Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Deliver Us From Such Regeneration!"

In a sermon entitled "Baptismal Regeneration", the great Charles Spurgeon delivered one of his more stirring messages, rebuking the Church of England for holding to the stated dogma. One of his criticisms was that the teaching did not gel with the observed characters produced from the mechanical ordinance. As he himself stated:

"But it strikes me that a more forcible argument is that the dogma is not supported by facts. Are all persons who are baptized children of God? Well, let us look at the divine family. Let us mark their resemblance to their glorious Parent! Am I untruthful if I say that thousands of those who were baptized in their infancy are now in our gaols? You can ascertain the fact if you please, by application to prison authorities. Do you believe that these men, many of whom have been living by plunder, felony, burglary, or forgery, are regenerate? If so, the Lord deliver us from such regeneration. Are these villains members of Christ? If so, Christ has sadly altered since the day when he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. Has he really taken baptized drunkards and harlots to be members of his body? Do you not revolt at the supposition? It is a well-known fact that baptized persons have been hanged. Surely it can hardly be right to hang the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven! Our sheriffs have much to answer for when they officiate at the execution of the children of God, and suspend the members of Christ on the gallows! What a detestable farce is that which is transacted at the open grave, when "a dear brother" who has died drunk is buried in a "sure and certain hope of the resurrection of eternal life," and the prayer that "when we shall depart this life we may rest in Christ, as our hope is that this our brother doth." Here is a regenerate brother, who having defiled the village by constant uncleanness and bestial drunkenness, died without a sign of repentance, and yet the professed minister of God solemnly accords him funeral rites which are denied to unbaptized innocents, and puts the reprobate into the earth in "sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life." If old Rome in her worst days ever perpetrated a grosser piece of imposture than this, I do not read things aright; if it does not require a Luther to cry down this hypocrisy as much as Popery ever did, then I do not even know that twice two make four."

I can relate to the observation made by the eminent preacher. Though it certainly does not teach that sinners are regenerated in baptism, there is much within Spurgeon's message that applies just as well to those today who are advocating the doctrine of conditional time salvation. Just as Spurgeon observed that the "regeneration" which the church of England was condoning produced men which could not possibly be called "members of Christ", so in like manner does the "regeneration" of time salvation generate similar such characters. Yea, in this dogma, perhaps even worse characters are created, as many unbelievers, Christ-rejectors, and even antichrists are thought to be part of the quickened family of God. The average Christian rightly revolts at such an idea, but for those who espouse this heresy, it will be said of these "members of Christ" that they are simply part of that vast host of God's elect who were regenerated but were never converted to Jesus!

A point seen by the gifted preacher was what the dogma presupposed about regeneration. If drunkards, harlots, prisoners, etc. were presently new creatures in Christ, then obviously the new birth did nothing to curb or remove these wicked habits. Yet Spurgeon most certainly knew that regeneration changes the sinner. However, if those who were supposedly regenerated at the font remained as they were, then wherein lied the change? There obviously wasn't one! Therefore, according to Spurgeon, there was no regeneration at the font, as the fruits did not corroborate such a claim. Spurgeon then offers up his plea upon imagining for a moment that this were the kind of regeneration instituted by God. If these are the fruits of the saving experience, then “Lord deliver us from such regeneration".

If the gifted minister were with us today, he would criticize conditional time salvation for doing the exact same thing as the dogma of baptismal regeneration did in his own. He would look at the “divine family” and see, along with us here on the Old Baptist blog and the general Christian populace, that unbelievers and Christ-haters are not “members of Christ”. He would cry that such did not blend with the holy character of Christ, and that true biblical regeneration does not produce such characters as this system says. If it did, then we have no doubt in our minds that he would make another plea that God would grant us another deliverance seeing that the first one did not really deliver us after all.

As for our part, we would join with him in doing so. If after my regeneration I remain an unbeliever and continue in my sinful ways, being one of those hypothetical “unconverted regenerates”, then…

“Lord deliver us from such regeneration!”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Which is First?

Does a sinner first become possessed of the Holy Spirit and then believe and repent? Or, is the Spirit received and possessed upon a sinner believing and repenting? What saith the scriptures? What saith the Hardshells?

Dr. Gill, in commenting upon Galatians 3: 2 wrote:

"received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? This question supposes they had received the Spirit; that is, the Spirit of God, as a spirit of wisdom and knowledge in the revelation of Christ; as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification; as a spirit of faith and adoption; and as the earnest, seal, and pledge of their future glory. Now the apostle asks, whether they received this Spirit "by the works of the law"; meaning, either whether they could imagine, that they by their obedience to the law had merited and procured the Spirit of God; or whether they thought that the Spirit came to them, and into their hearts, through the doctrine or preaching of the law: the former could not be true, for if they could not obtain righteousness and life by the works of the law, then not the Spirit; besides, works done without the Spirit of God, are not properly good works: not the latter, for though by the law is the knowledge of sin, yet this leaves nothing but a sense of wrath and damnation in the conscience; it is the killing letter, and a ministration of condemnation and death, and not of the Spirit, and of life; this belongs to the Gospel, "or the hearing of faith"; for by "faith", is meant the Gospel, and particularly the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ's righteousness; and by "the hearing" of it, the preaching of it, the report of it, Isa 53:1 which, in the Hebrew text, is wntemv, "our hearing", that by which the Gospel is heard and understood. Now in this way the Spirit of God is received; while the Gospel is preaching he falls on them that hear it, conveys himself into their hearts, and begets them again by the word of truth: and in this way the Galatians came by the Spirit, and which is another aggravation of their folly, that they should enjoy so great an advantage by the Gospel, and yet be so easily removed from it."  (Commentary)

Clearly Dr. Gill expresses the Old Baptist faith when he affirms that sinners are regenerated and made spiritually alive by savingly hearing the gospel. 

"That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."  (Gal. 3: 14)

The word "receive" is in the active voice and may be translated "accept."  It involves an act of the will and involves cognition and recognition of the gospel truth.

"Even the Spirit of truth;  whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him:  but ye know him;  for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."  (John 14: 17)

To "receive" the Spirit is to receive the truth, for the Spirit is "the Spirit of truth," of gospel truth.  The result of receiving the Spirit of truth is to come to "know him" and to have the Spirit to enter and dwell in the soul, heart, and mind.

"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his...For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Rom. 8: 9, 15)

Again, "receive" is in the active voice and means to "accept."  Before the Spirit enters and dwells in a sinner he must first be "received."  To affirm that the Spirit enters the heart apart from being "received" is to teach contrary to the plain language of the scriptures.

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (I Cor. 2: 12)

Again, an active reception of the Spirit is what precipitates the entrance of the Spirit of God into the understanding.

These simple things have been rejected by our "ultraist" Hardshell brethren who teach that the Spirit of God is "received" apart from the gospel and apart from an act of the will.

Of course, none of this admits of Arminianism or Free Willism, for "it is God who works in you," said Paul, "to will and to do."  (Phil. 2: 13)  Or, as the Psalmist said, "thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."  (Psa. 110: 3)

Old Baptist Evangelistic Methods

LEMUEL BURKITT, and JESSE READ, of NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, in October, 1803, published their history of the Kekukee Association from its beginning.  The Burkett-Read History preceded the history that was written by C.B. and Sylvestor Hassell, the history that is the standard in all Hardshell churches. 

The following citations show that the original Old Baptists in the Kehukee Association, even after they had embraced Calvinistic theology, believed in evangelistic methods that are today denounced by the Hardshells, which shows that the Hardshells are not really "old" or "primitive" Baptists.

"Shaking hands while singing, was a means (though simple in itself) to further the work. The ministers used frequently, at the close of worship, to sing a spiritual song suited to the occasion, and go through the congregation, and shake hands with the people while singing; and several, when relating their experience, at the time of their admission into church fellowship, declared that this was the first means of their conviction. The act seemed so friendly, the ministers appeared so loving, that the party with whom the minister shook hands, would often be melted in tears. The hymn

“I long to see the happy time,
When sinners all come flocking home,
To taste the riches of his love,
And to enjoy the realms above:”
And especially that part of it,
“Take your companion by the hand;
And all your children in the band,”

— many times had a powerful effect. Giving the people an invitation to come up to be prayed for, was also blessed.

The ministers usually, at the close of preaching, would tell the congregation, that if there were any persons who felt themselves lost and condemned, under the guilt and burden of their sins, that if they would come near the stage, and kneel down, they would pray for them. Shame at first kept many back, but as the work increased, numbers, apparently under strong conviction, would come and fall down before the Lord at the feet of the ministers, and crave an interest in their prayers. Sometimes twenty or thirty at a time. And at some Union Meetings, two or three hundred would come, and try to come as near as they could. This very much engaged the ministers; and many confessed that the Lord heard the prayers of his ministers, and they had reason to hope their souls were relieved from the burden of their sins, through the blood of Christ. It had a powerful effect on the spectators to see their wives, their husbands, children, neighbors, &c., so solicitous for the salvation of their souls; and was sometimes a means of their conviction. Many ladies of quality, at times were so powerfully wrought on, as to come and kneel down in the dust in their silks to be prayed for. The act of coming to be prayed for in this manner had a good effect on the persons who came, in that they knew the eyes of the congregation were on them, and if they did fall off afterwards it would be a disgrace to them, and cause others to deride them; this, therefore, was a spur to push them forward."   (pg. 76, 77)

"This gracious work in this Association, has been differently manifested in its operations, and the effects it took on the people. Some were deeply affected under a sense of their lost state, and their hearts ready to burst within them, whilst reflecting on their past conduct; yet under the ministry of the Word made no noise. Others, sensible of these things, were in floods of tears, and at last constrained to give vent to their passions, and cry out in the presence of the multitude, What must I do to be saved? Some were taken with a tremor, like a fit of the ague. And others fell to the ground like a person in a swoon, and continued helpless and motionless for some time; and this power was manifest at times, on persons at home about their secular concerns in the house, and in the field."  (pg. 80)

"And since Almighty God, in carrying on this glorious work, is pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, it therefore becomes necessary that there should be a number of preachers or ministers of the Gospel. And according to the direction of our last Association, we proceed, in our circular letter, at this time, to make a few observations on the necessary support or maintenance of Gospel ministers; although we are very sorry that there should be the least occasion to write or speak upon that subject."  (pg. 82)

"After the removal of Elder White, the church labored under great coldness and barenness until about 1801, when the church consisted of not more than twenty members in full fellowship. About this time, Elder Burkitt on a circuit of meetings attended this place. He preached, prayed, and sung, but no good effect seemed to attend his labors. At the close of the meeting, he at last told them, “that if there was any person in the congregation who desired to go to heaven or be converted, if he would come up to the pulpit, he would pray to the Lord for him.” No person came for some time. At length a young man came, with tears in his eyes, and requested his prayers. — Some months after, this young man was converted and related his experience at a Union Meeting, Warren, Ready Creek, and declared this was a mean in the hand of the Lord for his conviction and conversion; and said he was a thousand times obliged to the man for praying for him; and ten thousand to the Lord for putting it in the mind of his minister to do so. Soon after this a revival took place in this church, since which about one hundred have been baptized; and sometimes as many as twenty-four at one time. The church now contains one hundred and twenty members."  (pg. 124)

Now, in view of these historical facts, how can today's Hardshells claim that they are really "primitive" Baptists? Does the evangelical methods of the first Old Baptists of the Kehukee Association not show that they believed that God saved by evangelism and by the giving of gospel invitations? Do today's "Primitive Baptists" close their church services with such gospel invitations? Would they not call such evangelistic methods "Arminian"?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Articles of Faith Departure

Sometimes I'm amazed at the ease at which conditional time salvation can be refuted. Once one understands what it teaches and the doctrines that it compromises, the heresy can be overthrown by literally multitudes of express statements of scripture and historical writings. Perhaps the saddest thing of all, though, is when a denomination has so deviated in its soteriology from its past that it stands refuted, not by its open defiants, but by the declarations of its own founding fathers. It is one thing to refer to openly recognized Calvinists to refute this doctrine. It is another thing to be able to do it from the writings and declarations of the very ones who supposedly are “in line” with the present generation.

It is a most lamentable fact that those promoting this heresy can no longer believe their own original articles of faith.

Observe.

The 1777 Kehukee Assocation Articles of Faith, Article #9 reads (emphasis mine):

"We believe, in like manner, that God's elect shall not only be called, and justified, but that they shall be converted, born again and changed by the effectual workings of God's Holy Spirit."

The term conversion is an ambiguous one. When writers use it, it is incumbent upon the reader to discern if he is treating the term as synonymous with regeneration, or with a slight distinction, probably holding to some form of ordo salutis. In the two-salvation vocabulary, however, conversion gets a whole new meaning as it used synonymously with time salvation. Completely estranged from regeneration, it is viewed as a thing optional to the "regenerate" elect. Indeed, the very heart and soul of time salvation is that many of the elect are regenerated, but never become converted.

The Kehukee brethren state however that God’s elect SHALL BE converted. It might be retorted by our moderns that by this the Kehukee brethren meant that time salvation was GUARANTEED to be obtained by the elect. This however is to destroy the very purpose for the heresy’s existence, which is to render conversion optional. To speak of a DEFINITE time salvation is to say that all shall be converted, all shall know and believe in Christ Jesus, which is the very thing our moderns seek to avoid.

Secondly, the Kehukee brethren assert that the elect would be CHANGED. This is another challenging thing to time salvation, which brings along with it a hollow-log view of regeneration in which there is no change. It cannot be possibly be imagined that the Kehukee brethren had in view that God's people may experience only a "change" below the level of consciousness and continue in this state to the point of death. By subscribing to perseverance (a conscious experience) in the next article any idea such as this is destroyed.

The article of faith actually adhered to by those who teach time salvation is this:

“"We believe, in like manner, that God's elect shall be called, and justified, and born again, but that they shall not necessarily be converted, and not necessarily changed.”

The reason? According to this system the EFFECTUAL working of God’s Spirit does not necessarily EFFECT conversion in the regenerate. This may or may not be accomplished at a later time in an Arminian manner by the works of men.

Article #10 (emphasis mine):

"We believe that such as are converted, justified and called by His grace, shall persevere in holiness, and never fall away."

The fact that the Kehukee brethren used conversion in an eternal context around the happenings of the effectual call showed that they did not divorce it from the experience as our moderns have. That’s the first observation. The second is that they used the term perseverance instead of preservation to set forth their view of eternal security.

Apart from regeneration, probably the greatest doctrine compromised by time salvation is that of the perseverance of the saints. Just as time salvation implies a hollow experience in regeneration, it presents a similar experience of the Christian life. If the regenerate child of God is not converted, then it most certainly can’t be said of him that he perseveres in holiness. This is why espousal of time salvation and a denial of perseverance go hand-in-hand. Emphasis in this camp today is therefore being placed solely on the objective side of eternal security (i.e. preservation) while the subjective side is being denied (i.e. perseverance). It is for this reason that many of the churches today are changing their Articles of Faith, substituting the former term for the latter.

Just as in other areas of the Bible, our moderns have lost the balance of truth on this issue. The scriptures teach both preservation (John 10:27-29; 1 Peter 1:5) and perseverance (Col. 1:21-23; Job 17:9).

It would be wonderful if those who promote the extreme form of conditional time salvation could see how it conflicts with the writings of their own supposed forefathers. More importantly, we wish that it could be seen how it robs the Christian of the very experience of what it means to be saved. It reduces many of God’s elect down to the point of being spiritual vegetables with no awareness of the One who called them from darkness to light.

A return to what our Kehukee brethren penned down would serve as a good start to a more biblical understanding of what actually happens when God saves a hell-bound sinner.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Latest Invention on Ephesians 2:8

In our first article on Ephesians 2:8 we demonstrated that the faith mentioned therein is evangelical. We did so by relying upon the analogy of faith as our guide and from no quarrel that God uses the gospel in calling His elect (2 Thes. 2:13-14). In our most recent effort we narrowed our thoughts to consider the actual flow of the subject of faith traced in the Ephesian letter until we reach this precious passage. We saw that it is the inevitable position of those occupying the anti-means (i.e. conditional time salvation) position that the Apostle Paul must not be speaking of a necessary faith in 1:13, despite the fact that it is sandwiched in language suggestive of eternal salvation. Upon coming to Ephesians 2:8 it has to be assumed that a different faith (one not instrumentality wrought) is under consideration from that of 1:13, as the new birth is definitely the topic, one which cannot be labeled unnecessary. Means Baptists, and of course anyone else who agrees with them on instrumentality, however, do not so partition the Word of God. Rather, they see a consistent unchanging faith progressing from its original mention in 1:13.

To the average Christian reader who does not see “kinds” of faith for God’s elect, the question must arise: “If the faith which comes by hearing is not the kind of faith under consideration in Ephesians 2:8, what kind of faith is?”

Let me answer that as a former teacher of conditional time salvation and one well acquainted with how it partitions the Bible.

I would have to say that the prevailing view under this scheme is that Paul is treating of a subconscious, or seed faith. This is the ridiculous assertion, nowhere mentioned in the Bible, that God’s elect have faith of a sort, but it never reaches the point of consciousness. It is some sort of metaphysical substance that lies dormant within the “regenerated” child of God, yet it never reaches his mind and heart. The consequences of such a claim is tremendous! When it is remembered that even the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19), the advocates of this system are claiming, whether aware or not, that the “faith of God’s elect” is below that of these wicked agents in multitudes of cases. It is in this manner that the subscribers to this doctrine can essentially point to any character in the world and consider the possibility that he’s a “believer” in Christ. He just doesn’t know that he believes.

This is time salvation’s “new creature” in Christ!

Perish the thought!

Despite this prevailing opinion, there is another interpretation of Ephesians 2:8 I fear is gaining a foothold. The latest novelty on this prized passage is that no faith of any sort from the sinner’s viewpoint is under consideration, whether evangelical or non-evangelical, conscious or subconscious. Rather, it is a faith which God has in His Son, or that which the Son has in the Father. The text is thus to be read as:

For by grace are ye saved thru…the faith God has in Christ, or vice versa.

Now the reason behind this is very simple once one understands the doctrine of time salvation. The subject of faith naturally introduces the doctrine of justification. Since it is the chief aim of the forementioned heresy to land as many men in heaven as possible, regardless of their character, justification has to somehow be explained in a way that would put unbelievers in the class of the regenerate. The first solution to this dilemna came in the form of subscribing to the notion of seed faith mentioned above. That would be the ticket to say of many unevangelized heathens who were in truth unbelievers that they were believers somewhere deep down inside! The newest solution to this dilemma is to claim that justification has nothing to do with any kind of faith of the sinner (Rom. 3:28,30; 5:1-2; Gal. 3:24,26), but instead the “faith of Christ” (e.g. Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9), as if justification takes place via a faith that Jesus has! This is a novelty which I’ve already refuted, and one which even some current Primitive Baptist conditionalists cry against, thus creating a division within their own ranks on this important point.

Having come to this position that God or Christ has faith in the other from passages speaking of justification, I suppose it was only a matter of time that this idea began to spread as well to blanket those places in which faith is connected to regeneration, most notably Ephesians 2:8, a place where the traditional handling of the text has always been to interpret it as referring to seed faith.

I can personally speak to the confusion this has created. Not long after leaving the denomination I was visited by two of my good friends. One maintained that seed faith was taught in Eph. 2:8; the other, God’s faith in Christ! Despite their lack of agreement on this point, they were both united in their objection that evangelical faith is under consideration, and this was actually the only thing that mattered. In hindsight I look at this confusion and am currently reminded of the place where the Lord said “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech”.

I cannot speak, however, to how widespread this view is or if it shall grow. I can only hope that it will be curbed by the Lord. There essentially is no reason why it must be promulgated. The persuasion, though faulty, that regenerated souls have faith below the level of consciousness is more than enough to meet their objections to evangelical faith being taught in Eph. 2:8. It has always been the primary answer given as to what “kind” of faith is under consideration in those plethora of passages in which faith is united with eternal salvation. As to the reason why this latest invention has arisen I can only guess that it has to do with what lies at the root of the time salvation scheme itself: the separation of the subjective from the objective. The more and more it can be said that nothing is expected of the creature for salvation, the more and more does it appear, according to this system, to be “of the Lord”. Moving away from seed faith to God’s faith in Christ (or vice versa) it can now be said that sinners don’t have to believe in Christ, not even on the subconscious level!

This is all so tragic. The remedy to this modern-day confusion on faith lies in a simple submission that…

“…Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17)

And to a return to what our learned Baptist forefathers recorded long ago:

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word” (1689 London Confession of Faith, Chapter 14, Article 1)

We make a plea to our friends to put substance back into salvation. It is far more honoring to our Lord to announce a salvation in which sinners really do “come to Christ” on their plod towards heaven, than one which says they may go there in a state of mental oblivion.

Studying Hardshell History

I have been studying Baptist history for many years, especially the formation of the "Primitive Baptist Church" out of the anti mission movement of the early nineteenth century. It did not take long to discover that what I was told, as a young Hardshell minister, about the history of the "Primitive Baptist" denomination, was grossly incorrect. I was told that, prior to the separation of the "Old School" Baptists in the 1830s, all the Baptists were united in doctrine, and that they all believed as the "Old School." That is, they all believed in the five points of Calvinism and they all believed that the new birth was accomplished by the Spirit alone apart from the gospel and word of God, and that they all opposed Sunday Schools, para-church mission enterprises, theological schools, etc. But, after years of research I have seen that what I was told was not true, and that the Hardshells had written "revisionist histories" which were designed to deceive the members of the Hardshell cult.

Many able Old Baptists in the early to mid nineteenth century arose to challenge the false claims of the "Old Schoolers." J. M. Peck, a leader among the Regular Baptists, and a staunch mission supporter, was the first to take on the Hardshells. He met Daniel Parker in debate more than once and completely refuted the claims of the anti missionaries. Next, men like Dr. R. B. C. Howell of Nashville took up the task of refutation of the claims of the "Old School" anti missionaries. Later, more and more Calvinistic Missionary Baptists became activly involved in refuting the claims of the "Primitive Baptists." It is a shame that many of these debates are not available for us to read in this day.

Many of these debates were carried on in the religious periodicals of both the missionary and anti missionary Baptists, but again, many of these periodicals are buried in obscurity and hard to find.

The first great apologists for missions and theological and Sunday schools submitted proof that these things were not entirely new among Baptists and so the claim of the Hardshells that these things were new was shown to be false. They also showed how the scriptures supported such things contrary to what was affirmed by the anti missionaries.

On the question of the use of means in regeneration, new birth, and salvation, very few of the anti missionaries at the first denied that the Bible taught them. Nearly all of them believed that the new birth was effected by the Spirit's use of the gospel. Most of the first anti missionaries believed that spiritual birth was just like physical birth and had stages. They believed that "regeneration" was the implanting of the seed and was not the birth (deliverance). Anyone who reads the three leading Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s (Signs of the Times, Primitive Baptist, Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor) will see that this model of spiritual birth was commonly accepted.

Understanding this first Hardshell paradigm of "regeneration" and "rebirth" is important in understanding the development of the "Primitive Baptist" church as it exists today. Today's Hardshells reject this dominant view of their own founding fathers. This is interesting because not only do they claim to believe what Baptists believed prior to the nineteenth century, but to believe what the first anti missionaries believed, such as those who signed the "Kehukee Declaration" (1827) and the "Black Rock Address" (1832), and yet this is also false. I have consistently challenged them to defend their claim of being "primitive" or "original" Baptists by citing their forefathers and asking them to produce evidence to the contrary. None of them have come forward with the proof and the reason is quite obvious.

The first Hardshells did not affirm that conversion was a mere "time salvation" that was unnecessary for being finally saved in Heaven. They believed that conversion was necessary and that all the elect would be both regenerated and converted. Further, they equated being converted to Christ by the gospel with the new birth. This view seems to have slowly been abandoned, however. If one looks at the writings of the Hardshells from the 1830s to the beginning of the twentieth century, one can see how the neo-Hardshell doctrinal hybrid developed.

It is important for those reading the writings of the first generation of anti missionaries to understand this original paradigm as a context for reading their writings. The reason for this is because one can find some statements from the first generation Hardshells who would deny that the gospel was a means in "regeneration" but who yet affirmed that the gospel was a means in "rebirth." So, when some Hardshells read where Elder Wilson Thompson, for instance, testified (in the 1840s) that he did not believe that God uses means in "regeneration," they cannot conclude that he therefore rejected means in being born again and eternally saved.

I have shown in other writings how Elder Wilson Thompson accepted the three stage model of the "new birth" and agreed with Beebe, Trott, Conrad, etc., founding fathers of Hardshellism, and so did not reject the view that the new birth was accomplished by gospel means.  Thus, his statement about means not being used in "regeneration" is no proof that he would agree with today's Hardshells who do not believe that the new birth is different from regeneration, and who do not believe that conversion is the new birth. 

How and why did this original model of spiritual rebirth and salvation lose credence with the newly formed Hardshell denomination? 

As one would expect, after the separation of the anti missionaries from the Particular (Regular) Baptist family, the debate over the issues raised by the Hardshells became intense.  The original debate did not focus on the "means question" as both sides believed in them.  The original debate was over "methods" and over the implications of the Great Commission.  This is what is not believed by today's Hardshells, however.  They want to believe that the original dispute was a doctrinal one and involved the question of whether the gospel was a means in regeneration and new birth.  But, the facts of the case prove conclusively that the division was over "methods" and not over the doctrine of "means."

In the debate over mission methods and fulfilling of the duties of the Great Commission the anti mission side found it hard to defend their opposition by restricting it to methodological reasons.  The question of the state of the heathen, especially in foreign lands, was the chief underlining question.  Must they not believe in Jesus to be saved?  Do they not need the gospel to come to faith?

In the late 1830s one can see how these issues were being addressed by the anti missionaries.  They knew that the heathen were lost apart from faith in Jesus, so how can we legitimately oppose the efforts of those who desire to have the heathen to hear the gospel?  They did not want to be judged as not desiring the salvation of the heathen, and yet their arguments against missions were weak because of this.  Some began to see that the only way to put teeth into their objections to mission work is to deny that the gospel was absolutely necessary for being regenerated and eternally saved. 

In the late 1830s Dr. R.B.C. Howell of Nashville, a hotbed of the controversy, was in a constant fight with Elder (Dr.) John Watson about these questions.  Some of the anti missionaries, according to what Dr. Howell wrote in his paper "The Baptist," began to think that the heathen would be saved because of their ignorance and Howell refuted this idea.  It was a view that was almost Universalism. 

Those who argued that the heathen would be saved by their ignorance soon saw, however, the weakness of this position.  They would have to come up with a better refutation against the view that the gospel must be heard and believed to be saved. 

By the 1860s the original paradigm had lost most of its superiority.  Preachers were now denying that regeneration and the new birth were different.  Conversion to Christ was not dependent upon preachers, for God was able to reveal Christ to the heathen without preachers, able to speak to them personally, and so regenerate them and give them faith and repentance.  This began to be the new apologetic for the anti mission stance.  The consensus now was that the preaching of the gospel was not essential for being saved, so there was no need to be concerned about the urgency of preaching the gospel to the heathen.

In this time period (mid 1800s)  the Hardshells believed that conversion to Christ was part of effectual calling, and believed that it was as much the work of God as regeneration.  They did stress that regeneration preceded faith, and was accomplished apart from means, but they also taught that faith was produced in regeneration which produced conversion.  It was also during this time period that the nature of the experience of "regeneration" began to be much watered down.  It was also a time when some began to affirm that conversion was not necessary for being eternally saved.  So, not only are many of the heathen safe (the elect), but so are many who hear the gospel but do not believe it. 

By the 1880s the question of means reached a watershed point.  The Hardshells who had rejected the need of means in rebirth could no longer tolerate those Hardshells who believed in means.  Thus, a formal separation occurred and is known as the division over means question or the "Burnam" controversy.  Elders Pence and Burnam were leaders of the means faction and Elders Waters and Dalton were leaders of the anti means faction.  The event that became a catalyst for the controversy and subsequent division was the statement of Elder Waters in "Zion's Advocate" (1890) where Waters said that sinners were "saved, faith or no faith."  So, within fifty-sixty years, the newly formed Hardshell denomination had gone from a belief in means to a total rejection of them.  They had abandoned the faith of the founding fathers of the anti mission movement. 

The view of the Hardshells at the end of the nineteenth century had mutated into its final form.  Now they began to use the "time salvation" apologetic in which they made conversion to be necessary for being saved in time from false doctrine and the practice of sin, but not necessary for being eternally saved.  Their view of "regeneration" had so mutated that it now was a "Hollow Log" experience, an apparent changeless experience.  People could be "regenerated" who were outright idolaters and who had no knowledge of and faith in the one true God and Jesus Christ.

Thus, when one reads statements by nineteenth century Hardshells, he must interpret those statements in the context of the times, something which most Hardshells fail to do.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ephesians 5:25-27: "Sons" or "Disciples"?

In my last posting I argued that sanctification via the gospel was an end which Christ had in view in his redeeming work at the cross, according to Eph. 5:25-27. Since the whole of the church is what “Christ loved” and “gave himself” for, it is this same group which He intended to "sanctify and cleanse". This is so obvious to the average Bible reader that it seems silly to me that I must even defend the point. The text, taken solely as it is written, makes a strong argument in favor of those (myself included) that God in His sovereignty will ensure that the gospel reaches His people. Unless one resorts to unwarranted philosophizing (what about this, and what about that?) this is what the text seems to suggest.

Since the grid of conditional time salvation separates, instead of uniting, discipleship and sonship, the argument may be raised that the audience of the intended sanctification in this passage are not the whole of the elect, but that “remnant within the remnant” who become “disciples”. In other words, those who get a time salvation.

This position is absurd, and I now demonstrate such, making use of a simple lesson from grammar: the connection between pronouns and antecedents.

The reading of the text is:

Christ loved…THE CHURCH.

And gave himself for…IT.

That he might sanctify and cleanse…IT.

The pronoun “IT” refers to the antecedent “CHURCH”. What Christ loved and died for is also that which shall be sanctified by the Word. The recipients of sanctification are the same as that of redemption. There is nothing in the text whatsoever which hints at an audience reduction as it proceeds from redemption ("Christ gave himself") to sanctification ("that he might sanctify"). It is not "Christ loved and died for THE CHURCH so that he might sanctify by the Word SOME OF THE CHURCH". One is at great pains to claim this is so, and is not being honest with the passage.

If the body, “IT”, which is sanctified by the Word are only those “disciples” who are fortunate enough to attain to the higher life of conditional time salvation, then this is also the CHURCH which Christ loved and died for, based on the inseparable union of the pronoun “IT” to its antecedent “CHURCH”. And all of a sudden we find ourselves subscribing to the ridiculous notion that Christ loved and died only for a portion of the elect.

So let us render the text according to the notion that discipleship and not sonship is under consideration.

“…Christ also loved the regenerate disciples, and gave himself for the regenerate disciples; That he might sanctify and cleanse the regenerate disciples with the washing of water by the word, That he might present the regenerate disciples to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that the regenerate disciples should be holy and without blemish.”

That is, Christ died for those regenerate "sons" who turn out to be "disciples", but not for the rest.

Really?

Christ died only for those who get a time salvation in this life?

What now? To go along with two kinds of salvation, two kinds of faith, two kinds of knowing God, two kinds of sanctification, two kinds of coming to Christ, are there now two kinds of redemption?

This is utter and complete foolishness. I’m quite sure that on any general occasion it would be readily admitted that the entire family of God is under consideration, and not just that "obedient minority" of the elect, seeing that the topic of the text is redemption, a doctrine revolving around ETERNAL SALVATION. Feeling the pressures of a strict exegesis of the text, however, certain ones are forced to place a time salvation twist on it in order to get an escape from the gospel means pattern for salvation of which the text speaks. However, if the proposed sanctification was set forth as something accomplished apart from the gospel, there would be no objections raised as to whether or not it was the WHOLE of the church under consideration.

That I can guarantee.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

From The Heart

I find it very interesting that those Hardshells who have taken time to comment on my two blogs dealing with Hyper Calvinism (the baptistgadfly and Old Baptist blogs) over the past several years have nearly all made short terse comments, wherein they attack my motives and make serious accusations about the state of my mind and spirit, and then refused to stay and discuss what they initially communicated. I have called this their "hit and run" tactic.

Many of those in the Hardshell cult refuse to address the meat of our writings against Hyper Calvinistic "Primitive Baptists." The only exception to this was Hardshell Jason Brown, who started a blog with the sole purpose of refuting what we write in the above two named blogs. These exchanges in debate were not un-Christian. Of course, Jason has quit, for whatever reason, to engage further in discussion, seeing he has not made an entry in two months. It could be that he has simply given up. It could be that he is simply too busy now. It could be that some Hardshells have gone to him and pressured him to stop, for whatever reason (propably because he has been losing the debate). But, I must say, that he is the exception. I told Jason that I give him credit for attempting to come out in the open and have honest debate.

Of course, I have had several Hardshells send me private e-mails rather than leaving public comments in the blogs. Some of these private correspondeces developed into private debates. They all end with the Hardshells giving up, having been unable to prove their Hardshell heresies and rebut the arguments I presented against their doctrine and practice.

But, most of the public commenters do not stay to defend their accusations, but simply make their accusations and bolt. How they can defend such a practice against the teachings of scripture relative to how we are to treat one another is bewildering. Are they blind to their own faults?

I have been accused of having a vendetta against the Hardshells, that I have a deep seated hatred of them, and fervent anger against them, and that such ill motives prove that what I am saying is false. But, in response, I say that 1) assuming that they are right, my motive does not prove that my arguments and doctrinal positions are false, and 2) it is not true that I have hatred for the Hardshells.

I love the Hardshell people, but I despise their doctrine. As Jesus hated certain doctrines (see the letters to the seven churches in the Apocalypse) so should we. I hate Catholic and Islamic doctrines. I hate the doctrine of the Mormons, FreeMasons, and the New Age movement, but I love the heretics. Lots of Christians are engaged in apologetic ministries towards the members of such cults and they habitually write against their hereies. To say that all Christians in such apologetic ministries are operating out of fleshly and carnal motives is a making of sweeping and absurd accusations.

I love the Old Baptist church and simply want today's "Primitive Baptists" to see their errors, repent and reform, and become the kind of "Old Baptists" that their oldest forefathers were. Many Hardshells are woefully ignorant of their own history. I am sure that much historical information has been purposely swept under the rug and kept from the reading of the Hardshell brotherhood.

I am more "Old Baptist" than I was when I was a member and elder in the "Primitive Baptist" Church. Those who call themselves "old" or "original" Baptists today are not what they claim. They do not teach what their Baptist forefathers taught prior to the middle nineteenth century.

When I said that I hate Hardshell doctrine, I was expressing my abhorrence at their greatest heresy and of how it is anti-gospel. I am not the first to say it, but Hardshellsim is an enemy of the gospel of Christ. The gospel tells sinners that they will be damned if they do not believe in Christ and accept him as Savior and Lord, but Hardhshellism tells sinners that they will likely be saved whether they believe or not. So, anyone can see how great a danger does Hardshellism pose to the preaching of the true gospel of Christ.

What great good could the "Primitive Baptist Church" yet do for the cause of Christ and the edification of his kingdom by going back to the teachings of the real Old Baptists, of men like John Gill and Charles Spurgeon!

They will need to see their errors, confess them, and turn from them. Doing so, I firmly believe that they can yet be revived and see a great increase in glorious fruit to God. They have some very able preachers among them that could be doing far more good by returning to the true Old Baptist faith. It is my constant prayer that it will come to pass.

So, I am not surprised that some Hardshells think that I write out of anger. I think they should recognize that I have anger against their doctrines, and against their having a history of cruelly and unjustly accusing their opposers. There is such a thing as righteous indignation. Jesus became righteously angry.

I also think that many Hardshells who read my writings on Hardshellism often misinterpret strong and pointed language as a sign of anger, and of ill motives. Well, no one is perfect, certainly not I, but I say in good conscience that I have a love for the Hardshells. I had some very memorable times with them when I was with them. I would love to have fellowship with them again. But, it will never come until they become a real Old Baptist as I became.

I ask my Hardshell brethren to come here any time and have a frank and honest discussion about our differences about the Old Baptist faith and the teachings of scripture, but beg them to refrain from making ad hominem arguments and personal attacks.

Departing From or Coming to Truth?

Ever since I was delivered from the teachings of the anti-means paradigm, word often comes to my ears that I have "departed" from the truth. There is a serious begging of the question here as it automatically presupposes without question that what I once held was that very thing: truth.

The same charge was recently repeated to which I make this reply.

The idea that sinners must have faith in Christ for salvation is one of the most fundamental truths of the Christian faith. To go from a position that says multitudes of unbelievers are saved (NOTE: This is a cue to the Christian community to shudder at such an idea!) to one which claims that they are damned, and that salvation is exclusive to believers in Christ is no departure from truth, but a deliverance from error! To go from antinomianism to perseverance is not an example of leaving the old paths, but submitting to the plain teachings of scripture (Job 17:9; Col. 1:20-23; Heb. 3:6)! To claim that the gospel in the ordained means of salvation is no novelty, but the teachings of the bible itself (2 Thes. 2:13-14; James 1:18; Romans 6:17)!

If what I've come to see taught in God's Word is a departure, then there is a vast host of far more learned men than myself who must be included as well.

The adherers of the Westminster, London, and Philadelphia Confessions of Faith.
The Kehukee Primitive Baptist Association.
The Ketocton Primitive Baptist Association.
The Black Rock Brethren.
All the Puritans without exception.
John Calvin.
Charles Spurgeon.
John Gill.
Arthur Pink.
Martyn Lloyd Jones.
etc.

To this list I claim as well the first generation of Primitive Baptists as well as a number (growing I hope) of current elders who have been delivered from the mixed bag of Arminianism, Pelagianism, and Antinomianism that is conditional time salvation.

Departed from the truth? Seriously?

The reality is that it is the other way around. As Elder E.H. Burnam testified in the trial of Mt. Carmel Church in the latter part of the 19th century:

"Since I was here there has been put forth the idea that a man could be saved, if regenerate, without faith. The faith of Mount Carmel Church, as the faith of all the Baptists of our connection, Old School Regular Baptists, has been by the grace of God through faith. There has been a departure from that in the putting forth of the idea that men could be saved without faith.

...That was made by what we call the Anti-Means Baptists, in 1891. by Dr. Waters, editor of Zion’s Advocate"


Bingo.

Old Kehukee Circular Letter

CIRCULAR LETTER
"On the Maintenance of the Ministry" (see here)
by Elder Martin Ross, 1791

"The Messengers of the several Baptist churches belonging to the United Baptist Association, formerly called the Kehukeee Association, met at the Flat Swamp meeting-house, in Pitt county, North Carolina, October, 1791: To the several churches in union with this Association, send greeting: —

DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN:

OUR Divine Lord and Master, in the course of an indulgent providence, hath favored us with another anniversary interview, by which we obtain knowledge of the circumstances of the churches that compose this convention; and we also received agreeable information concerning the interest and growth of our adorable Redeemer’s kingdom in many other places. And it must give peculiar pleasure to every gracious soul to hear, "that he who sitteth between the cherubims has stretched forth his mighty arm, and is making a willing people in the day of his power."

And since Almighty God, in carrying on this glorious work, is pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, it therefore becomes necessary that there should be a number of preachers or ministers of the Gospel. And according to the direction of our last Association, we proceed, in our circular letter, at this time, to make a few observations on the necessary support or maintenance of Gospel ministers; although we are very sorry that there should be the least occasion to write or speak upon that subject..." [p. 83]

"Finally, brethren, those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen, do; and the God of peace shall be with you."

Signed by order of the Association,
NATHAN MAYO, Moderator,
LEMUEL BURKITT, Clerk.

Clearly the Kehukee Baptists were not Hardshell and anti-missionaries in 1791! They believed that preachers of the gospel preach a gospel that saves believers in Christ. They also believed in the church financially supporting evangelists.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Brother Green

The following is my respond to Elder Green. You can read his comments in the previous post by Elder Fralick. My response is so long that I have to make it as a posting rather than putting it in the com box.

Dear Brother Green:

You wrote:

"I am persuaded that we can discuss the issue of gospel regeneration and other issues on this site until the cows come home and not change any of our opinions. I am not skilled in the art of debate, nor do I desire to learn the art."

Ironically, are you not debating about debating? Are you not giving an argument for not debating?

In your first comment you recommend discussing doctrinal differences and now you decry discussion. Ironic again.

Brother, you may not be skilled in "the art of debate," but you are skilled in sophistry and in making ad hominem attacks. Rather than debate/discuss our differences, all you want to do is to attack the "spirit" by which you think we write. You do not prove any of the things you charge upon us, but simply make accusations. I wonder if you debate with those you are seeking to convert to Hardshellism? Perhaps you pick and choose who you debate with? You perhaps debate with those who know less than you but not with those you perceive know more than you?

Your comment affirming the uselessness of discussion is because you think that it is not profitable, that no one will change his mind. Are you not affirming that either you or we are not honest in our Bible interpretations? Why else would you say such a thing? You are either condemning yourself or us in saying that discussion is useless.

Further, the history of the "Primitive Baptist" church is a history of debating. You are condemning your own great leaders in condemning Bible discussion. Are you therefore better than they?

You wrote:

"As Kevin can attest, I strive to preach/teach the simple doctrine of the Bible and have honestly laboured to better understand the whole counsel of God. I encourage all of God's people to search the scriptures and seek to identify with a body that best models the doctrine and practice of the Bible. I find that home to be with the Primitive Baptist Church. Obviously, we do not agree on this issue."

Here you say that you are "honest" in your attempts to understand the true teaching of scripture. Then, you must think that Kevin and I are the dishonest ones. If you are honest and we are honest, then ought not our discussion of the scriptures be profitable?

Why don't you prove that the Hardshells are the "best model" of truth? Your simply saying so does not make it so. Why don't you prove that unbelievers will be saved? Why don't you prove that the Hardshells are the original Baptists?

You do a good job of tooting your own horn about how honest you are in studying the Bible but you insinuate that we are not. What kind of honest discussion is this? Should you make such accusations without proof?

You say that each person should "seek to identify with a body that best models the doctrine," and yet your first comment was condemnatory of Kevin for doing so! Isn't that hypocritical?

You wrote:

"It is not profitable to use the Bible as a baseball bat to beat any individual/group into submission. Granted, some PB's have been guilty of entering into 'attack mode', but not all That is now how I and many other PB's operate. Again, doctrinal differences can be discussed without grinding axes."

Is that your judgment of Kevin and me? Is it right to make such accusations in a dialogue without proof? What about your "spirit" in making such unfounded charges? Do you not know that all cults react the way you do when their heresies are exposed? Kevin and I beat people with a Bible bat? Are you in the habit of making such accusations without proof? Do you feel that you are prompted by the Holy Spirit in doing this?

Not only "some" but most Hardshells have been in "attack mode" for the past two hundred years. If you know anything about your history you will know that this is so. Now, you may say that you are an exception, but your saying so does not prove it.

You say that Hardshells do not operate as they used to do. Then, who is superior? You or your forefathers?

You wrote:

"Perhaps the reluctance of other PB's to discuss any issues that are presented on this site is the sharp manner in which you ask questions."

I wonder, brother Green, do you think that Jesus ever asked questions in a "sharp manner"? Isn't the best apologetic method to interrogate? To use the Socratic method? Did not the apostles also use this method? Why don't you try to answer the questions? I am sure, brother, that the reason the Hardshells don't want to discuss doctrine here is because they know they cannot win the argument. Now, how can we prove who is right? You say that the Hardshells don't discuss doctrine here because we have a bad spirit. I say that they can't defend their heresies. Again, how can we prove who is correct?

You wrote:

"Most Christians are peaceful folk and have no desire to place themselves in a hostile environment with others systematically attacking their faith."

What do you mean by "peaceful folk"? People who do not defend their views on scripture? People like the Hardshells? Again, you think that your simply saying this makes it so? Can you prove that the Hardshells are "peaceful folk" by looking at the history of your denomination?

How do you know that "most" Christians are "peaceful folk"? How are we not peaceful folk here at the Old Baptist blog? Do you think it is right for you to accuse without proof?

How is our blog a "hostile environment"? Do we not give the Hardshells all the space they want to rebut anything that we have said? Is it wrong to systematically attack cults and heretics? What do the scriptures say? Do you not think that this is the typical response that cult members will give when their teachings are examined?

You comments, my brother, are full of accusations against our character. This is not the way to have a discussion.

You wrote:

"It is my experience that those who are honestly seeking clarification and understanding about another person's belief system are better served by doing so with humility and charity."

In this statement you are affirming that you are the one with "humility and charity" and brother Kevin and I are not. Again, your comments are nothing but character assassination. I find it simply amazing that you would come here and toot your own horn, about how peaceful, humble, charitible, and honest you are, and how we are not so. What kind of discussion is this? Who is being hostile in such accusations? You or us?

You wrote:

"Stephen, I have been with your father on several occasions since moving north and have enjoyed our times together. He has been an encouragement to me personally. I feel him to be a great student of God's word. Do you believe him to be governed by emotion and philosophy?"

Yes, but my dad has not been shy about discussing our differences over the years. Further, he has been a champion debater for the Hardshells over the years. Was he wrong? Was Thompson, Daily, and Cayce also wrong?

Let us not discuss my dad's emotions and philosophy. Let us discuss the scriptures and the history of the Old Baptists, okay? Why are you afraid to do this?

You wrote:

"Kevin, you are entitled to believe whatever you desire. If your intent is to rescue others from error, you would be better served by considering what I previously wrote."

So, you are the expert on how to convert the saints out of error? How do you do this? Apart from Bible discussion? You convert people into Hardshell doctrine by telling them how sweet, kind, loving, honest, and humble you are?

You wrote:

"As far as Eld. John Watson goes, he should not be held up as the standard of orthodoxy. He was a fallible man such as us."

He may not be a standard for orthodoxy but he demonstrates that the first Hardshells did not deny the use of means in saving sinners to eternal life. Why don't you cite someone prior to Watson who denied that the elect must hear the gospel and believe it to be saved? Was the London Confession not a standard of orthodoxy for your Hardshell forefathers?

You wrote:

"I am not aware of endorsing any man that shares the views which you teach on this blog (at least not at the time). We can explore this issue privately if you desire, but it is not pertinent to my initial request."

I will let brother Kevin address this as it involves him.

You wrote:

"I am sorry that you feel ostracised or muzzled. That is not how I interpreted the events surrounding your departure from the PB's. Again, we can discuss these issues privately if you desire."

Again, brother Kevin can address this. However, I was "ostracised" and "muzzled" when I was with the Hardshells and have been slandered since leaving them. The Hardshells have also "ostracised" my dad, as you should know.

You wrote:

"I will take a closer look at the info compiled on your blog as time permits. Regardless of differences, I pray that a spirit of humility will prevail if I have opportunity to post."

The kind of "humility" that you manifest in all the harsh accusations you make against us?

You wrote:

"Again, I encourage both of you to withdraw from the name calling and deriding (cultists, etc.)."

Your words are an example of the "pot calling the kettle black," for your comments have been full of derision and false accusation. Brother, take a look at yourself and what you have written.

An Argument for "Will All Hear the Gospel?"

In my transition from espousing the doctrine of conditional time salvation to crying against it the question which began to raise in my mind was whether all the elect would hear the gospel. The vast majority of those who adhere to this heresy are adamant in their claim that the overwhelming majority of the Lord's people will never be exposed to the gospel of Christ in time. What I discovered, though, is that this position among many of the Primitive Baptists is reached not from biblical exegesis, but from philosophizing. Certain questions such as "What about all the heathen of the past who never heard the gospel?", in particular the American Indians before 1492, lie at the forefront of their mind and dominate their thinking. Instead of going strictly by what the Bible says of the fate of the heathen and granting it the first priority, they resort to speculation to answer the question. This conviction is then carried to the scripture, and a text is interpreted in the light of what they have already pre-judged to not be possible.

It was then that I began to come upon certain texts in the Bible which showed that the distribution of the gospel to the elect was not left to chance, but connected with the absolute intent of Christ.

The short article given below was something I wrote about two years ago when I began to push philosophizing into the background, and rely totally on biblical exegesis in answer to this question.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify it and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (EPH. 5:25-27)

The love of Christ for His church is here demonstrated as He gave His life willingly for her. The expression ‘game himself for it’ carries our minds to the cross where this grand transaction occurred. At the same time we learn that in His sacrificial death there was a great end in view. It was so that he might sanctify and cleanse His church by the washing of water of the word, in order that it should be presented a church which is holy and without blemish. Let us address some of the key points within this passage so that there remains no doubt to its meaning.

i. “that he might”. We certainly trust that our readers understand that the term ‘might’ here does not signify a future possibility as men use it in their everyday language. They ‘might’ do this or ‘might’ do that. Rather, it presupposes an absolute intent on the part of Christ, and that something is meant to be accomplished by the one who cannot fail. It is in this way in which the scriptures often use the term. The virgin birth of Christ occurred so that the prophecies “might be fulfilled” (Matt. 1:22); that is, so that it WOULD be fulfilled. Jesus was made sin for us “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). And so it shall be done! Many other places might be cited. The stay of our Lord in Egypt until the death of Herod (2:15), his entry into Capernaum (4:14), his healing of the afflicted (8:17), his preaching in parables (13:35), the parting of his garments at the cross (27:35), and so forth---all done that the scriptures might be fulfilled! That they would be fulfilled! Therefore, whatsoever is proposed in this text will come to pass!

ii. “sanctify”. To sanctify means to ‘set apart’. It is our Lord’s intent that His church be sanctified and cleansed so that the ultimate end of possessing and presenting a holy church void of any blemishes would be realized.

iii. “water by the word”. As water is a purifying agent so the word of God has a cleansing effect on the children of God. The Greek word is rhama, meaning ‘that which is or has been uttered by the living voice’ or ‘any sound produced by the voice’. It would be a poor interpretation to feel the word here is anything other than the preached word. Those who are in utter opposition to evangelism might be forced to suggest that the reference here is to the person of Jesus. However, this is bad exegesis, for the text seems to suggest that He who ordained the washing (Jesus) is to be different from that which performs the actual washing. It is only sound interpretation to conclude that that which does the washing is distinct from the actual person of Jesus. Otherwise the text would read “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it by himself”.

iv. “by the washing of water by the word”. The term ‘by’ signifies that that which follows is to be the means by which something is accomplished. It is ‘by’ their fruits that false prophets may be identified (Matt. 7:20). It was ‘by’ Beelzebub that Jesus was charged with casting out devils (Matt. 12:27). It is ‘by’ the word of God that we are born again (1 Peter 1:23). And so forth. In this place the term ‘by’ tells us how the church is to be sanctified. The word is the proposed means by which this sanctifying process occurs. The church is sanctified by the washing of water by the word.

v. “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”. The expression ‘that he might” connects the means just described to the end here declared. It is by the washing power of the word (the means) that the church will come to its final unblemished state (the end). It is absolutely essential to understand this. If the proposed means of being washed by the word does not take place then the desired end is not accomplished.

The meaning of our text is thus perfectly clear. It is the absolute intent of Christ to sanctify and cleanse His church. The means ordained to accomplish this is stated as being the word of God. The purpose for this is so that he, Jesus, “might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”. Nothing other than this can possibly be meant.

With this in mind, we must now and ask our audience to weigh carefully the following question. If it is the intent of Christ to sanctify His church which the text declares, is it His intent to do this for all of His church, or only some of it? If all, then the word must come to them all. If for some only, then the church won’t be presented without spot and without blemish. The proposed means towards the intended end becomes a failure. The absolute intent of the Lord Jesus, the sovereign creator of the universe, does not come to fruition. His plans are thwarted and His church is presented exactly opposite to the desired end: with spot, with wrinkle, unholy and with blemish! Our minds could possibly imagine such an end if the Arminian God were in charge for this is an Arminian conclusion! Yet for a people who believe that God works His will and accomplishes all his purposes, most notably the salvation of His elect, how can we tolerate such a conclusion as this? We most certainly cannot. It is the whole of the church which Christ has in view. Sanctification is an integral component of eternal salvation (1 Peter 1:2), and therefore must be administered unto all of those whom he intends to save.

I should think that this should be sufficient exegesis for this text. Yet in order to be thorough and not allow our critic the least hope of escape, we now handle a foreseen rebuttal. That would be to suppose that it was the original intent to only sanctify a portion of His church, whereas the rest of His children are to be denied this blessing for whatever reason. This idea simply states in more theological terms the currently held view that only some of God’s elect will receive the word. If this were the case, however, then the text would have to be read as follows: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify some of it and cleanse some of it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present some of it to himself a glorious church, having some spots, or some wrinkles, or such things; and that part of it should be holy and without blemish.” Laying aside the absurdity of such a position, we would still ask the question ‘If this was Jesus’ intent, why’? Did he feel that there was some want of power within himself that he would be unable to communicate the word unto the rest? Did he suppose that future circumstances might arise hindering His ability to accomplish His will? Perhaps it was because he loved or preferred some of His elect more than others, and ordained to grant this sanctification to them, but not to the rest? But how could this be seeing that Christ loves all of His children alike and is no respecter or persons? We should point out as well that a partially sanctified church is against the exegetical flow of the text itself. Paul has declared that Christ loved His church---the whole of it! He also gave his life for it---the whole of it! Are we to suppose at this point that there is to be an audience reduction implicit within the text so that we are to understand it as “Christ also loved the WHOLE church, and gave himself for the WHOLE church; that he might sanctify NOT THE WHOLE church!!! Now if this be not utter foolishness to claim that the love of Christ, His redemptive work, and His sanctifying work do not have the same objects in view, in that some loved and redeemed shall not be partakers of His sanctification, then I know not what twice two equals four! The same loving Jesus who was willing to die for His church will see to it that the very same group will be sanctified!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hardshell Syllogisms

Elder C. B. Hassell, father of Sylvester Hassell, and joint author with his son of the "History of the Church of God," a book of high authority among the Hardshells, gave us the following syllogism to prove that the "Primitive Baptist" denomination is the only church that qualifies as being the "kingdom of Christ." (from page 804 of the history)

1. The kingdom of Christ cannot be divided.
2. But these (non-Hardshell - SG) denominations named were divided (over the Civil War - SG).
3. Therefore these denominations cannot be the kingdom of Christ.

1. The kingdom of Christ cannot be divided.
2. The Primitive Baptists were not divided in principle by the surges of the late civil war.
3. Therefore the Primitive Baptists constitute the visible kingdom of Christ.

What a fallacious argument!  Such an argument recalls the old adage quod nimis probat, nihil probat - "what proves too much, proves nothing."

Not all denominations divided over the Civil War and the issue of slavery.  Were the denominations that did not divide over the war also the "kingdom of Christ"?  Would not the syllogism of Hassell prove that the denominations that did not divide over the war to also be of the "kingdom of Christ"? 

Further, though the Hardshells did not divide over the Civil War and the slavery issue, they have divided numerous times over other issues.  Do those divisions not prove that they are not the "kingdom of Christ"? 

Consistent or Alternating Faith in Ephesians 1-2?

In our last article we examined the “kind” of faith coupled with regeneration in Ephesians 2:8. We saw that, based on the analogy of faith and the context of the Ephesian letter, the faith under consideration is a gift from God (v.19) mediated through the proclamation of the gospel (v.13). Unless we approach the text with anti-means prejudices (eisegesis), this is what the context suggests. Essentially, there are two possibilities as to how the concept of faith progresses in the first two chapters of this letter. Faith is mentioned in chapter 1, verses 12-13, then in v. 19, and lastly in verse 8 of the second chapter. Consider the following progressions, and ask yourself which one is most feasible.

ANTI-MEANS POSITION:

1. EPH. 1:12-13 – unnecessary evangelical faith for eternal salvation
2. EPH. 1:19 - necessary seed faith for eternal salvation
3. EPH. 2:8 - necessary seed faith for eternal salvation

MEANS POSITION:

1. EPH. 1:12-13 – necessary evangelical faith for eternal salvation
2. EPH. 1:19 - necessary evangelical faith for eternal salvation
3. EPH. 2:8 - necessary evangelical faith for eternal salvation

These are the two structures by which the subject of faith must be seen as developing as determined by the two opposing systems of means and anti-means. Since many of those within the Primitive Baptist ranks are opposed to the idea of means, there are few alternatives (NOTE: we shall show the latest invention of Eph. 2:8 in our next article) but to accept the first position. Since both gospel and human instrumentality are involved it must be declared that the faith under consideration in v.12-13 is an unnecessary thing for eternal salvation and must be somehow construed to fit under the umbrella of conditional time salvation. Despite the lack of any contextual persuasion, since verse 19 speaks of faith as wrought by God’s power (and not by any man, as they falsely presume the means position holds) it has to be presumed that Paul is now referring to a different “kind” of faith than the one just mentioned moments before. It is “this” faith of verse 19, and not that of v.12-13, which Paul has under consideration when he mentions the subject again in Ephesians 2:8.

On the other hand, the means position has the advantage of being consistent throughout. Seeing no inconsistency in something being of the Lord and wrought through some form of instrumentality He has ordained, it does not assume that the faith must alternate between unnecessary evangelical and necessary seed faith in the span of seven verses. Rather, they are one and the same. In its favor, it has loads of biblical examples in which something was “of the Lord”, but wrought “through” some ordained medium. Therefore, having first mentioned evangelical faith in v.12-13 within the surrounding context of eternal salvation, this “kind” of faith pervades through what follows.

So the question, therefore, which our moderns must ask themselves is which position is honest? Which one is established by adhering to proper rules of interpretation, and remains in harmony with the context?

Or, put yourselves in the shoes of the early Ephesians. Can it possibly be imagined they wore the hat of conditional time salvation and thought that Paul alternated between kinds of faith, when there is nothing in the context to suggest such?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Old Circular Letters on Means

The following are excerpts from two circular letters of the Philadelphia Baptist Association with some short comments from me.  These citations show that the first Baptists were not Hardshells, were not deniers of means in the saving of sinners.  The Philadelphia Association is the mother association and all the oldest Hardshell associations were in fellowship with her until they forsook her and the historic old Baptist faith.  All emphasis/highlighting is mine.

CIRCULAR LETTER
Philadelphia Baptist Association
The Gospel
By Rev. Samuel Jones, D. D.
1795 (see here)

"The subject of our last address, was the Law — the next in order, in our most excellent Confession of faith, is the Gospel."

"In the Gospel we find free grace, free mercy, free pardon ; faith and repentance are freely given, and, with them, a new heart, a new nature, new life, — all is new, all is free."

What is "freely given" "in the gospel"?  "New life" and a "new heart"!  This is denied by Hardshells and yet they claim to be "primitive" Baptists!

"The applications of the Gospel under the influence of the divine Spirit, in the work of conviction and conversion, is absolutely necessary, in order to our receiving saving benefit from it. In this precious work of grace in our hearts, the Law and Gospel, considered as means, go hand in hand, and are often found in the same verse. By the one is the knowledge of sin, by the other the discovery of deliverance. The one worketh despair, the other faith and hope."

"Thus, beloved brethren, you see, that the glorious Gospel, in every point of view, is the work of the rich and sovereign grace of God. It was of the sovereign grace and mercy of God, that the glorious plan of redemption was concerted, was published, and was afterwards, as it still is, applied to the elect, with all its saving benefits. O the glorious and blessed Gospel! O the sovereign grace and mercy of God in and through a gracious Redeemer!"

"From what we have said, various useful observations, by way of inference, might be made; but we shall only mention two: First, that according to the Gospel, the atonement of Christ did not extend to every individual of the human race; and, secondly, that the Gospel contains no conditional offers of salvation."

These old Baptists did not believe in a universal atonement.  They believed in an efficacious atonement, one that actually atoned and is what the great evangelist, Charles Spurgeon, also believed.  When these old Baptists averred that "the Gospel contains no conditional offers of salvation," they do not mean that faith is no condition of salvation, as their other writings show, but they mean that faith is not the product of the sinner, but is given of God, and is therefore no "condition" in the Arminian or Pelagian sense.  For a longer discussion of this point, see my recent series on "Salvation - Conditional or Unconditional?"

"But if we speak of supernatural and evangelical faith, the Scripture is express. By way of distinction from the other, it is called, the faith of the operation of God, the faith of God's elect, like precious faith with us, that faith which purifies the heart, and worketh by love. And in regard to them, who received him, it is said, to them gave he power. Yea, verily, all the power, influence, and every thing in the business of our salvation is entirely of God alone, and not of us, who are but perfect weakness."

"...the way of recovery is through the atoning blood of Christ, who glorified the divine perfections in making honorable the law, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness in behalf of and for those that were given him, who in God's own time and way are renewed and sanctified, made holy here and happy hereafter. To this end means are appointed, chiefly the word and the ministration thereof; wherein the state of the sinner by nature, and the way of recovery through rich grace is unfolded; and it pleases God to enlighten the mind; move on the affections, and subdue the will. The sinner is awakened and convicted; he sees his danger; is filled with concern of mind; enquires what he must do to be saved; has repentance unto life given him; is led to see the fulness, freeness, suitableness, and glory of the way of life through a Redeemer; is enabled to lay hold by faith of this hope; is transformed by the renewing of his mind; has the constraining love of God shed abroad in his heart; is humbled and abased in himself, yet triumphs in the mercy and power of God; and thus being filled with holy zeal, he goes on his way rejoicing. He is sensible the Lord of his mere sovereign unconditional grace and mercy began the good work, is now carrying it on, and will complete it in glory, to whom, therefore, without reserve, he ascribes all the praise, and will to all eternity."

Philadelphia Baptist Association
Circular Letter
"Saving Faith"
By Rev. David Jones, Pastor
Southampton Baptist Church
1788 (see here)

"Saving faith may be thus defined, "That grace whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, which is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word." By this grace the person is enabled to believe all divine truths revealed in the holy scriptures; and in particular to apprehend the Lord Jesus Christ and to rely alone on his atoning blood for acceptance in the sight of God. The apostle, speaking of salvation said, "By grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God," Eph. ii. 8. The same apostle informs us that the Ephesians were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others; but when the gospel of Christ was preached, the Holy Ghost working with the word, opened their hearts to receive it, and by his powerful operations implanted this grace, by which they were enabled to believe the record that God has given of his Son. The precious grace of faith is a free and sovereign gift of God, conveyed through the power of the Holy Ghost, and the instrumentality of the word; and is co-existent with regeneration, if not an essential part of it; and as it is not of ourselves, we see that all boasting is excluded, so that we may all say, "by the grace of God, we are what we are." When the apostle was enumerating the fruits of the Spirit, he mentions faith as one, Gal. v. 22."

Notice how the Old Baptists of the 18th century, in keeping with the oldest Particular Baptist confessions of faith, taught that sinners are saved by faith, a salvation and faith that is produced by the Spirit's use of the gospel word.  They also said that such evangelical faith "is co-existent with regeneration" or "an essential part of it."  This is my view, the view of this blog.  We therefore claim to be the genuine old or primitive Baptists, and not like those today who call themselves such but are to be judged as "forgers of lies."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

English Baptists were Missionary

Here is a record of some of the missionary activities of the English Particular Baptists.  These are records of The London General Assemblies 1689-92 (see here).  (emphasis mine)

"Another significant proposal that was adopted and implemented by the Assembly was to begin a fund, to be raised from all of the member churches, that might be used for three purposes: 1. To assist poor churches in providing suitable remuneration for their pastors; 2. To provide the financial means to allow pastors to itinerate in evangelism of the lost and edification of the churches in the country; and 3. To provide financial support so that promising young men might be trained in "knowledge and understanding of the Languages, Latin Greek and Hebrew" and prepared for the ministry. A standing committee of nine trustees from London churches was appointed, charged with soliciting and distributing the funds that were received.

The 2nd General Assembly began on Monday June 9th and continued until the 16th of that month. This meeting was taken up with the outworking of the plans determined 9 months earlier. Several requests for assistance with ordinations or help in churches were answered, 3 more "treasurers" were added to the Fund Board, and it was determined that any 5 of the 12 now appointed could serve as a quorum to transact business. In addition, a lengthy recommendation for re-alignment of the regional associations was proposed. They urged all of the churches to meet in their regional associations at least once a year, and that each regional association appoint two men who could act as representatives of the associations. These two representatives were to visit the churches in order to urge them to ordain officers and provide sufficient financial support for their pastors, and to encourage their active participation in the Fund.

The 3rd General Assembly was held one year later, beginning on Tuesday, June 2, 1691 and continuing until the 8th. It was also, to a large degree, taken up with the Fund, and they could point to some good accomplishments already:

several Labourers in the Lord’s Vineyard have been already relieved; several pious, studious, and hopeful young Men have been assisted in the aquirement of Learning; and some have been sent forth to visit the Churches, and to give their helping Hand in order to their Settlement, according to the Rule of the Gospel."

 With such kinds of information, how can the Hardshells be taken seriously when they say that support of such mission work and theological education was a new thing in the late 18th century?