The 18th Century methodist minister John Wesley held to a non-reformed view of grace in soteriology. Stephen Finley, explains the relation between Wesley's evangelical convicton of corrupt human nature, his anti-reformed adherence to the belief in free will, and his logical conclusions regarding child training:
Wesley believed that a child was by his very nature a "mere atheist." Children were, foremost, afflicted by "natural atheism," an atheism chiefly inherent in their innate capacity to enjoy and to love nature. Thus, the "wise parent" was impelled to break their will because such will would lead them to two damning desires: the "desire of the flesh" and the "desire of the eyes." Children desired first to enjoy earthly happiness, to experience what gratified the outward senses, such as taste or touch. More inimical to their spiritual well-being was the complementary "desire of the eyes": the "propensity to seek happiness in what gratifies the internal sense, the imagination, either by things grand, or new, or beautiful." Both desires for Wesley were only incriminating evidence of a child's inclination to fatal error, that is, to be "a lover of the creature, instead of the Creator." Parents could only deepen and harden such error by ascribing "the works of creation to nature," or by praising the beauty of man or woman or the natural world. Hence children were to be brought up in extreme austerity of diet and dress and were to be taught repeatedly how they were "fallen spirits." Such instruction would help them to realize that they were "more ignorant, more foolish, and more wicked, than they could possibly conceive." From this method of education they would emerge with firmly held conviction that their natural propensities were akin on the one hand to "the devil" and on the other to "the beasts of the field."
In short, Wesley believed that unless the parent worked hard to 'break the will of the evil child,' the child would never experience salvation. Contrast Wesley's views with that of the great 17th century reformed theologian Herman Witsius. Witsius trusted soley in God's covenant of grace in the transformation of his child's pagan heart, and would gentle and sweet words urge believing parents to depend upon God's sovereign electing grace in the soul transformation of their offspring. Witsius reformed understanding of the early years of a covenant child stands in stark contrast to that of Wesley's views.
During our childhood there certainly appears the extraordinary love of our God to, in that as soon as we are born, and just as we come from our mother, he hath commanded us to be solemnly brought from her bosom as it were into his own arms, that he should bestow upon us, in the very cradle, the tokens of our dignity and future kingdom; that he should put that song into our mouth, 'Thou didst make me hope, when I was upon my mother's breast: I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly,' Ps. xxii. 9, 10, that, in a word, he should join us to himself in the most solemn covenant from our most tender years: the remembrance of which, as it is glorious and full of consolation to us, so in like manner it tends to promote Christian virtues, and the strictest holiness, through the whole course of our lives. Nothing ought to be dearer to us than to keep sacred and inviolable that covenant of our youth, that first and most solemn engagement,that was made to God in our name.
Some may say the dialogue and discussion in the Southern Baptist Convention between Calvinists and anti-Calvinists is unnecessary and ultimately detrimental. I personally believe it is important because it affects even the most simplest of Christian tasks -- the rearing of a child in a Christian home.
In His Grace,