Right now as I sit looking at my bookshelf I’m made to feel for the people. I have compiled quite a few Primitive Baptist works in my young age. The sad thing is, though, the works must be divided into two categories: that which was given to me, and that which I had to get for myself. The former category (except for The Old Baptist Test by John Watson) contains mostly booklets shipped to me by one of their prominent distributors. Most of them, as expected, focus around the doctrines peculiar to conditionalism and are either contemporary works or were published around the turn of the 20th century, when this system was originally conceived. The other group of books I did not so easily receive through the mail. I had to learn of their existence and acquire them for myself.
All of this is very telling. It is to be feared that certain historical material is being suppressed and withheld from the laypeople. It would still be the case with me had not the Lord kindled a fire within me to “see if these things were so”. Concerning this general charge, though, there is one exception of which I’m aware. I must give credit to David Montgomery who manages http://www.primitivebaptist.info/. Though we would disagree on certain doctrinal matters, I have been able to find some valuable historical writings on his site, which upon being read, shows the evolution of doctrine over the past 200 years. Thank you Brother Montgomery.
That being said, I would wish for the laypeople to not only be aware, but be blessed to read some of the writings of their forefathers prior to the devastating splits over gospel means and predestination. If this were done, then maybe more tolerance would be given to those among the “liberal” movement, as it would be seen that their views have historical warrant, and that any charge against them for preaching something new under the sun is without grounds. Their doctrinal stance and exhortative style of preaching is simply a return back to what was the original position. This is not an easy task to say the least, as certain leaders such as the editors of periodicals get to filter what goes into the publications and subsequently make it to the people.
I would wish for the people to acquire a copy of The Old Baptist Test by Elder John Watson. The inspiration for the title of this blog, this grand work begins to show the transition from a more Calvinistic position to hyperism. He was a “Means” Baptist, and charged those who began to argue differently with bringing an innovation among the people. For one acquainted with all the matters involved in the current struggle among the Primitive Baptists, he will find this book full of doctrine incompatible with today’s conditional system.
I would recommend as well The Primitive Preacher by Gregg Thompson. A collection of sixteen sermons, that which stands out the most is the elder’s exhortative style of preaching. I can do no better than post the closing words to a couple of his messages:
“Dying sinner, is there nothing in Jesus that charms thy heart? Is he a root out of dry ground to thee? Can you see nothing in him to love or desire ? Is your heart too hard to be moved when you hear of the cross, and what he suffered on it for poor, condemned, and helpless sinners? I know your sad condition. I have been where you are today, and I know nothing but power Divine can melt and soften the hard and stony heart; but from my heart to hearts I can humbly cry, God be merciful to sinners ! O, may the Spirit move and melt the heart of stone! This is all I can do.”
“Dying sinner, you, too, will be resurrected. The sea, the grave, the rocks, and the mountains, can not hide you from Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the face of him you have slighted, for they that pierced him shall see him. You that live and die in sin shall hear his voice, and shall be resurrected unto damnation. O, my soul! what a word to sound in the ears of an ungodly sinner, who is living without hope, and without God in the world! The day is coming when all that know not God, and obey not the gospel, shall be forever destroyed from the glory of his power, and sink down where the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. This, dear sinner, is the certain doom of all who die in their sins. None can deliver you but Jesus, and the gospel presents him as a full and complete Savior, able to save. O, that the Spirit may enlighten your minds, and that you may be led to feel your need of Christ, and with a broken heart and a contrite spirit come to him, for he will never cast any such away. O, if you are burdened, weary, and heavy-laden with sin, Jesus says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest? But if you are hard, unfeeling, and in love with sin, and delight in the road that leads to death, I have not a promise for you. I have not an encouraging word, but must take my seat, grieved in heart on your account, and leave you in the hands and to the tender mercies of a just God, who will deal rightly with all his creatures.”
Such exhortations as these are in direct contrast to the non-exhortative style of preaching witnessed today. Were the elder alive today, he would be labeled an Arminian for doing anything more than presenting the facts of the gospel.
A Concise History of the Ketocton Baptist Association by William Fristoe is also a great witness to the fact that the gospel means pattern of salvation was the original position held by our forefathers. We post a quote for the reader’s benefit (emphasis mine):
“Tho’ a Sovereign God, may work above, beyond, and without means, according to his own good pleasure; yet as he hath been pleased to ordain means, and accompanied them by the displays of his power for the conversion and salvation of multitudes of poor sinners…”
Fourth, I cannot possibly desist until I express my utmost desire for the people to be told the truth about the Black Rock Address. The crucial matter here would be to clear up any confusion that the split of 1832 involved doctrine (as I fear some have been told), and not rather mission methodology. Contained within the address are a few references to the relationship between the gospel and salvation. There is no hint, anywhere, of the gospel effecting merely a temporal salvation in such places, much to the dismay of today’s Landmarkers. On the contrary, all statements are perfectly consistent with effectual calling as defined by the framers of the
and Philadelphia Confessions of Faith: “by his Word and Spirit!” London
Along with these works, a very profitable thing would be to inform the people of the 1777 Kehukee Association Articles of Faith; in particular their persuasion that all of the elect would be converted (article 9) and their acceptance of perseverance of holiness as opposed to the preservation of the saints when defining eternal security.
To my knowledge, these are the most valuable works of the Primitive Baptists of the 19th century. The most important thing to read apart from this is without a doubt the trial of Mt. Carmel Primitive Baptist Church, which took place toward the end of the century. This was one of the great turning points of the order’s history in which the anti-means system of conditionalism began to occupy the forefont, culminating in the time salvation paradigm.
The biggest online help I personally have found today is the work done by the brethren who manage UPBUILD (http://www.upbuild.org/) or Gold, Silver, Precious Stones: A Treasury of Old Baptist Faith and Practice. Of particular interest are two small booklets compiled: New Birth and Its Effects, and Glory in Tribulations Also. The first of these contains several quotations in favor of the use of the gospel in effectual calling. The second is full of evidence that absolutism was the norm, as there are scores of quotations from elders and other contributors that did not express the limited conditionalist view of Romans 8:28.
It is only fair that church-goers be told the truth of the history of their denomination. Here’s hoping that more and more would begin to question the things they’re being told, and research the matter for themselves as the Lord blessed me to do some five years ago.