Arminius, Wesley and Ellen White: Some Notes


---Arminius and Wesley thought the same about the human nature in the initial created order.

---Depravity at the Fall is the result of privatio for both Arminius and Wesley: our being separated through disobedience from God and deprived of intimate fellowship with the Creator. (see Gunter 2000 at footnote 48).

---Wesley called the depravity “inbeing sin”. There are voluntary and involuntary sins. They flow from desires of the flesh, desires of the eye, and pride of life (1 John 2:16).

---How does inbeing sin relate to actual sin? Sinful tempers, sinful words, sinful acts.

---Our sinful actions and words flow from enduring corruptions of our affections and human faculties. (Maddox, Responsible Grace, p. 81, Gunter 2000 at footnote 51).

---Wesley did not want to misunderstood the Inbeing Sin and that unmerited nature of God’s saving and restoring grace.

---Unmerited grace was for him salvation going through a continuing ongoing concept of Grace that always precede us and continually accompany us on the via salutis.

---Prevenient grace is used in a wide sense and in a narrow sense by Wesley. Wide: prevenience that each and every salutary human action or virtue, from the earliest expression of faith to the highest degree of sanctification, is grounded in the prior empowering of God’s grace. Narrow also for Arminius: refers to the saving (awakening) work of God in the pilgrim prior to and leading to justification..

---He counteracted the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination: “counteract the logical necessity with which the affirmation of total depravity seemed to lead to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination”.

---Although the broader concept of prevenience is also present in Arminius, it is the specific relation to justification that Arminius and Wesley share.

---Without Grace no freedom of choice: That the human will is free to respond to God’s overtures and offer of salvation is the result of being set free by the Holy Spirit. It is a ‘freed will.’ Wesley states specifically, “Natural free will I do not understand . . . .

---Grace also needed by Arminius to free the will:

---The Arminian Magazine as his identifying periodical in 1778:

“(1)Ascribing all good to the free grace of God.

(2) Denying all natural free- will, and all power [for salvation] antecedent to grace, And

(3) Excluding all merit from man; even what he has and does by the grace of God.” (Wesley, Works (1872), 8:285, Q.23).

---Arminius and Wesley agree: “Why, the very power to ‘work together with Him’ [is] from God. Therefore to Him is all the glory.” (“Predestination Calmly Considered,” Works (1872), 8:230. Compare Arminius, Verklaring, pp. 113-14; Writings, 1:253).

---Arminius’ declaration is equally clear and succinct: “Free Will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good without grace . . . . I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good.” (‘Grace and Free Will’ in “Letter to Hippolytus,” in Writings, 2:472.)


Arminius, however, also argues that as a result of the hardness of heart and consequent rejection of salvation, God avenges the “contempt shown to his word and call, and the injury done to his Holy Spirit,” by removing the grace which had initially enabled them to accept they call. The withdrawal of God’s gracious spirit results in the resistant sinner being “given over to a reprobate mind” and they are finally delivered into “the power of Satan.”33 Wesley would agree that those who persevere in resisting are finally given over to Satan, but he does not make the formal move of declaring that this is because God withdraws the gracious assisting Holy Spirit, but rather because the sinner persists in rejecting the Spirit’s overtures. The practical results, of course, are the same.

Before proceeding more specifically to Wesley’s thought, it is important for us to look at the manner in which Arminius theologizes with regard to the internal work of the Holy Spirit when salvation is efficaciously worked out in the believer. Arminius insists that this spiritual work is direct and personal, often referring to it as a divine infusion. In his letter to Hippolytus he argues that regenerating grace “infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and bends the will to carry into execution good thought and good desires.”34 This grace is further explicated as: 1. a gratuitous affection; 2. a divine enabling infusion; and 3.  a perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit. Because this structure is maintained in Arminius’ most mature statement near the end of his life, seeing his wording is important: 


Van de ghenade Godes gheloove ick, dat deselfde ten eersten zy een onverdiende goetgunsticheyt, die God toedraeght den armen elendigen sondighen mensche, waer deur hy voor eerst zijnen Sone geeft, op dat een yder die in hem gelooft, het eeuwighe leven hebbe. Daer nae in Jesu Christo, ende om Christi willen rechtveerdicht, ende tot de kindtschap aenneemt der salicheyt. Ten tweeden, datse zy een instortinghe aller gaven des heyligen Gheestes, so in het verstant, als in de will ende affectien des menschen, die tot de wedergheboorte ende vernieuwinge des menschen ghehooren: gheloof, hope, liefde, etc. Sonder welcke gaven der genade, de mensche niet bequaem is eenich goet te dencken, te willen ofte doen. Ten derden, dat sy zy eene gheduerige assistentie, ende bystant des heylighen Gheestes, deur welcke de heeylighe Gheest den menschen nu alreede herboren zijnde, aenclopt ende opweck ten goede, hem in stortende heylighe ghedachten, ende inblasende goede begheerten, op dat hy also het goede dadelijk wille, ende deur welcke hy daer na, met den mensche mede wilt ende medewerckt, op dat de mensche tghene hy wilt, oock volbrenghe; ende schrijve oversulcx de ghenade Godes toe, het beghinsel, den voorgangh, ende de volbrenginghe alles goets, oock so verre dat die wedergheborene mensche selfs, sonder dese voorgaende ende opweckende, volghende, ende medewerckende ghenade, noch het goede dencken, willen of doen can, noch oock eenighe tentatie ten quade wederstaen. Waeruyt dan blijckt, dat ick de ghenade Godes niet te cort en doe, den menschen zijnen vryen wille te veel toeschrijvende, ghelijck mij nae ghegeven wert . . . .

---Whereas Wesley sees Sanctification to be maybe gradually but preferable instantly, Ellen White saw it gradually and the work of a lifetime.

---Wesley said could be gradually but preference is instantly. “ But does God work this great work in the soul gradually or instantaneously?" Perhaps it may be gradually wrought in some--I mean in this sense, that they do not advert to the particular moment wherein sin ceases to be. But it is infinitely desirable, were it

the will of God, that it should be done instantaneously, that the Lord should destroy sin "by the breath of his mouth" [cf. Job 15:30], in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” (Wesley cited from 47. Outler, p. 282. [Ed.: Both footnote numbers "47" are apparently from this same source. By David Duffie 1978, at footnote 47]).

He goes on to say that one should expect it by faith; expect it as you are; and

expect it now. "To deny one of them is to deny them all. To allow one is to allow them all." (Wesley, cited from 47. Outler, p. 282).

---"Probationary time is running out. The end of all things is at hand. Only the pure in heart will see God." [Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 355. [Ed.: Correct: Vol. 2]).

---When He comes He is not to cleanse us of our sins, to remove from us the defects in our characters, or to cure us of the infirmities of our tempers and dispositions. If wrought for us at all, this work will all be accomplished before that time.... We are now in God's workshop. Many of us are rough stones from the quarry. But as we lay hold upon the truth of God, its influence affects us. It elevates us and removes from us every imperfection and sin, of whatever nature. Thus we are prepared to see the King in His beauty and finally to unite with the pure and heavenly angels in the kingdom of glory. It is here that this work is to be accomplished for us, here that our bodies and spirits are to be fitted for immortality. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 355. [Ed.: Correct: Vol. 2]).


Source: David Duffie, John Wesley and Cross Currents in Adventism: An Introductory Survey of the Wide Congruence of John Wesley's and Ellen White's Views on Character Perfection, and its Relevancy to Opposing Emphases upon Reformation Theology within Contemporary Adventism. May 1978. Loma Linda University.

W. S. Gunter, John Wesley, A Faithful Representative of Jacobus Arminius. 2000, PDF online.

I did not use the source of Woodrow Whidden which is very good online and the shocking remarks of Dennis Stevens in 2015 in an expected journal Spectrum, which for years is trying to ransack Adventism anyway. Dennis is riding the horse of a Baal Prophet with the name of James Barr and his rhetoric against Fundamentalism.

All reformers were fundamentalists but modern Wesleyanism are not. Dennis is right.