can only be called ‘pulp fiction’. This method of avoiding criticism so pleased your magazine that you decided to support Gay’s fictitious Anti-Trinitarian fancy in Issue 497.
In your reply you avoided my criticism concerning Anti-Trinitarian teaching in BOT publications and said, “You deny being what we call ‘hyper-Calvinist’ because you give that term another description.” Actually, I gave the BOT the description which I had formerly obtained from the BOT. Furthermore, you did not politely tell me what your new definition was so that I could apply it to myself. Does, for instance, as is widely reported, the new BOT management call all Five Point Calvinists “Hypers”. You owe me an explanation. You also wrote, “You feel free to criticize those who, like us, find in Scripture a well-meant divine offer of the gospel to all sinners which those called to preach the gospel are obligated to convey to mankind.” Again, though I am free to criticise Gray’s mock-gospel, this was not my point. I went deeper than that in my criticism and looked at Gay’s bogus ‘offer’ and rejected the gospel that such Anti-Trinitarians preach because it is not the gospel of God and His Word. The position I quoted which is held by Gay is that God’s volitional will in delighting to save all is contrary to his decretal will to save some but God allows His decretal will to gain the upper hand against His volitional will. The corollary of this outlined in the Banner article quoted, is that Christ’s desire is other than His Father’s will. It was about this false gospel that I wrote my booklet now under BOT fire. Is this Anti-Trinitarianism not an issue that embarrasses you? Does not this teaching that the Word of God contains irreconcilable contradictions shock your heart?
Concerning Gays long-winded reply that skirts all the salient issues, may the following words suffice to debunk it.
“The Gospel Offer is Free:
A Reply to George M. Ella’s The Free Offer and the Call of the Gospel
By David H.J. Gay
A new challenge arises
My wee Go Publications booklet The Free Offer and the Call of the Gospel has raised David Gay’s ire so much that he answers the three pages I devoted to his views with a work of 175 pages which adds little, if anything, new to what I quoted from him. Gay challenges me to a dual with the weapons of his choice (p. 79 and passim) but I cannot pick up the gauntlet and give Gay a Roland for his Oliver as the weapons of a Christian’s warfare are not carnal. Besides, such a contest would only be shadow-boxing at best because of Gay’s dubious methods, listed below.
In Gay’s Note to the Reader, he warns him against consulting my booklet for evidence of my views, ruling that his own presentation is all-sufficient. Using the mote and the beam imagery, he defies poor beam-bearers like myself to criticize his mote (143)! However, in his alleged quotes from my booklet, whether authored by Peter Meney or myself, Gay radically alters the wording and the sense content of what we wrote, believing that he knows best what we originally meant or ought to have said. Furthermore, Gay uses short, truncated quotes out of context which have little meaning in themselves. Gay then provides them with a new ‘meaning’ in the form of pages of misrepresentations, begging the reader pathetically to believe they illustrate my theology best. (See especially pp. 26-39; 61-65 and 137-143).
The bone of contention between Mr Gay and myself is easy to pick. It is about the value of the Word of our triune God in determining our doctrines and the work of the holy Trinity in fitting us out for true gospel evangelism. As Mr Gay holds a radically different position to mine on doctrine, he obviously differs with me as to what the message of salvation is and how to call sinners to Christ.
My view is that both the Godhead and the Word of God are one in their purpose and intention in redeeming elect man. There are no ifs or buts about this purpose and no various ways in carrying it out. According to his writings against which I objected, Gay disagrees. He tells us that neither the Trinity, nor the Word speak with one voice on the subject and we must stop trying to reconcile them. The only logical conclusion to be drawn here would be that we do not know the mind of God in salvation. More serious still, Gay maintains that God does not know His own Mind, either. Thus Mr Gay and I have a fundamentally different approach to evangelism.
My criticism of the modern free offer preachers (admitting that they use the term differently to its originators) is that they ignore the Biblical doctrine of salvation, telling their hearers and readers that their god’s desire to save all men is frustrated by his own will not do so. He is thus either a sufferer from schizophrenia to be pitied, or an arbitrary monster to run away from.
Dubious methods revealed
Gay scolds me for backing up ideas with relatively short quotes from authorities, saying I rely on them instead of Scripture, yet he strings pages of quotes from authorities behind his arguments many of which do not back them at all. Indeed, after reaffirming his conviction that “Jesus said that he often desired that which God clearly had not decreed,” he continues, “I stand by my words. Now let me remind Ella and you reader of the weight of material there is which demonstrates how acknowledged Calvinists have clearly set out two aspects of God’s will” (p. 91). Here two features of Gay’s battle strategy are to be noted, the original discussion had to do with Christ’s desires contra God’s decrees but now Gay refers to ‘two aspects of God’s will’, i.e. he has changed the subject, and then, instead of proving his original point from Scripture, he illustrates his revision by quotes from authorities which are supposed to back Gay’s opinions.
Gay opens with the question, ‘What is the free offer?’ He is not satisfied with the numerous definitions I give and which I refute. Indeed, he denies I have written anything of the kind! So he turns to Peter Meney’s excellent introductory words, explaining that he ‘thinks’ these describe my position. He then quotes Mr Meney in a highly edited form, altering his vocabulary quite radically in three places. Then ‘explanatory’ notes are added in an attempt to destroy any vestige of original meaning in Peter’s words. Then, Gay adds, “as far as I can judge, this is what Ella was challenging (p.ix). He then quotes me wrongly as saying, ‘definitions of the ‘free offer’ are … of little importance,” giving p. 66 as his source which says something quite different, i.e.:
“On examining what preachers of the past have understood by the ‘offer’, it becomes obvious that the term is little use as a means of distinguishing extremists from the orthodox as those who stress God’s side in salvation and those who stress human responsibility and those who stress both have all used the term.” (p. 66).
Retreats used as attacks
Gay is obviously uncomfortable concerning his former statements about conflicts in the Trinity. He now doubles back and tells us that it only looks as if the two wills are different (pp. 95-96) and ‘this is a paradox we have to live with’ (p. 97). Now, obviously sensitive of the difficulties inherent in the idea of ‘tensions’ in the Godhead and although on page 91 he clearly states that the tension is within God’s being, on p. 103 he suddenly doubles back again and argues that this tension is not really in God Himself. It is merely in our comprehension of Him. Gay then asks, “Does Ella find no tension in his doctrinal understanding?” My honest answer is that though I find a tension in Gay’s most ungodly view of the Godhead, I find no tension in my own view of the Trinity. I accept the Trinity in faith as One. However, Gay has obviously not retreated concerning his defective view of a tension in Scripture as he tells us approvingly, with an alleged reference to me without giving a source, that Spurgeon refused to reconcile the irreconcilable passages in the Bible (p. 140).
Preaching repentance and faith
Gay’s battle-strategy of misapplying and re-writing what he believes I ‘insinuate’ (p. 114) is especially questionable. Though I have only tackled him on his Trinitarian beliefs, he repeatedly says that he is a central target of my booklet, I have him ‘in my sights’ and it was ‘offensive’ and even ‘nasty’ of me to ‘attack’ him. He takes this as a carte blanche to give me back ten-fold what he has taken most personally. However, though Gay’s challenges me most personally to respond, he claims that he does not wish to personalize our discussion (137), and goes at me hammer and tongs in a very personal way using the methods of one who has clearly lost control of his words. For instance, when I insist that the whole gospel, including repentance and faith must be preached to the whole man, which I do throughout by entire booklet, Gay insists that I do not believe this at all but will only preach repentance and not faith (pp. x; 14; 38; 114 and passim). Indeed, he makes a point of hiding or cutting off my clear statements concerning the call to faith. So adamant is he that I will not invite sinners to believe on Christ that when I write that I do, Gay inserts another, different word, next to mine to show what he thinks I really mean and then cuts out my specific application from the thus mangled quote (p. 7. See my booklet, p. 61). He appears to think (fn p. 14) that I cannot really accept preachers who command all people everywhere to believe because of my love for Gill. As I explained in my booklet, few preached repentance and faith so evangelically as Gill. This is now commonly accepted amongst Baptist Reformed scholars. Gill shared preaching events with Whitefield, Hervey and Wesley who obviously did not doubt his gospel burden for sinners. Fellow-preachers and associates Toplady, Hervey and Ryland vouch for that as does church historian Aaron Seymour. To associate me with Gill and then say we are both against advocating faith to sinners, is folly indeed.
Yet at other times, when Gay is not careful to keep to his own theory of my lack of evangelistic zeal, or dealing with other issues, lo and behold, in quotes of me he gives, I argue for preaching repentance and belief to all men (p. 32 and passim). However, when Gay trips up over himself and actually finds me preaching faith to all sinners, he says that I am ‘inconsistent’ (p. 138)! When I refer to preachers addressing sinners in an unbiblical way, not giving them the entire gospel, Gay says, either “This is not an issue”, it is a ‘red herring’ or “It is nothing to do with what he (Ella) was refuting.” (p. xii). Indeed after giving one of his many altered quotes, snatched totally out of context, Gay exclaims it is ‘downright silly’ (p. 139)! It is rather Gay who is inconsistent with his condemnations, measuring me according to the yard-stick “Ella is a Hyper, so he must be wrong”
Duty faith again
In his chapter on duty faith, Gay starts by saying that he will prove the validity of his interpretation of Isaiah 45:22 and John 6:28-29 by arguments from Calvinists. I have never used this strategy in preference to proving from Scripture but Gay accuses me of doing just that, oblivious to the fact that it is his strategy rather than mine. My position is that Isaiah 45 is part of the prophetic passages which show Christ preparing His Bride for himself. I see John 6 as illustrating what is meant by ‘the work of God’ in the lives of sinners. I demonstrated this by placing the texts in their historico-Biblical background. Gay rejects both my expositions in his handling of the text, not even admitting that mine might be a possible interpretation. Sadly, he ridicules his own cleverness at drawing inane conclusions from the idea that God’s work in granting faith is meant here, actually believing he is ridiculing me. Also, though I based my arguments on the AV having studied the Hebrew and Greek closely and versions in several other languages, Gay uses odd and different translations according to how he thinks they might refute my reliance on the AV for solid linguistic and theological reasons. Be this as it may, Gay insists that Isaiah 45 refers to duty faith and the free offer and John 6: refers to the works man does to please God.
The National Health Service aspects of the free offer
Gay uses the words ‘command’ and ‘offer’ interchangeably. I believe there is a great theological distinction between these terms no matter how Gay uses them. Gay, leaning on the NIV (p. 28), condemns my AV text on ‘the work of God’ i.e. that Christ was actually talking of the work of God in granting belief just as it was the work of God to give the Jews Manna. After painting a bizarre picture of what he thinks I mean by a literal interpretation Gay says, “The notion is far removed from reality, words fail.” But this is Gay’s notion, not mine. To crown this, Gay claims that my citing of John 6 is ‘irrelevant’ though I quoted the passage because free offer people always put it forward as ‘proof’ of their duty faith theory. Even this is more tolerable than Gay’s method in demonstrating that the ‘offer’ is free in his Conclusion. He draws close parallels between his ‘offer’ with the British National Health Service!! (p. 135). I will not draw out imaginary conclusions from this as Gay does when I quote Scripture verbatim.
Gay’s sensibility to the Work of the Spirit
In my booklet, I quote Gill once on sinners who are sensible of their spiritual poverty (the poor and heavy laden) coming to Christ (p. 52) but do not use the word ‘sensible’ again. Nevertheless, Gay comes back to this time and time again (pp. 7, 9, 14, 23, 31, 51 and passim) and attacks the use of the word as a symbol of Hyper-Calvinism. This allergy of Gay’s towards the word ‘sensible’ has no historical, theological and linguistic basis but it obviously grates his nervous system. From the sixteenth century onwards, the term has been used of sinners stopped in their tracts by the Holy Spirit and illuminated with their need for Christ. Yet Gay does the truth and myself a grave disservice by totally distorting the work of the Spirit in making a sinner sensible of his sin and again, attributing all is distortions to me, claiming that I believe ‘only repentant sinners must be commanded to believe’ (pp. 7-9). I conclude here that what was good enough for our Reformers, including Calvin; the saints of the seventeenth century including Bunyan and the believers of the eighteenth century including Hervey and Fuller, it is good enough for me. But Gay says that I must not follow his example and quote historical figures to prove my case but Scripture only. To please Gay and defend the cause of God and truth, I end with a Scripture verse on being ‘sensible’, applying it to Gay and his book of wrath.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of a full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses excercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14).”
I trust that this will give you food for thought. It is no use your pretending to represent the orthodox faith and calling other people names when you are intent on re-defining what ‘Reformed’ means and adopting Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Liberalism as your yardstick for orthodoxy. Due out in early March, a reprint of Bullinger’s Decades will soon be on its way to the British bookstores. In two Introductions, one biographical and one an over-view of Bullinger’s great work as a preacher, Joel Beeke and I point out what is at the heart of true Reformation. I trust that you will read, learn and inwardly digest what is said in these two volumes and then note how far some of you have wandered from the true Reformed path. I, for my part would like to see that unity of heart and doctrine once again in the Banner which caused me to read the first issues of the magazine in the late 1950s with praises to God on my lips. A Banner, however, who denies the unity of the Trinity and the Unity of God’s Word can never join their Reformed brethren in preaching the whole gospel to the whole man, even though they use the deceptive words ‘well-meant’ and ‘free’. Who will answer a call to drink at a poisoned well though the preacher might cry, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters”? Neither sinners nor saints, we would expect.
Yours sincerely in the Gospel,
I welcome any comment on this issue from visitors to my web page and trust that I have been able to present the problem that Reformed thinking is facing so that readers will be moved to be even more vigilant and active in spreading the good tidings of a Saviour who said repeatedly, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” but yet in whom, “also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the council of his own will.”
Other Recommended Articles:
- Reflections on Some Recent Banner of Truth Criticisms Regarding William Huntington and Avarice
- The Difference Between John Gill’s Free Declaration of the Gospel to Sinners and the Banner of Truth’s ‘Free Offer’
- Banner on Hypers
- John Gill and the Cause of God and Truth
- Particular Redemption and the Free Offer