Friday, November 27, 2015

John Skepp and John Gill

John Skepp (1675-1721) attended John Hussey's congregation in Cambridge where he was converted under John Hussey's ministry. He became the pastor of a congregation in Curriers' Hall, Cripplegate, London that included Anne Dutton (1692-1765), it was a congregation founded by Hanserd Knollys.

Some historians think that John Gill was a father of the Hyper Calvinism of the 18th century, in the tradition of men like Hussey and Skepp.  Yet, it is not true that Gill was a Hyper Calvinist, though he did find objections, like Hussey, to "conditional offers of grace" or salvation, nevertheless did not think that it was unscriptural to extend Gospel invitations to all, nor to affirm that it is the duty of all who hear the Gospel to believe it. Further, he never departed from his belief that men were born again by the Spirit's use of the Gospel, even though this is denied by some Hardshells.

Some say that John Skepp also was Hyper Calvinistic, but again this is false, as the following citations from him will show.

The learned John Skepp was influential on John Gill, who edited and wrote the preface to the the 1751 edition of Skepp's posthumously published book, "Divine Energy or the Operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul of man in his effectual calling and conversion, stated, proved, and vindicated ... being an antidote against the Pelagian error" (original 1721).

Skepp's taking part in the ordination of Gill in 1720, and Gill's publishing of the book in 1751 must be taken as evidence that Gill agreed with the sentiments of the man who helped ordain him as a Particular Baptist minister.  If Gill wrote things after 1751 that are different from what he endorsed in Skepp's writing, it must be a departure.

Here are some things contained in the "Divine Energy" which show that Skepp was no Hyper Calvinist, no Hardshell, no "anti means" advocate.  Further, as I have shown from my writings on Dr. Gill and the Hardshells, Dr. Gill always maintained the means position, and he was more in agreement with the duty faith position than those, like John Brine, who denied it.

Wrote Skepp (all emphasis mine):

"That which first led my thoughts to study and treat of this subject, were the hearing and reading of so much slight and contempt, thrown upon the doctrine and preaching of the Spirit's work and office in the church, and with the gospel ministry, as the great efficient of all our spiritual abilities, as to principles and performances; as though there were no need now of the Holy Spirit to accompany the word, when read or preached in order to make it powerful and successful, for illumination, conviction, and conversion, as well as carrying on the work of faith with power."  (pgs. XIII-IX)

This is the teaching of the English Particular Baptists of the 17th century and what is expressed in the 1689 London Confession.  "The Spirit's work" in regeneration and conversion is "with the gospel ministry" the "Holy Spirit to accompany the word."  This is what Gill endorsed by his writing the preface and editing of "The Divine Energy."  It is what he contended for throughout his Commentaries, in his Body of Divinity, yea, in all his works, never deviating from it.

Notice the lineage so far.  First, we have Hanserd Knollys, founder of Skepp's church, and signer of the London Confession.  He is on record as clearly believing in means in the new birth, in the duty of all to believe the record God has given of his Son, and the use by the Spirit of invitations and persuasive arguments in effectual calling.  Skepp maintains this view.  So does Gill.  So, where are the Hardshells?  They cannot legitimately be of this line, can they?

Wrote Skepp:

"Your foundation, as to gospel order, was skilfully and successfully laid, in the very beginning of the troublesome time, by the indefatigable pains and care of that eminent servant and sufferer for Christ, Mr. Hanserd Knollis and your walls were not only reared but beautified, by the labours and success of that evangelic son of consolation, Mr. Robert Steed. These two were the chief masterbuilders, by whose blessed ministry you were built, and continued, upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone."  (pg. 10)

So, what did Knollys say about offers of grace and salvation?  In commenting upon Rev. 3: 20 Knollys wrote:

"If any man hear my voice, and open the door.] That is in the Ministry of the Word, and open the door of his heart, by a willing consent to accept his offers of Grace upon Gospel-Terms. [I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.] This is a great encouragement unto them to answer his earnest desire, and gracious Invitation to open their Hearts, and to admit him entrance, by promising them, First, Union with him; [I will come in to him.] Secondly, Communion with him; [and sup with him, and he with me.] By supping together, we may understand the mutual fellowship between Christ and their Souls, in the sacred Ordinances of God, 1 John 1. 3."  (Hanserd Knollys, An Exposition of the Whole Book of the Revelation (London, 1689), p. 59–60)

When preaching on Colossians 3:11 that

"Christ is all, and in all", he says, "Let me tell you God offers you Christ upon Gospel-terms,... God doth offer Christ to lost sinners without respect to price or person. He invites them, that have no money, to come, and buy Wine, and milk (that is to say, Christ) without price."

And, again, when preaching on Luke 19:10 where Jesus said, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost," Knollys proclaims,

"The Lord having propounded or offered Jesus Christ to lost sinners, outwardly and in generall by the word, and inwardly and perticular to this or that lost sinner by the Spirit, accompanying that word of the Gospel with divine light and power to the heart of the sinner, doth enable the poore soul so to assent unto what is propounded."[143] 

In 1688 commenting on Revelation 22:17 where "The Spirit and bride say, Come", Knollys writes, 

"The Church of God, and the holy Spirit of God, and all converted persons, do invite all sorts of sinners, especially, thirsty sinners, without exception against any Persons, that are willing, and without any price, to take Christ freely." 

("Barry H. Howson on Gill, Knollys and the First Tenet of Hyper-Calvinism: The Denial of the Free Offer") (see here)

Now, did Skepp or Gill depart from their predecessors?  We know that both men had objections to the word "offer," as did Hussey, yet they did not go to the extreme as did their later followers.

From the preface Gill wrote:

"The subject matter of this treatise, which is the only one he ever published, is of the greatest moment and importance, viz. the Conversion of Man without which he must be miserable, and which he cannot effect of himself, and must be done only by the invincible power and efficacious grace of God as is clearly held forth in the Scriptures, and fully proved in the following discourses."  (xii--xiii)

The insufficiency of moral suasion to produce these things is most clearly proved; the nature, use, reach, and compass of it are truly stated and by undeniable arguments and instances it is shewn that there are such lets and hinderances in the way of sinner's conversion to God and faith in Christ, as that it is impossible and impracticable for moral suasion ever to remove them and which only can be done by the power and efficacy of Divine Grace. And though this work is effected by Divine Omnipotence, yet without forcing the will, and destroying its natural liberty; but instead of that, restoring its moral freedom, and making it truly free by the grace of God where this worthy author rightly distinguishes between the natural and moral liberty of the will..." (xiii)

What Skepp, and later Gill, argued was that men are not born again or converted by "moral suasion" alone, or by the "word alone," but like the London Confession affirms, it is by both the Spirit and the Word.  Further, in the days of Knollys and Skepp, "conversion" was the final step in the regeneration or rebirth process.  Conversion to Christ was absolutely essential for being finally saved in Heaven according to Knollys, Skepp, Gill, and Brine.  So, none of these men were as our modern Hardshells who deny that conversion to Christ is essential.

Skepp wrote:

"...the state of the elect before conversion beareth great analogy and resemblance with that of dead body in the grave in that they are not only said, as will be declared in its place, to be "dead in trespasses and sins," Ephes. ii. 5, before conversion but this their quickening and raising from so great death, is by our Lord set forth metaphorically by resurrection, as it is written the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live," John v. 25 which is by him intended as declarative of the methods of grace, and the power of God, which are manifested in the quickening and converting sinner and thus The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, to every one who believeth," Rom. i. 16."  (pg. 9)

According to Skepp, what is the "state of the elect before conversion"?  They are "dead in trespasses and sins" and in need of being saved and quickened.  This is not what modern Hardshells teach.

Citing the words of Dr. Hammond with approval, Skepp wrote:

"An emblem and essay of the methods he hath now used towards us, by the preaching of the gospel to raise us from the grave of sin, to new Christian life, and from thence to glorious eternity."  (pg. 11)

These were the views of Knollys, Skepp, and Gill though not the views of our modern Hardshells.  How then are they "primitive"?

Wrote Skepp:

"...I shall give you the sum of the words of this doctrinal proposition viz.

Doct. That true conversion to God, and saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, are the effects of an exceeding greatness of God's mighty power, working in, and upon the soul and are not to be effected by moral suasion, or any ability in the creature.

Is this what today's Hardshells believe and teach?

Wrote Skepp:

"And the better to open, confirm, and vindicate this sacred truth, i. e. the necessity of the internal operation of the Divine power upon the heart in effectual calling and conversion; thereby to discover and lay open man's real impotency and inability, and the insufficiency of moral suasion to effect so great change;

"I shall make it evident, that in true conversion, and saving faith, as they are the effects of the Divine power, and Omnipotence, working effectually and invincibly upon the heart by the Word, the will of man is not forced, nor its natural liberty in the least infringed but, on the other hand, that noble faculty is, by renewing grace, made truly and spiritually free."  (pg. 12-13)

"...working effectually and invincibly upon the heart by the Word..."  Is that neo Hardshellism?

Wrote Skepp in Chapter Two:

"And as touching the attainments of the best heathens, notwithstanding the great noise and fine shew they made in the world at that time of day, as teachers of ethics or moral philosophy, God him self hath assured us, That the world by wisdom knew him not," Cor. i. 21, i. e. in Mediator without which knowledge and faith in him, it always was, and still is, impossible so to please God as to be saved by him."  (pg. 15)

The heathen lost without faith in Christ!  Is this not what is denied by today's Hardshells?

Wrote Skepp:

"In vain then do such who call them selves Christians plead for general charity to be extended to all, who heretofore did, or now do, live and die in state of ignorance and error; these may be esteemed good, honest, harmless, well-meaning persons, who go out of the world as quiet as lambs, as the common people speak, which, according to the scripture, is, they die like beasts for man that is in honour, and understandeth not, as being without the true knowledge of God in Mediator, is like the beast that perisheth," Psalm xlix. 20-14."  (pg. 18)


"This then is the first mistake about conversion, and that none of the least, 5. e. when nature, dressed up with little negative righteousness, good humour, and moral honesty, (though attended with gross ignorance as to God, and how he is to be worshipped aright, as was the case of the best heathens and of many who called themselves Christians,) is taken for conversion, or safe state as to another world."  (pg. 19)

Though Hardshell Hyper Calvinism was not then in existence in the days of Knollys, Skepp, and Gill, yet they had some Arminians who argued (as do Catholics today) that many of the best heathen, who know nothing of the Christian faith, are nevertheless saved and regenerated.  And, there were Universalists.  But, Skepp did not think it an act of charity to consider heathens who "with gross ignorance" of God were saved, as do our modern quasi Universalist Hardshells.

Skepp wrote:

"That men and women are not born gracious, nor true Christians nor are they made spiritually alive, and sound converts by baptism but by special sanctifying and saving work of the Spirit, through the Divine efficacy of the word upon the heart and this is what we ought to look for, and, in some good measure, discern, as to its fruits and effects, before we form scripture-judgment of the saving faith and conversion of such persons..."  (pg. 33)

How are men and women "made spiritually alive"?  By the "saving work of the Spirit" and "through the Divine efficacy of the word upon the heart."  Where is the Hardshell anti means or Spirit alone view?  What does Skepp say of the "case of the heathen"?  Is it the same as today's Hardshells?  Did not Gill and Brine affirm the same thing?

Wrote Skepp:

"...true saving truly spiritual...if this faith be considered as to the instrumental means, it comes by hearing of the gospel preached, as it is message of peace, grace, and life eternal, coming to us through Redeemer which calls for credit and affiance and so it is also firm persuasion, and dependance on the word of promise, for the benefits contained therein."  (pg. 45)

Again, this is against modern Hardshell teachings which are not Baptistic.

Wrote Skepp:

"...and so it is more than moral act of the rational creature, say more than moral, and more than rational, it being spiritual, and evangelical..."  (pg. 46)

Skepp's view of saving faith is quite different from our modern "Primitive Baptists" who teach that the faith connected with eternal salvation believes nothing, knows nothing, does nothing, and is all non cognitive, on the sub conscious level.

Wrote Skepp:

"But now as to this super natural grace of faith, as wrought in the hearts of God's elect, though it is very reasonable duty to believe, and the most rational act that the soul is capable of yet it is not the act of mere reason, or of man, as natural, but only as he is created anew in Christ Jesus."  (pg. 46)

Believing the Gospel is man's "very reasonable duty"?  Skepp said this before the "modern question" came into discussion among 18th century Particular Baptists.

Wrote Skepp:

"...the acts and office of true saving faith: know, looking to, or seeing the Son, coming to, and believing on him, &c. are looked upon, and interpreted by many as synonymous, i. e. words of the same signification and import and, in sense, it is true yet, nevertheless, though these are all the acts of true faith, they are, notwithstanding, distinct acts, and, as it were, so many several ways of faith's dealing with Christ, or as so many steps and degrees towards the grand act of trust and reliance not that one is before the other in order of time, but only in order of nature, and accordingly are, and ought to be opened and distinguished."

What, according to Skepp, is "the grand act of trust and reliance" if it is not the new birth?

Wrote Skepp:

"Thus faith, by the affections, carries the soul forth to Christ. But, besides this, it has Fourth act, and that is to receive Christ, according to that text, To as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," John i. 12, 13. And again, As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him," Coloss. ii. 6."  (pg. 52)

This is more light on "the grand act" that takes a soul from among the dead to among the living.  It is that act wherein Christ is actively "received" by a living evangelical faith.  "Faith" is that vehicle that "carries the soul forth to Christ."

Wrote Skepp:

"Fifth place, faith has another distinct act peculiar to it, as justifying and saving; and that is, believing on him, by trusting in, and relying on him called also leaning, staying, and committing the soul to him by the way of dependance as giving itself wholly up to him, both as King and Saviour and so it is an act of the heart, soul, or whole man yet principally it is here an act of the will and this may be called the perfecting and completing act forasmuch as now, and not before, the act of faith, as it deals with Christ for life, and ventures on him for salvation, is completed and perfected and this is that act which is properly the uniting act of faith, whereby the soul, giving itself up with full consent, is now united to Christ in the conjugal tie, or marriage-union because now the soul, as the damsel in marriage, gives itself up to, and joins heart and spirit with the Lord: and as in marriage, new union and relation commences, whereby two are made one flesh so in this act of faith, the soul joins itself to the Lord, so as to be one spirit," Cor. vi. 17- And here we are to distinguish between spiritual vital union, which is the Spirit's act upon the soul; and this conjugal union which is effected only by faith. And so likewise, as to new covenant-interest, the first part of the title arises out of that grace, that was settled upon all the elect, by way of covenant, as Grace was given us in Christ before the world began," Tim. 1. and the purchased title, which Christ, by his death, procured for all his these also are distinct and prior to this marriage, interest, and title but as jointure, though promised, agreed to, and sealed before marriage, yet takes not place in due form of law, until the couple are actually married, even so the believing soul's manifestative and declared right and interest in these covenant-blessings and privileges, are now justly said to commence and take place, as in due form of law even as our Lord has declared, "that he who believeth is passed from death to life," John v. 24 for now it is, that, as in marriage, the condition or state is actually changed, and all conjugal relation and interest begin and the soul, who is thus joined to the Lord, has just and undoubted open right and claim to all the blessings of the new covenant."  (pg. 53-54)

Here "the grand act" becomes "the perfecting and completing act" in the saving conversion experience.  It is the point when the soul trusts in Christ and believes the Gospel, when the soul commits itself to the Lord as in a marriage, and this is when "vital union with Christ" commences.  Again, this is not Hardshellism.  No Hardshell today would fellowship Skepp for these views and would label him "Arminian."  The soul is not made one with Christ till it commits to him in faith, as Skepp speaks of "the uniting act of faith."

In Chapter III Wrote Skepp:

"...though God doth in his word, and by the daily ministration thereof, make use of arguments and reasonings and points and enforces these with promises and threatenings, suited to the capacity and duty of reasonable creature yet, where he has design of making them effectual to the salvation of this or the other particular person whom he has loved, chosen, and predestinated to life eternal, he always adds to these the efficacious power of his Spirit and grace, to quicken and renew their souls thereby working in them both to will and to do of his own good pleasure."

Skepp mentions the "duty of reasonable creature" to heed the arguments and warnings of scripture. Clearly he was no Hyper Calvinist.  Further, recall that Gill is endorsing these sentiments.  Gill also acknowledged that God made use of persuasive appeals and warning in bringing the elect to salvation.  God makes these warnings, arguments, and reasonings "effectual to the salvation" of the elect.

Wrote Skepp:

"I shall shew, that, as to the rest, God affords them only the means, but doth not with this exert his Almighty power upon their hearts, as in those, whom according to his eternal purpose, he effectually calls and saves.

I  shall make it appear, that, upon neglect, or rejection of the outward means and admonitions, God very justly upbraids and condemns these non improvers and despisers of gospel-light and grace."  (pg. 57)

Again, this is more evidence that Skepp believed that man was responsible to God for rejecting "the outward means and admonitions," and were condemned for it.  He clearly affirmed duty faith and repentance.  And, Gill endorsed this.

Skepp spoke of " old mistake, i. e. that God, in the gospel, requires no more of man than he is able..." (pg. 60)  But, this is exactly the error of today's Hardshells!  Of course, it is the old Pelagian error.

Wrote Skepp:

"Second place, that God doth, for the most part, make use of arguments and reasonings in the word and ministry; and oft points out and enforces the same, with promises of rewards, and threatening of present and future punishments to the neglecters of so great salvation," Heb. ii. yet so, as that he always superadds the efficacious power of his Spirit and grace, to quicken and renew those souls, for whom he has had an eternal purpose of love and grace by which power he effectually works in them both to will and do. And hence it is, that in the gospel part of the Old and New Testament, we so frequently meet with exhortations, invitations, expostulations, and arguments used with the chiefest of sinners, and these backed with suitable promises and encouragements and also, on the other hand, there is an use made of counsel, admonition, and threatenings yea, and of the sharpest reproofs, to such as are obstinate and rebellious. do not say the gospel itself, strictly considered in its own nature, is compounded of these no, it is nothing but the blessed news, and glad tidings of salvation that is all of grace these, then, are sort of adjuncts, or necessary concomitants attending the ministry of the word, as it relates to some part of man's duty, who is always to be treated with as reasonable creature, and not as brute beast, or senseless machine. And therefore this way of reasoning, either with saints or sinners, is not to be discarded out of the ministry, nor slighted or turned to another meaning though, if might be allowed freedom of speech, think few handle these so usefully and distinctly, as to keep themselves and others clear from Arminianism, in its notion of the creature's power and liberty of will to do all that is required of sinner by the gospel-ministry and though they may not design this, yet the ignorant and unskilful part of their auditory perceive no difference betwixt Calvinists and Arminians, when upon awakening and practical subjects."  (pg. 61-62)

This is but a powerful extension of what he has already said.

Now, not to be repetitious with my comments, let me close this article with further citations from Skepp's valuable book.

Wrote Skepp:

"This then is what say, that exhortations to duty, moral or religious, either to saints or sinners, enforced by proper arguments and reasonings are not to be discarded, but carefully and distinctly used whilst still we, agreeably to scripture, maintain and defend the necessity of the DIVINE ENERGY, or the Holy Spirit's work of renovation, and efficacious grace these things being not at all repugnant, but agreeable and consistent, as appears in these words of the apostle, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," Philip, ii. 12, 13. Agreeably to which, good St. Austin frequently prayed, Lord, give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.""  (pg. 62-64)

"Thus it appears plain from the word, that, together with exhortations and rational arguments, used in the ministry, God puts forth an exceeding greatness of his mighty power, in and upon the souls of his elect, in their effectual calling and conversion..."  (pg.  64)

"Third place, God only affords them the external means and ministry, with many pressing arguments and exhortations but not putting forth his exceeding great and efficacious power upon their hearts, to enlighten, renew, and turn them to himself, they still remain in the gall of bitterness, and bands of their own iniquities and so they eternally perish. Therefore you hear him only reasoning with such, and exhorting them to duty, while, as to their parts, they wholly neglect and disregard the same. Thus, however, he calls Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked for the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords great God, mighty, and terrible, who respects not persons, nor taketh rewards," Deut. x. 16, 17 and yet the necessity of this heart circumcision appears from what the apostles and prophets jointly teach for, says Paul, He is not Jew who is one outwardly neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh but he is Jew, who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God," Rom. ii. 28, 29. Hence the Lord calls out by the prophet Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the fore-skins of your hearts, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings," Jer. iv. 3, 4. But these exhortations and reasonings being disregarded by them, and being also weak and ineffectual of themselves, they remained still in state of uncircumcision and alienation; upon which he threatens them severely by the same prophet..."  (pg. 65-66)

Wrote Skepp:

"Fourth branch of this second head and that is to shew, that God, upon man's neglect of duty, or contempt of gospel-grace and means, justly reproves, upbraids, and condemns the sinner for the same. Thus we find the Mediator and great Prophet raised up by God, under the character of Wisdom, calling and inviting people to come under his gospel-ministry, and upon their neglect and disobedience, upbraiding and threatening them with the saddest calamities How long, ye simple ones, will ye love folly and the scorners delight in their scornings, and fools hate knowledge Turn ye at my reproof: behold will pour out my Spirit unto you, will make known my words unto you. Because have called and ye refused, have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction as whirlwind when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then they shall call upon me, but will not answer they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me for that they hated knowledge, and did not chuse the fear of the Lord. They would none of my counsel they despised all my reproof therefore they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices," Prov. i. 32, to the 31st."   (71-72)

"Thus man's impotency, wilfulness, and impenitency appear and though it is declared by Christ, that none can come to him except it is given him from the Father," John vi. 44 65 and that some believed not, because they were none of hia sheep, chap. x. 26 which were to be brought to the knowledge and owning of him, as the true Messias, and Son of God, their Saviour yet he justly upbraids their neglect and unbelief, Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life," chap. v. 40: and although "this stone, Christ, was set for the fall, and for the rising again of many in Israel," Luke xi. 34 forasmuch as him self declares, that "for judgment he was come into this world, that they that see not, might see, and that those who see, might be made blind," John ix. 39 yet he justly upbraids those cities in which most of his mighty works were done, because they believed not Wo unto thee, Chorazin Wo unto thee, Bethsaida for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And thou, Capernaum, which art, (as to privilege,) exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell for if the mighty works done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day," Matt. xi. 20, &c. And now, how it came to pass, that the one had no such warning, nor exalted privilege and that among these who had, so many were left to themselves, having only the word ministered to them, but not attended with the exceeding greatness of the Divine power, to make it effectual and saving in the event, himself plainly declares, and confesses to the Father's glory thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father and no man knoweth the Son but the Father neither knovveth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him," Matt. xL 25, 26. Thus from these and the like testimonies, it is plain, that the same ministry is made powerful and efficacious unto some whereby it becomes savour of life unto life," Cor. ii. 16; i.e. first of grace and then of glory whereas to others it comes in word only, and not in power. Nor are we to imagine, that when God promises to give his people clean and new heart, that he intends it only of his concurrence and assistance in their making it new and clean, according to the letter of his command."  (pg. 74)

"But this may suffice as to the nature of moral suasion and the utmost it can effect as also that in conversion, God doth more than barely use arguments for he puts forth power with the word, and works in us what he, as to the internal part, requires of us; yet so as that he leaves all those wholly without just excuse, who have either wilfully despised or neglected the gospel-means."  (77-78)

"And therefore this impotency and inability of fallen man is set forth in scripture by divers metaphors, which bear very great resemblance and analogy thereunto and hence more generally, we are said To be weak and without strength, when Christ died for us," Rom. v. 5. Which weakness is intended of our inability to perform, what the exact holy law of God, though broken, yet requires of all mankind, and of which it will make no abatements, notwithstanding man, as fallen, is become bankrupt and poor helpless creature."  (79)

"Thus the elect at conversion receive the Spirit." (90)

"This departing of Satan for season, is owing to the common operations of the Spirit with the word, as the Holy Spirit is sent forth to be Spirit of conviction to world of sinners, wherever the word is purely and truly taught..."  (127-28)

"I shall next shew you how Christ proceeds under the gospel ministry to dispossess Satan totally, by not only casting him out, but by removing his people from under his power and dominion."  (129)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gill and Duty Faith - Postscript

On John 5: 40 Dr. Gill wrote in his commentary:

“Though man lies under such a disability and has neither power nor will of himself to come to Christ for life; yet his not coming to Christ, when revealed in the external ministry of the Gospel, as God’s way of salvation, is criminal and blameworthy; since the disability and perverseness of his will are not owing to any decree of God, but to the corruption and vitiosity of his nature through sin. And therefore, since this vitiosity of nature is blameworthy, that which follows upon it, and is the effect of it must be so too .”

"his not coming to criminal and blameworthy."  How much more evidence does one need to show that Dr. Gill, that great old Baptist, believed that rejection of the Gospel was sin or a thing to be condemned?  But, if this is granted, then acceptance of the Gospel becomes a duty.

Further, Dr. Gill says that "a coming to him by faith is here meant" and so teaches contrary to Hardshellism. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gill and Duty Faith

In "CALVINISM AND HYPER-CALVINISM: Mr. J. E. Cracknell's Reply To Mr. Wale's LETTER ON "MINISTERIAL APPEALS TO THE UNCONVERTED,""  (see here) a defense of duty faith is given in response to a Hyper Calvinist.  Here are some excepts. (emphasis mine)

"I now come to the sure word of prophecy. You are very decided in your statement that faith (saving faith) is not a duty. Allow me to ask is unbelief a sin? If you reply no, then I ask you to explain the following passages: "When He (the Holy Spirit) is come He will reprove the world of sin . . because they believe not on me." (John xvi. 8, 9.) "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of Out Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thes. i. 7, 9.) "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John iii. 19.) "He that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark xvi. 15) I know the meaning some would give to these passages in order to make them square (according to human reasoning) with other portions of the truth, but the plain teaching appears to be, that unbelief is a sin, the damning sin. If you admit this, what becomes of your statement that faith is not a duty? If it is a sin to reject Christ, is it not a duty to receive Him? If unbelief be a sin, then must not faith be a duty?

"This is God's commandment that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John iii. 23.) "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John vi. 29.) True, man has no power, but seeing that his inability arises from the corruption of his nature, the enmity and wickedness of his heart, his lack of power is sin, and for this he is justly condemned."

"Dr. Gill is generally quoted as being sound in the faith by those who hold the same views as yourself, but he distinctly states man's guilt is the greater for rejecting and despising the gospel. I quote the following from his writings :—

"Though such is the condition of man by the fall, that he cannot believe in Christ without the powerful influence of that divine grace which God is not obliged to communicate, yet it is not the withholding of that influence, or denying of that grace, which lays him under the necessity of not believing, but it is the corruption of his nature that lays and holds him in the chains of unbelief, and therefore his unbelief is not to be imputed to the want of this powerful influence, which God is not obliged to give, but to the enmity and wickedness of his heart, on which account he is justly blameworthy."

In a web page discussing the question of whether John Gill was a Hyper Calvinist, the writer cites Tom Nettles on the question with citations from Gill.  (see here)  One such citation is this:

"It is man’s duty to believe the word of the Lord, and obey his will, though he has not a power, yea, even though God has decreed to withhold that grace without which he cannot believe and obey. So it was Pharaoh’s duty to believe and obey the Lord, and let Israel go; though God had determined to harden his heart, that he should not let them go. However there are many things which may be believed and done by reprobates, and therefore they may be justly required to believe and obey; it is true, they are not able to believe in Christ to the saving of their souls, or to perform spiritual and evangelical obedience, but then it will be difficult to prove that God requires these things of them, and should that appear, yet the impossibility of doing them, arises from the corruption of their hearts, being destitute of the grace of God, and not from the decree of reprobation, which though it denies them that grace and strength, without which they cannot believe and obey in this sense, yet it takes none from them, and therefore does them no injustice."

Nettles then is cited as saying:

"Gill argues that the reprobate’s unbelief arises only from the corruption of his own nature. Man’s inability does not exempt him from any duty, though the grace of God alone can cure man of his impenitence and unbelief. The lack of grace causes neither. Unbelief arises from “the vitiosity and corruption of their hearts.'” When we see that God is pleased to withhold His grace from some men, He does not condemn them for a lack of grace, but He condemns them for their impenitence and unbelief. Even though they cannot repent and believe without efficacious grace, God is under no obligation to bestow it. To conclude otherwise would lead to an absurdity, i.e., because man is so corrupt he cannot be subject to the law without the aid of omnipotent power, it can be no sin in him to remain unsubjected to it."

"Gill even shows himself willing to affirm that “men are required to believe in Christ, to love the Lord with all their heart, to make themselves a new heart and a new spirit.”‘But it does not follow that men may do these things of themselves, and the exhortation to such only shows their desperate need of them and that they ought to apply to God for them.

He also believes that refusal to believe savingly aggravates guilt, a belief possible only on a platform of duty-faith.

For Gill, therefore, faith is not disjoined from man’s obligations to the law. Faith fulfills these obligations. Gill’s conviction kept him from rejecting duty-faith and duty-repentance and inspired in him a commitment to the necessity of evangelism.

Tom J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory, 2d ed. (Cape Coral Florida: Founders Press), 2006), 42-46. [Underlining mine; and footnotes from Nettles not included.]

One of the many verses that I believe uphold the duty faith position is this verse.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."  (Matthew 23: 23)

In commenting upon this verse Dr. Gill wrote:

""Faith" may not only design faithfulness in a man's keeping his word and promise, and fidelity to a trust reposed in him; but also faith in God, as the God of providence, and as the God of grace and mercy; believing in his word and promises, and worshipping him, which the law requires; and the rather this seems to be intended, because Luke, instead of "faith", puts "the love of God", which faith includes, and works by, and is the end of the commandment, arising from faith unfeigned: so that Christ instances in the weightier matters of both tables of the law, which these men neglected, and the latter, as well as the former; not believing the revelation of the Gospel, nor the Messiah, who was promised, and prophesied of by God, in the writings of the Old Testament: these ought ye to have done: more especially, and in the first place, as being of the greatest use and importance."

Gill clearly upholds it as the responsibility of all men to have faith in God.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

John Brine & Neo Hardshellism

In this posting I would like to compare the beliefs of John Brine, famous 18th century leader of English Hyper Calvinists, with those of today's "Primitive Baptists."  Many Hardshells consider John Brine of their camp, thinking that he represents their church's ancestral genealogy, an example that proves the existence of hardshellism in the 18th century.  Concerning the Bible doctrine of salvation, did John Brine believe as do today's Hardshells?  If John Brine were alive today, would he be recognized as sound and orderly by today's "Primitive Baptists"?  Would he condemn any of neo hardshellism's numerous errors?

Agreement Between Brine & Neo Hardshellism

1. The unregenerate are not under obligation to believe on Christ for salvation.

2. There is no well meant offer of salvation to all through the preaching of the Gospel (or God has not the least desire for the salvation of the non elect).

3. Regeneration precedes faith/conversion, the former being necessary for the latter.

4. The Spirit works apart from the preached word in regeneration but not in conversion.

Disagreement Between Brine & Neo Hardshellism

1. The unregenerate have a duty to believe all that God has revealed in his word, and to turn from their sins and to the Lord with a contrite heart.

2. All the elect will not only be regenerated but also converted to Christ by the Gospel.

3. All the elect will not only be regenerated and converted, but progressively sanctified, by faith, and made to endure or persevere unto the end.

4. Heathen people who die without knowledge of the Gospel are not of the elect.

Before I give citations from Brine to prove these points, I wish first to make these points:

1. The first Hardshells of the formative years of the 1830s and 1840s were not unified on duty faith and the well meant offer of the Gospel.

2. The first Hardshells also were not united on the use of the word in regeneration and conversion, most believing that regeneration was a three stage process, conversion being the birth that follows regeneration or conception.

3. The first Hardshells also were fairly unanimous in their belief that all the elect would hear the Gospel, and be converted by it, yet this is denied by most neo Hardshells.

4. Nearly all of today's Hardshells deny duty faith, the well meant offer of the Gospel, the Spirit's use of the Gospel in eternal salvation, and the necessity of Christian conversion for final salvation.

5. Nearly all the first Hardshells believed in progressive sanctification and perseverance, though most neo Hardshells repudiate those doctrines.

Condemned For Unbelief?

Brine took the negative in regard to the debate over "the modern question" and led the charge against those who espoused "duty faith," against those who affirmed that it is the moral duty and responsibility of all men to hear, believe, and obey the word of God, or to believe and repent in obedience to the Gospel for salvation.  In this he reflects the views of nearly all present day "Primitive Baptists," though not all of the original founders of this denomination agreed with Brine. In "Hardshell Antinomianism II," Chapter 176 of "The Hardshell Baptist Cult" (see here), I cite Elder Samuel Trott from "The Signs of the Times" periodical.  He wrote the following.

"On the other hand, I understand the Old School doctrine to be, that it is the duty of all rational beings to believe all God has spoken in the scriptures as they have access to them directly or indirectly, and to believe the testimony of the works of creation and providence, where the scriptures have not come. To disbelieve the record, which God hath given of His Son, is to make God a liar (I John 5:10;) and surely no person can do this and be guiltless. The obligation man is under thus to believe God, arises, not from any demand which the gospel as such peculiarly makes upon him, but from the nature and fitness of things, and from what God is. It is a law of our creation."

"On the other hand I have never been able to receive in all points as correct, the explanations which Doctor Gill and other sound brethren have given of it. There will be found some difference between the explanation of this subject which I have to give, and that given by Brother Beebe in No.14, more particularly in relation to John's preaching repentance; this difference I trust is not such as to break any bones."

"If on the other hand we suppose that the unregenerate are under no obligations to repent, we must consider them as justifiable in continuing on in their sins of whatever grade they may be. This I think none will admit; for there certainly are instances in the scriptures of unregenerated persons being exhorted or admonished to repent. The query then arises, Whence does this obligation to repent arise?"

This is the indictment against the deniers of duty faith.  If faith and repentance are not duties of lost sinners, then their disobedience cannot be sin or a thing to be condemned.

Wrote John Brine, as a introduction to chapter five:

"tis strange to suppose God to decree the Happiness of Men, upon Condition of Repentance and Faith, and yet determine to withhold those Means from them, which he foresees would bring them to Repentance and Faith."

In this section Brine affirms several propositions, the first of which says (emphasis mine):

1.That natural Repentance is a Duty inferrible from the Law, without the Supposition of a Revelation of Gospel Grace.

He is affirming, in this statement, that "natural" or legal repentance is an implied obligation to all who are under the law, to all who have violated it.  In other words, if you are convicted of sin by the law, it is your duty to repent of that sin.  Here Brine is clearly not an Antinomian.  He also clearly does not go as far to the extreme as most of today's Hardshells, for they deny that men have any duty at all to believe the Gospel and word of God, and that the non elect will not be condemned for their rejection of it.

He is also arguing, as did his teacher, Dr. John Gill, that evangelical faith and repentance cannot be the duty of any who have never heard the evangel.  The fact that millions die in heathendom who have never heard the word and Gospel of God, Brine argued in this chapter, is proof against the Arminian notion that God desires, and has made available, salvation to all.  Later, as we shall see, Brine addressed the question of the salvation of the heathen who die without Gospel knowledge.

But, before giving that information from Brine (from another source of Brine's writings), let me first cite these words from the foregoing source.  Brine wrote:

 2. It is certain, That that Law which obliges Men to adore God, as a Being of all possible and infinite Perfections, lays them under Obligation to assent to the Truth of what, at any Time, he shall please to reveal.

6. Men enjoying an external Revelation merely of Christ, are bound to believe the Truth of his Appearance in the World, and the Truth of those Doctrines relating to him, as a suffering Redeemer.

This is what Elder Trott affirmed as being the view of many of the first "Old School" Baptists, but is what is denied by nearly all of present day Hardshells.

Wrote Brine:

"Had not this Writer attempted to build up Arminianism, upon the Foundation of the Opinion of evangelical Repentance and special Faith, being the Duties of unregenerate Men, I had not given you and the World this Trouble, for tho’ I apprehend that Opinion is not to be supported by Scripture, and the Analogy of Faith, it seems not to me to be of such Consequence, but that Persons differing in this Point, may fully agree about the Doctrines of the Grace of God, tho’ those who are for the Affirmative may find it somewhat difficult to defend the Justice of God, in damning Men eternally, for not doing, what Man in no State, was furnished with a Power to do."
("The Certain Efficacy of the Death of Christ Asserted ..." - see here)

In Elder Trott's writing he also expressed his difference of opinion on this issue with Editor Beebe and some other "Old School" brethren, but he. like Brine, did not think it should be made an issue to break fellowship,

In another book, Brine deals with the state of the heathen apologetically against his stated Arminian adversary.  He wrote:

"Shews, that the State of the Heathen, is weighty Objection, to the Scheme of conditional Provision of Salvation made for all Mankind. " (chapter five page 215)

The ingenious Author of The Ruin and Recovery of Mankind, professedly treats of the State of the Heathen world;  but is very sparing in what he delivers on this Subject, which I imagine might arise from Consciousness, that their Circumstances, are very strong Objection to the Scheme, he endeavors to defend. In Fact at least, am strongly persuaded, it is so, whether he had any Apprehensions of it or not. For if conditional Provision of Salvation, is made for all Men without Exception, and if God really. intended to save every Individual of Mankind, on, Condition of Faith in Christ, Repentance and Renewal unto Holiness, it is reasonable to think, that God in his Providence, would take Care that the Revelation of this his Design should be as extensive, as the Design itself. For how can God expect Men to believe in his Son, if they never hear that there is such Person as Christ?

VIII. Wherever God hath any considerable Number of People whom he intends to save, he sends his, Gospel, as is clearly signified to the Apostle. No Man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for have much People in this City (g). And therefore in those Places where the Gospel is not preached, we have no Reason to think, that there are any considerable Number of Persons, for whom Salvation is design'd: Where there is such Number the Word of God is sent, they are gather'd in to Christ, Church State is set up, evangelical Institutions are practiced, and Gospel Privileges are enjoy'd.  (220-21)

IX. It is not to be dissembled, that the Arminians turn this Objection upon us, say they, if God designs to save some of all Nations and Families of the Earth, as you yourselves allow he does, it lies upon you to answer this Objection, as well as upon us. To which observe we are able to do it, upon our Principles, beyond any just Exception or Reply. For,

1. We maintain indeed, that God has elect Persons of every Nation but then its only known to him, who they are, and in what Ages they do or shall exist. These Persons he will either bring out of those dark Regions, into Places where the Light of the Gospel is, or he will send his Gospel to those Parts where they reside.

2. Tho God may not have any Persons, whom he designs to save, in this or that particular Nation, in this Century, or had not in some foregoing Centuries, he may have such among them, in succeeding Times, those Persons he will certainly call, and they shall enjoy the glorious Light of his Gospel, and if this is not accomplished, until the latter Day, when the Gospel shall have surprising Spread, and the Knowledge of the Lord shall cover the Earth, as the Waters do the Seas. This furnishes out no solid Objection to our Opinion, for if it hath not its Accomplishment before, it certainly shall have, when the Fulness of the Gentiles, shall be brought in.

"And no Man refuses to come to Christ, or believe in him, who receives gracious Instruction from, and is drawn by the Father."  (pg. 10)  (see here)

Now, have I shown how Brine and today's Hardshells differ?  Did he believe that all the elect would come to Christ and be converted?

Friday, November 6, 2015

J.M. Thompson's Neo Hardshellism

Elder J. M. THOMPSON, Hardshell leader and apologist, said the following in the Thompson Lawson Debate (see here).

"We believe that many who are regenerated are not believers in Christ."

This was said by Thompson in 1899.  How far removed from the truth of Scripture!  How far removed from what our old Baptist forefathers believed!  The view of Thompson was not even the view of the first generation of Hardshell leaders!