Charles Simeon’s Encouragement to Sheathe our Daggers

It’s an admirable quality to hold firm, clear convictions in an area, yet remain gracious toward those with whom you differ.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836)

Spirit-wrought humility enables a man to be rigid yet conciliatory, unyielding yet deferential.  That balance can be particularly difficult to maintain in theological disputes.  The issue of God’s sovereignty in election is an oft-discussed and thorny debate.  As an ardent Reformed Baptist myself, I must concede that “our team” has not always carried the doctrines of grace with . . . well, grace.

For that reason, I’m instructed and encouraged by a conversation that occurred in the 18th century between Charles Simeon (a Calvinist) and John Wesley (an Arminian).  Handley Carr Glyn Moule, in his biography of Simeon, includes the following exchange:

Charles Simeon: Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers.  But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.  Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it in to your heart?

John Wesley: Yes, I do indeed.

Charles Simeon: And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

John Wesley: Yes, solely through Christ.

Charles Simeon: But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

John Wesley: No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

John Wesley (1703-1791)

Charles Simeon: Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

John Wesley: No.

Charles Simeon: What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

John Wesley: Yes, altogether.

Charles Simeon: And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

John Wesley: Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Charles Simeon: Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

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