Calvinism, Evangelism & Revivals in History
"The greatest evangelists and missionaries of Protestant era have been Calvinistic or Reformed. That is, they have embraced and preached the doctrines of grace. Whether it is Bunyan or Spurgeon, Carey or Nettleton or Whitefield or Duff or Stott that you are talking about â€“ the Baptist tradition, the Congregational tradition, the Anglican tradition, the Presbyterian tradition and so on â€“ find the hall of fame evangelists and missionaries and youâ€™ll find folks who live, breathe, teach and preach the doctrines of grace."
(Dr. Ligon Duncan, T4G blog, Feb 28, 2006)
"And then further, that I may clear up these points and leave the less rubbish for my brethren to wheel away, we have sometimes heard it said, but those who say it ought to go to school to read the first book of history, that we who hold Calvinistic views are the enemies of revivals.
Why, sirs, in the history of the Church, with but few exceptions, you could not find a revival at all that was not produced by the orthodox faith. What was that great work which was done by Augustine, when the Church suddenly woke up from the pestiferous and deadly sleep into which Pelagian doctrine had cast it? What was the Reformation itself but the waking up of menâ€™s minds to those old truths?
However far modern Lutherans may have turned aside from their ancient doctrines, and I must confess some of them would not agree with what I now say yet at any rate, Luther and Calvin had no dispute about Predestination. Their views were identical and Luther, â€œOn the bondage of the will,â€ is as strong a book upon the free grace of God as Calvin himself could have written. Hear that great thunderer while he cries in that book, â€œLet the Christian reader know then, that God foresees nothing in a contingent manner; but that he foreseesâ€™ proposes, and acts, from his eternal and unchangeable will. This is the thunder stroke which breaks and overturns Free Will.â€ Need I mention to you better names than Huss, Jerome of Prague, Farrel, John Lennox, Wycliffe, Wishart and Bradford? Need I do more than say that these held the same views, and that in their day anything like an Arminian revival was utterly unheard of and undreamed of.
And then, to come to more modern times, there is the great exception, that wondrous revival under Mr. Wesley, in which the Wesleyan Methodists had so large a share, but permit me to say, that the strength of the doctrine of Wesleyan Methodism lay in its Calvinism. The great body of the Methodists disclaimed Palagianism, in whole and in part. They contended for manâ€™s entire depravity, the necessity of the direct agency of the Holy Spirit and that the first step in the change proceeds not from the sinner, but from God. They denied at the time that they were Pelagians. Does not the Methodist hold as firmly as ever we do that man is saved by the operation of the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost only? And are not many of Mr. Wesleyâ€™s sermons full of that great truth, that the Holy Ghost is necessary to regeneration? Whatever mistakes he may have made, he continually preached the absolute necessity of the new birth by the Holy Ghost, and there are some other points of exceedingly close agreement, for instance, even that of human inability.
It matters not how some may abuse us, when me say men could not of himself repent or believe, yet, the old Arminian standards said the same. True, they affirm that God has given grace to every man, but they do not dispute the fact, that apart from that grace there was no ability in man to do that which was good in his own salvation. And then, let me say if you turn to the continent of, how cross the falsehood, that Calvinistic doctrine is unfavourable to revivals. Look at that wondrous shaking under Jonathan Edwards, and others which we might quote. Or turn to â€” what shall we say of Mâ€™Cheyne? What shall we say of those renowned Calvinists, Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Wardlow, and before them Livingstone, Haldane, Erskine, and the like? What shall we say of the men of their school, but that, while they held and preached unflinchingly the great truths which we would propound to-day, yet God owned their word, and multitudes here saved.
And if it were not perhaps too much like boasting of oneâ€™s own work under God, I might say, personally I have never found the preaching of these doctrines lull this Church to sleep, but everwhile they have loved to maintain these truths, they have agonised for the souls of men, and the 1600 or more whom I have myself baptized, upon profession of their faith, are living testimonies that these old truths in modern times have not lost their power to promote a revival of religion."
(C. H. Spurgeon, Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace, #385, April 11, 1861)