Writing To George Whitefield: A Letter From Anne Dutton On Sinless Perfection -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 18:2 (Summer 2014)
Article: Writing To George Whitefield: A Letter From Anne Dutton On Sinless Perfection
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin

Writing To George Whitefield: A Letter From Anne Dutton On Sinless Perfection

Michael A. G. Haykin

Introduced and edited by Michael A. G. Haykin

Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also Adjunct Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Haykin is the author of many books, including “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller As an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005), and The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality (Evangelical Press, 2007), and Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011).

George Whitefield was a consummate “networker.” By the warmth of his personality and his penchant for friendship, he was able to not only traverse the Atlantic to yoke together like-minded evangelicals but also cross the great divide of denominations. In Great Britain and throughout the American colonies, for example, he built relationships with Baptists, who viewed Anglicanism with a significant degree of distrust and dislike, but who loved Whitefield, the “Grand Itinerant.” Among his English Baptist friends was Anne Dutton (1692-1765), who has been well described as “perhaps the most theologically capable and influential Baptist woman of her day”1 and who regularly corresponded with Whitefield between 1741 and 1744.2

One of the key theological issues that occupied Whitefield during this very time was the matter of Christian perfection. The Wesley brothers, John and Charles, were maintaining that God bestowed a second blessing, as it were, which consisted of being free from sin in thought, word, and deed. While neither of the brothers ever claimed to have received this blessing

personally, and Charles later in the 1760s openly questioned the biblical legitimacy of his brother’s position on this matter, in the early 1740s both Methodist leaders argued that as this doctrinal distinctive was preached, God honored the preaching and gave the gift.

Whitefield seems to have communicated his disagreement with this teaching to Dutton, who responded with this tightly packed and biblically reasoned letter on why sinless perfection was not at all correct theologically. Here we see why Whitefield once noted that Dutton’s letters were weighty and how Dutton helped the great evangelist to think thr...

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