Calvinism – Arminianism, Charles Simeon & John Wesley

John Wesley records in his journal on December 20, 1784 that he met Charles Simeon (1759-1836), but he says nothing about the purported conversation below. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) reports in his biography of Simeon that the below dialogue took place on that date (pp. 100-101). In the Preface to his Horae Homileticae (pages xvii-xviii), Charles Simeon records this conversation, though he does not identify the interlocutors.

A circumstance within the Author’s knowledge reflects so much light upon this subject (Calvinism-Arminianism), that he trusts he shall be pardoned for relating it.

A young Minister, about three or four years after he was ordained, had an opportunity of conversing familiarly with the great and venerable leader of the Arminians in this kingdom; and, wishing to improve the occasion to the uttermost, he addressed him nearly in the following words: “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, not from impertinent curiosity, but for real instruction.”

Permission being very readily and kindly granted, the young Minister proceeded to ask, “Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved, that you would never have thought of turning unto God, if God had not first put in into your heart ?”

“Yes,” says the veteran, “I do indeed.”

“And, do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by any thing that you can do ; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ ?”

“Yes, solely through Christ.”

“But, Sir, supposing you were first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works ?”

” No ; I must be saved by Christ from first to last.”

“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 ?”


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

“Yes, altogether.”

“And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom ?”

Yes ; I have no hope, but in him.”

“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 wherein we agree.”

The Arminian leader was so pleased with the conversation, that he made particular mention of it in his journals ; and notwithstanding there never afterwards was any connection between the parties, he retained an unfeigned regard for his young inquirer to the hour of his death.