One truth for all pulpits

From Shedd’s Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: A Miscellany:

“There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all,” said St. Paul to the Corinthian church, and to the church universal. By this he teaches, among other things, that all Christian ministers ought to hold the same fundamental truth, though they may preach it in different modes and manners. The same Holy Ghost employs the same doctrines of law and gospel, exerts the same divine influence, and produces the same personal experience, when he makes a Christian of John Calvin as when he makes a Christian of John Wesley. But the treasure is in an earthen vessel, and there is a difference in the way in which it comes out of the vessel.”

I suppose that by “the same personal experience” Shedd means the same “experience” of salvation (or something like that). Shedd references 2 Cor. 4:7 with the treasures in earthen vessels. Thus, the implication is that Shedd believes that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6) has shone in both the hearts of Calvin and Wesley, though there is a difference in the way this light comes out. Well, being familiar with the teachings of both of these men I would say, NOT the Holy Spirit, but the spirit of antichrist works in both of these sons of disobedience as seen in their heretical writings concerning universal atonement. But I could definitely see some modern-day tolerant Calvinist defending Wesley but who is only aware of the many orthodox statements by Calvin saying something similar to Shedd. In other words, said tolerant Calvinist would try to convince others that a good tree can produce bad fruit (cf. Matthew 7:18).

“Two equally good men may not be equally successful in describing their own religious experience to others. But the description of the religious experience is substantially a statement of religious doctrine.”

I will give Shedd the benefit of the doubt and grant that by the phrase, “religious experience” he means simply two Christian men explaining (articulating) doctrine to others. The damnable views of Calvin and Wesley aside, it is true that some Christians are more articulate than others. But this does not mean that true Christians are going to articulate antithetical or opposing views concerning the sole grounds of acceptance before God. John judges a person lost for articulating heterodoxy (2 John 9), not for poorly articulating orthodoxy. Of course, even though the articulation of heterodoxy or orthodoxy can indeed be poor, it still has to be understandable enough to make a judgment. If it is not then we reserve judgment.

“If the one man is able to state it with great fulness and self-consistence while the other reports it with less fulness and logical consistency, it is plain that to a mere student of theological systems the two men will so differ as perhaps to lead to the conclusion that they do not believe the same fundamental truth, and do not have a common religious experience. But this is an error. He who searches the heart perceives that the two men agree in their view of their own sinfulness and of Christ’s redemption. They hold the same gospel truth, and therefore they are brethren in the Lord. Their religious experience, which is what God has wrought in them, is the same evangelical experience that belongs to all members of the one invisible church of Christ.”

Wesley and Calvin both believed in salvation conditioned on the “enabled” efforts of the sinner. Wesley had “prevenient grace” assisting while Calvin had “common grace” being resisted but “irresistible grace” ultimately prevailing. Wesley held to conditional election while Calvin to unconditional election. Now both men held to salvation conditioned on the sinner but only one held to conditional election. So who’s more logically consistent? I’d say Wesley since unconditional election does not fit well with a conditional salvation (cf. Romans 11:6).

“This diversity in the expression and statement of evangelical truth appears also in the preacher as much as in the theologian. And it is increased in this instance by the operation of other causes. There is more play of the imagination, more illustration, more presentation of truth in loose and flowing costume, in the instance of the orator than in that of the school-divine. It is not strange that statements of doctrine before an auditory should be less guarded and less precise than before a theological class.”

I will grant, for the sake of argument, that “off-the-cuff” responses to people face-to-face may be less guarded and less precise than say, an e-mail correspondence where you usually have more time to think about how you’re going to respond. (Of course I acknowledge there are people who are are just as precise “off-the-cuff” as they would be in an e-mail correspondence).

As for “more precise” versus “less precise.” If you are “more precise” do you preach the Jesus of 2 Corinthians 4:6, but if you are “less precise” do you preach the “jesus” of 2 Corinthians 11:4? If “more precise” is the teaching of the apostle Paul, then would “less precise” be the teaching of those whom he anathematized in Galatians 1:8-9? Please note that the context of Galatians clearly implies that those whom Paul judged lost (cf. Galatians 1:8-9, 2:4) were professing Christians.

In light of the teachings of John Wesley and John Calvin, it is not a matter of degrees of preciseness among true Christians. Rather, since both men believed Jesus died for everyone without exception, it is a matter of less heretical versus more heretical doctrine. Both mens’ doctrines nullified Christ as a propitiation on behalf of His people (cf. Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). And thus both men were ignorant about whose efforts are the sole ground of acceptance with God (Romans 10:1-4); though Wesley is clearly the more heretical of the two by a long shot.

“Some one has defined eloquence to be exaggeration. He was probably like the philosopher Kant an enemy to anything but the close and exact propositions of logic, and put his dislike to rhetoric in this peculiar definition. Yet there is truth in it. Discourse for the people must have a dash and rush that are out of place in the closet of the thinker. St. Paul alludes to this when he speaks of himself as “planting,” and of Apollos as “watering.” Logic plants, and rhetoric waters. The great apostle to the Gentiles tacitly conceded an eloquence of speech to Apollos which God had denied to himself. His own function was to write the epistle to the Romans, while his coadjutor was to be “an eloquent man mighty in the Scriptures.” We do not of course deny eloquence to St. Paul; the speech on Mars’ Hill is powerful Demosthenean eloquence. But, comparatively, he was more of a logician than a rhetorician. It was the converse with Apollos. But with this “diversity of operation” there was the same spirit. The same God the Holy Ghost wrought the same faith, the same hope, the same religious experience, in both of these men.”

All true believers have the same faith and the same hope — which is solely in the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Calvin and Wesley on the other hand, had their boast in self since it was self that made the difference between salvation and damnation (cf. Jeremiah 17:5; Galatians 6:14).

“So says Jehovah, Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and who makes flesh his arm, and who turns aside his heart from Jehovah” (Jeremiah 17:5).

Wesley and Calvin were men who believed that it was their own flesh, their own arm that made the ultimate difference between salvation and damnation. They made flesh their arm. The wretched subterfuge is to say that it is an altogether different matter if this arm of flesh is “spiritually-enabled” to make the difference between salvation and damnation. But whether this arm of flesh is “spiritually-enabled” or not, it is a cursed arm of flesh still.

“We come, then, to the conclusion for which we have made these preliminary statements, namely, that in all Christian pulpits, however different may be the mental and oratorical characteristics of the preachers, the same kind of religious impression ought to be made and the same fundamental truth ought to be taught. The result of logical preaching, of imaginative preaching, of illustrative preaching, ought, with the divine blessing, to be the same. And what is this result? Plainly the conviction of men, if they ought to be convicted; their conversion, if they need to be converted; their sanctification, if they require it.”

I’ll just say here that all true Christians abide in the doctrine of Christ, do not follow a false christ, do not become unsubmitted to the righteousness of Christ regardless of their eloquence (or lack of eloquence) and oratorical characteristics (or lack of oratorical characteristics).

“Here, then, we have a test by which to try the preachers of the day, and of all time. If a pulpit orator artfully avoids all those parts of divine revelation which treat of sin and perdition, and never preaches a sermon that awakens fears that the soul may be lost forever, it will not do to say that he has the same spirit with St. Paul, only there is a ‘diversity of operation.’ There is one impression which St. Paul made, which he never makes. This is something more than a rhetorical difference between him and the inspired apostle. There is a difference in doctrinal belief.”

I’m glad you made this concession, Shedd! Wesley “artfully avoided” preaching the efficacious cross-work of Christ by casting his vials of hatred and scorn upon it. Calvin neglected to preach on the centrality of the cross along with the implications for those who count its efficacious power as foolishness. Both men vitiated the effectual work of Christ by their damnable teachings, though Wesley with much more Satanic ferocity. Since Wesley’s writings are brimming with heresy, he is easily seen as a wolf in wolf’s clothing. But I think Calvin would probably be a wolf in sheep’s clothing since his writings contain significantly less heresy than that of John Wesley.

“The defect, and the fatal defect, in some of the popular preaching of this age, is that under the covert of mere rhetoric without logic, of mere illustration without argument, of mere story-telling without religious point or pertinence, of mere figures and tropes, men are persuaded to believe that religion is a very lovely song, and that all men are naturally religious because they enjoy the music. The impression made, and it is the impression that decides the character and value of the preaching—the impression actually made upon the audience is this: ‘Get rid of your religious fears and you are all right. If the ostrich will only stick his head into the sand, he is perfectly safe.'”

Ironically, I think that ostrich line applies to Shedd when he speaks peace to Arminians and certain ignorant heathens (cf. Rom. 10:3) who supposedly have the spirit of the publican who cried, God be propitious to me, a sinner!

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