Prevenient Grace Through the Lens of Henry Hammond’s Seventeenth-Century Anglican Arminianism

Henry Hammond (1605-1660) was one of the most prominent representatives of what Andrew Ollerton has described as ‘episcopal Arminianism’ in the Church of England during the interregnum between the Civil Wars and the restoration of the monarchy. Within Arminianism, resistible prevenient grace needs to be, at the very least, universally available through the communication of the gospel, but (perhaps contrary to popular opinion) an affirmation of its universal application is not requisite for a sufficiently Arminian account of the doctrine. Arminian views that affirm the necessity of prevenient grace may extend well beyond the mere universal availability of prevenient grace through the gospel, through views citing the occasional universal application of it at some time, to views that entail the constant universal application of it.
While one’s view of the scope of prevenient grace is connected to the idea of who can be saved, Christian inclusivism does not necessarily follow from the affirmation of resistible grace that is universally available. If one were to employ Christopher Morgan’s taxonomy then there is no prima facie reason to see mere Arminianism as incompatible with any view ranging from ‘gospel exclusivism’, each person must be made aware of the gospel through another human, to ‘general revelation inclusivism’, some are saved by Christ on the condition that they respond to God through their awareness of general revelation. An analysis of Hammond’s understanding of resistible grace presents the tension within Arminianism as a whole between a desire to affirm that resistible prevenient grace is in some sense ‘universal’ and yet, to maintain a privileged relationship between the communication of the gospel and the application of the ‘narrow sense’ of prevenient grace (i.e. salvifically enabling grace). He exemplified both the view that prevenient grace is merely universally available and the view that it is in some sense universally applied at different times. This essay presents a reading that allows for a charitable interpretation of Hammond that does not forcibly reduce his thinking to an implicit contradiction but allows for two sorts or stages of prevenient grace in the narrow sense.