The Amyraldian Association Conference 2011 Report
by David Llewellyn Jenkins
The Amyraldian Association held its eighth annual conference at Hargham Road Chapel in Attleborough on April 19-20. Papers on John Calvin, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Jacques Saurin, Edmund Calamy and J.C. Ryle all converged around the conference theme of Gospel Preaching. Each speaker was concerned to relate the evangelical instincts of his subject to 'The Amyraut Factor': the view, associated especially with Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) of the Academy of Saumur, that Jesus Christ died for all men and women sufficiently, if only effectually for the elect.
In a vigorous and always stimulating address, Hazlett Lynch drew upon the pulpit ministry of John Calvin to affirm that 'Christ is the world's Saviour because He is the world's judge'. With Calvin his 'sure guide to Christ', Hazlett exhorted us to move beyond confessional correctness to a genuine profession of Christ. Nigel Westhead's exposition of Richard Baxter's Making Light of Christ and Salvation uncovered the intensity of Baxter's'commitment to the principles of right living. Nigel was led to conclude that the universal sufficiency of Christ's atoning work 'impels the Gospel preacher to passionate preaching of the Free Offer'. The opening passage of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress was adduced by David Fox to point to themes that 'shaped [Bunyan's] theology and pastoral concern for the lost'. In respect of the universal Gospel covenant, David argued that John Owen, defender-in-chief of the doctrine of limited atonement - and a fervent admirer of the tinker - 'listened to Bunyan more than Bunyan listened to Owen'. This seems arguable in the light of Bunyan's call to 'preach the Gospel to sinners as sinners, without considerations of elect or reprobate'. David's paper filled out a vague contour of the author to reveal the substantiality of the man. It will linger in the memory.
Stephen Quinton expertly opened up the seam of Amyraldianism apparent in the preaching of the Frenchman Jacques Saurin (1677-1730). After a short military career, Saurin pastored congregations in England and Holland. 'Now if the decrees of God forced sinners', said Saurin, 'if they did violence to their liberty, would the equity of God allow Him to call men out of bondage, while He Himself confined them in chains?' Stephen's contribution served as a clarion call to eschew scholasticism and keep our eyes fixed upon Christ. In the penultimate paper, Alan Clifford presented Edmund Calamy (1671-1732) as 'a man of God who could provide an anchor during a storm of uncertainty and confusion'. Calamy's devotion to the legacy of Richard Baxter was alluded to, as was a fascinating link to Philip Doddridge. Dr Clifford's picturing of Calamy treading a path between the extremes of 'hyper Calvinist inertia' and 'Arminian self-congratulation' was both moving and entirely convincing. 'Let us endeavour', opined Calamy, 'to get our hearts impressed with as deep a sense as may be, of the riches and freeness of [Divine mercy]'. In a stirring conclusion to the conference, David Bond contrasted the hyper Calvinist teachings of Joseph Hussey and John Skepp with 'the true and biblical nature of [J.C] Ryle's Gospel preaching'. The sufficiency of Christ's atoning work was gloriously upheld. 'I cannot tell any man on earth', wrote Ryle, 'that Christ has done nothing for him'.