George Ella on Doctrinal Matters

Dealing With Birds Of False Feathers

Dear Friends,

The two letters copied below were written in response to charges of Antinomianism, Hyper-Calvinism and false analyses of Fullerism coming from the Founders Journal and their supporters. These accusations were never justified and made by people who did not know me from Adam and had not read my books. One particular person, now long departed from the Reformed faith he professed then to hold, was giving an after-dinner jocular speech in which I was mentioned disdainfully when he was asked by an unamused table-guest why he condemned me so violently and joked about me so unbrotherly yet did not appear to know what I taught. He received the answer that the speaker did not have to read me to denounce me. The brother who posed the question sent me a tape of the speech and reply. I wrote to the ‘big name’ in question who asked another minister to reply on his behalf. The person replied saying that he found my views on Fuller ‘immoral’. I wrote back and asked him to verify this from my writings. The ardent Fullerite replied that he had never read anything from my pen and he had never read anything from Fuller’s pen either, but he was entitled to his opinions! This apparently is the low standard of brotherly tolerance and scholarship which we are up against when people profess to be in blissful ignorance, believing it is folly to be wise. However, they still have tongues of serpents. As I hear that the group whom I addressed, though several of them have radically changed their theology, yet continue to call me an Antinomian and Hyper-Calvinist publicly and privately, I am revealing just how these leaders of men keep up their influence and power merely by denouncing their brethren on false pretences so as to appear mighty in the faith. The two letters were written in 1996 and received no replies. After that, certain subscribers to the FJ magazines were scratched off their lists and sent extremely insulting letters to say why they were considered unwanted.

The trouble is with such as the FJ, like similar organisations in Britain, though the BOT shows signs of new health and a willingness to listen to others, is that they have set themselves up as a standard of orthodoxy which they are not qualified by learning, experimental religion and brotherly acumen to maintain. This was the same recently with Affinity 1 and 2 who boasted of an orthodoxy to which few of them could honestly subscribe. However, even when they err, they still feel they still represent orthodoxy as they have become a law unto themselves, a new sect and a pseudo-church. A direct and open dialogue in true brotherly fellowship and understanding would help all concerned here. I notice that the Affinity people still denounce me as an Antinomian in their conferences. When I wrote to their ‘leader’ about this, I received no reply. When a junior pastor in the movement also denounced me at a conference, I wrote to him, too, asking him to give reasons for the accusations which were in him. He did write back but only to say that he was too busy preaching the gospel to bother with me.

6.8.2014, Mülheim, Germany

Dear Brother X,

This morning, I received your long-awaited letter plus a letter from two British ministers of the gospel, a Baptist and Independent, expressing quite conflicting views on the very same subject. This just shows how difficult it is to discern the spirit of these things and how our ears and eyes must be open to all the brethren that we might know when to speak and when to remain silent; when to admonish and when to be admonished.

I am truly sorry that I have caused you so much repulsion and moved you to feel that I have served you up, as you say, with ‘vitriol, diatribe, violations of the Lord’s commandments, false witness, stooping, scurrility and amusement’. My correspondents in the accompanying letter I received, a response to the same sentiments that I aired with you, thanked me for them as if they were apples of gold and told me that I had helped them to see that, “Sin must be known as sin before grace can be understood as grace.” I believe these two men had discovered my aim, though you have discovered that the vessel in which it is contained is rather rickety.

I accept your scoldings as coming from your heart and a clear conscience but I do believe this is partly due to your honest confession in your letter that you do not really know what is going on. Thus, I believe that I ought, as your brother, to seek once again to impress certain things on your Christian heart and trouble your born-again conscience at some length.

You say you have little time and energy for such correspondence as this. You have my deep sympathy here as I am a man of very poor health and feel my time is running out and I have still much work to do. Yet you use so much time and energy in scolding me with hardly a reference to the large amount of data I had given you in several letters. This was the basis for my protest at the FJ’s helping to spread attacks on John Gill and William Huntington which are quite and utterly unfounded. Surely, it would have been better to have put me right, should you think me wrong. I wrote to you with this brotherly intention and felt that this would, and ought to be, reciprocated. You have apparently ruled me out of court without considering the evidence, yet condemned me in the strongest terms as having been found guilty – but of what?

Strong, insulting language ought not to be the language of the Christian and I am deeply sorry to have erred in this way. Your letter clearly shows how dangerous such language is. I do believe, however, that I was defending both an innocent man and the cause of God and truth against a literary onslaught which you must admit uses language far in excess of mine. However this language is used to denigrate an orthodox man and the truth he stood for, whereas, I, in my ill-chosen, hempen-homespun language sought to defend a man against people who are linguistically my superiors but, nevertheless, very much in the wrong. But did I really use such strong language as you have done in my letters to you? I am indeed sorry, if I did. Concerning my language in articles and books defending Cowper, Gill, Hervey, Huntington, Ryland, Witsius etc., I am reminded here of Augustus Toplady’s situation. He was reviled in the strongest, stomach-turning terms by Wesley, perhaps his intellectual superior, who stooped to the most dirty stories to denigrating him. Again, you will say that this is diatribe on my part. Would you thus kindly and immediately consult Wesley’s Consequence Proved and if Wesley’s arguments do not make you physically sick, then you are a far less sensitive man than I am. Toplady’s response as ‘an angry young man’ was perhaps not the finest of English debate, (as you know, Wesley boasted that he was the better debater) but in comparison to Wesley’s rough-shod sallies, it was decorum itself. And remember, Toplady was the victim, Wesley the aggressor. The people you defend are reported to be calling me an Antinomian of Antinomians and a Hyper of Hypers though the most influential of them has known me for decades and know that in many respects, I am, as a sublapsarian, not as Hyper as they on several issues and I believe I have a far higher respect for the Mosaic Law as they open their magazine pages to notorious Neonomians and those who say that the Bible openly contradicts itself and these contradictions are irreconcilable. See David Gay in the Banner and ET pages. But we must live with the abuse of others. I am continually bringing my rough, uneducated language before the Lord for repair work. Nevertheless, if you knew something of my background and upbringing and the slum I was brought up in; I feel you would praise God for the change He has wrought in me – but He is working on! You were very kind to imagine I might have native intelligence. I must admit that I understand the word ‘native’ in my case to be ‘primitive’ and I am thankful for your timely warning.

We all have our commitments and duties. As you have condemned me so soundly, you are thus honour-bound as a Christian to examine my evidence and put me right where you feel I am wrong. I expected this in your present letter, and as it has not happened, I expect it in one to come. Surely this is your reasonable service as my brother in Christ. It is not sufficient to give a child such a slap as you have given me, and then say go to bed without any supper and not explain to the child what he has done wrong and how it can be put right. I trust that I am still educatable and improveable. For instance, apart from obvious doctrinal differences. you accuse me of being dishonest and blameworthy against Fuller for apparently mixing up my footnotes. Surely this is using a bull-dozer to flatten a mole-hill. Do I appear to be so evil in your eyes? Did you not think of correcting me in a brotherly way on this apparent misuse or misplacement of sources? I assure you, when writing the book, I was most careful to check the footnotes but to err is human. If you feel I knowingly misrepresented Fuller, though still a vile sinner at the best of my times, I can assure you that I portrayed Fuller as I am thoroughly convinced that he is. I am not alone in my thinking. I enclose a copy of an article on Fuller written well over a hundred years ago in a very respectable Christian and widely read magazine to show you what was generally felt amongst reformed evangelicals concerning him.


A main error of Mr Fuller – and perhaps it was that in which his system and the arguments by which he defended it originated – consisted in the excessive and anti-scriptural ideas he formed of the accountableness of man. He attached obligations to him as a free agent, which, in fact never developed upon him by any law of his Creator; and invested him with a responsibility for talents which he never possessed. Because man is naturally obligated as a creature to love and obey God, according to the extensive purity and requirements of the divine law, he maintained that the same reason in which his natural obligations as a creature was founded obliged him also, as a sinner, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation upon his having the Gospel revelation. Independent of the absurdity of representing faith in Jesus in a light which classes it with the works of the law, I call this an excessive and extravagant idea of human responsibility. Accountability, if it relates to anything must relate to some service to be performed according to the measure of ability with which the Creator originally endows us, or to some trust with which he has charged us, that we may employ it for all purposes of his righteous will; or to some talents which he has given, that we may improve them. and return to him that revenue of praise to which he is entitled – but accountability can have no place in the reception of gifts and benefits which he communicates, with an absolute sovereignty of will, to whom he pleases. How can anyone be responsible for the gifts of a benefactor which he never received, or account for property with which he was never entrusted? A peasant is bound to observe allegiance to the sovereign and the government under which he lives. and to behave himself peaceably and justly towards every member of the community. If he violates the law, he is answerable for the offense at the bar of his country. But whoever imagined that a peasant is culpable and entitled to punishment for a capital crime because he has not advanced himself to the rank of a peer in the realm. and secured to himself a pension for life from the king’s treasury? A proceeding of such a kind is absurd in supposition, because at variance with all the known principles and rules of equity and justice, yet such a proceeding actually takes place under the divine government. according to Mr Fuller’s notion of accountability, which obliges a servant under the Gospel to receive salvation by faith under pain of death, because he is obliged by the law to obey the divine will.

Of all the benefits and blessings of grace, which is it that the possession or enjoyment thereof hinges upon the accountability of man, or rather, the responsibility of a dead sinner? Is it election? (Rom. viii, 29.30); ix.; xi. 5. 6; Eph. i. 3.4): Redemption? ( Rom. v. 6. 8): Reconciliation? (Rom. v. 10): Justification? (Rom. iii. 21,28; viii. 3,4; x. 4): Faith? ( Eph. i. 19; ii. 8: Phil. i. 29; Col. ii. 12: John vi. 29; Acts xiii. 48: xiv. 27); or even personal and practical holiness and obedience? ( Ezek. xvi. 60.63: xxxvi. 25,27: Jer. xxxii. 38.40). Search these and other Scriptures of a similar import. and compare them with the work of God in your personal experience, and you will see indeed that you must put the crown of salvation where you delight to see it on the head. not of human accountableness. but the sovereignty of Jehovah’s grace.

Under this view, I am sure you will join with me in the most unfeigned abhorrence of a system that robs God of his glory and enhances the condemnation of the guilty to an immeasurable degree by increasing their responsibility.

George Wright The Gospel Magazine, vol. xii, 1877, p.343.

I recently wrote to the present editor of the Gospel Magazine, asking if this were still the position of the mag. and I received a positive answer. The editor, Maurice Handford, expressed his sadness at what was happening in the British churches in terms which I later told him were my very own. The editor has now kindly written the Foreword to my new book on James Hervey, now at the publisher’s[ref] I shall be giving a paper at the Protestant Reformation Society Conference, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford on 28th August, 2014 for those interested in this Preacher of Righteousness, also called by the pseudo-Reformed and Arminians ‘an Antinomian’.[/ref]. If you peruse through the various Reformed and Calvinistic magazines and books up to modern times, you will find these 1877 sentiments echoed, especially in Particular and Strict Baptist and evangelical Anglican works. Our moderns feel they know better and have made a new evangelicalism of Fullerism. Strange that you can accept the strongest language of those Fullerites who attack orthodox men tooth and nail yet a word against modern Fullerism, with its Grotian, Latitudinarian, New Divinity teaching is immediately condemned in extreme emotive language with no attempt at a clarification of the historical and doctrinal facts. Let us condemn error in no uncertain terms on all sides! What actually is happening, is that whereas Fullerism is yet knocking at the front door of the Southern Baptists, demanding to be let in, British brethren are now throwing it out in disgust after seeing what its effects are. The ‘hundreds’ I mentioned are, therefore, no exaggeration. But why let the havoc of others into your house? Are you so confident that it will do you no harm? Thank God for the “four or five” watchmen whom you have been privileged to meet in your churches. May you meet many more and may their names be ELIJAH!

The magazines represented by those whom you defend have all given up the sound position quoted above during the last 5-20 years. However, do not underestimate the amount of men in your own churches who have not bowed the knee to another gospel. My remarks were in no way based on majorities as you seem to have interpreted them. Nor did I make them a personal criticism of you as you assume but they were directed to the FJ. My remarks concerning Witsius were addressed personally to you as you have done such good work in this direction but I feel it is being jeopardised now and cannot understand that you do not refer to my letter on this count. Surely you must agree with me on this matter. The doctrines you praise in Witsius are no longer regarded as orthodox by the modern movement we are discussing.

I shall not mention names here concerning my SB contacts as the British brethren who have kept to the old paths have suffered a measure of persecution which, may be the lot of the ‘dissenters’ in your own fold soon. This is the way Fullerism works. Another group of Baptists in America has already told me that Fullerism is now splitting them down the middle. You say you are ignorant of the way this movement has wrought havoc in Europe. I am so happy that Fuller is unknown in Germany and the Dutch brethren look upon him as an arch-heretic – as I do. A ministers’ conference I recently attended was adamant in rejecting Fullerism totally. They did not use the word ‘Fullerism’ as it goes under other titles in the Netherlands. I receive letters weekly from British friends explaining that there is all out war there! As I told you, it is now the plan to continue this battle in the States. I must advise you to consult the European scene as this will save you much heart-rendering and church-rendering agony in the States. Ostriches never make good Christians as you might have learned from William Cowper’s great poetry. By the way, how come you Southern Baptists love to read Cowper and yet you will have us believe that they will not accept Gill whose views were identical with Cowper’s but where they differed, Gill was the milder? Compare Gill, too, with Calvin. Where Calvin is judicial and stern, you will often find Gill highly pastoral and experimental. Where Calvin tends to stress legalism, Gill is all love and grace. Compare their doctrines of election, adoption, pardon, repentance, faith, justification and predestination for a start! I am not criticising Calvin’s views here, which I mainly share, but praising Gill’s pastoral way of putting them over. I must add here that one of my present correspondents protested in the same harsh tones as you use against what I wrote in defence of Gill. Now, after reading my Law and Gospel in the Theology of Andrew Fuller, he says he has thoroughly revised his views. On checking my references in the footnotes he now says that he acknowledges my “criticism of Fuller’s Grotianism, his defective views of the consequence of the Fall, and his use of metaphorical language.”

I am sorry that you do not give me the opportunity to be put right or to put you right concerning these matters as you have not done me the courtesy of a reply based on my correspondence. It is not Christian practice to make such heavy charges as you do without substantiating them. Is it so wrong of me to suggest this? If you, by God’s grace, show that I am wrong, I shall certainly confess this in public and would ask you to pray for me that I might be given the strength to do so. This is also reciprocal. I trust that this letter may have melted your hardness somewhat and that you will be prepared to offer reasons for the faith which is within you in a further letter. Believe me, brother, you owe it to the cause of God and truth in general and to me in particular. Are you not frightened of the new evangelical theology which is old Liberalism in disguise and is knocking at your doors? (1 Cor. 10:12).

I must add that I sent copies of my open letters to you and the Letter to the Editor to my pastor and a number of friends on both sides of the ocean and received heartily support. My pastor wrote:

“I read with great interest and wondrous marvel the letters that you sent to both the Board of Directors of the Founder’s Journal and Ernest Reisinger. Your ability to communicate is God-given, and the words of the letters convey a deep conviction that error was made in publishing the articles in this past issue of the Founder’s Journal.”

Now this praise was too, high for me, as I fully accept, but my pastor is a man with an eagle eye and a honest heart and he would have told me at once if my language were vitriolic etc. as you maintain.

Friends in the States have told me that they have subscribed to the Founders Journal for me but I have received no copies. Has a request for subscription gone through?[ref] Applications were made on my behalf but not accepted.[/ref] I have, however, been down-loading articles as I have free access to Internet and only need to pay for the local call to the sender.

I trust that you will consider the above in brotherly love and I shall pray that the Lord will use us both to assist each other in growing more fit for His work by having that mind which is in Christ Jesus.

Yours in this hope,

Dear Brother X,

I am writing to you again because of alarming news which is reaching me from many quarters concerning rumours which you are spreading and because of your refusal to give evidence concerning your accusations questioning my personal character, aims and endeavours. Formerly you accused me, amongst many other things, of fiddling my Gill footnotes and rejected a plea from me to advise me in a brotherly way where you felt I had been inaccurate. Despairing of your backing up your accusations with evidence which is your Christian duty, I asked a number of people of varying sympathies, including two professional editors, to check the notes you mentioned and found that they all (about five persons) agreed that they were correct. This causes me to think that you have accused me without due care. You will remember that in a BOT article, Robert Oliver accused me of not giving sources, though he had simply overlooked them, as several of his own friends pointed out. Oliver also gave sources in this article which were not where he said they were as several readers noticed and I pointed out in my Focus replies. This is carelessness, I believe, and not evil, though you seem to be accusing me of evil carelessness for acting in the same way, though you give no proof. You will no doubt have checked Iain Murray’s sources in his accusations against Huntington and found that he quoted two other writers, thinking they were Huntington and accused Huntington of error in works in which Huntington does not take up the topic at all. Again, this is sheer carelessness and was immediately pointed out to these writers who are so unfamiliar with their subject. You ought to have done the same.

Perhaps you, who are so eager to stress duty, ought to think of your own duties in not accusing the brethren without giving them chapter and verse. You remind me of an article I received from Erroll Hulse, whom you back, which informed the reader that if there is a difference between the brethren, it was their duty to seek reconciliation at once. I thus wrote to Erroll as he had been reported of spreading such misinformation as you are and I had previously sought reconciliation only to be snubbed. I did not accuse him but merely asked if what he was quoted as saying were true. Erroll let me know through a mutual friend that I need not expect a reply. It seems that you are following suit. This is not Biblical practice. I am mentioning these people as you have allied yourself with them and I feel strongly that they are re-introducing a theology which is Liberal at its roots but their way of warding off opposition is not by theological debate but by reputation-ruining gossip. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in Iain’s latest attack on MacLeod who has fallen out of grace in the Murray-Hulse faction. I expected a theological debate but Iain and Erroll surprise us all by saying that they agree with Macleod’s theology and merely hit at him below the belt, though no concrete evidence is given at all. Yet it is Macleod’s theology which has brought the Banner down. Furthermore, it is obvious to many that the Banner’s new theology has brought with it less Christian ways of morally expressing it. Even if evidence against Macleod were forthcoming, such a washing of dirty lined in public is not the duty of a Christian. I trembled when I read the booklet at such a fall on the author’s part and prayed that the Lord would keep me from sinning in this way, as it is all too easy. If I have sinned in this way, surely it is your Christian duty to show me where, when and how so that I can examine the matter before the Lord! But you are saying I sin in this way and you are refusing to tell me where, why and when. You owe it to God to justify your remarks. If you are not prepared to do this, you must be of all men most miserable and I am very sorry for you. When you tell me that you represent thousands of churches, I feel most sorry for them, too.

However, I now hear that you are saying that I have thoroughly misrepresented Fuller. Furthermore, it seems that you have spread this rumour before reading my book! What manner of Christian morals is this? If you feel that you can put me right on Fuller and object to the views I hold, surely you should indeed strive to put me right and not spread such an evil report without having the inclination to bother or substantiate it. This, Sir, is Antinomianism without a mask. I group this with Ian Murray’s ridiculous report that I denigrate all evangelical contemporaries of Huntington, although Iain himself has published at least five articles from my pen arguing the opposite and which have not been retracted by me in any way. I have also published some 15 or more articles elsewhere with most positive accounts of Huntington’s contemporaries. I also group this with Erroll Hulse’s charges that I am an Antinomian though I believe in the preparatory preaching of the terrors of the law and Erroll argues in his essay on the London Baptist Confessions that he does not. If you examine your Fullerite authors, you will see that even they exempt Gill from the charge of Antinomianism in this respect and Hypers in general object to Gill’s orthodox view of the law. I would similarly challenge anyone to dare call me a ‘Theoretical Antinomian’ after the testimony I have given.

Please, sir, I wish you to stand up and be a man – a man of God – and not hide your Christian profession under the gossip’s bucket but shine as the light God has re-created you to be.

Yours in all God’s graces,

George Ella


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

George M. Ella, born February 1939 in Yorkshire, England, has lived most of his life on the European Continent. He is a retired Senior Civil Servant formerly employed in teaching, post-graduate teacher-training, chairing examination boards and curricula work. He holds degrees from London, Hull, Uppsala, Essen, Duisburg and Marburg universities with doctorates in English Literature and Theology. Dr. Ella has written regularly since the seventies for a number of magazines and newspapers and published numerous books on Church History, including biographies of William Cowper, William Huntington, James Hervey, John Gill, Augustus Montague Toplady, Isaac McCoy and Henry Bullinger besides works on doctrine and education. He is currently finishing the third volume of his series 'Mountain Movers'; a biography of John Durie; a work on Law and Gospel and further study material for the Martin Bucer Seminar. Dr. Ella is still internationally active as a lecturer and is a Vice-President of the Protestant Reformation Society. He is keenly interested in missionary work and has written on the spread of the Gospel amongst the Same people of Lapland, the people of India and the Native Americans. This present volume follows Dr. Ella's 'The Covenant of Grace and Christian Baptism', also published by the Martin Bucer Seminar. George Ella is married to Erika Ella, nee Fleischman, a former government administrator, and they have two sons Mark (41), Director of a Polytechnic College in Bremerhaven and Robin (39), Leading Senior Physician in a newly-built Geriatric and Psychiatric clinic in Dessau.

George Ella on Doctrinal Matters
George Ella's Biographical Sketches