on 26 September 2014
A thorough and probing insight into the lives of faithful preachers of the gospel, in a bygone age who have shaped our nation. Some are "household names", others little heard of, yet their works produced so very much fruit. We little know, or can scant appreciate in these most wicked and evil days that we live in, to what degree or how much we owe to these "Christian Leaders of the 18th Century". Men such as Whitefield, Wesley, Toplady, Grimshaw, and others. Ryle examines their lives and ministries and explains in very clear English (his usual style) why he regarded them so highly.
Holding to the biblical doctrines of Election and Pre-destination which Arminian theologians fiercely contend against, he yet so very graciously includes John Wesley in his "hall of fame"! Why ever did he do this!? Because Wesley preached salvation through the blood of Christ ALONE! This IS the heart of the gospel message to the dying sinner. And who is not a dying sinner? Romanism preaches an Arminian freewill gospel, yet most assuredly Wesley was no Romanist, no! He wrote, and taught against popery. Theologically, I must confess that I absolutely hate Wesley's Arminian theology, because I believe that to teach and believe in man's freewill is thoroughly unscriptural, it knocks God off His throne, and makes man sovereign, not God.
This 'moot point' very sore puzzled, and greatly perplexed me, but after much study I then came to realise the extreme vastness of the importance of grace, above theology. Yes, biblical theology is so very, very, important, of the most immense, and never ending importance (Please, please, let us never, ever, forget this-otherwise, for example, why did the Apostle say what he did in Romans 15.4, 1 Corinthians 10.11 and 2 Timothy 3.16? and WHY, O WHY, do our bibles have, on average, some 1500 pages?), and those who would faithfully preach the gospel should ever seek to be guided by it. BUT! it is all about grace, God's amazing grace, which we must seek to grow in; 2 Corinthians 8.7, and Peter tells us that we should "Grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.." 2 Peter 3.18. Both are important! However, the Scripture tells us that "Knowledge puffeth up", which is why it takes second place to grace. Wesley couldn't understand or believe in the biblical doctrine of Election/Pre-destination as so clearly taught in the Scriptures and 'chose' to believe in the Arminian doctrine of 'Freewill', yet despite this, Ryle could see that he was a most faithful preacher of God's Word. In Ryle's own words "If God didn't choose me, I would never have chosen Him", can we not therefore understand the weight behind God's Word in 2 Timothy 2.19-"The Lord knoweth them that are His"? Election and pre-destination can be seen in these inspired Words? If Wesley is one of God's elect, and I certainly believe he is, then does it not confirm the aforementioned Scripture? Are not God's ways are "past finding out" Romans 11.33? Then how can we put God "in a box" so to speak?
The late, and little known Gordon Clarke an American theologian made a most lamentable observation back in the 1960s "There are too few people who wish to understand even the simplest biblical teaching. This is not a theological age. Some writers say it is a post Christian age." How so very true? Can any oppose these plain and easy to understand words?
These "Christian Leaders of the 18th Century" were theologians, they were NOT enthusiasts without knowledge and over zealous zeal. NO! they were truly sober, and highly educated, (Oxford and Cambridge universities-in most cases), and very studious men, who seriously applied themselves to the study of God's Word.
The world they lived in was vastly different to our Lap Top, I Pad, Kindle Fire HDX world that we live in today, yet the message they preached is exactly the same! (Wake up and smell the coffee?) Despite all this 'technology' we have today, theologically we live in the dark ages!
I pray that God would be pleased to bless some, or as many as one, by what I have written here.