February 2, 2012

Daniel Turner on Edward Polhill, John Howe and Isaac Watts

Oliver writes:
Daniel Turner may have shared a love of liberty with John Ryland, but there were significant differences between the two men. In a letter written in 1782, Turner revealed that he did not subscribe to the doctrine of Particular Redemption. He wrote,
I am one who with the good Mr Polhill, Mr How, Dr. Watts and many others hold the doctrine of Particular Election and general Redemption as it may be called.17
These were unusual sentiments for a Particular Baptist minister in the 1780's.
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17. 'Daniel Turner to Mr Mumm, Watford, 14 June 1782', Angus Library, Regent's Park College, Oxford.
Robert W. Oliver, History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771-1892 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2006), 62.

There are several things to observe here:

1) Note that Robert Oliver calls Turner a "Particular Baptist minister" and yet Turner (at least at the time of the letter) held a Calvinistic form of "general Redemption" while maintaining "Particular Election." Paul Hobson (who signed the 1644 and 1646 Confessions) and Thomas Lamb (d.1686) fall within this category as well. However, Oliver does go on to claim that Turner "was moving away from the orthodoxy both of the 1689 Confession and of Gill's Declaration of Faith and Practice." Contrary to Oliver, I think the 1689 is compatible with a moderate position, as is the Westminster Confession.

2) Turner knew about the position of Polhill, How[e], and Watts on the subject and said he agreed with them.

3) Of particular interest here is Turner's early testimony about the Puritan John Howe's position on redemption. This is one of the earliest references to Howe (a prominent Puritan) being a moderate, and here is a Particular Baptist who knew about it and agreed with it. Since Howe did not explicitly expound on the extent of the atonement as did Edward Polhill, Turner shows that he carefully read Howe and understood the moderate categories.

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