I love the story of how when the Salvation Army was beginning to spread her wings somewhat in terms of numbers and ministry, General Booth betook himself for an interview with Charles Haddon Spurgeon the famed pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle at the Elephant and Castle in London's east end with the hope of procuring the use of the Tabernacle as a venue for an annual conference.
Unfortunately Spurgeon was bound by solemn promise that the building, having been consecrated to the preaching of the doctrines of free grace should never be used as a platform for any other gospel. This of course precluded the possibility of it being used by such a professed preacher of universal salvation and free will as William Booth, unless of course by some manner of means the good General could be persuaded and converted to that theological disposition so beloved of Spurgeon.
This Mr Spurgeon set out to do expounding the five main principles one by one.
He had as much success as Mr George Whitefield had with the imperious Mr Wesley a century earlier,, William Booth was appalled, even outraged at what seemed to be the implications of the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, sadly shaking his head was left with no alternative but to refuse permission, but as he did so he sat down at his beaureau and scribbled out a cheque the value of which was more than enough to cover the cost of hiring out a building meet for the General's purpose with some left over for the work of the mission of the Salvation Army.
What are those divides? in theological outlook as far as the east is from the west, separating such mighty men of faith and service as Booth and Spurgeon, Whitefield and Wesley.
Never having read Calvin or his five principles I could never be accused of being a Calvinist, I have absorbed and grown greatly to love the preaching and theology of Spurgeon who of course was a Calvinist (though not writ large enough for many) Nor have I read any work of Joseph Arminius but have read enough and seen enough of what is called the free will theology, which incidently is all but total in it's prevalency today in the church, to be able to discern it's basic tenets.
In this article I simply would like to draw attention to the effects of the two different mind-sets as they are brought to bear on the gospel message as it preached.
THE ARMINIAN PREACHER in preaching the gospel will point out the basic problem to be addressed, man's sin and God's solution to the same, salvation through the redemptive work of Christ in dying for sinners on the cross at Calvary and the neccessity of the new birth, wrought by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. He will then call upon his hearers to make a decision to accept or to deny this Christ whom God has set forth, His Son, His only Son as the Saviour. The preacher may even ask for his hearers to make themselves known by standing forward or submitting themselves to be counselled and prayed for.
THE FREE GRACE PREACHER in preaching the gospel will point out the basic problem to be addressed, man's sin and God's solution to the same, salvation through the redemptive work of Christ in dying for sinners on the cross of Calvary and the neccessity of the new birth, wrought by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. Both preachers will emphasise the substitutionary nature of Christ's sacrafice, He died for us in our place. But the free grace preacher will make no appeal to his listeners to make a decision to either accept or reject, he may call upon his hearers to repent but then he leaves all in the hands of the Holy Spirit of the Living God to convict and to covince and to bring the sinner to the place of repentance.
The free-will preacher's appeal is to the sinner, the free-grace preacher's appeal is to the Holy Spirit.
In the case of the free-will preacher's ministry the effectual working of the Holy Spirit is abruptly interrupted, this vital work which must be wrought out in the heart and life of the one who would enter the kingdom of God and be saved.