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?

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