Quite some time ago I wrote an article entitled Getting It To the People in which I expressed my desire to see the writings of the 19th century Primitive Baptists make it into the hands of the people. This is something that needs to be done for the benefit of current members, prospective members, and sadly, ordained elders. As a young minister among them I was never told about some of the earlier works which, if read, will show an important difference between then and now. I can only now lament at the number who probably have little to no idea of the existence of these writings.
Thankfully I have been blessed in the past two years to share some of these older works I have come to treasure with those who are willing to listen. Just the other day I received a phone call from such a one, who received in the mail a small pamphlet entitled “Getting Books To Our Preachers” by Elder Harold Hunt. In this, the elder expresses his desire to see certain works republished and distributed. Unfortunately, the ones in mind are those of his own choosing.
He writes (emphasis mine - KF):
“I have made the point many times that, over the years, our Primitive Baptists have produced some of the most capable, edifying and doctrinally sound writers the Lord’s church has ever known. Men like John R. Daily, Lemuel Potter, J.S. Newman, and Claud Cayce are far more dependable than any of the most popular writers we find in the book stores. It has been a passion of mine to republish as many of those books as I possibly can, and we have succeeded in getting quite a few of them back in print. There are others I still intend to republish.”
Coming from one who has been brought to know that there has been an evolving of doctrine in the past 200 years or so, I know the observation which needs to be made here. It’s tough for folks to know what is out there, and the truth of their own history, when one of their leading distributors exerts his bias and gets to select and choose what arrives into the mailbox. I can almost guarantee that no works will be re-published except for those written towards the end of the 19th century and forward. Daily, Potter, Newman, and Cayce were all cut from the same conditional cloth and exerted their influence in the mid to late 1800s. Arriving into the mailboxes of many will therefore be more writings serving to propagate and further ingrain the people into what these particular men taught with no mention made of those leaders prior to this time.
Why not go back a little further and recirculate the 1777 Kehukee Association Articles of Faith, and show how they believed the elect would all be converted and subsequently persevere in holiness?
Why not republish William Fristoe’s History of the Ketocton Association and let the people read how they were “Means” Baptists?
Or distribute into the homes of many a copy of Elder John Watson’s The Old Baptist Test?
It would even be nice to see the Black Rock Address re-circulated with emphasis upon how the "means” passages of 2 Thes. 2:13-14 and 1 Cor. 1:21 were handled, and that the current generation is not even in line with their own celebrated epoch. Were these texts applied eternally or temporally?
To this list could be added a number of elders (Beebe, Trott, Thompson, Conrad, etc.) whose writings are still extant.
Contained as well in his pamphlet, Hunt takes note of the present controversy among his brethren:
“We have just come through a painful fight over Calvinism and the London Confession. Most of that conflict came from the fact that many of our preachers are better acquainted with writers like Arthur Pink, Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, and David Jeremiah, than they are with our own great writers.”
I would like to think that the preachers acquainted with these writers came to their position not exclusively from these men, but from the Bible itself. They then came to see that what these writers were teaching was in agreement with the scriptures. Atleast that’s the way it was with me. But I have heard this charge in my own case. Many times. I have read the works of Pink, Spurgeon, Gill, Owen, etc. for many years. However, I knew enough at the time to know where the point of distinction lied. I knew what to keep and what to place in the garbage (I speak according to my former opinion). Though Hunt will say later that “You can talk all you want to about eating the chicken and throwing away the bone; after awhile that bone will stick in your throat…”, I reply that if a person keeps focus in his mind to allow proper hermeneutics to dictate his Bible interpretation, he can do it. Coming to a position similar to what these giants of the past saw is a simple matter of biblical exegesis.
Does our own “great writers” include John Watson, John Clark, John Leland, David Bartley, Gregg Thompson, etc.? If not, why not? Does it include only those who lived in the latter half of the 19th century and since who imbibe certain anti-means preconceptions?
One thing for sure. You SHALL be able to read of these other writers and their works here on this blog.