The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism

in English Nonconformity, 1689-1765

by Peter Toon

The Olive Tree, 1967











Acknowledgements    through Part II - this page, below

Preface by the Rev. Dr. J. I. Packer, Latimer House, Oxford


Part  I – The Background

            I.          Calvin and Calvinism

            II.         The Augustan Age

Part  II – High Calvinism Becomes Hyper-Calvinism

            III.       Antinomianism and High Calvinism

            IV.       No Offers of Grace

Part III – The Propagation of Hyper-Calvinism    Part III-End

            V.        Three Theologians

            VI.       God, His Decrees and Covenants

            VII.      Man, his Sin and his Salvation

Part IV – Conclusion

            VIII.     A definition of Hyper-Calvinism


            I.  The Diary of Joseph Hussey

            II.  The Doctrinal Basis of the King’s Head Society


Index (omitted for web)



      I am grateful to many people for their help but I would like especially to mention the following: the Rev. Dr. G. F. Nuttall, Rev. R. Thomas, Rev. E. F. Clipsham, Mr. I. Sellers, Mr. P. Helm, Mr. L. F. Lupton, and Mr. L. Thoιpe.  The Rev. Dr. J. I. Packer and the Rev. Dr. I. Breward gave me permission to quote from their theses.

      Dr. Williams’s Library, The Evangelical Library, New College Library (London), New College Library (Edinburgh), the Gospel Standard Library (Brighton), and the Selby Branch of the West Riding County Library gave me excellent service.

Peter Toon.

Durham. September, 1967



B.Q. = “Baptist Quarterly”.

C.H. = “Church History”.

D.N.B. = “Dictionary of National Biography”.

E.Q. = “Evangelical Quarterly”.

J.E.H. = “Journal of Ecclesiastical History”.

J.Th.S. = “Journal of Theological Studies”.

T C.H.S. = “Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society”.




      This book is a first attempt to fill a long-standing gap – not, unhappily, the only one – in the story of English “Calvinism”.  Partly, no doubt, because few in recent years have thought of the Reformed faith as more than an outmoded oddity, the study of its history from the first Elizabeth to the second has been neglected.  Hence the most vehement adherents of “the Reformed position” today are often unaware of the different sorts of “Reformed position” that this country has seen.  This is not, of course, to deny the basic continuity of the English Reformed tradition, any more than it is to endorse all the attempts to detect differences that individual scholars have made.  But it is to point out that those who profess the Reformed faith should know that at certain points their profession may mean more than one thing.

      With its stress on the rationality of God and man, and therefore of revelation and of true Christian life and worship, Calvinism has great intellectual strength – a strength that easily becomes weakness, when dry intellectualism and rationalism take over.  By the end of the seventeenth century, the crippling touch of rationalism was apparent within the Puritan tradition: a delusive reliance on natural theology, the taproot of Latitudinarianism and Deism among Anglicans, was starting to produce Unitarianism among Dissenters, as it had already produced the neo-legalism of Baxter (not to mention the Carolines, and the Arminians in Holland), to whom the Gospel was a new law.  All these tendencies struck, in one way or another, at the free sovereignty of God, which to Calvinists is of the essence of His glory.  Not surprisingly, therefore, the eighteenth century saw a reaction against such trends, a reaction which saw itself as a rediscovery of the true line of Reformed development.  But, in an increasingly rationalistic age, the reaction itself was as rationalistic, within the Reformed supernaturalistic frame, as the movements away from that frame had been.  In its teaching about man, sin and grace (always the staple themes of Reformed interest), this reaction fairly ran the thought of God’s free sovereignty to death.  It earned itself the name, “Hyper-Calvinism”.  This is the development whose rise and fall Mr. Toon traces in the following pages.  The story is a cautionary tale with timely lessons for those who seek a revival of Reformed Christianity today.


Latimer House, Oxford.


Part One:  The Background


CHAPTER  I – Calvin and Calvinism

Synopsis: 1. Authentic Calvinism, a balanced theology.  2. Beza and Calvinism.  3. Perkins and Calvinism.  4. Three modifications of High Calvinism: (a) Arminianism, (b) Federal Theology, (c) Amyraldism.  5. Orthodox Puritanism and Calvinism.  6. Doctrinal Antinomianism.


      Those who called themselves “Calvinists” in the period which we are to study did not derive their doctrines solely from John Calvin.  When the Toleration Act was passed in England in 1689, Calvin had been dead for over one hundred years and a host of theologians, meeting in Synods and individually writing books, had added much to what Calvin had originally written.  It was from parts of this long tradition of Reformed teaching that the “Calvinists” of the eighteenth century received the basic materials with which to make their own brand of Calvinism.  In this chapter it is our task to survey rapidly the major developments of Calvinism from the death of Calvin in 1564 until the year 1689, and we shall make particular reference to those which took place within, or affected, English theology.  Since we are only concerned with those doctrines which describe the redemption and restoration of man, we shall not notice developments in the doctrines of Church polity or the relationship of Church and State.



      John Calvin learned much of his theology from the writings of the reformers who began their work before he entered Geneva, such men as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer and Philip Melanchthon.  He also found much to stimulate and guide his thinking in the books of the great bishop of North Africa, Augustine of Hippo.  Yet in Calvin’s own books, especially in the Biblical commentaries and the Institutes, we see the great expositor at work, always seeking, in his clear style, to maintain a balanced exegesis and to pay full regard to both the doctrines of divine sovereignty in human salvation and human responsibility to obey God at all times.  It is true that at times he seemed to develop to a logical conclusion ideas which are only suggested in Scripture (e.g. his doctrine of double predestination which Bullinger of Zurich did not share), but this is the exception rather than the rule.  His commentaries are being republished today because laymen, students and ministers now recognise that they contain sound learning and a thoroughly Biblical theology, all of which is explained in a simple and profound manner.

      Many efforts have been made to try to state the central, dominating doctrine of his theological system.  Of these, the most popular suggestion, since Alexandre Schweizer and Ferdinand Christian first made it in the 1840s, has been that of predestination.1  Perhaps it is impossible to state what was the central doctrine of his system.  As he built the Institutes around the pattern found in the Apostles’ Creed, it is legitimate to assume that he believed that all the major doctrines of the Christian faith, as contained in that Creed, had to be maintained in careful balance.  In the exciting years of the mid-sixteenth century his theology, commonly called “Calvinism”, was well fitted to capture the hearts and minds of thousands in Europe.  And it did just this.

      After the death of Calvin there was a growing preoccupation with Aristotelian metaphysics.  (The Aristotelianism of the earlier years of the Reformation had been greatly modified by the humanist tradition and had only involved logic and rhetoric.)  This use of Aristotelianism received an impetus in the controversies which soon developed amongst Protestants.  The Christologícal issue within Lutheranism, the predestinarian problems within the Reformed tradition and the conflict over Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, all had the consequence of intensifying the tendency to express truth through precise definition and the drawing of fine distinctions.  So Protestants began to do what the medieval schoolmen had done and this use of scholastic method was intensified by the challenge produced by a renewed Roman Catholicism, which sought to find the weaknesses of the Protestant position.2  We may see the effects of this growing preoccupation with Aristotelianism by considering four Protestant doctrines: predestination, original sin, atonement and justification.  In looking at them we shall make special reference to the influence of Theodore Beza since he was the successor of Calvin at Geneva from where he exerted a wide influence.



      Predestination.  Though Calvin had taught a doctrine of predestination which included a decree of election and a decree of reprobation, he had also warned against speculation into these mysteries.  Not all of his disciples seem to have heeded this advice.  Beza placed the doctrine of predestination under the doctrine of God and His providence (where Aquinas had discussed it), and also advocated, what was later called, “supralapsarianism”.3  That is, he saw the following order in the eternal decrees of God.  First, the decree to manifest justice and mercy in the salvation of some human beings and the rejection of others.  Secondly, the decree to create the human race, and thirdly, the decree to permit the sin of Adam.  (Other followers of Calvin placed the decree to create mankind before the decree of election and reprobation.  This order of the decrees was termed “sublapsarianism” or “infralapsarianism”.)  The very idea of speculating about the processes of God’s mind was repugnant to Calvin.  In his treatise, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, he wrote:

But it is right to treat this whole question (of God permitting the fall of man) sparingly, not because it is abstruse and hidden in the inner recesses of the sanctuary of God, but because an idle curiosity is not to be indulged....  I much approve what Augustine has to say in the De Genesi ad Litteram, where he subjects all things to the fear and reverence of God.  But the other part, showing that God chose out of the condemned race of Adam those whom He pleased and reprobated whom He willed, is much more fitting for the exercise of faith and so yields greater profit.  Hence, I emphasise more willingly this doctrine which deals with the corruption and guilt of human nature, since it seems to me not only more conducive to piety but also more theological.4


      Two famous English Puritans who adopted supralapsarianism were William Perkins and William Twisse.  Not only did Perkins believe that this logical presentation of predestination was Biblical but, betraying the effects of the scholastic concept of reason, he felt obliged to show how it agreed “with the grounds of common reason, which may be obtained by the light of reason”.  In the “epistle to the reader” in his book, A Christian and Plaine Treatise ... of Predestination, Perkins gave a list of ten points of “common reason” which he thought agreed with the Biblical teaching.

      Original Sin.  As we have seen in the quotation given above, Calvin emphasised the transmission of a depraved moral nature from one generation to the next, and from parents to children; yet he gave little prominence to the doctrine that God imputed to every descendant of Adam the guilt of Adam’s first sin.  In the chapters of the Institutes in which he expounded the doctrine of original sin his interest is concentrated in the possession by each human being of a depraved nature.

We see that the impurity of parents is transmitted to their children, so that all, without exception, are originally depraved.  The commencement of this depravity will not be found until we ascend to the first parent of all as the fountain head.  We must, therefore, hold it for certain that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated.5

      Two reasons are usually suggested to explain Calvin’s apparent lack of interest in the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin, which doctrine in later years was accepted by the majority of Reformed divines.  First, it is possible that he did not regard it as important.         Secondly, since some of his Roman Catholic opponents accepted the doctrine, it is suggested that he had no need to stress it.6  There would seem to be more truth in the first reason than the second since Calvin did emphasise some doctrines which he held in common with the Roman Catholic Church.  The systematic exposition of the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin is to be traced to Beza and it was through his influence that it was quickly accepted and taught as a standard doctrine of the Reformed faith.

      Atonement.  There is no systematic exposition in Calvin’s writings of the doctrine that Christ died only for the elect.  In his comments on 1 John 2.2, he expressed his agreement with the scholastic expression that “Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world but effectively only for the elect”.  And in his Acta Synodi Tridentinae: Cum Antidoto, he passed by, quite deliberately, and without comments, an explicit declaration that Christ died for all men.  It is perhaps fair to state that the extent of the atonement does not seem to have been a problem which agitated the mind of Calvin.  Only in later discussions of election and the efficacy of Christ’s death did the question, as to the precise extent of the atonement, arise.  Beza adopted the view that Christ died only for the elect and maintained this doctrine in his controversial writings against the Lutherans.7  It soon became a prominent article of the Reformed faith and was championed in England by Perkins.  Concerning the latter’s view of Christ’s death, Ian Breward has written that “his interpretation of the atonement suggests that he saw it in the light of the decree (of election) rather than vice versa”.8  Certainly Calvin cannot be accused of reading the doctrine of election into the doctrine of the atonement.

      Justification.  Since he had the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification in mind, Calvin frequently explained that justification is not the same as regeneration; justification is an act of God in which He declares, through Christ’s redeeming work, that a sinner is forgiven.  Sometimes Calvin spoke of justification not merely as forgiveness of sin but also as acceptance through Christ’s righteousness with God, although this latter idea is not so prominent as the former in his writings.  Certainly he never made a distinction, as did later Reformed divines, between the active and passive righteousness of Christ.  “It was perhaps,” wrote Dr. Cunningham, “more in accordance with the cautious and reverential spirit in which he usually conducted his investigations into divine things to abstain from any minute and definite statements regarding it.”9  The origin of the distinction between the active and passive righteousness of Christ is probably to be traced to the militant Lutheran, Flavius Illyricus, and the Danish theologian, Nicolaus Hemmingius.10  Beza adopted this distinction and taught that justification consists not only in the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death, but also the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, founded upon His active obedience to the law of God.11  This doctrine became the orthodox Reformed view.



      Reference has already been made to the famous Cambridge theologian, William Perkins, whose writings and preaching exerted such a great influence upon English Puritanism.  His theological thought provides a good example of the changes taking place in Reformed theology at the end of the sixteenth century.  “He was more than a theological thermometer whose popularisations registered the current atmosphere, but he further developed changes of emphasis already present in Reformed theology.”12  Two of these changes of emphasis, to which as yet we have not made any reference, were in the relationship of faith to Christ and Scripture and in the grounds of Christian assurance.

      In his earliest writings Perkins frequently defined faith with reference to a direct relationship to Christ.  Later he came to lay more emphasis upon the relationship of faith to the words of God in Holy Scripture.  He defined faith as “a gift of God whereby we give assent or credence to God’s Word”.  He held that “it is all one to say the saving promise and Christ promised” is the object of faith.13  The earlier reformers, Luther and Calvin, had believed that the conjunction of Word and Spirit made the Scriptures normative through the way in which they created and nourished faith.  As the Bible came to be regarded as a book of metaphysical knowledge concentration upon what it directly said assumed a greater role.  The efficacy of Scripture rested no more on the work of the Spirit, but upon the identification of the text and the Spirit, through a conception of the Bible as verbally inspired and inerrant.  The Bible was thus seen as a book of delivered truth; theology was the orderly statement of truth and truth became identical with propositional statement.  This identification is seen very clearly in the five “points” of the Remonstrants and in the five “counter-points” of the High Calvinists at the Synod of Dort in 1619.  Whilst Luther and Calvin had moved from the authority of the Bible to the inerrancy of the text, later Reformed teachers moved in the reverse direction.14  The battle with Roman Catholicism over the authority of the Bible also caused the Protestants to defend the Bible as the recorded document of the very words of God Himself.  Perkins’ position was, as it were, a half-way point between Calvin and the High Calvinists who attended the Synod of Dort.

      One of the chief characteristics of Puritanism was its great interest in the doctrine of the assurance of eternal salvation and in the related problems of conscience.  The reason for this absorbing interest may perhaps be traced to two sources.  First, many ordinary people had been thrown into spiritual chaos by the sweeping changes made in the parish church in regard to the services of worship and the religious observances; these people needed counsel and help.  Secondly, the Englishman is pragmatic by nature and thus he tends to be most concerned with that which seems to him most useful and practical; the Puritans concerned themselves with what they considered to be the most important question of all.  In the words of Perkins this was, “How may a man know whether he be a child of God or no?”  A comparison of the teaching of Calvin and Perkins on assurance reveals that the latter gave a much more affirmative place with regard to the testimony of good works to election than did Calvin.  In A Case of Conscience, the greatest that ever was: How a Man may know whether he be a Child of God or No (1592), Perkins wrote:

This is one of the chiefest uses of good works that by them, not as by cause, as by effects of predestination and faith, both we and also our neighbours are certified of our election and salvation too.15


      Calvin preferred to lay emphasis on personal faith in Christ and union to Him as well as on God’s sanctifying gifts to His people, since “works, when estimated by themselves, no less (prove) the divine displeasure by their imperfection, than his good-will by their incipient purity”.16

      As Basil Hall has recently put it: “It is arguable that with the political and theological changes, which came after Calvin’s death, within the framework of the national churches of the Reformation, and the bitter struggle between Catholic and Protestant in Europe, Calvinism was bound to change.  This is true but it is not the same thing as to say that the changes were inevitable and right in the direction they took”.17  Indeed, as perhaps the latter part of this study will reveal, the later history of Calvinist thought would seem to suggest that some of the changes in, and additions to, Calvin’s theology were not the right ones.  However, the Biblical humanism of Calvin is to be preferred to the logical orthodoxy of much of the later Reformed teaching.



      Having briefly described the growth of a rigid form of Calvinism which we shall call “High Calvinism”, we shall now describe three important theological systems whose origins and compilation were conditioned by some form of reaction or protest against High Calvinism.  The three are Arminianism, Federal Theology and Amyraldism.

      Arminianism.  The first major revolt against High Calvinism is associated with the name of James Arminius who became professor of theology at Leyden in 1603.  Carl Bangs writes of Arminius that he “articulates a position which he feels to be a valid reformed theology of grace in harmony with the earliest sentiments of the Reformed churches in Switzerland and Holland”.18  But the term “Arminianism” has been given to many varying theological systems which bear some similarity to the thought of Arminius and which are opposed to the basic dogmas of High Calvinism.

      The theological problem which caused Arminius to doubt the Bezan doctrine of grace was the relation of supralapsarian predestination to human freedom and responsibility.  In his definitive Declaration of Sentiments (1608), he insisted that predestination must be understood as “in Christ” rather than being referred to the inscrutable and secret counsel of God.  He outlined his own view of predestination in four decrees.

The first absolute decree of God concerning the salvation of sinful men is that by which he decreed to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ, for a Mediator, Redeemer, Saviour, Priest and King who might destroy sin in his death, might by his obedience obtain the salvation which had been lost and might communicate it by his own virtue.


      The second decree extends the scope of the “absolute decree” to include all those who “repent and believe” in Christ.  The third decree describes the administration of “sufficient and efficient” means necessary for the repentance and faith of those who believe.  It is in terms of the fourth decree that Arminius is best known.

To these succeeds the fourth decree by which God decreed to save and damn certain particular persons.  This decree has its foundation in the foreknowledge of God by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through his preventing grace, believe, and through his subsequent grace, persevere, according to the before mentioned administration of those means which are proper and suitable for conversion and faith; and by which foreknowledge he likewise knew those who would not believe and persevere ....19


      Though he gave a Christological interpretation to predestination, Arminius differed from both Calvin and Beza, who both held that God elected people not on the basis of divine foreknowledge of faith, but merely out of divine, sovereign pleasure.  Likewise his doctrine that the will is free to choose or reject salvation was not advocated by Calvin or Beza.

      The full theological emphasis of those who accepted and developed the theology of Arminius may be clearly seen in the famous five propositions drawn up by the Remonstrants in Holland.       In summarised form they are:

1.  Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the Gospel when it is put before him: nor

2.  Is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it.

3.  God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will believe of their own accord.

4.  Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone; what it did was to create a possibility of salvation for all who believe.

5.  It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost.


      These doctrines were not new.  Most of them had been the subjects of discussion in Cambridge and London in the 1590s.20  Yet the troubles which led to, and surrounded, the Synod of Dort helped to make them widely known.21  In England they were favoured by the High Church party in the seventeenth century and after the Restoration by the majority of Anglicans.  After 1689 a growing number of Nonconformists also adopted Arminianism.

      Federal Theology.  To class Federal Theology with Arminianism as some form of protest against, or, at least, a part-escape from, the rigidity of certain scholastic developments of late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Reformed theology may surprise those whose view of the development of Calvinist theology is conditioned by the reading of the books of the well-known American federal theologians, Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield.  Yet this is what it was.  The backbone of Federal Theology is the belief that God’s relationships with men are always through and by means of covenants.  The “covenant of works” was the term used to describe the covenant which, it was believed, God made with Adam as the representative of the whole human race, demanding from him perfect obedience, and promising to him immortality as a reward.  The term “covenant of grace” (sometimes “covenant of redemption”) was used to describe the agreement of the Holy Trinity to save the elect by providing a Saviour and Advocate for them.

      Calvin only spoke of the one covenant, the covenant of grace, and his emphasis was upon its historical manifestation in history: “God has never made any other covenant than that He made formerly with Abraham and at length confirmed by the hand of Moses”.22  He never mentioned a covenant made with Adam.  Zwingli and Bullinger also made use of the doctrine of the covenant.  Their primary emphasis was upon the moral responsibility of men within the covenant to live for God’s glory, but they also made use of it as a defence of infant baptism.  The same ethical emphasis is found in William Tyndale’s final edition of his New Testament (1534), and this had a wide influence in England.23

      The doctrine of the “covenant of works” seems to have had its origin in the application of the scholastic doctrine of the lex naturae to the story of the perfect Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Signs of systematisation of the early Reformed doctrine of the covenant of grace can be discerned in the distinction by Musculus between a general covenant with all men and a special covenant concluded with Abraham.  Ursinus also distinguished between a covenant of nature and a covenant of grace, whilst his Heidelberg colleague, Olevianus, seems to have been the first to use the expression, “covenant of works”, though he linked it with the Mosaic covenant only.  William Perkins also referred to the Mosaic covenant as a “covenant of works.”24

      In 1594, Franz Gomarus spoke of a “natural covenant” made with Adam and all men, and a “supernatural covenant” made with the elect.  Yet Robert Rollock, a Scotsman, in his Questiones et responsiones (1595), seems to have been the first to refer to a “covenant of works” made with Adam in his innocency.25  It is difficult to ascertain why it was that Federal Theology became popular in the 1590s.  The effort to show that even elect men have a moral responsibility to God, the common tendency to schematise Protestant theology, the desire to present a plan of salvation which offered no chinks for Roman Catholic controversialist lances and the growing tendency in European thought to change social relationships from status to contract, all played their part.

      In order to avoid extreme predestinarianism, William Ames dichotomised the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption (the agreement of the Trinity to save the elect) and the covenant of grace (the offer of grace in the Gospel to those who repent and believe).  Samuel Rutherford, David Dickson and Richard Baxter, amongst others, adopted this distinction, although in the latter part of the seventeenth century it was generally only made use of by those who followed in the theological tradition of R. Baxter.

      The complete Federal Theology of the early seventeenth century combined various strands of Reformation thought and made these into a systematic whole through the use of Ramist logic and method.  Though it did stimulate much that was good in the religious life of the English Puritans, the Scottish Covenanters and the New England settlers, it did gradually harden into an arid theological system, just as the theology of Calvin hardened into scholastic Calvinism.  In Part III of this study we shall notice some of the effects of this hardening of Federal Theology,26 as they appeared in English Calvinism.

      Amyraldism.  John Cameron, a Scotsman, became in 1618, at the request of Duplessis-Mornay, the “Pope of Calvinism”, professor of theology at the Protestant Academy of Saumur.  His influence on some of his students was such that between them, when they became teachers, they produced a system of theology which has been given such names as “New Methodism”, “Salmurianism” and “Amyraldism”.  Writing about Cameron, Walter Rex states that “he brought to France an antidote to the stultifying rigidity of the post-Dordrecht conservatives; his rethinking of the theological commonplaces set Calvinism on a new path after his death”.27  In fact every important change which occurred in French Calvinism between 1634 and the Revocation can be traced eventually back to him.

      The doctrines advocated by Cameron and his students (e.g. Moyse Amyraut, Louis Cappe1, David Blondel and Jean Daillé) which differed from High Calvinism concerned predestination, Christ’s atonement and the psychology of conversion.  The double decree of election and reprobation was abandoned and replaced by the decree of election, which was itself placed after the decree of universal redemption.  This reversal of the order of the decrees brought the charge of “new method” and the title “New Methodists”.  In place of limited atonement “hypothetic universalism” was taught.  This meant that Christ had died for all men in the sense that the benefits of His death were offered to all who fulfilled the conditions of the Gospel which are repentance and faith.  In fact they believed that those who did accept the Gospel were those whom God had chosen in the decree of election.  The doctrine of “hypothetic universalism” was set in the context of the dichotomy of the covenant of grace into the covenant of redemption concluded in eternity and the covenant of grace offered in the preaching of the Gospel.

      The majority of High Calvinists believed that when God converted a sinner He acted directly upon both the intellect and will of the person concerned.  He convinced the mind of His truth and constrained the will to accept His offered grace.  Cameron taught that God acted solely on the mind, but because of the inter-relation of mind and will, the will is eventually affected even as the effect follows the cause.  This way of describing conversion was meant to soften the harsh idea that the term “irresistible grace” suggests.  It made conversion more of an intellectual response to God’s truth.

      Needless to say the members of the Salmurian school believed that they were recovering the original Reformation emphases and doctrines.  The effect of their teaching was felt in seventeenth-century England.  In an epistle “To the Associated Ministers of Worcester”,28 Richard Baxter wrote that the doctrine of universal redemption was held by “half the divines of England”.  Apart from Baxter himself, these included such men as John Preston, William Whateley, John Ball, Nathaniel Culverwell, Richard Vines, Bishop Davenant and Archbishop Ussher.  Yet the Salmurian doctrine of the will does not seem to have attracted as much interest in England as the doctrine of universal redemption.

      Richard Baxter revised the “New Methodism” of Saumur and produced “Neonomianism”, the doctrine that the Gospel is a new law of grace.29  This moderated Calvinism proved popular amongst Presbyterians after 1662 and amongst both Presbyterians and Congregationalists after 1700.

      It is important to note that many of the leading proponents of Arminianism, Federal Theology and Amyraldism made use of a logical method quite different from the Aristotelian, peripatetic method of Beza and his followers.  Arminius defended Ramist logic against the criticisms of Beza in Geneva, and nearly all the exponents of Federal Theology and Amyraldism owed much of their arrangement of material to Ramist principles.

      Pierre de la Ramée was a professor in Paris in the middle years of the sixteenth century.  He substituted a simple logic for the complicated Aristotelian logic which was taught in the schools of Paris.  His new logical method was set out in his famous work, Dialecticae libri duo, which had many editions and was translated into many languages.  Two of the key words in his system are “dichotomy” and “method”.  He believed that the way to analyse any of the arts, be that art grammar, dialectic, rhetoric or mathematics, was to use dichotomy.  That is, embedded in the nature of things he believed there was an inherent dichotomy.  Thus in all definitions of the arts there was dichotomy, as each definition was made up of two parts, each of which subsequently divided into two more parts.  The Ramist method of arrangement was to put that which is most general first, and then arrange all subsequent axioms in order, making sure that the more general ones came first and the most obscure last of all.  Applying this logic to theology in his Commentariorum de religione christiana (1576), he defined theology as “ the art of living well”, which he divided into “the need for proper faith” and “the actions of faith, man’s observance of God’s laws”.30

      Numerous theologians in Protestant Europe and in New England arranged their books and encyclopaedias on Ramist lines.  Amongst these were Johannes Piscator (1546–1625) Amandus Polanus von Polandsdorf (1561–1610), Johannes Wolleb (1586–1629), Bartholomaus Keckermann (1571–1609) and Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588–1638).  Three Englishmen who adopted Ramist principles in Cambridge in the sixteenth century were William Temple, George Downame and Alexander Richardson, although the greatest English Ramist was William Ames whose teaching career was in the early seventeenth century.  The latter exerted a great influence in England, New England and in Europe.  His most well-known books are the Medulla Theologiae and De Conscientia.31

      In the writings of Richardson, Ames and Alsted there is to be found a development of Ramism which was called “technometria” or “technologia”.  For Ames, at least, this meant integrating ethics and metaphysics into theology so that theology involved both theory and practice.  The six basic arts which made up technologia were logic, rhetoric, grammar, physics, mathematics and theology.  The basic presupposition of the method was that when God formed the Universe He did it on the basis of a plan which He had in His eternal mind.  Thus the tasks of the various arts was to study the created world and discover the basis of each part.  And when the findings of each art are put together there will exist a comprehensive world-view and spiritual knowledge.  Perry Miller expressed it in the following way: “God created the arts by the method of genesis combining arguments into the patterns of His intention, but man must find the principles of the arts by the method of analysis, discriminating the particulars within the synthesis".32  No word, it was felt, could describe the thoughts of God, but the “ideas” of the universe in God’s decrees were referred to as “archetypal”, the principles of these ideas in created objects as “entypal”, and, in man’s mind as perceived, “ectypal”.  Technologia thus provided the Puritan with a framework in which, whilst remaining a man of piety and a believer in God’s sovereignty and irresistible grace, he could stabilise his intellectual heritage.  Yet it demanded great minds to establish and to maintain the synthesis and so there soon occurred a fragmentation of the whole system.  Some Puritans clung to the theological dogma and others to the neo-Platonism and the doctrine of innate ideas.

      From the same Cambridge Colleges where the English Puritan movement was born there arose a group of thinkers who have become known as the Cambridge Platonists to whom we shall make reference in the next chapter.  In Chapter IV we shall see how the doctrine of technologia influenced the Christological doctrine of Thomas Goodwin, and which, in turn, influenced Joseph Hussey in his formulation of an erroneous Christology.



      The most comprehensive statement of the general Reformed teaching of British seventeenth-century divines is to be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647).33  This document has since become the chief doctrinal standard of Presbyterian churches through the world.  Its first nineteen chapters deal with the following topics:

      1, Holy Scripture; 2, God and the Holy Trinity; 3, God’s Eternal Decree; 4, Creation; 5, Providence; 6, Fall of man, Sin, Punishment; 7, God’s covenant with man; 8, Christ the Mediator; 9, Free Will; 10, Effectual Calling; 11, Justification; 12, Adoption; 13, Sanctification; 14, Saving Faith; 15, Repentance unto Life; 16, Good Works; 17, Perseverance of the Saints; 18, Assurance of Grace and Salvation; 19, The Law of God.


      A careful reading of these chapters reveals that the doctrines of the Confession are, in essence, the developed teaching of Calvin together with the incorporation of Federal Theology.

      If we compare the arrangement of the Institutes with the Confession, we notice that whereas the former begin with the knowledge of God which men may have, the latter moves straight into a definition of Holy Scripture.  Probably this reflects the fact that Protestants had emphasised for nearly a century the necessary centrality of the Biblical revelation against the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.

      Also we notice that Calvin explained the doctrine of predestination only when he discussed the appropriation of salvation; the Westminster divines stated the doctrine of predestination before expounding the doctrine of creation and totally apart from the chapters on the doctrines relating to the reception of salvation.  This changed emphasis may be traced back to the influence of Beza, who, as we have already noticed, was influenced by the scholastic presentation of predestination.

      The influence of the Bezan development of Calvinism in the Confession may also be seen in the exposition of the doctrines of original sin, limited atonement and justification.  Original sin is explained as including the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s first sin and the passing on of a depraved nature (Chapter VI).  It is specifically asserted that Christ purchased salvation only for “those whom the Father hath given unto Him” (Chapter VIII), and justification is understood as the imputation of the active and passive righteousness to the elect believer (Chapter XI).

      Perhaps the most significant difference between the teaching of Calvin and the Westminster divines is that the latter expound Federal Theology.  The Confession explains the covenant of works in these words:

The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

As we noted above, this concept came into Reformed teaching from the scholastic doctrine of lex naturae.

      The Westminster divines did use the idea of the covenant of grace in the same way as did Calvin, making it refer to the historical manifestation of salvation in the Old and New Testaments:

Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant (of works), the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; whereby He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved.

      Nevertheless, the Westminster divines understood this as resting upon the eternal covenant of grace made between the Father and Son.  This is seen in the Answer to Question 20 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

God having, out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

      After the ejection of Puritan ministers from the Church of England in 1662, this combination of High Calvinism and Federal Theology did remain popular amongst many Nonconformists, especially Independents and Particular Baptists; but, as we noted above, a growing number of Nonconformists, especially Presbyterians, began to adopt a moderated Calvinism, similar to that taught at Saumur, but modified by the “political method” of Richard Baxter.



      The most serious perversion of Puritan orthodoxy was doctrinal antinomianism, which was popular amongst some Puritans between 1640 and 1660, and which was condemned by the Westminster Assembly.  It also regained some popularity amongst Nonconformists after 1690.  Doctrinal antinomianism is to be distinguished from practical antinomianism, which abuses God’s grace and was seen amongst the Anabaptists in Munster in 1534.  The system of doctrines that is called doctrinal antinomianism is so described only because the system does possess the possible tendency to cause people who hold it to neglect the practical duties of religion .34

      Four of the most popular teachers of doctrinal antinomianism were John Saltmarsh, John Eaton, Tobias Crisp and Robert Lancaster.35  They explained the free grace of God to the elect in such a way as to neglect the Biblical teaching that a Christian has certain responsibilities to God such as daily humbling for sin, daily prayer, continual trust in God and continual love to men.  One of their favourite doctrines was eternal justification, by which they meant that God not only elected the Church to salvation but actually justified the elect before they were born.  As a development of this they taught that justification in time was merely the realisation that eternal justification was theirs already.  Another favourite emphasis was the teaching that the only sure way for a Christian to know he was elect was the voice of the Spirit within his soul saying, “You are elect”.

      With this brief description of doctrinal antinomianism we close our rapid survey of the major developments of Calvinism from the time of Calvin to the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689.  It will be our task in subsequent chapters to show how High Calvinism underwent even more changes until in one particular expression of “Calvinism” any resemblance to authentic Calvinism is difficult to see.


1.  Cf. F. Wendel, Calvin, p. 263.

2.  Cf. J. Dillenberger, Protestant Thought and Natural Science, pp. 50 ff.

3.  Beza, Tractationes Theologiae, Vol. I, pp. 170 ff. for place of decree, and Vol. I, pp. 344, 362, 418 for supralapsarianism.

4.  Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination (trans. J. K. S. Reid), p. 125.

5.  Calvin, Institutes (trans. H. Beveridge), Book II, Chapter 1, section 6.

6.  Cf. W. Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, pp. 377 ff.

7.  Beza, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 171.

8.  Breward, “The Life and Theology of William Perkins” (Ph.D. thesis), p. 212.

9.  Cunningham, op. cit., pp. 402 ff.

10.  Cf. A. Ritschl, A Critical History of the ... Doctrine of Justification, p. 251.

11.  Beza, op. cit., Vol. III, pp. 248 ff.

12.  Breward, op. cit., p. 196.

13.  Ibid, pp. 37–8.

14.  Cf. J. Murray, Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty, for the opposite opinion; for a detailed study see J. B. Rogers, Scripture in the Westminster Confession.

15.  Works of William Perkins (1612), Vol. I, pp. 437–8.

16.  Calvin, Institutes, III, 14, 19.  Cf. Wendel, op. cit., p. 276.

17.  In Studies in John Calvin (ed. G. E. Duffield), p. 25.

18.  Bangs, “Arminius and the Reformation”, C.H. XXX (1961), pp. 155 ff.

19.  Writings of Arminius (trans. J. Nichols), Vol. I, pp. 193 ff.

20.  Cf. H. C. Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge, pp. 277 ff.

21.  Cf. A. W. Harrison, The Beginnings of Arminianism.

22.  Calvin, Commentaries on ... Jeremiah and Lamentations (tr. J. Owen), Vol. IV, p. 127.

23.  Cf. J. G. Møller, “The beginnings of Puritan Covenant Theology”, J.E.H. XIV (1963), pp. 46 ff.

24.  Cf. W. Musculus, Commonplaces (trans. J. Man), (1562), p. 120 b.; Z. Ursinus, The Summe of Christian Religion (trans. H. Parrie), (1587), pp. 253 ff.; C. Olevianus, An Exposition of the Symbole of the Apostles (trans. J. Field), (1581), pp. 52 ff.; Works of William Perkins, Vol. I, pp. 164 ff.

25.  Cf. G. D. Henderson, “The Idea of Covenant in Scotland”, E.Q. XXVII (1955).

26.  There is no adequate survey in English of the rise of federal theology.  Apart from the studies already referred to, the following may be found of use.

        (a)  Breward, op. cit., pp. 59 ff.

        (b)  D. J. Bruggink, “The Theology of Thomas Boston”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Edinburgh, 1956, pp. 81 ff.

        (c)  E. H. Emerson, “Calvin and Covenant Theology”, C.H. XXV (1956).

        (d)  H. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 281 ff.

        (e)  P. Miller, The New England Mind, The Seventeenth Century, pp. 365 ff.

        (f)  P. Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, pp. 48 ff.

        (g)  G. Schrenk, Gottesreich und Bund im Alteren Protestantismus Vornehmlich bei Johannes Coccejus.

        (h)  L. J. Trinterud, “The Origins of Puritanism”, C.H. XX (1951).

        (i)  J. von Rohr, “Covenant and Assurance in Early English Puritanism”, C.H. XXXIV (1965).

        The survey by Schrenk is the most comprehensive but it does not include the English scene.

27.  Rex, Essays on Pierre Bayle and Religious Controversy, p. 88.  The best study of the doctrines taught at Saumur in this period is F. Laplanche, Orthodoxie et Prédication.  L'oeuvre d'Amyraut.

28.  In Baxter, Certain Disputations of right to the Sacraments (1657).

29.  Cf. J. I. Packer, “The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the thought of Richard Baxter” (D.Phil. thesis), and Chapter III below for an exposition of Baxterianism.

30.  Cf. W. J. Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue.

31.  Cf. K. L. Sprunger, “Ames, Ramus and the Method of Puritan Theology”, Havard Theological Review, LIX (1966), No. 2.

32.  Miller, New England Mind, The Seventeenth Century, pp. 161–2.

33.  The same general teaching on God, Sin and Grace is found in the Savoy Declaration (1658), and in the Particular Baptist Confession (1689).

34.  In A Succinct and Seasonable Discourse on the occasions of mental errors (1691), John Flavell gave a list of ten antinomian errors.  They were: 1. Justification is an immanent and eternal act of God.  2. Justification by faith is but a manifestation of what God has already done.  3. It is wrong for Christians to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith.  4. As all sin has been pardoned, confession of sin is not necessary.  5. God never sees sin in believers.  6. At no time does God ever punish the elect.  7. On the Cross Christ became as sinful as we are, and now the elect are as righteous as He is.  8. Christians should not worry about sin in their lives for these can do them no harm.  9. The New Covenant has no conditions, not even faith.  10. Christians are not to rely on signs and marks of grace in their lives as helps to an assurance of salvation.

        There is a similar criticism of antinomianism in Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the ... Antichrist (1648).

35.  Saltmarsh once acted as the chaplain to Oliver Cromwell.  Cf. L. F. Solt, “John Saltmarsh.  New Model Army Chaplain”, J.E.H. II. (1951).  Eaton was Vicar of Wickham Market, Suffolk.  He died in 1641.  Crisp was Vicar of Brinkworth in Wiltshire and he died in 1642.  Lancaster was Rector of Quarly in Hampshire for a period.

        There is a useful discussion of doctrinal antinomianism in Packer, op. cit., pp. 283 ff.  Cf. also G. Huehns, Antinomianism in English History.




Synopsis: 1. The Seventeenth–Century Background.  2. Deism.  3. Socinianism.  4. Arianism: (a) William Whiston and Samuel Clarke; (b) At Exeter; (c) At Salters’ Hall; (d) After Salters’ Hall.  5. Rationalism amongst Calvinists: (a) Moderated Calvinism; (b) High Calvinism; (c) Modifications in the Doctrine of the Trinity.


      To appreciate the character and development of the High Calvinism taught between 1689 and 1765, we must seek to study and to understand it in the context of the wider, contemporary, theological scene.  Therefore in this chapter we shall look at the trends of Nonconformist theology and, where they coincide, at Anglican theology also.1

      Often the eighteenth century is described as an Augustan age.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the attitudes to religious truth adopted by the theologians of this period.  The resulting religious liberalism was not merely a logical outcome of the Toleration Act in 1689, or the freedom of the press after 1695, although both these factors played a part.  Its roots went back at least into the middle of the seventeenth century, and probably even into the late sixteenth century when Cambridge theologians debated the doctrines of predestination and free will.2  These roots grew in the fertile soil of reaction against the “enthusiasm” and “fanaticism” of the Puritan era, and through the influence of Platonism, Latitudinarianism, the new scientific outlook and the philosophy of John Locke.



      “Enthusiasm” was the word commonly used to describe the doctrinaire fanaticism of unbalanced minds.  “It arises,” wrote John Locke, “from the conceits of a warmed and overweening brain” and “it takes away both reason and revelation, and substitutes ... the ungrounded fancies of a man's own brain, and assumes them for a foundation both of opinion and conduct”.3  In similar vein, David Hartley (1705–1757) wrote that it “may be defined as a mistaken persuasion in any person that he is a peculiar favourite with God; and that he receives supernatural marks thereof”.4  Thus defined it has particular reference to the sects of the Puritan era but also included the Quakers, with their appeal to the inner light, and the Roman Catholics, with their appeal to the infallible chair.

      From a group of Cambridge theologians throughout the second half of the seventeenth century came an important reaction against both the enthusiasm of the Puritan sects and against orthodox Calvinism itself.  Since this group had a particular interest in Platonism, its members have been called the Cambridge Platonists.  Members of the group included Henry More, Benjamin Whichcote, Henry Cudworth and John Smith.5  As they believed that true religion is reasonable, they held that the best thoughts of the greatest philosophers of the past could help to illuminate its truth.  So it was that they turned to the Greek philosophers, especially to Plato and his followers, believing that their writings constituted a necessary handmaid to the understanding of religion.  This appeal to the Platonic concept of reason, with its doctrine of innate ideas, was their most conspicuous characteristic.  It involved for them the unification of the whole personality in the pursuit of truth.  Their exaltation of reason transcended mere rationalism since their appeal was also to “the inner experience of the whole man acting in harmony not to mere logic chopping which (might) leave conduct and even conviction unaffected”.6  Because they held that truth was one, though mediated through two channels, reason and revelation, there was no conflict in their minds over the relationship of faith and reason.  They did not found any particular school of thought but they did make a real contribution to the growth of the idea that toleration of a man’s views is an inherent right due to every man.

      The word “Latitudinarians”7 was first used as a designation for the Cambridge Platonists.  It is now usually used to describe those Anglicans who were educated by Smith, Cudworth or More at Cambridge, and who sought to eliminate enthusiasm, dogmatism, irrationality and excessive emphasis on the authority of tradition from religion, and to replace them with a calm, reasonable interpretation of the Bible.  Thus men like John Tillotson (1630–94) and Edward Stillingfleet (1635–99) stood for an attitude and a temper rather than for any particular creed.  Though they did not abandon the objective side of religion, their emphasis was primarily on a proper moral outlook of life.  They tried to meet what they believed were the greatest intellectual and ethical needs of their generation, and, in so doing, they contributed to the changing character of theology from being dogmatic to being rationalistic.

      The discoveries of Isaac Newton (1642–1727)8 showed his generation that the universe was an ordered cosmos governed by one uniform mathematical order.  His theories produced in the minds of many people the conviction that there must be a God because of the order and design of His creation.  Yet, since Newton’s discoveries had broken up the old cosmological theories, which appear in such beautiful dress in Milton’s Paradise Lost, the temptation to intellectual arrogance by his followers was strong.  One serious result of Newton’s influence was that God seemed to lose His personal nature as He became the Great Mechanic of a great machine, the world, and the Great Architect of a great building, the cosmos.  Later these tendencies helped to foster the growth of Deism and Unitarianism.

      If Isaac Newton was the originator of scientific physics, John Locke (1632–1704)9 was the creator of a scientific philosophy.  Beyond the influence of any other man, John Locke was the moving spirit of the eighteenth century.  His famous Essay Concerning Human Understanding gained great popularity because it said those things which seemed most relevant to the issues and needs felt by those who lived in the Augustan age.  Repudiating the old belief that the human mind contains innate ideas, he focused attention on the problem of knowledge and how the human mind receives that knowledge.10  Skillfully he analysed the powers of the human mind, drawing attention to the things we can truly know rather than those we cannot know.  He insisted that the material which the mind uses is provided by the five senses and that thought, itself, is a process conducted in a spirit of detachment, uninfluenced by irrational enthusiasm.  If a man begins with self-evident facts, and self-evident propositions, there is no reason why he should not reach results in the religious sphere as reliable as those in the scientific sphere.  Thus Locke believed that he could provide the evidence for the existence of God which was equal to mathematical certainty.  Unfortunately this idea of God, like the God deduced from Newton’s premises, was just the necessary postulate of a series of arguments and deductions.  He lacked the glory and lofty splendour of the God of the Puritans.  The joint effect of the influence of Newton and Locke was to gain a respectful place for natural religion in English theology, as well as to encourage the enquiry into the nature and authority of divine revelation.  Also, as is apparent in his Reasonableness of Christianity, Locke wanted to reduce religion to its simplest form.  This, he thought, was to believe in God and His Messiah with the amendment of life as a necessary consequence.

      Thus it was that many religious men became willing to submit religion wholly to reason because there was everywhere a sublime confidence that reason and revealed religion were in harmony.  The old idea, that revealed truths were suprarational without being contrary to reason, tended to fall into the background.  From the press, after the licensing system had expired sometime between 1693 and 1695, there came a host of books which sought to present a reasonable or rationalistic approach to Christianity.  Men, who in earlier decades would have been persecuted for publishing heterodox views, were now free, within certain limits, to air their opinions.  The rational expression and defence of religion became the keynote of the age, and remained so until Joseph Butler (1692–1752) and George Berkeley (1685–1753) insisted that religious truth cannot be proved, and John Wesley (1703–1791) and William Law (1686–1761) implied that reason is irrelevant to true faith, and, finally, David Hume (1711–1776) announced that Christianity cannot rest on reason.11

      As the expression of religious truth in the latter part of the seventeenth century showed a marked reaction against the scholasticism of the Puritan Federal Theology, so many thinkers in the eighteenth century not only continued this trend, but also began to doubt the metaphysical presuppositions inherent in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.12  Also, as the majority of religious men found the Augustinian doctrines of sinful man and irresistible grace distasteful, they adopted the Pelagian and Arminian view that man contributes to his salvation by making an act of his own will to accept the grace of God.13  In the discussion of the doctrine of God, many old beliefs, condemned by the Church in previous centuries, again appeared and proved popular, as men tried to recover what they considered to be the simplicity of early Christianity.  These beliefs included Socinianism and Arianism.  To make matters worse, all this took place amongst Christians when Deism was proving attractive to those who were overwhelmed with what they believed was clearly revealed in the world of nature.



      Deism became widely known in England only after the publication of the English edition of Christianity Not Mysterious in 1702, written by John Toland (1670–1722).  His ideas, and variations of them, were taken up and exploited, by a few men who caused a stir amongst religious people quite out of all proportion to their numbers or ability.  Anthony Collins (1676–1729), Matthew Tindal (1657–1733), Thomas Morgan (d. 1743) and Henry Dodwell (d. 1784) were men who, having been impressed by Newton’s discoveries, saw the universe as governed by immutable laws made by Newton’s “Master Physicist”, and were unable to reconcile the idea of this Absolute Being with the God of the Hebrews who, according to the Bible, revealed Himself to men like Moses and Elijah.  What Roland N. Stromberg has written is true: “What distinguished the deist was not an interest in natural religion, but the belief that natural religion alone was sufficient, without need for any Christian revelation”.15  The deist believed that, had Christianity not been corrupted by priests and metaphysicians, it would have agreed with the religion that they deduced from the world of nature.  They looked upon Jesus of Nazareth as a good man and an excellent moralist but not as a supernatural, divine being.  Though deism flourished in England from 1702 until the middle of the century, it caused the greatest stir amongst Churchmen and Dissenters in the late 1720s and the early 1730s.  To answer its claims and to vindicate the need for some form of divine revelation, men of many shades of theological opinion from Socinian to High Calvinist entered into controversy with the deists.  But the very fact that the attacks of a handful of men upon traditional Christian beliefs and presuppositions could cause such concern in religious circles, reveals just how low was the spiritual temperature of the nation.



      The first challenge to orthodoxy from within the churches, and from those who claimed to derive their teaching from Scripture, came from a few men who had either read the works of Fausto Sozzini (d. 1604), or those written by one or another of his followers.  After 1688, and until 1703, a continual stream of Socinian tracts flowed from a printing press.  The publication of these was probably financed by the philanthropist, Thomas Firmin (1632–1697).  Though Anglicans sought to give an answer to them, Dissenters were so embroiled in their own Crispian and Antinomian controversies that they did not, in general, join in the controversy.  The word “Socinian” was often used in the seventeenth century to describe anyone who denied the doctrine that Christ made a Satisfaction to God for sin because Socinus himself had made a radical criticism of the usual orthodox doctrine of the atonement.  Socinus had also rejected the belief that Christ existed as a divine being before His human birth and, accordingly, he had denied the doctrine of the Trinity.  He believed that Jesus Christ was only a creature upon whom God bestowed some form of divine office.  Thus the main theme of the Socinian tracts in the “Socinian” or “Unitarian” controversy of the 1690s was the doctrine that God is One, not three in One, and that Christ was a creature, though a unique creature.



      William Whiston and Samuel Clarke.  Arianism “began a long and uninterrupted course in England through the work and influence of two Cambridge scholars, differing greatly in caliber and temperament”.17  These men were William Whiston, the mathematician, and Samuel Clarke, the metaphysician.  Whiston, who had succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as Lucasian Professor, lost his chair in 1710 because of his beliefs which he was not ashamed to make public.  In 1711, he published Primitive Christianity Revived in four volumes.  This work on the early Church and its doctrines helped to prepare the way for “the most memorable work in the history of the Arian movement”,18 Samuel Clarke’s Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity (1712).  In this book Clarke, the respectable rector of St. James, Westminster, examined the Biblical passages relative to his subject.  His conclusion was that, though the Bible does reveal a God in Trinity, supreme worship and honour should only be given to the Father.  Though Clarke was correct in his claim that his doctrine was not Arianism (i.e. as taught by Arius in the fourth century), those who read his book realised that, at least, he had abandoned the doctrine of the Trinity as stated in the Athanasian Creed.  The publication of the Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity caused no small stir in the Church of England; it also proved to be the main source from which Arianism amongst Dissenters grew.


      At Exeter.  In the city of Exeter there were three Nonconformist congregations, which supported four ministers, and which were controlled by a committee of thirteen laymen.  One of the four ministers was James Peirce (1674–1726) who had studied in Holland.  Later, when in Cambridge, he had known William Whiston and after this, when a minister at Newbury, had read Clarke’s book.  Another of the Exeter ministers, Joseph Hallet (1656–1722) kept an academy where several of the students were in correspondence with Whiston and Clarke.  One student, Hubert Stogden (1692–1728), who had accepted the new theology, was ordained at Shepton Mallet in Somerset, on the strength of a certificate given to him by James Peirce and other ministers in the area.  This incident proved to be the beginning of a controversy in Exeter and also of a series of appeals and visits to London.  Peirce refused to give his assent to an article on the Trinity drawn up by local ministers and finally declared that the Son is subordinate to the Father.  He also omitted from the public worship of his congregation the doxology which was sung at the end of the metrical psalms.  On March 10th, 1719, Peirce and Joseph Hallet, were excluded by the committee of laymen from their pastoral positions.


      At Salters’ Hall.19  As communications continued between the Devon and London ministers, the latter, moved by signs of Arianism amongst a few London ministers,20 began (though not at first deliberately) to arrange themselves into two groups.  One group felt that subscription to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was necessary in order to preserve purity of doctrine.  The other group, though not wishing to deny the doctrine of the Trinity, desired that the words of the Bible be made the standard of Faith, not human interpretations of it, for such they held were the historic Creeds and Confessions of Faith.  On the 24th February, 1719, the ministers associated with the General Body of the Three Denominations met to discuss a letter received from Exeter.    After some quiet discussion this meeting at Salters’ Hall ended in a division.  Fifty-three men voted for a resolution which advised that if a minister departed from orthodoxy in regard to the Trinity, the congregation were justified in ending their association with him, whilst fifty-seven voted against sending this advice.  The meeting adjourned for a week and at the next meeting those who believed in compulsory subscription by a minister to orthodox Trinitarian doctrine left the meeting, when the moderator refused to allow further discussion of the question.  Those who remained drafted a suitable reply to Exeter in which they expressed the view that they could not condemn anyone who stated the doctrine of the Trinity in Scriptural terms.  This was rather vague and was meant to be so.  It made room for Samuel Clarke’s Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity, the second edition of which appeared in 1719.  Yet the majority of those who had signed the letter to Exeter had done so because they believed it was in the interests of religious liberty and the right of private judgement.  It was not their intention to encourage heresy.


      After Salters’ Hall.  The definite growth of Arianism (by which we mean any system that made the Son subordinate to the Father) was certainly accelerated by the events in Devon and at Salters’ Hall.  Not a few Presbyterian and Arminian Baptist (General Baptist) ministers were attracted to Clarke’s view and in the 1720s many Presbyterian young men joined the Church of England where they believed there was liberty of opinion.  Often the Arianism followed after the adoption of Arminian views of sinful man and God’s grace.  The greatest contributory factor to the growth of Arian and liberal doctrines were the Academies, especially those at Bridgwater, Exeter, Taunton, Kendal, Whítehaven and Findern in the first part of the eighteenth century.21

      The Arian movement in England reached its climax in the middle of the century at the time when the Arminian doctrines were very popular.  Therefore, whilst denying the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, the leading Arians also often argued against the Calvinist doctrines of predestination and atonement.  Such a theological combination is to be found in the writings of George Benson (1699–1762), John Taylor (1694–1761), Nathaniel Lardner (1684–1768), James Foster (1697–1753) and Samuel Bourn (1714–1796).  Benson showed his distaste of Calvinism by reviving the story of the burning of Servetus in Geneva in the time of Calvin .22  Taylor attacked both the Calvinist doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of Christ’s Satisfaction to divine justice .23  Lardner wrote in 1730, but did not publish until 1760, his Letter on the Logos, which advocated Arian principles.  Foster, one of London’s most eloquent preachers, combined natural philosophy with Arianism in his sermons published as Discourses on all Principal Branches of Natural and Revealed Religion (1749).  And Bourn’s distinct subordination of the Son may be seen in the second volume of sermons he published in 1760.

      As the century progressed liberal Christian belief meant for many Presbyterians and General Baptists the transition from Arianism towards Socinianism and Unitarianism.24  In the first part of the century the philosophy of John Locke was the guiding spirit of the Arians, but gradually some students sent to Glasgow University by the Presbyterians were influenced by the natural philosophy of Francis Hutcheson, who was professor of Moral Philosophy from 1730 until 1745.25  These students and others introduced views which approximated to the Socinianism of the 1690s but are better described as Unitarianism since they make God, Who is One, to be the First Cause of all that is.  Two men in whose writings the change from Arianism to Socinianism is reflected are Moses Lowman (1680–1752) and Samuel Chandler (1693–1766), but the complete transition from Calvinism through Arminianism and Arianism to Unitarianism may be best seen in the experience and the writings of Joseph Priestley (1733–1804).  Accompanying the change in theology, Presbyterian Meeting-Houses became Unitarian chapels.



      We must now retrace our footsteps to the beginning of the century to look at the theological trends amongst those Nonconformists who did not accept the Arminian and Arian tenets.  These were the “Calvinistic” Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists.  Many Presbyterian and Independent ministers who had been influenced by the appeal of the “Middle-Way” Calvinism of Saumur and of Richard Baxter adopted a moderated Calvinism.  This proved popular with those who were of a conservative frame of mind but who sought to keep in touch with the philosophical developments of their age.  Edmund Calamy (1671–1732), Daniel Williams (1643?–1716), Isaac Watts (1674–1748) and Philip Doddridge (1702–1751) are examples of men who held this theology.  Other ministers, mostly Independents and Baptists, sought to maintain the orthodox High Calvinism of the Puritan era.  Amongst this latter group, a minority, influenced by the pressures of the day, took High Calvinism through a logical step to produce what we may call “Hyper-Calvinism”, and which we shall study in subsequent chapters.

      Yet in all forms of Calvinism there were to be found those who were perplexed by the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and who sought to modify it in one direction or another.  Just what form some of these modifications took we shall discuss below after brief reference has been made to Moderated and High Calvinism.


      Moderated Calvinism.  Since we shall discuss the theology of Daniel Williams in the next chapter, it will be appropriate here to look at the theology of Philip Doddridge, who was only a boy when Williams died.  Roger Thomas has written that Philip Doddridge “was not an original thinker ... he owed some of the most liberal elements in his own ways of thinking to his teachers, men who were makers of a liberal tradition, which he inherited from them and maintained with full conviction of its worth”.26  The two men whom Mr. Thomas sees as having influenced Doddridge were Samuel Clark, minister of the Dissenting congregation in St. Albans to which Doddridge was admitted in 1719, and John Jennings, tutor at the Dissenting Academy at Kibworth, which he attended.  These men introduced him to the philosophy of John Locke and this helped him to lay a rational foundation for his faith.  They taught him to adopt a liberal attitude towards the explication of “mysteries” of the Christian faith and to avoid dogmatism.  Also they introduced him to Moderated Calvinism, a combination of Calvinism and Arminianism, which had little to say about predestination and limited atonement or irresistible grace.  Rather it emphasised the experience of Christ and could sing:

O happy day, that fix’d my choice

On thee, my Saviour, and my God!

Well may this glowing heart rejoice

And tell its raptures all abroad.

When Doddridge became a theological tutor he tried to pass on to his students this personal joy in religion as well as the conviction that Christianity is reasonable and is not best expressed dogmatically.


      High Calvinism.  The rationalistic tendencies towards Arminianism and Arianism did not go unnoticed by the more orthodox Calvinists.  Indeed, the popularity of these heterodox views shocked them!  A group of influential laymen decided to sponsor a series of lectures in defence of what they considered to be the main doctrines of the Protestant faith.  The well-known philanthropist, William Coward (d. 1738), seems to have provided the finance and nine ministers, seven Congregationalists and two Baptists, were chosen to give the lectures in the Lime Street Meeting-House each week from 12th November, 1730, until 8th April, 1731.  In the preface to the printed version of the lectures27 the following words appeared:

            When doctrines of pure revelation are opposed, it is the duty of all who believe them, to appear in their defense; and this is really engaging in a noble cause: It is standing up for the honour of the great God, against those who set their imperfect reason and proud conceits, above infinite wisdom: To strive for the faith once deliver’d to the saints, is most necessary, when it meets with the contradiction of sinners.  As error never raged with greater violence than it does in our unhappy times, and as lukewarmness never discover’d itself more than in the present day of darkness, it never could be more expedient than now to plead for the glorious gospel of the blessed God.  The sufficience of the light of nature is warmly contended for by such as do not profess to reject revelation; and most of the doctrines of Scripture have been given up, one after another, by some who yet declare that the Bible is their religion.  It is therefore now time, if ever, for those who see no reason to renounce the old Protestant doctrines, to bear their testimony against the errors of the day, and to stand up for the great truths, which have been handed down to them by their fathers, and which they embrace, not merely because they have received them from the worthies who have gone before them, but because, after strict and impartial examination, they find, that these, and no other, are the doctrines reveal’d in Scripture.

      Since several of the lecturers had previously dealt with the subjects of the Trinity and the Person of Christ in books and sermons, eight of the ministers dealt with the Reformed doctrines of eternal election, particular redemption, Christ’s suffering, justification by grace, efficacious grace in conversion, the final perseverance of the saints and the resurrection of the dead.28  Apart from giving the lectures of the doctrine of justification, Robert Bragge, the minister of the Church which met in the Lime Street Meeting-House, delivered the introductory lecture to the whole series.  Abraham Taylor, who became the tutor at the Academy controlled by the newly-formed King’s Head Society, gave lectures on three subjects, the insufficiency of natural religion to gain salvation, that true religion does not lead to immorality, and the reasons for the decay of practical religion in the early part of the eighteenth century.

      Modifications in the doctrine of the Trinity.  Not a few “Calvinists” found the doctrine of the Trinity as explained in the traditional Creeds and Confessions difficult to accept.  In his lectures on the Larger Catechism,29 Thomas Ridgley, minister of the Congregational Church which met at the Three Cranes, Thames Street, London, revealed that he found two orthodox positions untenable.  He believed that the expressions “the eternal generation of the Son” and “the procession of the Holy Ghost” were absurd and unscriptural phrases.  He thought of the Second Person of the Trinity as Son of God by virtue of His office as Mediator and not through eternal generation by the Father.  Yet he did not deny the equality of the Son with the Father and His proper eternity.

      In his The Glory of Christ Unveil’d (1706), Joseph Hussey set out his belief that the human nature of Jesus Christ existed in heaven from the agreement of the covenant of grace by the Trinity.  He believed that the verses in Proverbs 8.22 ff. referred to the Second Person as God-Man possessing the human nature before the creation of the world .30

      Isaac Watts, who had maintained a neutral position in the subscription controversy at Salters’ Hall, found himself confused by the doctrine of the Trinity for most of his life.  It was in 1725 that he first gave a clear statement of his view that a human soul was joined to the Second Person of the Trinity in heaven before the creation of the world.  He believed that the human race, in its creation, was modelled by God on this archetype, the God-Man, the Mediator, Who became “the first born of all creation” (Col. 1.15).  Then from Mary, the God-Man received His human flesh and form.  This Christology also appeared in his The Glory of Christ as God-Man (1746).

      In the strange book, The Redeemer’s Glory Unveil’d (1733), by Samuel Stockell, who was once a member of Hussey’s Church, we find a combination of Hyper-Calvinism and the doctrine of the pre-existence of the human soul of Christ.  Since several writers, apart from Watts, advocated the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ’s human soul it is possible that Stockell was influenced by one or other of these.31  He believed that it was only correct to speak of the human soul of the God-Man as begotten of the Father. “I cannot understand,” he wrote, “the terms in vogue amongst us namely, eternal Generation and essential Filiation.  Because I am positive that Christ, as the eternal God, was never begotten, since it is impossible for me to conceive the Begetter and the Begotten to be of equal date.”32

      Thus we see that the first half of the eighteenth century was a period in which rationalism and latitudinarianism were consciously, or, in some cases, unwittingly, absorbed by men of every theological and philosophical opinion.  Though a minority did cling to the Reformed doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace in conversion, the majority of Christians, Nonconformists and Anglicans, favoured the Arminian scheme of universal redemption and man’s co-operation with divine grace in conversion.  And whilst a few Christians did resolutely hold to the Nicene and Athanasian definitions of the Trinity, a greater number felt it was wrong to impose any form of compulsory subscription to them.


1.  For the historical background see D. Coomer, English Dissent under the Early Hanoverians.

2.  Cf. Porter, op. cit., p. 282.

3.  Locke, Essay concerning human understanding, Book IV, Chapter 19, Section 3.

4.  Hartley, Observations on Man (4th ed. 1801), Vol. I, pp. 290–1.

5.  For a study of this group see F. J. Powicke, The Cambridge Platonists.

6.  W. R. Inge, The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Life, p. 52.

7.  Cf. G. R. Cragg, From Puritanism to the Age of Reason, p. 61.

8.  Cf. L. T. More, Isaac Newton, for details of his life.

9.  Cf. N. Kemp Smith, John Locke for details of his life and thought.

10.  Cf. J. W. Yolton, John Locke and the way of ideas, who makes the point that Locke, in repudiating innate ideas, was not so much departing from Descartes as from the prevailing philosophy of English writers, the Cambridge Platonists, for example.

11.  Cf. Cragg, Reason and Authority, pp. 93 ff. and 155 ff.

12.  In such words as “substance”, “begotten”, and “uncreated”.  The Athanasian Creed (Quicunque Vult) begins with the assertion that he who does not accept its teaching “without doubt shall perish everlastingly”.

13.  It was the Dutch version of Arminianism which was popular amongst Dissenters in the eighteenth century and this had its origins at the University of Amsterdam.

14.  For full details of Deism, cf. L. Stephens, History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, Vol. I.

15.  R. N. Stromberg, Religious Liberalism in Eighteenth Century England, p. 55.

16.  For the history of Socinian thought in England throughout the seventeenth century see H. J. McLachlan, Socinianism in Seventeenth Century England.

17.  Colligan, Arian Movement in England, p. 31.

18.  Ibid., p. 34.

19.  Cf. R. Thomas, “The Non-Subscription Controversy amongst Dissenters in 1719: the Salters’ Hall debate”, J.E.H. IV (1953), pp. 162 ff.

20.  Martin Tomkins was relieved of his duties as pastor at Stoke Newington in 1718 for alleged Arianism.

21.  Cf. O. M. Griffιths, Religion and Learning, p. 129.  For the academies, see H. McLachlan, English Education under the Test Acts, and Ashley Smith, The Birth of Modern Education, 1660–1800.

22.  Cf. Colligan, op. cit., p. 96.  John Brine defended the attitude of Calvin in his Vindication of some truths of Natural and Revealed Religion, Chapter 5.

23.  E.g. in Taylor, Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin ... (1738).

24.  Cf. Griffιths, op. cit., pp. 136 ff.

25.  Ibid., p. 71.

26.  Thomas in Philip Doddridge (ed. G. F. Nuttall), p. 122.

27.  A Defense of some important doctrines of the Gospel (1732).

28.  The eight were: Robert Bragge, John Sladen, John Hurrion, Peter Goodwin, Thomas Bradbury, Thomas Hall (Congregationalists) and Samuel Wilson and John Gill (Baptists).

29.  They were published under the title, Body of Divinity in 2 vols., 1731–1733.

30.  For more detail see Chapter IV.

31.  E.g. Robert Fleming, Christology (1708), Vol. III; Henry More, Magni Mysterii Pietatis in Opera Theologica (1675); Edward Fowler, Discourse of the descent of the Man-Christ from heaven (1706).

32.  Stockell, Redeemer’s Glory ..., p. 41.  Stockell was the minister of the Independent Church, which met in Red Cross Street, from about 1730 to 1753.  For a study of the Hyper-Calvinist Christology see P. Toon, “The Growth of a Supralapsarian Christology”, E.Q. XXXIX (Jan., 1967).


Part Two:  High Calvinism

Becomes Hyper-Calvinism


CHAPTER  III – Antinomianism and High Calvinism (1689–1706)

        Synopsis: 1. Controversy 1690 to 1700: (a) The Crispian Controversy; (b) The Merchants’ Lecture and “Happy Union”; (c) The case of Richard Davis; (d) The Antinomian Controversy.  2. The Law of God.  3. The Satisfaction of Christ.  4. Federal Theology.  5. Justification.  6. Assurance.  7. The Preaching of the Gospel.  8. The Effects of the Controversy.


      The last decade of the seventeenth century witnessed two heated theological controversies in England.  Within the Church of England the publication of Socinian tracts caused great alarm and much thought about the doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Christ.  Amongst London Dissenters two apparently similar, yet basically different, doctrines of grace, the one advocated mainly by Presbyterians, the other mostly by Independents, came into serious conflict.  Though these controversies were conducted entirely separately, the effects of the Socinian denial of Christ’s atoning work were felt in the controversy of the Dissenters.  After a brief account of the historical development of the controversy amongst the Dissenters, we shall examine the doctrines around which the heat of disagreement was centred.



      The Crispian Controversy.  Dr. Tobias Crisp had died in 1642 but his sermons were still popular in 1689 amongst certain Independents.  Mr. Marshall, an undertaker, wrote to Samuel Crisp, a son of Tobias Crisp, suggesting that he should assist in the republication of his father’s sermons.  Samuel Crisp agreed and in the winter of 1689–90 there came from the printing press Christ alone exalted, being the compleat works of Tobias Crisp, D.D.  There were fifty-two sermons, eight of which had never been previously published.1  To convince the public that the eight additional sermons were authentic, a certificate was placed in the volume signed by twelve London ministers.2  This stated that these sermons had “been faithfully transcribed from (Crisp’s) own notes”.  Richard Baxter, who had long opposed all forms of, and tendencies towards, doctrinal antinomianism, deeply resented both the action of Samuel Crisp in editing the book and the twelve ministers for seemingly commending it.  In his lecture at Pinners’ Hall on 28th January, 1690, he condemned the Crispian doctrine of the imputation of sin to Christ as an error, and also accused the ministers of “hanging up a sign to show where Jezebel dwelt”.3  John Howe, one of the twelve signatories, was quick to defend himself in a pamphlet entitled Some considerations of a certificate (1690).  Baxter wrote a reply to this but did not publish it since seven4 of the twelve ministers published an explanatory letter in John Flavell’s book, A Succinct and Seasonable Discourse (1691); part of this book contained an attack on doctrinal antinomianism.  The ministers explained that they had signed only to vouch for the integrity of Samuel Crisp as a copyist.  In an effort to show that his father’s doctrine of imputation was Biblical and orthodox, Samuel Crisp wrote Christ made sin (1691), which he addressed to the merchants who financed the lectures at Pinners’ Hall.

      Richard Baxter died in 1691.  His successor as unofficial leader of those who taught a moderated Calvinism was a Welshman, Daniel Williams,5 who had recently arrived in London from a pastorate in Dublin, and who was the pastor of the Presbyterian congregation that met in Hand Alley.  From early 1691 he had plans to write a book to expose the errors that he believed were to be found in the sermons of Tobias Crisp.


      The Merchants’ Lecture and theHappy Union”.  At the Glass House in Old Broad Street (renamed Pinners’ Hall when the Pinners’ Company, makers of pins and needles, bought it), a weekly lecture supported by merchants had been held since 1673.  There were six lecturers, four Presbyterians and two Independents.6  In the years previous to the Toleration Act of 1689, one of the reasons for the lecture was to demonstrate the essential unity amongst Dissenters.  This unity came to have more positive form, first in 1690 with the foundation of the Common Fund to help needy country churches, and secondly in 1691 when most of the London Presbyterian and Independent ministers decided to form the “Happy Union”, to call themselves the “United Ministers”, to hold regular assemblies and to assent to certain articles of Faith and Order.7  Yet, within four years the Merchants’ Lecture, the Common Fund and the “Happy Union” had ceased to exist in their original form.  In their lectures at Pinners’ Hall, first Thomas Cole,8 pastor of the Congregational Church meeting in Silver Street, and then Nathaniel Mather, pastor of the Congregational Church meeting in Paved Alley, defended similar doctrines to those which Baxter had condemned, and in reply Daniel Williams attacked the views of Cole and Mather.  At a special meeting of subscribers at Pinners’ Hall in August, 1694, it was decided to expel Williams from the lectureshíp.9  Out of sympathy for Williams, and to demonstrate Presbyterian solidarity, the three other Presbyterian lecturers left with Williams in order to form a new lecture at Salters’ Hall, which was planned to take place at the same time as the original lecture.  Because of differences over the doctrines of justification by grace, and also because of differences concerning the power of synods (brought into sharp relief by the case of Richard Davis), the Congregational ministers decided in late 1692 to discontinue to meet with the Presbyterians.  They also withdrew from the Common Fund and started a Fund of their own.  Several efforts were made in the next four years to reunite the two parties but they were without success.10  The fact was that each party was becoming progressively entrenched in its own theological dogmatism, on the one hand in a moderated, “Middle-Way”,11 Calvinism, and, on the other hand, in High Calvinism, partially modified by doctrinal antinomianism,


      The Case of Richard Davis.  Having been born in Wales, Richard Davis was a schoolmaster in London until 1689.  In early 1690 he became pastor of the Independent Church at Rothwell, near Kettering in Northamptonshire.12  Like his former pastor, Thomas Cole, he was a strict Congregationalist in regard to Church polity and a rigid High Calvinist in his doctrinal views.  Furthermore, he possessed that evangelical fervour which has helped to make many Welsh preachers famous.  He made Rothwell into a centre for aggressive evangelism.  Riding on horseback, as John Wesley was also soon to do, Davis and his lay helpers preached in many towns and villages in the surrounding counties.  Many complaints were sent to the United Ministers of London about both what he preached and how he evangelised.  To vindicate himself he went twice to London and on the second occasion, May, 1692, he met the full assembly of the United Ministers.  He was accused by Daniel Williams of various errors but no definite decisions were taken concerning him.  Later in that same month Daniel Williams published his book, Gospel-Truth Stated and Vindicated wherein some of Dr. Crisp’s opinions are considered, which he hoped would check the propagation of the teaching of Davis as well as Crisp.  Soon after, a deputation which included Williams, went from London to Kettering to enquire into the complaints against Davis.  Both Davis and his Church refused to attend this enquiry which they dubbed “The Ketterin-Inquisition”.  He was accused of various doctrinal errors as well as dividing churches and sending out ignorant, illiterate preachers.13  Yet neither this enquiry, nor at least three pamphlets written against him, were sufficient to stop his preaching for he had friends in London and converts in the country who looked to him as their spiritual guide.14


      The Antinomian Controversy.  Before the preface to the first edition of Gospel-Truth Stated, there appeared a certificate signed by sixteen Presbyterian ministers claiming that Williams had “rightly stated the Truths and Errors”.15  Though many Congregational ministers, with some Particular Baptists, were not in total agreement with everything Crisp had said, they did feel that it was safer to err on the side of exalting of God s free grace than to err (as they believed) with Williams in teaching salvation partly by works.16  They were quick to provide replies to Williams’s book.  Thus began eight years of replies and counter-replies.  William Lorimer, Vincent Alsop, John Humfrey and Samuel Clark, with the two Anglicans, John Edwards of Cambridge, and Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, supported Williams.17  The chief opponent of Williams was Isaac Chauncy, who had been educated at Harvard College, and was minister of the Congregational Church in Mark Lane.  Thomas Cole, Robert Traill, Thomas Goodwin, Jnr., Stephen Lobb, all Congregational ministers, and two Baptists, Benjamin Keach and Thomas Edwards, stood firmly behind Chauncy.18  Several men including John Howe, Thomas Beverley, Samuel Young, and two Dutchmen, Herman Witsius and Jacobus Keyser, did their best to mediate and reconcile the parties.19  The main points of controversy were the doctrines of justification and Christ’s Satisfaction, and developing out of these doctrines such questions as: Is the covenant of grace conditional?  Is the Gospel a new law of grace?  And when does justification take place?

      The doctrine of Christ’s Satisfaction for sin came into prominence after 1695 because Stephen Lobb accused Richard Baxter and Daniel Williams of favouring the Socinian denial of the orthodox doctrine of the suffering of Christ.  To those not versed in the ramifications of Reformed theology the whole controversy seemed uníntelligible.20  After the deaths of Thomas Cole and Nathaniel Mather in 1697, some of the heat was taken out of the debates.  They finally came to an end (apart from a few murmurings from the country) in 1700, after a group of leading Congregational ministers had publicly declared against antinomianism and Daniel Williams had written An End to Discord (1699).  Yet the “Happy Union” was never restored.

      The doctrines to which we shall pay particular attention in the following exposition are those which describe God’s law, Christ’s Satisfaction for sin, God’s covenants, justification, assurance and the preaching of the Gospel.  Since the publication of Crisp’s sermons was a contributory cause of the controversy, our method will be first to outline Crisp’s teaching, secondly, by way of contrast, to give the views of the “Middle-Way” Calvinists, and finally to discuss the doctrines of those who defended Crispian doctrines because they believed that they were identical with, or at least very similar to, High Calvinism.



      The basic, underlying difference of opinion in the Antinomian controversy concerned the nature of the law of God.  Since his purpose was to extol Christ and free grace, Crisp had little to say about the moral law.  The following quotation shows that he believed that God's justice is affronted by human transgression of His law, although he never seems to have explicitly stated that God's law is an eternal expression of His righteousness and justice.

            When Adam sinned, and by that act involved himself, and his whole posterity, into a state of transgression; nay, into a constant course of enmity and rebellion against God; by which justice was extremely violated and Divine majesty insufferably affronted; it concerned God for the maintenance of the honor of justice, to take order for the reparation of the violation and affront of it.21

      He believed that the law served a useful purpose in convincing men of their need of a Saviour; nevertheless, he gave it little or no place in the life of a Christian since he held that “free grace is the teacher of good works”.22

      Richard Baxter and those who shared his views (e.g. Daniel Williams and William Lorimer) proceeded on the assumption that God’s moral government of the world is the central subject of theology.  God is a Rector and a Governor: His law is a means to an end, and, therefore, He may change it as He will, providing His true end is attained.  Dr. J. I. Packer describes Baxter’s view in the following way:

            When man had fallen and God purposed to glorify Himself by restoring him, He carried out His plan not by satisfying the Law, but by changing it.  God’s Law is thus external to Himself.  The penal law of works with its sanction of death for sin was enacted not because it was a natural and necessary expression of the divine character, but simply because efficient government required it.  The demand for retribution was grounded in the nature of government, rather than in the nature of God and could be dispensed with if it seemed wise.23

On the basis that God’s law is changeable, Baxter taught that the law of nature (“the law of innocency”), which was in force before the fall of man, was different from the law of grace which came into force after the fall.

      Like his fellow Independents and Particular Baptists, Isaac Chauncy held the orthodox Calvinist doctrine of God’s law.  For a definition of this we may turn once more to Dr. Packer.

            To orthodox Calvinism, the law of God is the permanent, unchanging expression of God’s eternal and unchangeable holiness and justice.  It requires perfect obedience from mankind on pain of physical and spiritual death, and confers salvation and eternal life only upon those who perfectly obey it.  God could not change this law or set it aside in His dealings with men without denying Himself.  When man sins, therefore, it is not God’s nature to save him at the law’s expense.  Instead He saves sinners by satisfying the law on their behalf that He might continue just when He becomes their justifier.24


      In his catechism, The Doctrine ... according to Godliness, Chauncy gave the essence of the above doctrine in the answers to three questions.

      LXVII.  How doth God dispense justice?

      (a) In Legislation or in making Laws or Covenants and in execution of those Laws; in doing of both He doth right to Himself and the Creature.

      LXVIII.  How doth God do justice to Himself in Legislation?

      (a) In taking to Himself that sovereign power over the Creature which by natural right belongs to Him.

      LXIX.  How doth God dispense justice to the Creature?

      (a) In dealing with it according to His Law in a faithful distribution of rewards, or punishments, as they become due .25


      The two doctrines of grace which came into conflict in this controversy only become meaningful to modern ears when they are considered as resting upon the two conceptions of God’s law, the Baxterian and the orthodox Calvinist.  It was because these two views were irreconcilable that the two parties only were able to agree to differ after a decade of heated debate.



      Fourteen of Crisp’s sermons were based on the words of Isaiah 53.6, “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all “.  Crisp’s critics believed that he taught that Christ on the Cross was an actual sinner as He bore the sins of the elect in His own body.  Whilst his language does at times seem capable of such an interpretation, he did not really mean to say this.  As he himself put it:

            The meaning is that Christ himself becomes the transgressor in the room and stead of the person that had transgressed; so that in respect of the reality of being a transgressor, Christ is really the transgressor, as the man that did commit it was, before he took it upon him.  Beloved, mistake me not; I say, not that Christ ever was, or ever could be, the actor or committer of transgressions, for he never committed any; but the Lord laid iniquity upon him; and this act of God’s laying it upon him, makes him as really a transgressor, as if he himself had actually committed it.26

In order to stress the fact that, in Christ, God has blotted out the sins of the elect, Crisp tended to speak rather too literally about the imputation of sins to Christ (and also of Christ’s righteousness to the elect).

      To appreciate the doctrine of Christ’s Satisfaction for sin held by the “Middle-Way” Calvinists, we must refer once more to the views of Richard Baxter since these were held, at least in outline, by men like Daniel Williams.  Baxter taught that Christ, as Priest, offered His death to God, as Rector, as the ground for the relaxation of the original penal law of the covenant of works.  He believed that Christ did render a certain satisfaction to divine justice, but this was only a nominal equivalent of the penalty due to man; that is, it was something which God was pleased to accept as such.  (This allowed Baxter to introduce the Gospel as a new law; we shall discuss this later.)  “God’s laying our sins on Christ,” wrote Williams, “is a moral Act of God as a Rector, i.e. he agreed and appointed that Christ should in His person stand obliged to bear the punishment of ours that we might obtain pardon.”27  Yet he denied that God reckoned the elect to be united to Christ in His sinless, righteous life and atoning death: “I deny that Christ by His obedience made atonement as a proper Pecuniary Surety in the Law of Works”.28  Rather, Williams believed that Christ obtained atonement for sin by obeying the mediatorial law which He undertook to fulfill in His agreement to the covenant of redemption.  Also the “Middle-Way” Calvinists believed that by His humiliation and death Christ achieved universal redemption.

      The orthodox, Reformed doctrines of election and law entered into the High Calvinist explanation of Christ’s Satisfaction for sin.  First, it was held that Christ made satisfaction for the elect only.  He died to satisfy divine justice only for those whom the Father had given to Him.  Secondly, it was stressed that Christ died to make satisfaction to God, the Just and Righteous One, for the breach of the holy law of God.  Just as it is technically possible in a court of law for one man to pay the debts of another who is found guilty, so the High Calvinists held that Christ paid the debts of the elect by acting as their Surety.  By His righteous life He satisfied the precepts and commands of the moral law, and in His death He suffered the curse and punishment due to the elect as transgressors of the law.  Thus it was believed that Christ as the Surety of the elect not only fulfilled the obligation within the covenant of works to keep the moral law perfectly, but He also suffered the curse which that covenant passes on all who fail to meet its requirement.

      Chauncy looked upon the resurrection of Christ as the proof that God had discharged Christ from the guilt of sin imputed to him and (since Christ was the Surety of the elect) had discharged the elect as well.

            It was the will and purpose of God and Christ that upon Christ’s satisfaction for sin, he (Christ) should have an immediate discharge, and all the elect virtually and really in him a general discharge, but not (yet) manifested and personally applied to particular persons.29

This “general discharge” of the elect was sometimes referred to as “virtual justification” and we shall have cause to refer to it again below.  Though Chauncy defended Crisp’s doctrine of imputation of sins to Christ, he carefully explained that Christ was not considered by the Father as an actual sinner.  The guilt of sins was imputed to Christ but the sins were not transfused into Him.

      XXXVI.  Doth not Transacting Sin thus on Christ make him a sinner by Transfusion?

      a. The Transaction of anothers sin, speaks the contrary.  He is still said to bear our sins and not his own, which Transaction is common in all Acts of Suretyship, where the Surety is not looked upon by the Law or any other, as the Contractor of the Debt, but only one that becomes a Debter for and instead of the Principal.30

Furthermore, Chauncy denied that Crisp taught that Christ removed the pollution of sin, as well as the guilt of sin, from the elect.  Rather the pollution of sin is gradually removed through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.



      Tobias Crisp accepted the general outline of Federal Theology that God entered into a covenant with Adam, including all his descendants in him, and a covenant with Christ, including all the elect in Him.  However, as he desired to exalt grace and depreciate the idea of salvation by works, he saw the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant as essentially different, and not diverse administrations of the one covenant of grace as the majority of divines believed: “They are two distinct covenants of grace; they are not one and the same covenant diversely administered, but they are two distinct covenants”.31  This brief quotation reveals the basic weakness of all doctrinal antinomians.  They failed to appreciate what Dr. E. F. Kevan has recently called “the Grace of Law”.32  In regard to the New Covenant Crisp emphasised that, as far as the elect were concerned, it had absolutely no terms or conditions.

      The “Middle-Way” Calvinists held the general principles of Federal Theology as taught by the Saumur school, and more specifically by Richard Baxter.  They believed that the covenant of works was only in force whilst Adam was innocent, but after the fall, God, as Rector, brought in the law of grace.  Salvation for the world was planned in eternity by God in Trinity in the form of a covenant of redemption.  In this contract God the Son agreed to become man and to die for the sins of the world.  God the Father agreed to accept His humiliation and death as a sufficient payment for the sins of the whole world.  They believed that the covenant of grace was proclaimed in the preaching of the Gospel.  This covenant was the proclamation that Christ had died and gained forgiveness for all those who repent of sin and believe on His name.  They called the Gospel-covenant the “law of grace” or the “new law” (hence the name “neonomians”) and held that the Gospel itself commanded sinners to repent and to believe in Christ.  To strengthen their case they pointed out that in some Old Testament passages the Gospel is called a “law”: for example, Isaiah 42.4.  “The isles shall wait for his law.”33

      Isaac Chauncy went into great detail to define the meaning of the word “covenant” both in legal and Biblical usage.34  Like the other High Calvinists he preferred to speak only of two essential covenants, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.  He held that the requirements of the moral law within the covenant of works remained in force after Adam’s fall and were binding on all Adam’s descendants.  This belief naturally followed from the conception of the law of God as an eternal expression of His righteousness.

      The High Calvinists taught that the terms and conditions of the covenant of grace were settled in eternity.  The Father chose the elect out of the (future) race of men; the Son covenanted to become man and, as the Surety of the elect, to satisfy the requirements of the covenant of works on their behalf; the Spirit agreed to regenerate those for whom Christ died and to convey to them the gift of faith so that they could believe on Christ.  Thus they argued that, as far as the elect were concerned, the covenant of grace had no conditions.  The only conditions within it applied to Christ as Mediator.  By His fulfilling of the conditions, He gained for the elect, and for the elect only, the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God the Father, as well as the sanctifying graces of the Holy Spirit.

      Conscious that the Larger Catechism had used the word “condition”,35 Chauncy felt obliged to explain his own position. He believed that the Westminster divines did not make “faith a condition of the covenant of grace, but only of interest, reception or participation of the said covenant”.  They meant no more than modus recipiendi or participandi or that faith is only an instrument, was his conviction.36  In the controversy the High Calvinists constantly affirmed that faith is not a “foederal condition”.  Chauncy wrote at times as though he believed that the covenant of grace in its constitution was nothing but the eternal decree of election in larger form, and that the same covenant in its execution in time was only the working out of the decree in the world.  This logical, though unscriptural position, had been previously held by such men as Johannes Maccovius in the Arminian controversy, and William Ames had used the distinction of the covenants of redemption and grace to avoid such an error.



      The Crispian doctrine of justification may be seen as taking place in three stages.  First, in the eternal covenant of grace, the elect, as they existed in God’s mind, were justified on the basis of the certainty of the work of Christ.  Secondly, the elect were justified in Christ, their Head, in His triumphant resurrection from the dead.  Finally, justification by faith through which the individual conscience of the elect person is assured that in God’s sight he has always been justified.  Tobias Crisp believed that this way of understanding the doctrine glorified the free grace of God and made it impossible for man to contribute to his salvation.           At times he spoke as though the elect became as righteous as Christ Himself and this upset his opponents.37

      In his sermons published as Man made Righteous by Christ’s obedience (1694), Williams gave a definition of justification.

      What is it to be made righteous by Christ’s obedience?

1. To be made free from condemnation, as if we had not sinned and to be entitled to acceptance with God and eternal glory, as if we had kept the whole Law....

2. By the merits and Spirit of Christ to be made obedient to the Gospel, at least in those things which Christ hath graciously appointed to be the conditions of our enjoyment of saving benefits, as the effects of Christ's sole righteousness.38


      The “Middle-Way” Calvinists believed that the ground of justification was in the life and death of Christ.  By obeying the conditions of the new law of grace the believer is enabled to receive the effect of Christ’s righteousness.  They explained the words of Paul in Romans 4.22, “Therefore (his faith) was imputed to him for righteousness”, as meaning that since Abraham obeyed the Gospel condition of faith, he was made righteous in regard to the law of grace.

      Despite the similarity between the Crispian and High Calvinist doctrines of justification, the latter was more carefully explained.  The High Calvinists looked upon justification as a forensic act of God.  To the elect believer God reckoned the active obedience of Christ as the ground of his acceptance before divine justice, and the passive obedience of Christ as the ground of His forgiveness.  Nathaniel Mather expressed it like this:

            This Suretiship Righteousness of Christ which is through Faith upon believers, is his perfect conformity to the Moral Law in all that which the Justice of God did by virtue thereof demand on behalf of the Elect from Christ as their Surety; that they might not only in a way of Grace, but in a way of Justice be brought to that Eternal Blessedness and Glory whereto God in his infinite love had appointed them.39

Whilst Mather and Benjamin Keach only discussed justification by faith in their printed sermons on the subject, Chauncy defended the doctrines of eternal and virtual justification.

      XXXVI.  When is it that a Sinner is justifyed?

      a. God eternally decreed a sinner’s Justification, and Christ was an Eternal Surety (by Vertue of the Covenant of Grace) for Sin; through which Suretyship the Saints before his coming in the flesh were justifyed; and lastly, Christ and all the Elect in him were justified at His resurrection, or else he could not have arose from the dead.40

Chauncy also believed that justification by faith was basically only an inward persuasion that justification was already achieved and settled in heaven.41  But sometimes he expressed himself more carefully:

      XXXIX.  What place hath Faith in Justification?

      a. It is no other than a Spiritual Organ in a quickened Sinner, freely given to him, and wrought by the Holy Spirit in and through Jesus Christ, whereby he Sees, Tastes, and Feelingly lays hold on Jesus Christ, and his Righteousness for Justification.42

Apart from Chauncy, both Thomas Cole and Richard Davis seem to have been favourably disposed to the doctrine of eternal justification.43



      With regard to the means by which the elect soul may have an assurance of eternal salvation, Crisp had no hesitation in affirming “that it is the Spirit of Christ, and the faith of the believer only, that immediately call the soul, and testify to it its interest in Christ, and so give sufficient evidence to it”.  Concerning the usefulness of good works as testimonies to election, he believed that they might “come in as handmaids to bear witness to the thing” but he added that they were inferior testimonies.44

      Daniel Williams expressed the view of the “Middle-Way” Calvinists in the following way:

            The ordinary way whereby a man attaineth a well-grounded assurance, is not by immediate objective revelation; or an inward voice saying, Thy sins are forgiven thee: But when the believer is examining his heart and life by the Word, the Holy Spirit enlightens the mind there to discern faith and love, and such other qualifications which the Gospel declareth to be infallible signs of regeneration ...; and according to the evidence of those graces, assurance is ordinarily strong or weak.45

This view is just the reverse of Crisp’s doctrine.

      Isaac Chauncy’s position was somewhere between the Crispian and “Middle-Way” Calvinist views:

I affirm that the witness of God in His Word, and the Spirit in the heart firmly believed, is, and produceth, the greatest assurance for firmness and durability in the world.... And as for other grounds of comfort and assurance which arise from the visibility of the grace of God, and the fruits of the Spirit in the heart and life, I highly value them, as subordinate grounds for comfort and assurance .46

He believed that a Christian would never have assurance if he looked only at his good works.



      Crisp's method of preaching seems to have been to offer Christ freely to men and to invite them to find in Him their forgiveness and eternal life.  He had little sympathy for those preachers who waited for signs of repentance before offering grace.  He offered grace immediately.

I know I may speak that which will be offence to some, but I must speak the truth of the Lord, whatever men say.  I say, whatever thou art in this congregation, suppose a drunkard, a whore-master, a swearer, a blasphemer, and persecutor, a madman in iniquity, couldst thou but come to Jesus Christ; I say, come, only come, it is no matter though there be no alteration in the world in thee, in that instant when thou dost come; I say, at that instant, though thou be thus vile as can be imagined, come to Christ; he is untrue if he put thee out; “In no wise (saith he) will I cast thee out”.47

The weakness of Crisp’s method in the view of his critics was that he failed to give sufficient place to the law of God in convincing men of their need of a Saviour.

      The “Middle-Way” Calvinists believed in the free offer of the grace of Christ to sinners but with certain qualifications.  Daniel Williams explained that these were “a renouncing of sin and idols and denying carnal self”, and they also included “a conviction of sin and misery and some humblings of soul”.  Concerning the purpose of offers of grace he held that “the declared design is that they (the hearers) may be willing to accept of Christ and so partake of an interest in him 11.48  As we noted earlier, they believed that the Gospel itself, as a law of grace, commanded men to repent and believe.

      Isaac Chauncy held a view very similar to that of Crisp.  As the ways of the Spirit of God are not known to men he wrote that “we are not to prescribe any methods or measures of humblings, much less to say such and such moral virtues or duties are necessary requisites or qualifications before a sinner comes to Christ”.  The purpose of the offer of Christ to men is that when the elect “are come to Christ they should know that faith was not of themselves ... but from Christ”.49  Thomas Goodwin, Jnr., carefully pointed out that the command of the Gospel to men, calling them to repentance, came from the moral law, which was first given to Adam and then codified in the law of Moses.  The High Calvinists believed that the Gospel itself was the good news of free grace but that it made use of the moral law in its commands to sinners.50

      Yet it does seem that amongst some uneducated London lay preachers the notion was being put forward that preachers were not to invite all their hearers to receive the grace of Christ since that grace was only intended for the elect.  The five Congregational ministers,51 who signed the Declaration ... against Antinomian Errours and Scandalous Persons intruding themselves into the Ministry (1699), regarded it as a serious error.  In 1692 Richard Davis had been accused of the same error but had denied that he only offered Christ to the elect.

      Having studied some of the major doctrines of grace taught by the High Calvinists involved in the controversy, we are in a position to ask an important question.  It is: Were the doctrines defended and advocated by the High Calvinists in the controversy the same as those set out in the statements of faith prepared by the Westminster Assembly of divines?  The simple answer is that they were not all the same.  At least in the books of Chauncy, Cole and Davis there are emphases and views which were not approved by the Westminster Assembly of divines.  These relate to the doctrines of justification and assurance, and as we have already noticed, to the emphasis on the unconditional nature of the covenant of grace.

      To ascertain the teaching concerning justification we may quote from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect; and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification.  Nevertheless, they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth in due time actually apply Christ unto them .52

This statement rules out the doctrine of eternal justification as taught by such men as William Twisse, William Pemble and the doctrinal antinomíans.53  It also means that Chauncy, and to a lesser extent Cole and Davis, were teaching a doctrine that the greater number of orthodox Puritans regarded as erroneous.54  The fact that the doctrine of eternal justification was gaining popularity amongst some Christians at the end of the seventeenth century may be seen in the Congregational Declaration against the following as an error:

            That the Eternal Decree gives such an existence to the Justification of the Elect, as makes their Estate, whilst in unbelief to be the same as when they do believe, in all respects, save only as to the Manifestation; and that there is no other Justification by Faith, but what is in their consciences.

Whilst the Westminster Standards do not deny the doctrine of virtual justification for the elect in the resurrection of Christ, they do not explicitly teach it, although it is to be found in the writings of such Puritans as William Ames and Thomas Goodwin.55

      The Westminster divines held that assurance of salvation was attainable by the Christian through three channels.56  These are, in order of importance, first a firm trust in the certainty of the divine promises of salvation; secondly, the evidence of such virtues as faith, hope and love in the life; and thirdly, the witness of the Spirit with the human spirit that a particular person is a child of God.  In his defence of Crispian doctrines Chauncy gave a different order of priority to the means by which a person may have assurance.  He gave equal priority to faith in God’s promises and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and made the evidence of virtues a subordinate ground for assurance.  Though this change may seem to be a minor one, it does witness to the fact that more emphasis was being laid on God’s grace and the work of His Spirit, with less emphasis on the duty of a Christian to do good works as his responsibility to God.



      Apart from the disruption of the “Happy Union”, the Common Fund and the Merchants’ Lecture, the controversy served to harden each side in its respective theological position.  On the one side, “Middle-Way” Calvinism was looking more like Arminianism, and on the other, High Calvinism seemed to be absorbing doctrinal antinomianism.  In 1692 Robert Traill had pithily written that “such men that are for middle ways in points of doctrine have a greater kindness for that extreme they go half-way to, than for that they go half-way from”.57  This proved true of both parties.  “Middle-Way” Calvinism went half-way in some cases towards Arminianism and later became Arminianism and sometimes Arianism.  High Calvinism went half-way towards Crispianism and in some cases turned into Hyper-Calvinism.

      In concluding we may suggest three way in which the doctrines of the modified High Calvinism, labelled as “antinomianism” by Daniel Williams, spread in England.  First, the sermons of Crisp and the books written by his defenders were read in many parts of Britain as well as on the continent of Europe and in New England.  As Chauncy wrote more than any other man his influence was probably the greatest.  Secondly, several of the ministers (e.g. Chauncy and Goodwin)58 taught in Academies where they had influence over young men intended for the ministry.  Finally, there was the preaching of Richard Davis and his lay preachers.  Daniel Williams admitted that their influence spread to thirteen counties.  Therefore the seeds were sown which, when watered after 1706 by the doctrines of Joseph Hussey, grew, in some cases, into an even more rigid form of Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism.


1.  Earlier volumes of his sermons were published in 1643 (fourteen sermons), 1644 (seventeen sermons), 1646 (eleven sermons) and 1683 (two sermons).  The fifty-two sermons were reprinted in 1755 (edited by John Gill), 1791 and 1832.

2.  They were: Vincent Alsop, Richard Bures, John Gammon, John Howe, Thomas Powell, John Turner (Presbyterians); Isaac Chauncy, George Cokayn, George Griffith, Increase Mather, Nathaniel Mather (Independents); and Hanserd Knollys (Baptist).

3.  Cf. S. Crisp, Christ made sin, pp. 1–2.

4.  The seven were: Howe, Alsop, N. Mather, I. Mather, Turner, Bures and Powell.  Both Knollys and Cokayn died in 1691.  The reply of Baxter is still in manuscript and may be read in Dr. Williams’s Library. (Baxter MS., 59. 11 ff, 24–6.)

5.  Cf. R. Thomas, Daniel Williams, “Presbyterian Bishop”.

6.  Cf. T. G. Crippen, “The Ancient Merchants’ Lecture”, T.C.H.S. VII (1916).  The original six were: Richard Baxter (who preferred the title ‘Nonconformist’), Thomas Manton, William Bates, William Jenkyn (Presbyterians), John Owen and John Collins (Independents).

7.  Thomas Cole, Richard Taylor and Nathaniel Mather did not join the Union.  For the basis of union see Heads of Agreement assented to 6y the United Ministers in and about London (1691).  For details of the Common Fund see A. Gordon, Freedom after Ejection.

8.  Samuel Crisp stated that Mr. Cole once said: “If I had but a hundred pounds in all the world, and could not get that book of Dr. Crisp’s under fifty pounds, I would give it, rather than not have it; for I have found more satisfaction in it than in all the books in the world besides, except the Bible”.  Preface to Christ made sin.

9.  Cf. R. Thomas, “The Break-up of Nonconformity”, in Beginnings of Nonconformity, p. 56.

10.  Especially by John Howe.  Cf. Thomas, Daniel Williams ..., pp. 19–20.

11.  The term “Middle-Way” was first used by John Humfrey as a description of Moderated Calvinism in the title of several pamphlets.

12.  Cf. N. Glass, The Early History of the Independent Church at Rothwell.

13.  For his own account of the proceedings see R. Davis, Truth and Innocency Vindicated (1692), pp. 47 ff.

14.  The first attack upon Davis was by P. Rehakosht (John King), A Plain and Just Account of a most horrid and dismal plague at ... Rothwell (1692).  After the Congregational ministers had left the “Happy Union” those who remained published The Sense of the United Ministers concerning Richard Davis (1692).  And G. Firmin wrote A Brief Review of Mr. Davis’s Vindication ... (1693).

15.  The second edition had forty-eight signatures in September, 1692.

16.  E.g. Benjamin Keach, Marrow of True Justification (1692), p:8, stated: “I had rather erre on their side who strive to exalt wholly the free grace of God than on their side who seek to darken it ...”.

17.  See D.N.B. for Alsop, Humfrey, Clark, Edwards and Stillingfleet.  Lorimer was the Presbyterian pastor at Lee in Kent.  In 1695 he was invited to become professor of theology at St. Andrew’s University, but due to the plague there he never took up the appointment.

18.  See D.N.B. for Chauncy, Cole, Traιll, Lobb and Keach.  Thomas Goodwin, Jnr., pastor at Pinner, was the son of the famous Puritan of the same name.  Thomas Edwards (1649–1700) was a Welshman and a member of the Wrexham Nonconformist Church of which Daniel Williams was once a member.  Donald Wing, Short Title Catalogue 1641–1700, confuses this Thomas Edwards with Thomas Edwards (1599–1647), father of John Edwards of Cambridge.

19.  See D.N.B. for Howe.  Beverley was minister of the Independent Church which met at Cutlers’ Hall, Cloak Lane.  Samuel Young came from South Molton, Devon, to take part in the closing stages of the controversy.  Keyser and Witsius were Dutch professors and the latter had been in 1685 the chaplain to the Netherland Embassy in London.

20.  E.g. John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity (ed. I. T. Ramsey), p. 76: “I have talked with some of their teachers, who confess themselves not to understand the difference in debate between them ...”.

21.  Crisp, Works (1832), Vol. 11, p. 14.

22.  This is the title of Sermon XLV, Vol. I, p. 317.

23.  Packer, op. cit., pp. 303 ff.

24.  Ibid.

25.  Chauncy, Doctrine according to Godliness, p. 26.

26.  Crisp, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 269.  Cf. S. Crisp, Christ made sin, for very similar views.

27.  Williams, Gospel-Truth Stated, pp. 7 ff.

28.  Williams, Man made righteous ... (1694), p. 92.

29.  Chauncy, Neonomianism Unmask’d (1693), Vol. II, p. 47.

30.  Chauncy, Doctrine according to Godliness, p. 172.

31.  Crisp, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 251.

32.  He called his study of the Puritan doctrine of law, The Grace of Law.

33.  Cf. Lorimer, An Apology for the ministers ... (1694), who gave a learned defence of the Baxterian concept of law and grace.

34.  Chauncy, Neonomianism Unmask’d, Vol. II, pp. 108 ff.

35.  The answer to Q. 32 has the phrase “requiring faith as the condition”.

36.  Chauncy, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 146.

37.  Crisp, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 204 ff.  Sermon XXXVII, “Christ’s righteousness alone dischargeth the sinner”.

38.  Williams, Man made Righteous..., pp. 50 ff.

39.  Mather, The Righteousness of God through Faith (1694), pp. 7–8.

40.  Chauncy, Doctrine according to Godliness, p. 231.

41.  Chauncy, Neonomianism Unmask’d, Vol. II, p. 227.

42.  Chauncy, Doctrine according to Godliness, p. 232.

43.  Cf. Cole, The Incomprehensibleness of Imputed Righteousness (1692), and also, A Discourse of Christian Religion (1692), pp. 342 ff., and Davis, Truth and Innocency Vindicated, p. 47.  They both held that the elect were justified from eternity “in the purpose of God”.  It is possible that Chauncy’s threefold justification for the elect, in eternity, in Christ’s resurrection, and in the conscience, originated in (or, at least, was confirmed by) the rigid application of Ramism to the doctrine of justification.  In the “Epistle to the Reader” of his Doctrine ... Godliness, he described his theological method as “Amesian” or “Richersonian”.  No doubt he learned his Ramist methods (as interpreted by Ames and Richaгdson) at Harvard College.  Threefold justification would seem to fit in well to the threefold classification of ideas in technologia.  The archetypal idea of justification in God’s decrees is eternal justification; the entypal idea of justification in living entities is virtual justification in Christ, and both these as perceived, the ectypal idea, is conscience-justification.  See above Chapter I.

44.  Crisp, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 79.  The title of the sermon is “Inherent Qualifications are doubtful evidences for heaven”.

45.  Williams, Gospel-Truth Stated, p. 160.

46.  Chauncy, Neonomianism Unmask’d, Vol. II, pp. 331–2.

47.  Crisp, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 213.

48.  Williams, op. cit., pp. 80 ff.

49.  Chauncy, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 208.

50.  Cf. Goodwin, Discourse of the True Nature of the Gospel (1695), pp. 45 ff.

51.  They were: George Griffith, Stephen Lobb, Matthew Mead, John Nesbitt and Richard Taylor.

52.  See Chapter XI, Section iv.

53.  Though Twisse was prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly for a short period his views were not shared by the majority of divines present.  Pemble gave up the doctrine of eternal justification before he died.  Cf. R. Baxter, Richard Baxter’s Apology (1654), p. 323.

54.  Cf. Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (1692), reprinted 1965, p. 228.  “Are we justified from eternity?  No: for (1) By nature we are under a sentence of condemnation, John iii. 18.  We could never have been condemned if we were justified from eternity.  (2) The Scripture confines justification to those who believe and repent ... Acts iii. 19.  Therefore their sins were uncancelled and their persons unjustified till they did repent”.

55.  E.g. Ames, Marrow of Sacred Divinity (1642), pp. 114 ff., and Goodwin, Christ set forth, in Works (1862), Vol. IV, Section iii, Chapter V.

56.  West. Conf. Faith. Chapter XVIII.

57.  Traill, Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine of Justification, in Works (1810), Vol. I, p. 253.

58.  Cf. J. W. Ashley Smith, Birth of Modern Education, pp. 92 ff. and p. 295.  Chauncy was the tutor of the new Congregational Fund Academy, established in 1701, and Goodwin kept students in his home at Pinner.


CHAPTER  IV – No Offers of Grace

(The Theology of Hussey and Skepp)

        Synopsis: Joseph Hussey: 1. 1660–1694: Years of Preparation.  2. 1694–1705: Years of Reading.  3. 1706–1707: The Birth of Hyper-Calvinism: (a) Supralapsarianism; (6) God–Man Christology; (c) Irresistible Grace; (d) Criticism; (e) Influence of Hussey’s theology.

        John Skepp: 4. (a) The true nature of conversion; (b) The inability of human power to effect conversion; (c) The Spirit’s energy in conversion; (d) Influence of Skepp’s theology.


      One of the witnesses who appeared at the “Ketterin-Inquisition” in 1692 was Joseph Hussey from Cambridge.  He gave evidence to show that Richard Davis had caused a division in the Congregational Church at Cambridge, and that preachers from Rothwell were setting up meetings in towns and villages far removed from Rothwell.1

      This connection with the action of the United Ministers of London at Kettering must have caused Hussey to follow with interest the subsequent controversy in London, which we described in the last chapter.  Certainly in 1706 he expressed the view that Richard Baxter’s criticism of Crispian doctrines in 1690 was the “first Thunder Clap in Pinners’ Hall” of the subsequent troubles.2

      Since Joseph Hussey holds a strategic position in the creation of Hyper-Calvinism in England, we shall devote the first part of this chapter to an examination of his views.  To make the account of his theology as interesting as possible, and to see how and why his doctrines developed as they did, we shall trace their development from his conversion experience in 1686 up to the publication of his two influential books in 1706 and 1707.



      1660 to 1694: Years of Preparation.  Joseph Hussey was born at Fordingbridge, Hampshire, on 10th April, 1660.  Here, as a boy, he was educated by Robert Whitaker,4 a Nonconformist minister who had left the University of Cambridge in 1661.  He continued his education at the Newington Green Academy, where the tutor was Charles Morton, who later became the Vice-President of Harvard College, New England.

      Looking back on his spiritual experience in these formative years he wrote:

            I had been from a Child Sober, well Educated, constantly read the Scriptures.... I pray’d secretly upon my Knees to God ... from five or six years old: (Later) I wrote sermons, I pray’d longer.  I read Mr. Allein’s Works, Mr. Baxter’s Books, &c., and the more I grew in acquaintance with these the more I vehemently suspected I had committed the Unpardonable Sin....

            God directed me by his providence to Mr. Charnock’s book (Discourse on the existence and attributes of God).  And what was it I found in that book converted me?  Why, the Spirit of Christ turning me in a moment to the Lord, in managing this one point, Everlasting Love to me in the Covenant which the Father made with the Son before I had a Being, I saw; yea, before the foundation of the world.5

      This conversion experience took place in 1686 some five years after he had preached his first sermon, which, according to his Diary,6 was preached in London on 14th August, 1681.

      Before his ordination by six Presbyterian ministers on 26th October, 1688, which took place (as he carefully recorded in the Diary) when William of Orange was under sail to England, he served as chaplain to a rich lady in Clapham and Sir Jonathan Keate, of the Hoo, Hertfordshire.  After a brief pastorate at Hitchín, he moved to Cambridge to become pastor of a Presbyterian congregation there.  Concerning 19th November, 1691, he wrote in his Diary: “the day of my setting apart in the Church to the pastoral office ... Mr. Scandrett, of Haveril preached and other ministers (Mr. Robert Billio, of St. Ives, and Mr. John King, of Wellingborough) prayed”.7

      Soon after his arrival in Cambridge, Hussey persuaded the Church members to adopt Congregational principles of Church government.  The entry in his diary for 4th October, 1694, reads:

            At a church meeting in my house, I opened Proverbs 27. v. 23: “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds”.  After this we openly practised Congregational order.

It would seem that he had reconsidered Church order in the light of his newly-found appreciation of the doctrine of God’s everlasting love to the elect.  At least, in retrospect, he wrote in 1706 that his experience was:

I love his Government, which before I hated: now I love his ordinances, and Christ’s Yoke, Church-Order, which I find all my Old Religion a meer stranger to, being cut out more for the Gentleman than the Believer.8

Perhaps reflection about the controversy surrounding Richard Davis had caused Hussey to make the decision to adopt Congregational Church order in preference to Presbyterian order.

      In 1693, at the request of a Presbyterian friend, whom he did not name, Hussey published a course of sermons preached from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  The book was entitled The Gospel Feast Opened.  He sought to establish three points of doctrine in the book.  These were: first, that the Gospel is a large Feast stored with all kinds of spiritual provision; secondly, that God makes an invitation to sinners to come into this Feast; and thirdly, that the Gospel is a Feast whose provisions are now ready.  Whilst the doctrinal framework is clearly that which is contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the sermons place great emphasis on God’s invitation to sinners to accept the Gospel of Christ.  He described the properties of Christ’s invitation to unconverted sinners as a gracious invitation, a free invitation, a sovereign invitation, a clear invitation, a commanding invitation, an open invitation, a large and comprehensive invitation, a pressing, earnest invitation, a seasonable invitation and an effectual invitation to the elect.

      1694 to 1705: Years of Reading.  In the midst of his preaching and pastoral duties in and around Cambridge, Hussey gave himself to a comprehensive study of the development of theological dogma.  From the references in his books, we know that this study included some of the writings of Athanasius, Arius, Augustine, Clement and Nestorius from the early fathers, Aquinas, Bradwardine and Lombard from the medieval scholars, and Amyraldus, Arminius, Beza, Calvin, Gomarus, Luther, Maccovius and Socinus (with many others) from the continental reformers, as well as most English Puritans and not a few Roman Catholic writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Thus in 1706 he felt free to write:

            I declare, therefore, that wherein I go contrary to many Good Men, I do it after an examining of their writings, and weighing books at the Sanctuary Scales (a labour that hath been now upon my hands more than Ten Years past) and good reason, to go by God’s Word and Spirit at last, having been carried away with much Deceit in many other writings, and by too many of some of our good men who have found more Goodness to mean well, than judgement to open all well they have undertook.9

      Though Hussey did not explain the reasons which caused him to read so widely from 1694 to 1705, it is not difficult to see what these probably were.  The Antinomian controversy in London raised many of the issues which Protestants had debated throughout the Reformation era, and the Unitarian controversy in the Church of England focused attention upon the orthodox definitions of the Christian faith, the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.  Indeed, as we noted in Chapter II, the whole theological and philosophical scene in the Augustan age was one of enquiry, doubt and turmoil.  Hussey, it would seem, set himself the task of finding truth, and, at least to his own satisfaction, he thought that he had found it.

      1706 to 1707: the Birth of Hyper-Calvinism.  In these two years Hussey published two books.  The first, nearly one thousand pages in length, was entitled The Glory of Christ Unveil’d or the Excellency of Christ Vindicated (1706).  In the second, God’s Operations of Grace but No Offers of His Grace (1707), he developed and elucidated a doctrine briefly mentioned in the first.  These books contain those doctrines which Hussey felt embodied the clear and distinctive teaching of the Bible.  Before we discuss them below, it will be instructive to notice the attitude he had come to hold concerning much of the theological dogma produced in the Christian era.

            What ignorance is there in our Systems of Divinity!  What defects in our Catechisms and Confessions!  What barren heaps in our Librarys!10

      Amongst these barren heaps was the book he had published in 1693 for he wrote that it was “the same General Tradition of men and books” which had mistaught him fourteen years previously.11  Yet some glimmers of pure Gospel light had shone, he believed, in the writings of the orthodox side in the “Latine Controversies of the Gospel” (i.e. the Arminian controversy in Holland in the early seventeenth century).12  His general distrust of books had come after a spiritual revelation when he felt that Christ had clearly led him “into more of the love of the Father, the knowledge of himself, and the operations of the Spirit”.  In his mind’s eye, he saw a clear vision of salvation planned and achieved by God in Christ before the creation of the universe.  He summarised his position in the following way:

            For mending the disorders which old Adam and his Posterity cannot by fallen Nature alter, I have, by Grace, chosen the Supra-Lapsarian (or Over-Fall) way, in the everlasting Love of the Father to the elect in His Son, Jesus Christ, whom he loved as the Mediator between God and them, before the foundation of the world.  I have seen both Beauty and Antiquity in the Wisdom-Mediator: His Supra-Lapsarian Constitution in the Will and Grace of God as Wisdom-Mediator was the Foundation of his Consequent Sub-Lapsarian Constitution in the same Will and Grace, as Redemption-Mediator [on earth].  Accordingly I see my Supra-Lapsarian relation to him ... was the Foundation of my Sub-Lopsarian relation to God, to bring my person safely, by his own means, thro’ all the Ordered changes of the fall, till all he hath settled for me be made perfect in glory to me.13

      We shall only be able to understand this strange theology if, first, we consider three of its distinctive features, the supralapsarianism, the doctrine of the God-Man, and the concept of irresistible grace to the elect.

      (a) Supralapsariaпism.  Because of the Arminian controversy, the two Reformed presentations of the doctrine of predestination, supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism (sublapsarianism), were more logically defined.  Hussey read these “Latine Controversies” and decided to adopt the supralapsarian presentation of predestination and thereby followed in the steps of Beza, Perkins and Twisse, as well as various Dutch divines.14  Thus he believed that the decree of election preceded the decree to create man and permit the fall:

            God would therefore ordain, after and under his predestinating us to the Adoption of Children by Jesus Christ unto Himself upon the bottom of Election-Union in Christ Jesus, that these Creatures should fall, and out of the Miserable Fall rise by Grace the happiest Creatures that ever came into God's thoughts.15

      Often he referred to the thoughts and settlements of God concerning the salvation of the elect as the “Over-Fall” way and spoke of the redeeming work of God on earth as the “Under-Fall” way.  As none of the major Reformed statements of faith contain the doctrine of supralapsarianism, it was probably this omission that he had in mind when he complained: “What defects in our Catechisms and Confessions!”

      (b) God-Man Christology.  His Christology developed out of his doctrine of predestination.  Although the full details of his doctrine of the God-Man would have been suggested to him by the reading of many books, the writings of Thomas Goodwin seem to have influenced him the most.  Of these, the Exposition of Ephesians I, and the treatise Of the Knowledge of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are the most important.16  Referring to Goodwin’s admiration for a view of Christ which stressed his real manhood, and the union of the divine with the human nature Hussey wrote:

            Rare it was until Dr. Goodwin’s Folio-Works came out on the Ephesians to meet with any one who would venture to call him the Man.... I say, till then, I did never believe into the Man standing in the Second Person of God, nor could thereby apprehend the human nature was any more than a quality and an arbitrary denomination of Christ which men had got up, and not the very substance of the Mediator.17

      Perhaps it should be added that the doctrine of the God-Man which Goodwin gave in his Exposition of Ephesians I is developed into a rather more logical form in the treatise, and it was probably from the former not the latter that Hussey received inspiration.  At least he denied that the latter actually influenced him.18

      Thomas Goodwin set the Augustinian and Calvinist doctrine of the Mediator, the God-Man, in the context of the Ramist and Puritan doctrine of technologia.  As we noted in Chapter I, the foundation of this doctrine was the belief that in the mind of God there existed and exists a coherent and rational scheme of ideas upon which He modelled the world.

      Apart from the verses in the first chapter of Ephesians which speak of predestination and Christ, Goodwin found the basis for his doctrine in Colossians 1.15–19; John 17.5, 24; and Proverbs 8.22–9.  All these passages make some reference, he believed, to the Second Person as He existed in heaven before the creation of the universe and after the agreement of the covenant of grace.  He thought that these verses describe the Second Person as the God-Man (that is possessing the human nature) in the mind of God as an archetype, a real, preexistent idea.  Christ was thus “set up from everlasting”; when God “marked out the foundation of the earth” the God-Man was by Him.  He was “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature” as He existed in God’s decrees.

            The Son of God was extant and with God at the instant when he was chosen to this glory of being God-Man; ... the glory of it was immediately given to him at the very act of predestinating him to it.19

      Goodwin also believed that when God created the human race He modelled it on the idea He already had of the God-Man.  Indeed, not only was Adam formed in the image of the God-Man (Genesis 1.26), but his marriage to Eve was a type of the union of Christ to God’s elect already ratified in heaven.  The elect in heaven had already been given as “meet companions, children, and spouses unto him” since in God’s thoughts He was already set up as an “everlasting father and ... an everlasting husband to them”.20

      It must be emphasised that Goodwin was not saying that Christ’s human nature actually existed in heaven.  Rather, as he explained:

            Whatever God predestinates, persons, or things concerning persons He hath the idea thereof and all that appertains thereto in the divine mind.21

Goodwin was simply trying to explain what thoughts of God were contained in the decrees of predestination.

      Joseph Hussey regarded his own vision of the glory of Christ in the decrees of God as the most important revelation which God had given to him.  This is seen in the following words:

            Reason by thinking to give us the best and brightest and most honourable Conceptions of God, hath run into the most unaccountable Absurdities and Inconsistencies with the best reasoning of all; that is, Divine Revelation, and all because the Holy Ghost hath not led men, even such Men as have been our Leaders, into this Marvellous Light of Christ as the Glory-Man, standing in God before the foundation of the world.22

      Like Goodwin, Hussey accepted the orthodox doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God, but he went one step further than Goodwin by making a distinction between the words “eternal” and “everlasting”.

            As the Son of God in his Personal Relation in God’s Nature is from the Days of Eternity without beginning: so the Son of God in God’s Covenant is the Wisdom of God from Everlasting in another sense, that is, adoptive and consequent, and hath some beginning with God: even in the Beginning of His Way, before His Works of old, as the Alpha, and the First Work of them all.23

What Hussey was trying to say was that, though the Second Person is an eternal being, the God-Man is not, since He only came into “existence” with the agreement of the covenant of grace.

      In days when the doctrine of the Trinity was being abused by some and misunderstood by others, Hussey felt that he had found the key to a perfect appreciation of the doctrine.  Rather than seeking to understand a “few hard School Terms” (e.g. “consubstantial”)24 Hussey felt that:

            The Trinity is not to be studied or known but as we mingle the Doctrine of Christ with that High or Glorious study, and bring along with us the Wisdom-Mediator, as the human nature had a secret way to stand in God, and so was the Glory-Man from the Days of Everlasting.25

Therefore to know the doctrine of the “Glory-Man” was to possess the secret of the mystery of the Trinity.

      Concerning the relation of the God-Man and the Church in the decrees of God, Hussey explained

            As the Eternal Son of God in the Everlasting Covenant and Counsel of Settlements did assume or take on him the Covenant-Man (or first Human Nature from which our Natures flow) into union with Himself the Second Person; so did he take the Church presented of God unto him in a Marriage-Deed of Settlement and Covenant-Contract, at the Donation of the Father, and before the Holy Ghost: consequently Christ and the Church were both mystically One Person in God’s covenant, long before Adam....  This was the Secret Glory of the Church in her Marriage Settlements between God and Christ.26

      Also, believing that the Scriptures were to be understood in their plain, literal sense and not allegorised, he explained that the passages in Isaiah which describe the Suffering Servant of Yahweh referred not to a future person (after Isaiah’s time), but to what was already past and settled in God’s decrees.  He thought that “the sufferings of Christ ... are laid open ... as the History of what was then past to God, than as a Prophecy of what was ... to come to men”.27

      It is very difficult to know whether or not Hussey did believe that the human nature of Christ mysteriously existed “standing in God” before the Incarnation.  The truth seems to be that Hussey gave a greater supralapsarian emphasis both to the doctrine of the God-Man and to the covenant of grace with the result that the “ideas” and the “archetypes” of technologic became in his thought real persons and things.  Hussey tried, as it were, to make a synthesis of God’s thoughts and decrees in eternity, and from everlasting.  Concerning his theological method he said:

            The Order I follow is Synthetical to bring what may be joined more aptly and Unitedly under the same Head together, after this Model, Person and Things, rather than Analytical, to resolve the more Material Particular as to a Thing, before I have sometimes done with what perhaps is of less moment, as to a Person.28

      From a study of part of the "over-fall" way, we must now turn to a facet of the "under-fall" way.

      (c) Irresistible Grace.  The view that saving grace is irresistible and therefore only available for, and to be offered to, the elect is developed in detail in God’s Operations of Grace but No Offers of His Grace.  Though Hussey could have claimed that some Reformed theologians had taught supralapsarianism, and that his Christology was similar to Goodwin’s, he could claim no support from earlier writers for his view that only the elect are to be invited to accept the grace of God.  The doctrinal antinomians against whom the five Congregational ministers published their Declaration (1699) had not, as far as can be ascertained, written against the free offer of Christ, although they had mentioned it in their preaching.  Hussey gave three basic reasons for rejecting the usual Reformed and Puritan view of the free offer of Christ to men in the preaching of the Gospel.  In shortened form these were:

      1.  In the Bible Noah is described as a “preacher of righteousness” and the apostles as ordained preachers.  Paul described himself as “appointed a preacher and an apostle” (I Timothy 2.7).  To preach Christ is thus Scriptural, whilst to offer Him is not.  “Concerning offers we may say one thing it lacketh, and that is texts of Scripture to prove that proffering and preaching are, in the sense of the Holy Ghost, the same thing”.29

      2.  To offer grace and salvation to sinners will not help them to become Christians, since it is the irresistible grace of God alone that makes Christians.  “The Spirit’s working an ability in sinners is an operation of God’s grace; He works under the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the elect, according as God has chosen them in Him.”30

      3.  As the elect were given to the Son by the Father, and the Son to the elect in eternity, the gifts that accompany saving faith, the Holy Spirit and eternal life, are only given to those for whom they are intended.  Therefore to offer the gifts of God’s grace to everybody in preaching is wrong for they are only intended for the elect.31

      In view of these arguments we may well ask, “How then is the Gospel to be preached if the grace of Christ is not to be offered to all, and all are not to be invited to receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour?”  Hussey anticipated this question and gave a detailed reply.  He believed that the doctrines of the Gospel were to be preached to all, but the grace of God was not to be offered to all.

            We must lay open the things of God, to the glory of God in Christ, to the glory of God by Christ, to the glory of God through Christ.  In Him, in the deeds and settlements of God the Father.  By Him, in the purchase and conveyance as God-Man Mediator.  And through Him, in the spring of influence even through Christ, by the Spirit, which are quite distinct from speculations concerning Christ.32

After this definition he proceeded to give a list of twenty propositions which described his beliefs concerning the con­tents and the true manner of preaching the Gospel. They were:33

1. We must preach the Gospel, as it agrees with the reconciliation of God to sinners and sinners to God, through the gift by grace, in the imputation of the righteousness of God in Christ to them.

2. We must preach the Gospel, as the Gospel is the way or means of God’s bestowing the Holy Spirit on the elect, and the only way and means of exalting the gift of God.  God’s gift of the Spirit must be exalted, but an offer exalts not the gift of God’s Spirit, the gift bestowed.

3. We must preach the Gospel as it is most fitted to the display of effectual grace.  To offer God's grace is to steal: God saith, Thou shalt not steal.

4. We must preach the Gospel evangelically, so as, if possible, to stain the pride of all glory in the creature; we are to preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord.

5. We must preach the Gospel depending on the operations of the Spirit to beat down the practical Arminianism of our natures ... Arminianism is the universal nature of mankind.

6. We ought to preach the Gospel discriminately, so as in the light of the Lord to define when Christ and salvation are effectually given, where, and in whose hands, the gift lies.

7. We must so preach the Gospel as to take special care that we distinguish the Spirit’s work from the creature’s acts, in the practical truths we preach.

8. We ought to preach the Gospel in the way of Christ's institution.  The command runs thus, Preach the Word, be instant in season, out of season, &c., 2 Tim. iv. 2.  But there is no command for offers.

9. We ought to preach the Gospel as it has a special promise of success.

10. We should preach the Gospel so that the Gospel may justify itself: for the Gospel being but of one piece of grace, through all parts of it, is fitted so to do.

11. We should preach the Gospel, because it is sure as to individual persons, or particular interests, me or thee.  But offers are all indeterminate as to anybody and so indeed are fixed on nobody.

12. We should preach the Gospel as it is discovered to be an admirable contrivance of way and means to effect salvation.

13. We ought to preach the Gospel so as to exalt it higher than any unconverted man in the world can by his fleshly arm receive it, or carry it in the pulpit to offer it to others in such a way.

14. We should preach the Gospel singularly; so the greatest part of professing ministers do not preach it.

15. We ought to preach the Gospel in sincerity and truth, which if we do, it will not give that open offence to such as are taught by God the Spirit respecting his own work, which offers do.

16. We ought to preach the Gospel in the encouragements of it unto salvation.  But offers are no encouragements to salvation....  Encouragements are God’s operations of his grace.

17. We ought to preach the Gospel spiritually and discerningly, that the more our preaching is examined, cavilled at, despised, struck at and hated, the more it should discover ... how sweetly it accords with the Spirit’s work.

18. We ought to preach the Gospel so as Christ may see in it the travail of his soul and be satisfied.

19. We should preach the Gospel so as the ministers of Satan do not, nay, cannot; we should exalt free operations, which have from God an irresistible influence to overpower our corruptions, and free our wills of slavery and bondage to sin.

20. We are to preach the Gospel with confidence in Christ, and fear as to ourselves that we do not lay any stress upon the creature.  Offers rob the Gospel of its properties, privileges and glory.

This doctrine of no offers of Christ developed quite naturally out of his extreme supralapsarianism.  Indeed it was simply a logical deduction from it.

      He faced the objection that the highly respected Independent Minister, Thomas Cole, had commended the practice of offering Christ to sinners in his Discourse of Regeneration, Faith and Repentance (1689), by stating that Cole could have been wrong just as John Calvin was not right in everything he said.  To Hussey, any minister who claimed to believe in the sovereign grace of God but yet offered Christ to all was a “half-hearted Calvinist”.

      We have not discussed Hussey’s doctrines of justification, assurance and atonement since they are virtually identical with those of Tobias Crisp which we have already discussed.  The doctrines of eternal and virtual justification and the concept of assurance as the voice of the Spirit whispering “you are elect” were for Hussey the necessary corollaries of supralapsarian predestination and irresistible grace in conversion.  Like Crisp, when speaking of Christ’s death, he tended to use terminology which made Christ as an actual sinner on the Cross, not as a Person to whom sins were only imputed.

      It is probably true to say that Hussey's theology of grace is of such a type that it could only have been produced in the period of English history in which it actually was produced.  It only becomes meaningful when it is seen as third generation Puritan Calvinistic doctrine, written when rationalism and latitudinarianism had made, and were making, inroads in all theological thinking.

      By his doctrine of the God-Man, Hussey believed that he preserved the doctrines of the Person of Christ and the Trinity from all possibility of Socinian and Arian errors.  He felt that his vision of the eternal Son of God, Who, in the everlasting covenant of grace assumed humanity, was such a Bible-based, God-given, picture of salvation, that it ruled out all human schemes whatever their origin.  Through his doctrine of God’s operations of grace but no offers of grace, resting firmly on eternal, absolute predestination, he believed that he saved the Gospel from the prevalent Arminianism of his age.  And by his insistence that the Bible is a spiritual Book whose truth only “evangelical reason” can discover, he believed that he saved revealed religion from the errors of the Deists and followers of John Locke who used “natural reason”.

      Thus we see that Hussey’s theology was a system of belief into which the spirit and temper of his age entered.  Turning away from the various errors and heresies of his day, he adopted an extreme Reformed position, so extreme that it merits the title of “Hyper-Calvinism”, since with its doctrine of no offers of grace and its supralapsarianism it rose well above (or sunk beneath) the theology of Calvin and of the orthodox Reformed Puritan divines.

      Hussey died on 15th November, 1726, after moving from Cambridge to a London pastorate in Petticoat Lane in 1719.  In forty-five years of preaching he had preached, according to his Diary, three thousand six hundred and seven sermons.

      (d) Criticism.  Only five hundred copies of the Glory of Christ were printed in 1706 and most of these were sold when Hussey wrote the preface to God’s Operation of Grace in 1707.  Despite the small printing, John Beart, Pastor of the Congregational Church at Bury St. Edmunds, could say that “the book of this learned man hath been the subject of much discourse”.  Beart’s purpose in writing A Vindication of the Eternal Law and the Everlasting Gospel (1707) was to provide, from the High Calvinist standpoint, an answer to two false developments of Reformed theology, Baxterian, moderated Calvinism and the doctrines of Hussey.  In the first part of the book he criticised the doctrines of Baxter and in the second part those of Hussey.  The three doctrines of Hussey which he chose to attack were the God-Man Christology, the doctrine of eternal justification and the denial of the free offer of grace.

      With regard to Hussey’s view of the God-Man, Beart believed that it was a perversion of Goodwin’s doctrine in that it tended to make the humanity of the Mediator exist in heaven before the actual Incarnation.  In opposition to the doctrine of eternal justification and its corollary that justification by faith is merely a persuasion that one is already justified, Beart advocated the doctrine of virtual justification in the resurrection of Christ and a valid justification of the sinner through grace and by faith.  Of the latter he wrote that “there is, at, or upon believing, some true and real act of God toward the soul, which is not merely a manifestation of what was done before, but is truly justification”.34  Beart also held that “the Free Tender of Christ is the soul’s warrant for receiving him”.  He felt that “there must be a Warrant in the Word as well as in the heart”.35  In his doctrines of justification and the free tender of Christ, Beart was repeating what men like Ames, Owen and Goodwin had often said in the previous century.

      (e) The influence of Hussey’s theology.  We know of three ministers upon whom Hussey had a direct doctrinal influence.  One was Samuel Stockell, to whom we have already made reference in Chapter II, and who developed Hussey’s God-Man Christology as well as propagating the “no offers of grace” theology.  We shall make reference to Stockell’s influence in the concluding chapter.  Another was William Bentley, minister of the Congregational Church which met in Crispin Street, Southwark, in the 1730s.  He wrote an account of the last dying moments of Hussey.36  The third was John Skepp whose doctrine of conversion we shall study in the rest of this chapter.



      In his Diary, Hussey wrote in three places the following note on John Skepp:

            John Skep, of Little Wilburn, Miller, he rent himself off at last from the Church (in Cambridge) and turned Anabaptist preacher, yet was a Lad converted throughly to Christ under my Preaching, spake on Soul-work clearly and was admitted into the Church with much Satisfaction.  After all this has repented of his sin and is returned, and Liberty given him to Preach as a Gifted Brother at Wittelsea.  And last of all is dismissed to be the Pastor of an Anabaptist Church in London.

      This Church was the Particular Baptist Church which met in Curriers’ Hall, Cripplegate.37  He only wrote one book: Divine Energy or the Operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul of man in his effectual calling and conversion, stated, proved, and vindicated ... being an antidote against the Pelagian error.  It was printed posthumously in 1722.  The title and the contents bear witness to the influence of Hussey and repeat the excessive emphasis on irresistible grace found in God’s Operations of Grace.  We shall consider Skepp’s doctrine of conversion under three headings.

      (a) The true nature of conversion.  Before providing the reader with his own view of conversion, Skepp gave five examples of the way in which people confused true conversion with similar, yet different, phenomena.  First, some confused it with a mere improvement in Biblical knowledge.  Secondly, others confused it with the obvious efforts of certain individuals to live a sober, religious life.  Thirdly, some identified it with the sudden change of opinions in one who, after being an opponent of the Christian faith, becomes its defender.  Fourthly, others equated it with a sudden change from loose morality to the observance of strict religious duties.  Finally, many believed that if a person was brought up in a Christian family he was automatically a Christian.

      Realising that some would accuse him of making the Christian life too difficult, Skepp felt obliged to explain why it was, in his opinion, no longer possible in the 1720s to accept a person into Church membership merely on the ground that the person confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, as the Apostles seem to have done.  Such a brief confession, he reasoned, was quite sufficient in the early days of the Church but since the Church in the eighteenth century was surrounded and invaded by many erroneous systems of theology, most of which taught that Jesus was the Messiah, it was no longer a sure basis from which to ascertain genuine Christian grace and discipleship, despite what the great John Locke had said.  Skepp believed that the words of Christ in Luke 6.44, concerning the tree bearing fruit, had a primary reference not to the Christian producing good works for God’s glory but to the belief in sound, Biblical doctrines.38

      (b) The inability of human power to convert sinners.  Skepp held that the powers of human rhetoric and persuasion could make no contribution whatsoever to the divine process of conversion.  So he attacked “Pelagian” preachers39 who used moral suasion and he defined the latter thus:

            Moral suasion is an endeavour, by proper methods and arguments to persuade a man, in a natural unrenewed state, not only to break off and forsake his evil courses of sin and folly, but also closely to adhere unto the practice of moral and religious duties; or to put forth his power, and use his utmost endeavour to convert himself, and become a new man, and to live according to the strict rules of the Gospel, which require repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, with constant perseverance therein.40

      Whilst he admitted that God does make use of some exhortations in the Scriptures, he added that “He always superadds the efficacious power of His Spirit ... to quicken and renew those souls for whom He has an eternal purpose of love and grace”.41  His opinion was that the Gospel itself was, strictly speaking, “nothing but the blessed news and glad tidings of a salvation that is all of grace” and the promises, encouragements and reproofs connected with it were but “a sort of adjuncts or necessary concomitants attending the ministry of the Word”.42

      It was so easy, he believed, in pressing men to repent to fall into Arminian discourse and to address the sinner as though he were able to save himself.  He felt that if preachers were to realise the great obstacles which stand in the way of a sinner’s conversion to God, they would not fall into the serious error of speaking like the Pelagians and Armínians.  Skepp believed that man possessed no powers to accept the grace of God because by the fall of Adam the whole race had been rendered spiritually impotent.  Also within human beings he saw a deep-seated natural rebellion against God and His mercy.  The power of sin and Satan ruled supreme in the human heart.  No human rhetoric could possibly move such obstacles.  Divine power alone could deal with sin and Satan.

      In his fear that the preacher was becoming an Arminian if he pressed men to repent and turn to Christ, Skepp displayed the same frame of mind as Hussey had expressed.  He made sure that he completely avoided Arminian tendencies and, in doing so, lost sight of the fact that the Bible provides many examples of prophets and preachers who call men to turn to God without first giving long explanations as to the necessary work of the Spirit in the heart, mind and will.

      (c) The Spirit’s energy in conversion.  Skepp emphasised that an elect person is passive in regeneration and also tended to refer to conversion as a whole as an act of God in which the elect soul is passive. He described the preparatory work of the Spirit in the following way:

            The Spirit first giveth the soul a repeated survey of its past and present sinful life.  Secondly, as a Spirit of conviction, He giveth the soul an astonishing conviction and sight of his own vileness, and guiltiness before God, and wrath and vengeance he has deserved.  Thirdly, He giveth the soul a humbling view of the corruption and uncleanness of his nature, as to the filth, depravity, perverseness, and deceit therein, all which make up the plague of the heart.  Fourthly, He convinceth that soul of its real impotency and disability to perform that which is truly and spiritually good and acceptable before God.  Fifthly, He convinceth the soul of the real need and necessity of saving faith in Christ and of the pernicious effects and damnable nature of the sin of unbelief.43

Next the Spirit leads the soul into “a real, spiritual, vital union to Christ” Who is “the head and root of all spiritual life”.  This is followed by regeneration, the creation of a new nature within the soul of an elect person.  From the moment of this new birth, all good works, thoughts and intentions pleasing to God, proceed from the inspiration of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

      To illustrate true conversion Skepp made reference to the experience of Augustine of Hippo and of Thomas Goodwin.44  He believed that what happened to them was true regeneration and true conversion.  His book ends with a call to his hearers who did not find the signs of true conversion in their hearts to pray God to enlighten and to move them towards Himself, since there was nothing else they could do.  Whilst the orthodox Puritans of the seventeenth century would have agreed with most of what Skepp had to say they would have pointed out that as surely as the Bible teaches the sovereignty of God’s grace in conversion it also teaches that the preacher must call his hearers to faith in Christ and that he must not try to reconcile two Biblical doctrines which are portrayed as being “in tension” in the Bible.

      (d) The influence of Skepp.  As a preacher and writer, Skepp’s influence was felt in Particular Baptist circles both in London and in Cambridgeshire.  He must bear much of the responsibility for the introduction of Hussey’s “no offers of grace” theology to Particular Baptists.  Also his influence was continued after his death by Mrs. Ann Dutton who was once a member of his London Church and who became a prolific writer on religious topics.  We shall say more about Mrs. Dutton and Skepp’s influence on Baptists in later chapters.  Skepp stands, as it were, in the history of dogma, as the connecting link between Hussey’s theology and the Hyper-Calvinism of many Particular Baptists throughout the eighteenth century.


1.  Cf. R. Davis, Truth and Innocency Vindicated..., pp. 5 ff.

2.  Hussey, Glory of Christ, p. 209.

3.  See A. G. Matthews, Diary of a Cambridge Minister, for a brief sketch of his life.

4.  Whitaker was educated at Magdalene College.  In April, 1672, he was licensed as a Presbyterian preacher in Fordingbridge.

5.  Hussey, op. cit., pp. 120 ff.

6.  The actual diary in which Hussey kept a record of his sermons and of church activities is now in the possession of Emmanuel Congregational Church, Cambridge.  A typescript of part of it was kindly loaned to me by Mr. A. Smith on behalf of the deacons.  Cf. Appendix I.

7.  Stephen Scandrett (1631–1706) was ejected from Trinity College, Oxford.  Robert Billio (1623–1695) was also an ejected minister, whilst John King (1668–1746) had studied under Charles Morton and had opposed R. Davis.

8.  Hussey, op. cit., p. 123.

9.  Ibid, p. 8.

10.  Ibid, p. 105.

11.  Ibid, p. 6.

12.  Ibid, p. 8.

13.  Ibid, pp. 111 ff.

14.  See Chapter I.

15.  Hussey, Glory of Christ, p. 536.

16.  Both are reprinted in the folio edition of his Works (1682–1704) and in the 1861–1865 edition (edited by John C. Miller) of his Works.

17.  Hussey, op. cit., Preface, p. v.

18.  Hussey, God’s Operations...(1707), Preface.

19.  Goodwin, Works (ed. Miller), Vol. IV, p. 490.

20.  Ibid, p. 503.

21.  Ibid, p. 488.

22.  Hussey, Glory of Christ, p. 90.

23.  Ibid, p. 75.

24.  Ibid, p. 108.

25.  Ibid, p. 86.

26.  Ibid, p. 161.

27.  Ibid, p. 127.

28.  Ibid, p. 797.

29.  God’s Operations of Grace (1792 edition), p. 37.

30.  Ibid, p. 84.

31.  Ibid, p. 91.

32.  Ibid, p. 171.

33.  Ibid, pp. 203 ff.

34.  Beart, Vindication..., Part II, p. 26.

35.  Ibid, p. 50.

36.  Bentley, The Lord the helper of his people: with the last dying words  of... J. H. (1733).

37.  For a brief history o£ this Church see W. Wilson, History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches ... in London, Vol. II, pp. 559 ff.

38.  Skepp, Divine Energy.... p. 36.  This and all other references are to the 1851 edition.

39.  That is preachers who believed that unregenerate sinners had power to accept without divine aid the grace of God.  For the original heresy of Pelagius see J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 357 ff.

40.  Skepp, op. cit., p. 58.

41.  Ibid, p. 61.

42.  Ibid, p. 61.

43.  Ibid, p. 211.

44.  Ibid, pp. 231 ff. for Augustine and pp. 233 ff. for Goodwin.


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