Monday, April 28, 2014

Wilson Thompson - 1 Peter 1:23 And The Certainty Of Conversion

I recently read a brief blog posting on one of the more popular Hardshell Baptist websites (see Here), in which author Josh Winslett shared a quotation of Elder Wilson Thompson, a first-generation preacher of this faith and order. It is obviously posted in an attempt to prove that he is “in succession” with the conditional time salvation line of thinking invented in the late 1800s and advocated by the majority of the current generation.

The quotation is taken from Thompson’s autobiography, which can be found on, a site managed by David Montgomery.

Writing in reference to our Baptist forefathers, Thompson states:

"They denied that the preaching of the gospel had any power to convert the dead sinner, or to give him life, and declared that man in nature was dead in trespasses and sins, and that as no means could be used to give life to one literally dead, even so no means could be used to give eternal life to those who are dead in sins, that God effects that work of Himself, by His holy Spirit, without means or instruments, and the gospel is a proclamation of good tidings, of great joy to the soul that is prepared with a hearing ear and an understanding heart to receive it. To those who thus believe it is the power of God unto salvation, and it saves them from the false doctrines of men, and feeds and makes them strong in the truth."

It is not my present purpose to here address Thompson’s own error in misrepresenting our Baptist forefathers, yet I simply point out to the reader that he does so. As far as the rest of his statement is concerned I will be the first one to admit that on the cover these words seem to convey some semblance to the modern scheme mentioned above. Immediate or no-means regeneration, though not sufficient evidence to document conditional time salvation, is nevertheless a central component of it. In addition, his expression that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and it saves them from the false doctrines of men, and feeds and makes them strong in the truth” is language very similar to what usually comes from this camp, and gives weight to the notion that Thompson was considering the salvation of Romans 1:16 as a post-regeneration experience. Let it be clearly understood, though, that Thompson can be said to be an advocate of time salvation if and ONLY if he felt that acquaintance with the gospel was an optional experience for the people of God. However, when we consult further writings of Thompson we see that such is not the case!

Brother Stephen has made the assertion in the past that the first generation “Primitive” Baptists made a very close analogy between natural birth and spiritual birth. They held to a three-stage model of the whole death to life process in which there was a point of initial conception (i.e. regeneration), followed by a period of conviction analogous to the babe in the darkness of the womb, and then deliverance (i.e. new birth).

In chapter six of his work Simple Truth is contained the particular statement of Thompson which shows that this too was his stated position (emphasis mine – KF):

" This change wrought by the spirit, is called regeneration because it is begetting them unto a divine nature. The first work of the spirit on the heart is regeneration, or the implanting of that incorruptible seed with cleaves to holiness, and so it is sometimes called quickened, because this is a living seed, that causes the motions of life to appear, and this is always followed by the new birth which is effected when the soul is enabled to view Christ by faith, and lay hold of the comfort contained in the gospel, and so they are said to be born again, not of corruptable seed, but of an incorruptable seed, by the word of God." (Simple Truth, Wilson Thompson)

It is the highlighted portion of Thompson’s statement which overthrows any potential argument for portraying him as an advocate for modern-day conditionalism. A regeneration experience which is “always followed” by a gospel birthing is equivalent to saying that conditional time salvation is certain to the elect. This attacks the very heart of the modern-day heresy, which teaches that acquaintance with the gospel is no guarantee. Rather, it is something achieved only by ”a few” of God’s people. Furthermore, it is clear that Thompson treated 1 Peter 1:23 as respecting the last stage of his model (i.e. the new birth), being effected by the gospel, or the “word of God”.

Were Thompson to be ”invited into the stands” of the typical Hardshell church today and began to teach that the Word of 1 Peter 1:23 was not Christ, but the gospel (which is correct – KF), or that gospel conversion always follows regeneration, thereby not leaving room for regenerated heathens, unbelievers, idolators, and apostates, he would be muzzled, branded a heretic, declared ”out of order”, and promptly ostracized for the rest of his life.

It is this citation of Thompson which shows that the first one, cited by Winslett on, cannot be used as evidence for conditionalism. The only thing that can be gathered from it is that Thompson was simply trying to avoid gospel instrumentality in the initial spark of his three-stage model of the saving process. The moment he makes the addition that gospel birthing always follows regeneration, as the latter citation exhibits, he leaves conditional Hardshellism.

Thompson and the rest of his contemporaries of similar opinion constitute a brick wall through which any attempt to find a succession of churches advocating conditionalism cannot penetrate.

As if Elder John Watson’s Old Baptist Test, written later, had not already done so.

1 comment:

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Brother Kevin:

Well written! What will the Hardshells do with this information (which has long been kept hidden from them)? I suspect that most will ignore it and keep right on claiming that they are in league with Thompson and the first generation Hardshell fathers.