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George Ella, Doctrinal Matters

David H. J. Gay. Brachus 2008. Obtainable from Amazon Books. £10 per copy. Bulk prices available. No easy read.

David Gay promises ‘no easy read’ in this supplement to his The Gospel Offer is Free: A Reply to George M. Ella’s The Free Offer and The Call of the Gospel. It is basically a collection of notes, quotes and sources in tiny print covering a hundred pages more than Gay’s initial work. ‘If this gets too involved’ Gay advises, “omit the copious footnotes”. But where is the main text to which they are all appended? It is scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the notes. You might find half a sentence somewhere followed by eight pages of notes before two more sentences appear only to delve into pages of notes again. Indeed, the book is so carelessly thrown together that Gay recommends a second reading to sort his jumbled thoughts out!! Gay’s ‘copious footnotes’ are even more frustrating regarding their superfluous bulk and lack of a coherent demonstration of Gay’s position. The many repetitions grate ad nauseam though Gay either apologises before repeating them again or explains their necessity. Gay says his over-voluminous notes do not prove anything but are merely for ‘support’ and relevant only ‘in principle’. However, he handles most of his ‘supporters’ like Davenant (puerile, mistaken, weak), Calvin (shuddering, audacious), Edwards (between Amyraldism and Owenism), Owen (did not take his own medicine), the AV (poor), Whitefield (questionable expressions) and Fuller (does not plead with sinners as he ought) so roughly that their support is nullified and Gay’s ‘principles’ non-evident. Gay claims to have made minor alterations only. The results prove otherwise. Indeed, when dealing with my work, he tells his readers not to check the sources but accept his version. In the books, he cuts out essential information I give, claiming it is not there; accuses me of saying what I never said and adds to and alters supposed quotes to suit his own taste. Gay calls the latter method ‘glossing’ and finds it Scriptural. So he ‘glosses’ avidly in both books. My arguments are cut and pasted until they are quite falsified. Go-it-alone Gay rejects any sincere criticism as ‘intemperate’, ‘silly’, nasty’, ‘stooping’, ‘abusive’ and ‘spilt ink’. My documented claims concerning what free-offer-duty-faith men in general preach are rejected with force in both books although in PR, Gay makes my criticism his own against the same ideologies. Yet Gay still defends the misleading terminology passionately for himself. Even where Gay and I agree, he still maintains that he is right and I am wrong. He calls his method ‘skirmishing’, i. e. ‘unpremeditated fighting.’ I accept Gay’s elucidation but such methods jeopardise objective debate.[1. GO, pp. 5-13 and, PR, p. 12. Ignoring my repeated testimony, Gay insists that I merely command sinners to repent but not to believe; GO p. 14; PR, pp. 17-18, 218; Vgl. FO, p. 66 with GO, p. ix; GO, p. 64 ff.; GO, p. 17 and passim.]

The Foreword, Introduction and Preamble

The ‘book’ starts off with Michael Haykin claiming that Fuller did not ‘cool the passion’ for evangelism though his opponents ‘cut its nerve’. This differs greatly from Haykin’s insistence hitherto that Fuller’s teaching fostered a…

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Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), a Particular Baptist who departed radically from the faith of his father’s is becoming quite a name amongst churches and para-church movements that once taught the doctrines of grace. Though at best a Calminian and at worst an absolute heretic, Fuller is being proclaimed by the evangelical Reformed Establishment as the Luther of the Baptists and as the man that fanned the smoking wick of the Evangelical Awakening into a blaze. He is seen as the reformer who rescued Calvinists from the dunghill of their fathers in the faith and is now presented as the greatest theologian of the 19th century, a genius whose work was epoch-making. No praise seems to be too high or too exaggerated for this sturdy contender of the system of rationalism now known as Fullerism and one writer of fairly recent years has even dubbed him a ‘prophet of evangelical Calvinism.’ Fuller’s followers, though they disagree amongst themselves on minor aspects of Fuller’s teaching, are all quite unanimous in proclaiming that no true evangelism is possible unless one adopts the doctrines and practices of Andrew Fuller.

Messing about in dunghills

The aim of this paper is to show that rather than rescue anybody from any dunghill whatsoever, Fuller, gathered his teaching from just about every contemporary theological dunghill he could find. Thus his teaching is nothing but an anthology of Latitudinarian, Cambridge Platonist, Chandlerian, Grotian, Arminian, Baxterian and Socinian teaching. Never was there such a mishmash of rank liberalism and plain heresy introduced as ‘evangelical Calvinism’ since the New Testament authors presented the real thing!

Both Latitudinarian and Cambridge New Philosophy scholars claimed to have their roots in the Reformation and Puritan theology but emphasised moral philosophy and natural revelation in their system rather than the Biblical teaching of law and grace. This moral philosophy taught that man was naturally able to…

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Dear Sir,

1795-1835 was a time of widespread revival with Anglican Robert Hawker preaching to thousands, Independent William Huntington equalled his efforts and Baptist William Gadsby founding 45-50 churches filled with new converts. The PBs were not inactive in this time but Mr Cook confuses Gill’s orthodoxy with Fuller’s. Gill had one of the largest Particular Baptist congregations in Britain, outnumbering Fullers by far. Contemporary evangelical magazines objecting to Fullerism’s ‘gangerous’ effect on church growth were legion. However, in 1814, Fuller claimed that his churches had shrunk greatly to an average of fifty members and had been steadily on the decline for 25 years. Church increase was due to split-offs due to Fullerite Liberalism. Yet Fuller confessed that other evangelical denominations were growing. By 1889 Fuller’s Association had renounced verbal inspiration and denied that the Scriptures give sure guidance in matters of holiness. The increase in PB growth came demonstrably before Fuller and dwindled during his influence. As Strict Baptist Kenneth Dix said in 1976: “The influence of Fuller here has been exaggerated, often by those whose design is to trace a line of descent from the Calvinism of the Puritans, through a watered down moderate Calvinism, forgetting Fuller’s description of himself as a ‘strict Calvinist’, to modern ecumenism. It is a view which does less than justice to the eminent usefulness of Benjamin Beddome, Samuel Medley, or John Hirst, all of whom held to a high Calvinistic position, and to the enduring value of the writings of John Gill which are still read and sought after, two hundred years after his death.

George Ella

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George M. Ella is a historian, author and biographer. His writings may be accessed at the online archived, ”Biographia Evangelica”.

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Dear Brother: What is the difference between Gill’s ‘free declaration of peace and pardon, righteousness, life and salvation to poor sinners’ and the ‘free offer’ and ‘duty faith’ of those who deny outright that Gill appealed to all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel? The difference is that Gill keeps to the gospel as fulfilling what the law could not do, namely provide ‘free grace’. Modern harsh critics of Gill such as friends of the Banner of Truth and Reformation Today, cannot give up their trust in the law for salvation and sanctification. They start with preaching the gospel of duties until faith comes (sic!) and end with preaching sanctification and holiness through keeping the law. There is no room for free grace in their religion, though they might talk ever so much of ‘free offers’. These offers are not ‘free’ but rewards for sinners who exercise saints’ duties. In his essay Three Forms of Law, Maurice Roberts, speaking for the…

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Dear Sir,

John Legg`s article ‘Preaching the gospel properly’, claims to be a review of John Gosden’s book on the GS Articles, though it is nothing but an attack on the Gospel Standard Churches. This is a great pity for the book`s sake. I am not a member of the GS churches; nor even a Baptist, but I found the great bulk of extensive theology expressed in Gosden’s book, Biblical, refreshing and extremely relevant to our modern age. By not keeping to his subject, Mr Legg has missed the very teaching which might have cleared up his misunderstandings.

All Mr Legg’s difficulties cannot be solved in the space of an ET letter. Two comments must suffice. Legg accuses the GSBs of denying the sinner’s responsibility to repent. I refer him to Gosden’s words under Article 12 where the Spirit shows the sinner “how greatly he has broken that law, and feelingly condemning him for the same” so that he is…

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Yet another former sturdy defender of the faith now endorses a deceitful gospel which outclasses the errors of older Liberalism. David Silversides has joined such modern apostles as John and Iain Murray, Malcolm H. Watts, Phillip R. Johnson, Errol Hulse, David Gay and Ken Stebbins in their campaign to alter radically the Christian’s view of God and His Word. Pastor Silversides traces the roots of opposition to his new divinity in the formation of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the nineteen-twenties under the leadership of Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965), arguing that the PRC presented a caricature of the free-offer position thus fostering controversy and confusion. Instead of giving acceptable proof of this, Silversides caricatures those who do not use his, as yet undefined, free-offer tactics as if they preached by rote with no true heart to plead with dead sinners to turn to Christ and live.

Though Silversides exaggerates grossly the failings of his opponents, he fails to examine the enormous lack of evangelical fervency in modern free offer circles still sailing under a Reformed flag where method is often ranked higher than message and denominational law-discipline is disguised as holy living. Nor does he examine why many sound Christians, dubbed ‘Antinomians and Hyper-Calvinists’ by the BOT school of neo-evangelists are constantly witnessing to the…

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The so-called Banner of Truth’s witch-hunt against alleged Hyper-Calvinists continues with Maurice Roberts quite deceptive apology for their new, radical theology hidden behind the mask of ‘The Free Offer of the Gospel’ (Issue 503-4). Pastor Roberts has picked out all the raisins and nuts he could find in the new BOT cake, seeking to lure traditional BOT readers away from the old paths by these tempting morsels. He has, however, offered us nothing of the seasoning of gall and bitter herbs which makes his cake the most stomach-turning culinary event since the counter-reformation opened their evil-smelling kitchen as purveyors of false food. A little of this comes through in Roberts’ accusing all those who disagree with him of being Hyper-Calvinists, but such tasteless taunts are but the icing on the BOT cake. True to their propaganda ministry, the BOT have failed to alert their readers to the highly immoral aspects of their teaching. Presumably, they are trusting that those who feed on their fare will think that, like good medicine, it has to taste rather putrid.

Roberts’ recipe starts with a healthy ingredient. “The invitation given by God to all sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, with the promise added that if they do so believe they will at once receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.” The Banner’s bogey-men John Gill and William Huntington taught this, too, so what is the catch? Roberts calls this ‘The Free Offer’ and explains it away by adding “The Offer is an…

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God’s Word, the Bible, teaches clearly that all that is necessary for a sinner’s salvation is worked out in eternity and reserved in Heaven for whoever is placed in Christ from eternity. This teaching starts at the first page of Genesis and continues to the last page of Revelation, revealing more and more of the Father’s covenanted way for mankind worked out in eternity with His Son. Thus, Christ, in eternity, secured the salvation of all in and for eternity irrespective of that elect person’s historical or geographical position. This was also the teaching of our Reformers.

However, nowadays, a number of Christians are following the old heretic Marcion’s ‘criticism with a penknife’ and, calling themselves New Covenant Theologians, they reject Old Testament covenantal teaching, arguing that it has been abolished by the New Testament. Yet there is not a doctrine in the NT which is not based on the OT as this was the only Bible Christ and the Apostles had and needed. Indeed, there is not a…

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The March/April, 1999 number of Reformation Today features four articles on John Gill. The first, entitled John Gill – a Sketch of his Life, is a succinctly written biography of Gill’s faithful and productive life in the service of the gospel. Next, Editor Errol Hulse continues with John Gill – An Appreciation, presented as a review of The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697-1771), (ed. Michael Haykin). Here, Hulse ignores the facts of Gill’s own testimony to make what he calls ‘a fair assessment of the damage which emanated from his errors.’ Thus, though the book Hulse reviews chiefly depicts Gill as a great evangelist and soul-winner, Hulse’s one-sided critique is centred on Gill’s supposed Hyper-Calvinism and lack of evangelistic fervour. This is stretching the meaning of words such as ‘appreciation’ and ‘review’ until they mean ‘disappreciation’ and ‘rewrite’.

Hulse’s unjust criticism is continued under the title John Gill – Eternal Justification. Here Hulse confuses Gill’s doctrine of Justification from Eternity with Eternal Justification, arguing that adherence to the latter doctrine proves Gill to be a Hyper. Gill’s doctrine of Justification from Eternity deals with the source and application of justification seen in relation to God’s infinite and immutable decrees and Christ’s atoning work in the fullness of time. It entails justification in union with Christ from eternity through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and received by the elect via a conscious act of appropriation due to faith given. In contrast, Eternal Justification points to a per se, innate, inherent and eternal state of justification in the elect. This erroneous doctrine, based on the self-contradictory idea of past eternity, sees no need for reconciliation or conversion as the elect are declared righteous rather than made righteous as a divine act in the manner described above. This hypothetical view is…

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“This is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jeremiah 23:6

“… to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:1

Present day evangelicals tend to believe that the fierce Calvinist-Arminian controversy of the eighteenth century was merely a question of whether God chose the elect or the elect chose God. This is an oversimplification. Then the point of discussion was not so much the broad question “Who are the elect?” as the more basic question “Whom does God consider righteous?” Our brethren in those days were more interested in the means of salvation rather than the outcome.

How the Calvinist-Arminian Controversy of the Eighteenth Century Began

The controversy really began with the publication in 1755 of James Hervey’s Theron and Aspasio. Hervey had been a pupil of John Wesley’s at Oxford and was one of the very earliest pioneers of the Evangelical Revival. Balleine, the church historian, tells us that Hervey’s parish, Weston Favell, near Northampton, was the first Evangelical parish in the Midlands. Hervey produced a series of books aimed at the academic reader and men of letters, outlining the Reformed faith. His language so affected the gentry of his day that they…

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Following Theological Fashions

Our modern theology has apparently become a matter of fashions. In my youth, Christians kept to their theological opinions closely. Whether a Plymouth Brother, Particular Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist or an Evangelical Anglican, they remained true to their affiliations all their Christian lives. Nowadays, Christians seem to be changing their theological bent regularly. I have friends who have adopted one supposedly modern fad after another, going through Hyper-Fullerism, Hyper-Calvinism, New Covenant Theology, New Perspectives, Dispensationalism and other old warmed up errors within a few years. I have even received letters from irate brethren scolding me for not keeping up to date with new theological trends myself.

Being made sin and being made righteous refers to facts not fictive pictures

When browsing through magazines, web-pages, chat-groups and blogs, one gains the impression that it is now fashionable to discuss the limitations of the Manhood of Christ and His alleged cooperation in a gigantic hoax whereby the Father and the Son worked out what their proponents call a ‘forensic’ method of freeing sinners from the…

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A lecture given by George Ella at the Protestant Reformation Society, August 27th, 2009, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, England

Irresistible grace represents the traditional ‘I’ in the acronym ‘TULIP’. So now I shall tease you a little. The name ‘Tulip’ comes from the same Turkish root as ‘turban’ and the flower of that name was introduced by the Turks to Europe as a symbol of the spreading Ottoman Empire, or the TULIP ERA as the Islamising of Europe was called. The popular strains Tulipa turkestanica and Tulipa kurdica point to this. Why the Turkestan turban-shaped talismanic Tulip and Turkoman black merchants robes were chosen as Christian symbols of faith and ministry by post-Reformation parties, must be the subject of another lecture.

The T-U-L-I-P, beautiful as it is, does not sum up the Christian Gospel. British Reformers had other flowers, too, like the rose of Sharon, in their doctrinal bouquets. There is no doctrine of the Word, no justification, no sanctification, no repentance, no faith, little Christology and little ecclesiology in the tulip’s five letters. They outline correctly and superbly God’s sovereign will, but they are alarmingly silent on…

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Most readers are familiar with the Calvinist-Arminian controversy of the 18th century in which free-grace, championed by Whitefield, Toplady and Romaine was set against free-will, maintained by Fletcher, Sellon and Wesley. The controversy dealt with whether salvation was made possible by Christ, depending on man’s acceptance of it, or whether Christ secured His Church’s salvation by His atoning death. At the same time, a similar controversy was raging on a closely related topic. “Is the Mosaic Law God’s eternal standard or has it become irrelevant to unbeliever and believer alike as a Covenant of Works and as a yardstick of sanctification?”

The leading contestants in the Calvinistic-Arminian controversy were mainly Oxford and Cambridge dons and men of a first class education. The opposite was the case in the bitter debate concerning the Law which came to be referred to as the Antinomian Controversy. William Huntington (1745-1813), who took the side of the Law as God’s eternal standard, had a mere few months’ schooling and before becoming a pastor, was a coalman’s labourer. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) who took up the…

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A lone campaigner for educational reform

Public School expert Edward C. Mack said the poet William Cowper was a lone voice in campaigning for reform in eighteenth century English schools[1. Public Schools and British Opinion 1780 – 1860, 1938.]. This may surprise poetry lovers who have not yet discovered Cowper’s writings on education. Cowper’s most neglected long poem Tirocinium or a Review of Schools, for instance, deals in detail with educational reform. Parents thinking of home-schooling their children as a legal alternative might care to consult Cowper who denounced the school system of his day as barbaric and developed ideas of education most acceptable to Christian parents. First a few words about Cowper’s own education.

Christian parents, the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress

Cowper was born on 31 November 1731 (Old Style) in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. His parents were of noble blood but the poet remembered them more for their Christian testimony rather than their genetic heritage.

Cowper was taught to read and write at home before starting school at the age of four or five. His first ‘book’ was a sheet of paper with the Lord’s Prayer printed on it, protected by a thin covering of…

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