When Calvin and Wesley Shake Hands

It’s Reformation Day today, and the occasion got me thinking about some words I had run across earlier this year when reading the works of De Witt Talmage and Theodore Cuyler. Both reflected on Calvin and Wesley, one standing in as the chief Reformed theologian and the other as an avowedly Arminian evangelist. Here is what they said, beginning with Talmage.

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As individuals we are fragments. God makes the race in part, and then he gradually puts us together. What I lack, you make up; what you lack, I make up; our deficits and surpluses of character being the cog-wheels in the great social mechanism. One person has the patience, another has the courage, another has the placidity, another has the enthusiasm; that which is lacking in one is made up by another, or made up by all. Buffaloes in herds, grouse in broods, quail in flocks, the human race in circles. God has most beautifully arranged this. It is in this way that he balances society; this conservative and that radical keeping things even. Every ship must have its mast, cutwater, taffrail, ballast.

Thank God, then, for Princeton and Andover, for the opposites. I have no more right to blame a man for being different from me than a driving-wheel has a right to blame the iron shaft that holds it to the centre. John Wesley balances Calvin’s Institutes. A cold thinker gives to Scotland the strong bones of theology; Dr. Guthrie clothes them with a throbbing heart and warm flesh. The difficulty is that we are not satisfied with just the work that God has given us to do. The water-wheel wants to come inside the mill and grind the grist, and the hopper wants to go out and dabble in the water. Our usefulness and the welfare of society depend upon our staying in just the place that God has put us, or intended we should occupy.

To these words, I add a brief excerpt from Theodore Cuyler:

“Blessed are the dead—who die in the Lord.” To them the perils of the voyage are over. They have cast anchor in the haven. They are safe. Peter shall never deny again, and Paul will no more be obliged to battle with an unruly “body.” Calvin and Wesley can clasp hands over the glorious fact that neither one of them shall ever fall from grace. That is a joyful anthem which sings itself so sweetly over a believer’s dust, “Blessed is he—for he died in the Lord.”