Thursday, 1 August 2013


Read Calvinist Books

Why Charles Edward Jefferson? For two reasons: He was born into a Methodist family, which (assuming it was characteristically Arminian) and the fact that he later pastored the church where Charles G. Finney, the great Pelagian heretic, once waxed eloquent.  Neither of these facts would lead us to naturally suppose that he would leave us a record eulogising Calvinist doctrine.

I came across Jefferson via my old friend #Wylie from Twitter. #Wylie has a strange habit of attacking Calvinism viciously in some tweets, only to quote favourably some Calvinists in the next few, as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. His favourite all time Calvinist (“Genius” “Goldmine”) seems to be Texas Post Mill, BH Carroll, but his latest is CEJ.  In fact, #Wylie has gone so far as to reset some of CEJ’s books and make them available in an ebook form. To be scrupulously fair to #Wylie, he did tell us that he wasn’t a 100% fan of CEJ: I quote, “Though I would not claim to agree with this Congregational minister in all matters of the faith…” which is probably an euphemism, but I am in danger of digressing here.

Bearing in mind (as per my first paragraph) CEJ’s pedigree, I certainly didn’t expect to read the following sentiments. I have selected a few of CEJ’s quotes, so that the reading public can see the theological backbone of some of the great men of God.  The following is from his book entitled: “Forefather’s Day sermons” where he spends much time examining the Pilgrim Fathers who (as CEJ reminds us) were Calvinists. This book is available online. The sermons themselves are very balanced. The Puritans are examined, “warts and all” so if you want some of the more unsavoury stuff i.e. “dig the dirt” then you will have to do your own homework.  However, should you be inclined to do so, remember CEJ’s words of caution:

“But with all his limitations the Puritan was a mighty man. Make the list of his defects as long as you can and the list of his virtues is still longer. If we criticise him, let us never forget to praise him. The world will never forget him because his supreme desire on earth was to know the will of the Eternal.”


“The theology of the Puritans was Calvinism. How the Puritans of England fell under the sway of Calvin is an interesting page of history.”

“Now, of all the men who have played a part in history since the days of the Apostles, the Puritans were the loftiest in their ideals, and the most vigorous and uncompromising in their action. They gripped the world so tightly that the prints of their fingers are on it still.”

“They went to the Bible and from its pages learned that no man, be he called priest or Bishop or Pope or King, has a right to come between the human soul and God.”

“Calvin, especially, exalted the Scriptures, proclaiming them the authoritative declaration of God's will, and along with the belief in the Scriptures he had profound confidence in the ability of the enlightened Christian man to read the Bible for himself. The followers of Calvin built on these two principles, the authority of the Scriptures and the right of individual judgment. Wherever men accepted these two principles, they were always quoting Scripture, and were always reasoning about it as though the reason were a faculty not to be banished from the realm of faith.”

“It is here that you get Calvinism at its best. Calvinism lays hold of man and lifts him above the heads of priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal. Pope, and leaves him face to face with God. It carries him above the heads of statesman, prince, king, emperor, potentate, and tells him he has to do only with God.”

“Under the influence of Calvin, Christianity became severely intellectual and spiritual. The sensuous element in worship was cut out. No appeal whatever must be made to the senses. God is spirit and they who worship him must worship him in spirit. It was thus that Puritanism plunged into the soul.”

“To cleanse the church and keep it clean, to free it from doctrinal accretions and debasing superstitions and the sins which had robbed it of its power, this was their steadfast and  passionate endeavor.”

“It matters nothing to the Puritans what the twentieth century thinks of them, but it matters much to the twentieth century. No men can influence us whom we despise, and they who scorn the Puritans and execrate their memory build a barrier between themselves and a company of God's elect. No man or nation can afford to ignore or despise any company of men who have honestly striven to serve God in their day and generation. Our republic needs all the strength and inspiration which bygone heroes have to give, and Puritanism, with all its limitations and deficiencies, is surely one of the springs at which America must drink, if like a strong man we are to run the race and reach the goal.”

“These men were reformers. Calvin was a theologian, but he cleaned up Geneva. Knox was a preacher, but he defied and conquered a vain and untruthful Queen. Cromwell was a farmer, but he took off the head of a king. The Puritan is the antithesis of the monk. Puritanism is a flat contra diction of Monasticism. The monk runs and hides. The Puritan stands and fights.”

“If a man is brave and true enough to do the Puritan's work let him expect to meet the Puritan's fate, but let him not forget that he shall from the hand of God receive the Puritan's unfading crown.”

“We sometimes speak of the Puritan preachers as being doctrinal — doctrinal they were as all the great preachers have ever been and must ever be. But they did not stop at doctrine; they went on to apply the doctrine to the institutions and people of their day.”

“On the death of Bloody Mary, the refugees returned to England, carrying back the theology of Calvin. It was theradicals who had fled to Geneva, and it was the radicals everywhere who had listened most gladly to the Calvinistic doctrines. It is noteworthy that all the Separatists were Calvinists, all the Presbyterians, all the Baptists, all the Independents and Congregationalists, all the Pilgrim Fathers, all the colonists of Massachusetts were steeped in the doctrines of John Calvin. There was something in Calvinism that made it congenial to ardent and liberty loving hearts…”

“All Puritans were Calvinists, but not all Calvinists were Puritans”

“When one picks up a volume of any one of the Puritan theologians, either Owen or Baxter or Howe, Edwards orHopkins or Taylor, he is impressed first of all by the Biblico-argumentative character of the discussion. Puritan theology is a mixture of Bible sentences and logic. Every argument begins with the Bible. A principle announced in the Scriptures is seized upon and its contents are unfolded, by a process of reasoning rigorous to a degree. At certain points in the progress a pause is made for the contemplation of certain texts which prove that the movement is in the right direction and that it has the sanction of the Bible. When at last the conclusion is reached, another collection of proof texts is presented to demonstrate that the conclusion is none other than the mind of God. The structure is built by the reason, but it is all made to rest upon Scripture. The argument is unfolded in the strictest and most logical manner, and from the final decisions there is apparently no possible escape.”

On the Calvinist missionary work among the native Indians: “As early as 1643 missionaries were at work among the Indians along the coast and on Martha's Vineyard, and three years later Massachusetts enacted that two persons should be chosen annually to spread the Gospel among the Indians. Of all who engaged in that difficult work one man stands out supreme and immortal — John Eliot. Every American boy ought to read the story of his life. With dauntless patience and industry he mastered the Algonquin language, reducing its huge mass of grunts and snorts, its nasal sounds and guttural noises to grammatical science, writing at the end of the grammar this fine sentence, " Prayer and pains, through faith in Jesus Christ, will do anything." Eliot's greatest work was his translation of the entire Bible into the Algonquin tongue. How idle the prattle of the calumniators sounds in the presence of this huge book, a lasting and monumental testimony to Puritan patience and consecration, and an indestructible proof of his devotion to the welfare of the red man.”

Interesting note: As CEJ reviews the Calvinist theology, he deals with the general departure from it in American Christianity. (CEJ lived died in 1930) At first, it is hard to know when he uses the word “we” if he is speaking for himself personally or the modern age of unbelief. This can easily lead to a great misunderstanding. It can become a rhetorical device gone badly wrong.  Certainly, if he had been articulating his own views, then we are left wondering why he eulogised Calvinism in the first place because what he sees it replaced with is far removed. However, after reading through this longish, and at first glance, disturbing part of his sermon, CEJ comes to state:

“Every generation must formulate its own theology. The Puritans thought out theirs and we must think out ours. But the soul of Puritan theology can never pass away. The power of this theology lay in its three dominant visions: the vision of the majesty and holiness and sovereignty of God, the unworthiness and impotence and sinfulness of man, and the immeasurable worth and high destiny of the human soul. Calvinism in its fundamental doctrines has passed into the blood of the Christian church, there to remain forever.”

{Sigh of relief}

“The Reformers also aroused the venomous hostility of the world. Luther and Calvin and Latimer and Knox were, during their lifetime, covered with mountains of calumny and abuse, and in the great libraries of the world there are scores of volumes in which these servants of humanity are held up to contumely and execration. The Puritans of the seventeenth century, like the Reformers of the sixteenth, were a target for the abuse of their fellows. To many men then living they were savages or devils, and in many quarters the work of vilification has extended down to the present hour.”

“Men are still talking about " the Puritan theology." There was theology before the Puritans lived, but they gave it a new tone and vitality. They made it different from all the theologies that had hitherto been. Puritan theology is the conceptions of God and man, duty and destiny, as those conceptions were fused and moulded in the hot fires of the Puritan mind.”

“Whence came this conscience which was peculiar to the Puritan? It came from a reverent study of the Scriptures. In the Middle Ages there was no printing press. Bibles were the exclusive possession of the clergy and the rich. The common people had no books. But the Reformers, aided by the printing press, gave the Bible to the people.”

On the Geneva Bible: “But it was an equally great day for England and the world when a company of refugees driven out of England by the cruel hand of Bloody Mary brought out in Geneva in the year 1560 a new translation of the Scriptures which became known throughout the world as the Geneva Bible. John Calvin was the inspirer of it, and it was he who wrote the Preface to it. His brother-in-law was the chief of the translators, and this Geneva Bible had certain excellences which no preceding Bible ever had. All its English predecessors had been large in form and so expensive the common people could not buy them. The Geneva Bible was comparatively a little book. It was rich in notes explanatory of the text. It had marginal readings after the fashion of our modern Bibles, and best of all the chapters were cut up into verses so that it was easy to find the place. This book became the family Bible of the English people, and such it remained for fifty years. Before the end of the sixteenth century one hundred and fifty editions of it were published, and even for a third of a century after the appearance of the King James version the Geneva Bible still held its ground”

“When therefore you hear the jocose critic pouring contempt upon the Puritans, ask him if he has ever heard of John Knox, one of the greatest giants who ever from a Christian pulpit shook the hearts of men with the sweet thunders of the Gospel. Ask him if he has read John Milton, the author of the greatest poem in English literature, and one of the mightiest geniuses who ever enshrined deathless thought in immortal verse. Ask him if he has heard of John Bunyan, the man who wrote the greatest allegory ever written in any language.”


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