Wednesday, 3 August 2016


(Apologies for the irregular font formations in this article. This is a gremlin in the works as I have tried on numerous occasions to fix them. Don't let them prevent you from reading the article and benefitting from it.) 


The  words that adorn mar the beginning of this article are attributed to one John Ryland Senior when William Carey, William Fuller and others of like mind spoke at a Minister's Fraternal meeting about seeking to convert the heathen in India and other places to saving faith in Jesus Christ. I have seen this story disputed (I forget the source at the moment) on the basis that Ryland never referred to it at all. Laurence Vance used the word "supposedly" in relation to it. I have read of the speech being"perhaps with some embellishment" (Sketches of Church History by SM Houghton, BOT) while Peter Masters from the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon's) in a public address indicated that, although basically true, the words are really a paraphrase of what was actually said.

If true (and I am not entertaining any doubts on the matter) then these words display a horrible Hyper Calvinistic spirit, totally inconsistent with true Biblical Calvinism. True, authentic Calvinism believes that when it pleases God to convert the heathen, not only will He raise up missionaries to go forth an reach them with the gospel, but that He has already displayed that pleasure and has already been raising up missionaries to fulfill His divine will and will continue so to do until the end of the age. John Calvin himself was a strong believer in the conversion of the heathen through gospel preaching. He wrote: 

 "It is no small consolation to godly teachers that, although the larger part of the world does not listen to Christ, He has His sheep whom He knows and by whom He is also known. They must do their utmost to bring the whole world into Christ's fold, but when they do not succeed as they would wish, they must be satisfied with the single thought that those who are sheep will be collected together by their work." (Comment on John 10:27)

Understandably - but only to a certain point - Ryland's words have been greedily seized upon by those who oppose Calvinism and who argue that it destroys the burden of evangelism and the need of world missions etc., However the story of William Carey is much bigger than one quote, paraphrased or otherwise, by  John Ryland Senior. If we are going to examine the role of the Calvinists in this incident, then please consider the following facts and then decide whether John Ryland Senior should be allowed to be the representative Calvinist as our opponents make him out to be. There is a certain shallowness and indeed injustice that seizes upon an individual quote and tries to effectively father it, or the thinking that lie behind it, on a whole school of thought.

* William Carey himself was a Five Point Calvinist. This important point is usually overlooked by those who repeat this incident to discredit Calvinism. David Cloud never bothers telling it. Laurence Vance, mentioned above, did so, but doggedly, and in my opinion very foolishly, fought on maintaining that Carey was an inconsistent Calvinist. I do not know what Dave Hunt wrote on the matter and I will hold my counsel until I gain more information.

* Carey's missionary friends were likewise Five Point Calvinists. Andrew Fuller was perhaps the best known among them - see below.

* The interest of Carey and his friends in missionary work was stirred, at least in part, by a book written by Jonathan Edwards of Northhampton, New England. Jonathan Edwards was another Five Point Calvinist and one of America's greatest soul winners, witnessing real, true revival in his church. Edward's book was entitled: "A humble attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God's people in extraordinary prayer for the revival of religion and the advancement of Christ's Kingdom on earth." There could hardly be a more practical outcome to this book than having men of Carey's zeal and calibre offering themselves for missionary service with the subsequent results.

* William Carey tells us that he drew inspiration from the soulwinning zeal of an earlier Calvinist missionary, David Brainerd. I quote:"I was much humbled today by reading Brainerd. Oh, what a disparity between me and him! He is alway constant, I am as inconstant as the wind! (Diary for April 19th, 1794) 

* Twelve ministers from Ryland's denomination formed the "Particular (Calvinistic) Baptist (Missionary) Society, sacrificially contributing the initial sum of £13 2s. 6dwhich was all they could afford. These men were all Five Point Calvinists. This society is still operating today.

* Five Point Calvinist, William Carey, one of the above twelve, had already published a small pamphlet urging Christians to use all the means at their disposal in missionary effort. This booklet was entitled: "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are Considered." The title is immediately followed by Paul's inspired missionary argument drawn from Romans 10: 10-15. 

* Five Point Calvinist Andrew Fuller published his book called "Gospel Worthy of all Exception." The Hyper Calvinists totally loathed it, but it was well received by those Calvinists of Calvin's own stamp. Later CH Spurgeon (another Five Point Calvinist) would refer to this book as a "classic of our faith" and mention it in the same breath as "Hodge's Outlines" and "Owen on the Spirit". Spurgeon also considered Fuller to be "the greatest theologian of his century" 
(cited Laws, Andrew Fuller, 127) and felt "so honoured" in the fact that he had been branded as a "Fullerite" (MTP: 12:68)  In the foreword of his book on the "Sovereignty of God" AW Pink referred to Fuller's name as "eminent and honored."

In all my reading of books on Calvinism or by Calvinist writers, I have never seen anyCalvinist since defend John Ryland Senior's remarks. We have all been so quick to put as much ground as we can between us on him on this issue.

* The practical refusal of those who oppose Calvinism to hardly acknowledge the existence of Hyper Calvinism (as opposed to real, authentic Calvinism) displays either gross ignorance of the subject or a desire to blacken the names and stands of good men. Phil Johnstone's primer on Hyper Calvinism is a good place to start. 

* Much opposition to Carey and friends came not only from the Hyper Calvinists but also from the Socinians whose presence and influence riddled many of the mainline denominations. However, all true Calvinists (and others) supported these men in their endeavours.

* It would be interesting to see a list of those who supported or encouraged these Five Point Calvinists in their soul winning work. We know that the Missionary Society in that hotbed of Five Point Calvinism in Princeton University wrote to encourage William Carey in 1821. John Calhoun in his History of Princeton records that the Princeton students wrote, "The different names by which we are known in the Christian church, and the different views we take of points not essential, will not be suffered to affect our feelings towards you, or to damp our joy at your success." 

* Why is it that those who are so opposed to the Doctrines of Grace are prepared to ignore the many examples of Calvinistic missionaries in order to highlight this one example of Ryland senior? If the definition of a missionary is one who leaves his homeland to preach the gospel in another, then Calvin himself was a missionary. Furthermore, his church in Geneva sent forth young men as missionaries to Brazil. These young Calvinists perished on the mission field. To say that any Calvinist missionary is the EXCEPTION rather than the rule (David Cloud's strange emphasis) is surely a non starter of an argument. Surely that can be said of missionaries from any doctrinal position? How many members does your denomination have? What percentage of them are on the mission field? Anything less than 50% of the membership being actively involved is the exception rather than the rule.

* We see similar tactics used by the enemies of Calvinism in regards to Spurgeon. Again, David Cloud likes to remind us all that many Hyper Calvinists opposed Spurgeon in his indiscriminate gospel appeals - except Cloud seems to have a phobia about using this term"Hyper Calvinists" and somewhat mischievously brands them as "Calvinists". What he doesn't tell his readers is that many prominent Five Point Calvinists agreed with Spurgeon, including the eminent Presbyterian John Kennedy of Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands (who brought Spurgeon to open his new church building) and many other Scots Presbyterians. ("Dinnae forget Spurgeon" was the cry of one Scots wife to her husband going  into the nearest market town) and other men like the Bonar brothers etc., Spurgeon's sermons saw great circulation, among Calvinists and non Calvinists alike, including the Five Point Calvinists in the Southern Presbyterian Church in the USA. It was only when Spurgeon criticised slavery that the sales fell somewhat in those quarters, but his warm evangelistic Calvinism matched their own and he was popular on that account. Incidentally, the Calvinists of today still love Spurgeon and seek to see his sermons circulated. 

This is a theme I would like to develope as more information becomes available. However, I believe I have done enough here to show that the Calvinists in the situation are best represented by Carey and his friends rather than by one man. 




  1. Amen. Happen to be reading S.Pearce Carey's bio of William Carey at the moment. Why trot out one example of hyper-Calvinism (even if true) and ignore all the others, even the man's own son, as you noted. Ryland was a faithful friend and supporter of Carey throughout his mission. What does this attitude do for the reputation of thousands of Christians, like Carey, who gave their very lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Carey continued on the in the mission field even while his first wife lost her mind and had to be cared for. He stayed on when a terrible fire destroyed many of his painstakingly interpreted manuscripts of the scriptures in other languages. He bravely stayed on when he was told on multiple occasions to leave India. It is scary when one's religion gets to the point where one in ignorance and/or willful blindness lumps everyone into the same class and ignores the multitudes who have been and are faithful.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I assume that your beef is with those who attack Calvinism as opposed to my dealing with the incident above?


All are welcome to comment here provided that the usual principles of Christian comment e.g. politeness etc. are observed.