05 January 2022 by Published in: Jared Smith, Bible Doctrine No comments yet

A Transcript Of The Video Study

In our previous study, I introduced to you several prominent men and women belonging to the Strict and Particular Baptists of past centuries. The question which now arises—Do the Strict and Particular Baptists have a framework of doctrine around which they organize their teachings?

The answer is yes, they do have a framework of doctrine, which can be extracted from their writings. Now, in my view, these writings should be arranged under one of two general categories—First, the 17th and 18th century preachers, who tended to approach the gospel doctrinally and systematically; Second, the 19th and 20th century preachers, who seemed to be more inclined to approach the gospel practically and experientially. Of course, this is not a hard line of division, for both sets of preachers were doctrinal and practical in their gospel ministries. However, it seems to me that those who ministered during the 17th and 18th centuries gave more attention to the mind and concentrated their efforts on the explanation of truth, whereas those who ministered during the 19th and 20th centuries gave more attention to the heart and focused on the application of truth. I believe the writings of men such as Skepp, Gill and Brine suggest they were largely concerned with how the branches of the gospel fit together as a whole. They seem to be addressing the problem of ignorance, providing instructions to the mind and therefore placing an emphasis on the explanation of the gospel. On the other hand, the writings of men such as Gadsby, Philpot and Booth suggest they were largely concerned with how the branches of the gospel apply to the soul. They seem to be addressing the problem of intellectualism and cold formalism, challenging the heart and therefore placing greater emphasis on the application of the gospel.

Now, if we are searching for a framework of doctrine around which the Strict and Particular Baptists understand the gospel, then we will discover that framework among their writings which fall under one of these two categories.

Let’s begin with the first heading—the doctrinal and systematic approach to the gospel among the 17th and 18th century preachers. The name which dominates the list and whose works have been the most influential among the Strict and Particular Baptists is John Gill. Of all his writings, there are two which stand out as doctrinal masterpieces and have served as the basic framework around which succeeding Strict and Particular Baptists have understood the gospel.

The first of these writings is Gill’s Body of Divinity. Two years before his death, in 1769, he published a two volume set of Doctrinal Divinity. The year after, he published another two volume set of Practical Divinity. So thorough and comprehensive are these volumes on systematic theology, that they have stood the test of time, remaining to this day one of the best articulations and arrangements of Bible doctrine. By far, this is the leading resource which underscores and outlines the Strict and Particular Baptist framework of doctrine.

The second of these writings is Gill’s Confession of Faith. Forty years before he wrote his Body of Divinity, he drew up a new statement of faith called the “Goat Yard Declaration Of Faith” (1729). This statement of faith is a summary of what would later become Gill’s Body of Divinity. Unsurprisingly, it is on the basis of the Goat Yard Declaration that the Strict and Particular Baptist churches of subsequent generations drew up their own confessional statements. Invariably, you will discover all Strict and Particular Baptist churches either adopted verbatim Gill’s confession of faith, or used the Goat Yard Declaration as a template with minor alterations.

I think you will agree with me, if we are searching for a framework of doctrine around which the Strict and Particular Baptists understand the gospel, then that framework will be discovered quite easily among the writings which come under this first category of a doctrinal and systematic approach to the gospel. However, this is not the only way to discover the framework of doctrine among the Strict and Particular Baptists. We may also turn to their writings which come under the second heading—a practical and experiential approach to the gospel. Of course, locating a framework of doctrine among this type of writings will require a little more effort on our part. This type of approach does not easily lend itself to a systematic overview of gospel truth. Having said that, it is certainly possible to uncover a theological framework which undergirded the experiential teachings of these writings.

First, a framework of doctrine may be found among the sermons they preached. The more popular sermons would be those of William Gadsby, Joseph Philpot, James Wells and John Hazelton. Of course, as it was their goal to approach the gospel experientially, you will find these preachers putting an emphasis on the believer’s heart, examining the nature and depth of one’s depravity, and exploring how the gospel is applied to the soul by the effectual power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, behind these applications, often implied rather than explicitly stated, there is a skeleton, or framework of truth, which holds together the substance of their experiential teachings.

Second, a framework of doctrine may be found among the thousands of articles they wrote and which were published in the leading magazines of that day. Whether it be the Gospel Herald, the Gospel Standard or the Earthen Vessel, these Strict and Particular Baptist preachers were zealous to contend for the faith. But again, even when these preachers tackled tough theological subjects, they often approached them experientially, rather than doctrinally. With such writings, we must look behind the applications, to the structure which holds them together, if we are to discover a framework of doctrine.

Third, a framework of doctrine may be found in various books they wrote in response to the controversial issues of their day. For instance, John Foreman wrote a very good book against the pernicious teachings of Duty Faith, as did John Stevens, and several other prominent preachers. Now, I must say, when it comes to these types of writings, the 18th and 19th century preachers did approach the topics doctrinally, rather than experientially. However, in my estimate, some of these men were out of their depth writing on such topics. Because they were experiential preachers, their minds were ill equipped to tackle doctrinal issues in a logical and systematic form. Having said that, it is certainly worth reading these books, as you will be able to trace out a framework of doctrine.

Now, there are three other types of writings which are often overlooked and neglected, but are actually among the most valuable resources under this second heading. You see, it is because these preachers approached the gospel experientially, that they excelled in writings which touched on the personal and intimate matters of the heart. Henceforth,

Fourth, a framework of doctrine may be found among the biographies they authored. Of course, a biography is a record of a person’s life experiences. Need I say, an experiential preacher is well equipped to recount the life experiences of other people? Take, for instance, William Styles’ biography of John Hazelton. What a beautiful overview of Hazelton’s life, with the leading theme of a good and sovereign God administering grace to an object of His special love. Or, take the autobiography of John Kershaw, “Memorials Of The Mercies Of A Covenant God”. I cannot think of a richer and more edifying autobiography than his. But of course, there is one which comes close to it—the autobiography of John Chandler, “Forty Years In The Wilderness”. It is the story of a group of Strict and Particular Baptists who sailed from England to Australia in order to begin a new life and pioneer a gospel work. Yes, you will certainly be able to draw out from these biographies the basic outline of teachings around which the Strict and Particular Baptists understood the gospel.

Fifth, a framework of doctrine may be found among the letters they wrote. A letter is an intensely personal form of communication, allowing the writer to express private thoughts and intimate feelings. If ever these experiential preachers were given a platform to excel in their practical approach to the gospel, it was on this stage of letter writing. They nurtured a deep and thorough understanding of their own hearts by nature, as well as their new life in Christ. Take, for instance, the letters of William Gadsby, or those of Joseph Philpot, or those of William Tiptaft—each and every private correspondence is the opening of their hearts before the Lord, with a magnification of the gospel and the glory of God in Christ given the preeminence. Yes, you can extract from these letters the framework of doctrine around which the Strict and Particular Baptists understood the gospel.

Sixth, a framework of doctrine may be found among the hymns they composed. A hymn is a poetic composition designed to be sung in praise and honor of the TriUne Jehovah. Because these men and women approached the gospel experientially, they were especially equipped to write songs of worship which express the feelings and experiences of God’s people. And you know, because every hymn is based upon a framework of teachings, you are able to discover that framework if you simply take the time to carefully study the words of each hymn. Take, for instance, a hymn written by Richard Burnham—observe how practical and experiential the lines are, yet behind each line is a framework of doctrine which gives stability and unity to the whole hymn:

1 Jesus is a wise Physician,
Skilful and exceeding kind;
Through Him sinners find remission,
And enjoy sweet peace of mind.

2 Moved with tenderest compassion,
He relieves the wounded heart;
And the richest consolation,
His blest Spirit does impart.

3 This Physician understandeth,
All disorders of the soul;
And no payment He demandeth,
When He makes the wounded whole.

4 Come, ye souls, who now are sighing,
Under guilt’s distressing chains;
To the Saviour now be flying,
He will ease you of your pains.

5 What though bad is your condition,
And your wounds you can’t endure?
He, the sinner’s wise Physician,
Will effect a perfect cure.

Do the Strict and Particular Baptists have a framework of doctrine? Yes, they do. However, if you want to discover that framework, then you would do well to study their writings under these two headings. And may I say, as I close this study, that there is a helpful life lesson that we may gather from these two approaches to the gospel. Should we not, in our own walk with the Lord, give attention to the mind and the heart? Ah, my dear friends, we need to approach the gospel doctrinally and systematically, that we may address the problem of our own ignorance of gospel truth. But at the same time, we must also approach the gospel practically and experientially, that we may address the problem of our own intellectualism and cold orthodoxy. Would you not agree, a gospel ministry which is able to instruct your mind by an explanation of the gospel, as well as challenge your heart by an application of the gospel, is the type of ministry which would be most conducive for your growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, if you cannot find that balance under a single gospel minister, then you may wish to supplement that which is lacking by listening to other gospel preachers in addition to the man under whom you regularly attend. For remember, every gospel preacher has his gift and measure of grace, and while one plants and another waters the gospel seed, yet it is God who gives the increase. And may He be pleased to increase the strength and maturity of our souls, as we come under the ministry of His gospel preachers.

I would like to wish upon you every blessing of the Lord and I look forward meeting you again for our next study.

Jared Smith



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