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Jared Smith, Bits And Pieces

In the year 1999, I became the pastor of Bethesda Chapel, a Strict and Particular Baptist church[1] in London, England. I was a Moderate-Calvinist for the first ten years of my ministry, although I refused to identify with the Reformed Baptist Movement.[2] In the year 2010, the congregation came under internal and external pressures to adopt a plural eldership.[3] I resisted this pressure for scriptural, historical and practical reasons, but at the time, I was not well informed on the issues. Three years later, I completed an exhaustive study on the subject, resulting in an unpublished book, in excess of a thousand pages. My initial resistance to the Reformed Baptists’ views on plural elderships was confirmed and staunchly defended.

It was at that time, early in my research of the origin and development of the Strict and Particular Baptist churches in England, that I came across a surprising fact. Bethesda Chapel was organized around Hyper-Calvinist views.[4] What is more, Bethesda Chapel belonged to a large circle of churches which subscribed to the same teachings. Needless to say, I was startled by this information, especially because I had been told by the Moderate-Calvinists that Hyper-Calvinism is a false gospel, embraced only by those who have lost all measure of common sense and biblical balance. But if that were true, then how could so many Strict and Particular Baptist churches have subscribed to those teachings? And, what exactly were those teachings which made them Hyper-Calvinists? Thus began my journey in grace, leading to deeper and sharper views of the gospel of Christ.

During the early part of this journey, I frequently got lost in the details of the issues, often ending with much confusion and frustration. I therefore changed my approach—first, discover God’s masterplan for the ages, then, consider how the details fit into that overview. I was familiar with the elaborate charts of Dispensationalism drawn up by men such as Scofield and Larkin. Although I did not agree with that framework of history and doctrine, I appreciated the way those teachings were illustrated. I was also familiar with the intricate diagrams of Covenantalism drawn up by men such as Perkins and Bunyan. Although I did agree with this framework of history and doctrine, it did not set out the teachings in the exact way I understood them. I therefore began the lengthy process of drawing up my own diagrams, none of which provided a sufficient or accurate overview of the gospel. Eventually, while studying the scriptures, I was captured by the analogy of a potter and the clay. I wondered whether this picture could serve as an overview of God’s masterplan. I gathered together all scriptural references to the analogy, after which two texts stood out with distinction—Romans 9 and 2 Timothy 2. Within minutes, a diagram of the potter and the clay took shape, with every word of both texts fitting perfectly together in what appeared to illustrate the grand scheme of God’s purpose in creation and redemption. Having secured this basic overview of history and theology, I returned to the detailed issues of sovereign grace. To my delight, every branch of theology, together with every event of history, fit perfectly together. Only then did I begin a careful study of John Gill’s “Doctrinal and Practical Body of Divinity”. It was a joy to discover the close alignment between the diagram and Gill’s teachings. This diagram became known as the Framework of Sovereign Grace.[5]

By the year 2014, I fully embraced the viewpoints of Hyper-Calvinism, using as a teaching tool the Framework of Sovereign Grace for my private and public ministries. Such was my passion to help others on their journey with the Lord, that I began the slow and tedious project of modernizing each chapter of Gill’s Divinity. Over the next four years, I completed a large portion of this work. However, in 2018 the project came to a grinding halt. This was largely due to a season of discouragement, having not received much support from peers or elder ministers. It was around that time I spoke with Don Fortner[6] regarding an unrelated matter. In the course of the conversation, I made an indirect reference to the work I was undertaking with Gill’s writings. Bro Fortner explained he had been asked by a publisher, several years prior, to do a similar project on Gill’s Divinity, but that he declined the request for three reasons. First, tampering with Gill’s writings will necessarily change his intended meaning—it is best to leave the reader to interpret the original text; Second, it is impossible for an editor to modernize Gill without his own prejudices standing in the way—it is best to let Gill represent himself in his own words; Third, a gospel preacher should focus on communicating his own convictions, rather than echoing that of others—people want to know what you (the living preacher before them) believes. Bro Fortner suggested it is far better to present to others my view of the gospel, rather than rewriting the works of Gill.

As one might imagine, my initial feeling to Bro Fortner’s feedback was not that of encouragement. Had my time and effort for four years been in vain? I sat on Bro Fortner’s counsel for several months, not knowing what I should do next. Around that time, I was conversing with another preacher on some of Gill’s teachings. We took different views on Gill’s position. However, having already meticulously examined and rewritten every line of Gill’s chapter on the subject, I was well informed on his point of view. I explained this in some detail, ending with my friend conceding the issue. It was then I realized, the time and effort given to modernizing Gill’s Divinity was intended by the Lord to be a benefit to me, rather than to others. The last four years of work was not in vain. Like a warm blanket on a cold night, there was a peace that ran over my soul which to this day remains a stay and comfort. Bro Fortner was correct! I would not meddle with Gill’s writings, unless it be strictly for personal use.

Four years later, in the year 2022, I began teaching a series of studies on Bible Doctrine. The first twenty to thirty sessions are preliminary in nature, dealing with the significance of systematic theology, establishing definitions for commonly used labels and setting forth a historic backdrop of the Strict and Particular Baptists. After these preliminary studies are finished, I will begin examining the major branches of theology. As a supplement to these teachings, I will be aligning the chapters of Gill’s Divinity with my own studies on those topics. Not only will this provide a helpful resource to venture deeper into the various branches of the gospel, but it can also serve as a guide to the teachings of Gill. I will be showing how each of Gill’s chapters fit within the Framework of Sovereign Grace. In this way, I hope to honor Bro Fortner’s counsel—to present my view of the gospel, while promoting Gill’s Body of Divinity, without making changes to his writings.

If the Lord is pleased to make any part of my gospel labor profitable to the souls of His people, then I will find the utmost joy in knowing my work in the Lord is not in vain.

Jared Smith

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[1] Bethesda Chapel, Kensington Place, organized in 1866. In the early 1870’s, the first pastor of the church (David Crumpton) spearheaded the inception of the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches. Between the 1870’s and the 1950’s, virtually all of the churches belonging to the Association were Hyper-Calvinists. I believe William Styles was the Secretary of this Association in the latter part of the 19th century. In his “Guide to Church Fellowship”, he points out on pages 78,79, “Duty-faith is the doctrine that it is the duty of natural men to exercise spiritual Faith in the Lord Jesus, and so to obtain salvation. Its emphatic denial is a distinguishing feature of the Strict and Particular section of the Baptist denomination.”
[2] Dr. Kenneth Dix (Baptist Historian) traced the Reformed Baptist Movement to the 1950’s, with the influences of such men as Ian Murray, Sidney Norton and Erroll Hulse. Together with the publications of the Banner of Truth Magazine (Est 1955) and Reformation Today (Est 1970), Baptist churches were Presbyterianized and the “Hyper” elements of Calvinism repressed.
The Reformed Baptists eventually commandeered the Strict and Particular Baptist chapels, revising their…

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A Body Of Doctrinal And Practical Divinity
Or,
A System Of Practical Truths Deduced From The Sacred Scriptures
By John Gill
1815

Preface

John Gill was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England, on November 23rd, 1697. At age 12, he was converted to Christ under the preaching ministry of William Wallis. However, he waited six years before agreeing to be baptized, after which he became a member of his local church. At the age of 23, he was inducted as pastor of the Strict and Particular Baptist Horselydown church, the office of which he held until his death on October 14th, 1771. His 50 year pastoral ministry was accompanied by a prolific written ministry. He was the first Baptist to write an exhaustive theological treatise, which remains the definitive statement on Baptist doctrine to date.

Particular Baptist history has been treated in modern times, in much the same way present-day journalists report the news—it is skewed according to one’s prejudicial viewpoint. I am old enough to remember a time when ethical standards required historians and journalists to report the facts, without bias or bigotry. Objectivity is no longer the goal, leaving us with fake news and fake history.

Here is a case in point. Moderate-Calvinists (particularly, the Reformed Baptists) view Particular Baptist history as a single stream of Moderate-Calvinism to which the majority of churches belonged. Every now again, a small number of these churches would fall outside the mainstream, chasing after “hyper” views of Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism, therefore, is unorthodox in teaching, and does not directly share in the mainstream heritage of the Particular Baptists.

As you can see, by framing the history in this form, the Moderate-Calvinists are able to deny the Hyper-Calvinists a legitimate existence among the Particular Baptists, thereby giving themselves the high ground when denouncing Hyper-Calvinism as a false gospel. It should be evident to every objective researcher, that if a historian is driven by a bias to undermine the views of others, then he/she is a partisan and disingenuous reporter. A historian should not seek to denigrate and/or deny the existence of other groups, in an effort to defend his/her own doctrinal convictions. Yet this tends to be the modus operandi of the Moderate-Calvinists.

What does an unbiased and objective view of Particular Baptist history look like?

The origin of the Particular Baptists in England dates back to the early 17th century. There is manifold evidence the churches of that time were widely split on many issues, including that of moderate and hyper views of Calvinism. Of course, at that time, these issues had not yet been refined by the controversies, and therefore no clearcut definitions established. This changed in 1707, when a Congregational minister named Joseph Hussey published a book against free offers of the gospel. It is naive to believe Hussey invented this view, or that he was the only man to hold the view at the time of his publication. As is the case today, views generally tend to be held by others before someone articulates them in writing. It is interesting to note, that when Hussey published his book, there was a ready people among the Particular Baptist churches who had ears to hear and eyes to see the scripturalness of that position. Sixty-two years later, John Gill published his Doctrinal Body of Divinity in 1769, which not only affirmed the teachings of Hussey on the matter, but also set those teachings within an iron-clad framework of Covenant Theology. Suddenly, a clear line was drawn among the Particular Baptist churches. A large number of congregations subscribed to Gill’s view, and became known as Hyper-Calvinists, or Gillites. As for the other congregations, a Baptist preacher named Andrew Fuller articulated their views in a book entitled, “The Gospel Worthy Of All Acceptation”, published in 1785. These churches became known as Moderate-Calvinists, or Fullerites. Far from there being a single stream of Particular Baptist churches embracing Moderate-Calvinism, there were two mainstreams, one subscribing to high views of grace, the other to moderate views of grace. However, it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that these doctrinal differences were clearly defined in the writings of John Gill and Andrew Fuller.

My dear friends, this is an unbiased and objective view of Particular Baptist history. Both groups of Calvinists have existed side by side from the beginning. There is no need to revise history in order to gain the high ground over one or the other of these groups. Let us recognize the legitimacy of both, having their roots among the Particular Baptists of the 17th century, and from this historic standpoint, discuss the doctrinal differences between them. This, of course, brings us to John Gill’s Body of Divinity. It is my hope and prayer the teachings of Gill will be examined with an unbiased mind and unprejudiced heart, judging for one’s self, in the light of the scriptures, whether those things be true or false.[1]

“Let every [person] be fully persuaded in [his/her] own mind.”

Jared Smith

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[1] The label “Hyper-Calvinist” has a historic and theological meaning, revolving around three controversial issues:
(1) Duty Faith—Arminians believe it is the saving and moral duty of the unregenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls; Moderate-Calvinists believe it is the moral duty of the unregenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls; Hyper-Calvinists believe only those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, and therefore brought experientially under the authority of the covenant of grace, have a saving and moral duty to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls.
(2) Free Offer—Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists believe since it is the saving/moral duty of the unregenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls, so the gospel must be freely offered to all sinners in order to give them the opportunity to accept God’s gift unto salvation; Hyper-Calvinists believe since it is the saving/moral duty of the regenerate to believe on Christ to the saving of their souls, so the gospel should be freely and fully preached to all sinners, and those who are given ears to hear will hear.
(3) Believer’s Rule of Conduct—Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists believe the regenerate’s rule of conduct is either the heart law under the authority of the covenant of works, or the moral law (ten commandments) under the authority of the Mosaic covenant; Hyper-Calvinists believe the regenerate’s rule of conduct is the gospel law under the authority of the covenant of grace.
The label “Hyper-Calvinism” also has a modern and erroneous meaning. The Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists exchange the aforementioned definitions for a set of self deductions. They argue—if Hyper-Calvinists do not believe saving faith is the duty of unregenerate sinners, this means they don’t believe faith is necessary in salvation (or that unbelief is a sin); if Hyper-Calvinists do not believe in the free offer of the gospel, then they do not nurture a love for souls or preach the gospel to unbelievers; if Hyper-Calvinists do not believe the moral law (ten commandments) is the rule for a believer’s conduct, then they are Antinomians. Although none of these deductions are true, yet they are the definitions Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists attach to Hyper-Calvinism.
If one wishes to know what a Hyper-Calvinist believes, it is a wise policy to speak with a Hyper-Calvinist.

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Arminians evangelize, right? Low-Calvinists evangelize, right? Moderate-Calvinists evangelize, right? Hyper-Calvinists don’t evangelize, right? Wrong! The Hyper-Calvinists are the only persons who evangelize. The other groups proselyte. In a recent study on Hyper-Calvinism[1], I distinguished between evangelizing and proselyting.

In his book, “Hyper-Calvinism”: Is It True?”, Stanley Philipps differentiates between the two systems. On page 63, he writes:

“(Proselytizing and evangelizing are not the same thing! Modern “evangelism” is a misnomer – it is blatant “proselytizing.”) The Hyper-calvinists never utilized man-made institutions to improve on God’s Word. They never turned to the world of the ungodly for financial support or for church members. Finding no “free offer” – not even once – in the Scripture, they give none. To them, the true Gospel is a…

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High-Calvinism may be defined as that set of teachings which denies duty faith, rejects the free offer and renounces the moral law as a rule of conduct for the believer’s life. Stated positively, High-Calvinism is that set of teachings which promotes the preaching to all sinners of a full, free and fruitful gospel. By a full gospel, I mean it is the good news of the three branches of the gracious covenant—the electing love of the Father, the redeeming grace of the Son and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. It is on this basis we reject the pernicious doctrine of the free offer. By a free gospel, I mean there are no conditions or requirements placed upon the sinner in order for him/her to be born again. It is on this basis we reject the pernicious doctrine of duty faith. By a fruitful gospel, I mean the rule for the believer’s life is his/her spiritual union with Christ (the gospel law), wherein He is made all things to His people, the Spirit of God infusing the graces of Christ into the soul. It is on this basis we reject the moral law as a rule of conduct for the Christian life. In essence, High-Calvinism understands the masterplan of God for the ages to revolve around two perpetual covenants (that of works of grace), and all members of the human race are responsible to God under one or the other of these covenants.

Now, the foregoing definition does not satisfy the Arminians and Moderate-Calvinists, for they do not understand its meaning. As they approach the gospel from a free will perspective, failing to grasp the significance of the covenants, they interpret High-Calvinism from a humanistic standpoint, thereby drawing the erroneous dichotomy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. From this false presupposition, they proceed to create a caricature of High-Calvinism, describing its adherents as those who…

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What Is Hyper-Calvinism? This same question appears as the title for an article written by Ronald Hanko for the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA). You may view the full article here.

Hanko admits that his group (PRCA) is often maliciously charged with being hyper-Calvinists, because it rejects the well-meant offer of the gospel. However, he argues the historic definition for hyper-Calvinism is restricted to those who deny the doctrine of duty-faith, rather than those who reject the free-offer. He writes,

“Historically, the name has been applied to those who deny that the command of the gospel to repent and believe must be preached to all who hear the gospel.”

He goes on to explain:

“A hyper-Calvinist (historically and doctrinally) is…one who believes rightly in sovereign, double predestination and in particular redemption – who denies a universal love of God and a will of God to save all men. Yet he concludes wrongly that because God has determined who will be saved, sent Christ for them only, and gives to them salvation as a free gift, therefore only the elect should be commanded to repent and believe in the preaching of the gospel. This, we believe, is a serious error. It is an error that effectively destroys both gospel preaching and evangelism – an error that must be avoided.”

My Response:

First, I appreciate Hanko’s effort to distance himself from a fringe group of Calvinists often maligned as “hypers”. After all, who would want to be identified with those who have presumably pushed the gospel beyond the boundary? Having said that, the article leaves me questioning whether Hanko has a clear enough understanding to write against hyper-Calvinism.

Second, if it be true that mainstream Calvinism has historically rejected the well-meant offer of the gospel, then he makes a strong case that the PRCA cannot be called hyper-Calvinists. However, I do not believe he is correct on the matter. Mainstream Calvinism, especially that of the last few hundred years, has subscribed in one form or another to…

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Those who follow my teaching ministry will know that I am not a fan of Gospel Tracts, such as the Romans Road to Salvation or the Sinner’s Bridge of Salvation. First, these tracts misrepresent the gospel and the sinner’s duty towards God; Second, these tracts are designed to serve as proselyting tools, rather than evangelistic helps; Third, these tracts are used as crutches by those who do not have the knowledge or confidence to speak the truth in their own words.

I have been asked on occasion (in various ways), “If you do not believe Gospel Tracts should be used for evangelism, then how would you present the simplicity of the gospel, during a five minute visit at the hospital, to an unregenerate sinner on his/her deathbed?”

First, I would point out to the one asking the question that the salvation of the one on his/her deathbed does not depend on me sharing the gospel to him/her. If that person is numbered among God’s elect people, then he/she is already set apart as a special object of the Father’s love. Likewise, that person has already been freely justified by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. All that remains is the…

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Churches are among the only communities in the world which view ‘elders’ as an appointed or elected office. The universal and historically recognized meaning of the term refers to unofficial leaders of a community, distinguished by their age, wisdom, wealth and influence. They are not appointed or elected to an office of eldership. Rather, they assume an…

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One of the reasons many Reformed believers assert it is the duty of all sinners to savingly believe on Christ is because they distinguish between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. They believe the covenant of redemption was made between the Father, the Son and the Spirit from eternity, whereas the covenant of grace is made between Jehovah and the sinner in time. They view the covenant of redemption as existing in the background of God’s plan for the ages, whereas the covenant of grace is set in the foreground of man’s responsibility for today.

R. C. Sproul outlined this view in his book, “What Is Reformed Theology”. He explained Reformed Theology is primarily concerned with three major covenants—the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

With reference to the covenant of redemption, page 127:

“The first covenant we consider in the scope of Reformed theology does not directly include human beings, but is nevertheless critically important. The covenant of redemption involves the parties who work together to effect human redemption: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This covenant is rooted in eternity.”

With reference to the covenant of works, pages 128,129:

”The initial covenant God made with mankind was a covenant of works. In this covenant, according to the Westminster Confession, “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” It is important to note that a “condition” is attached to this first covenant. The condition is personal and perfect obedience. This is a condition of works, and this is the covenant’s chief stipulation. Life is promised as a reward for obedience, for satisfying the condition of the covenant.”

With reference to the covenant of grace, pages 131,132:

“The Westminster Confession declares this about the covenant of grace: ‘Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.’

Perhaps the chief difference between the covenant of grace and the first covenant, and the reason why it is called a covenant of grace, is that this covenant is made between God and sinners. The covenant of works was made between God and his unfallen creatures. Once that covenant was violated and the fall had occurred, mankind’s only hope was rooted totally in grace.”

In an effort to help the reader better understand the relationship between these three covenants, Sproul includes this diagram:

Here is my response:

First, I wish to highlight my view of the covenants.

1. A covenant is an agreement between two or more people, with certain obligations binding them together. There are three parts to every covenant—(1) the parties; (2) the conditions; (3) the rewards/penalties.

2. Every relationship is based upon the authority of a covenant. Whether it be the relationship between a husband and wife, or parent and child, or friend and friend, or citizen and…

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In an article entitled, “The Need For Persuasion In The Preaching Of The Gospel”, Peter Masters wrote:

“The hyper-Calvinist regards the regenerating work of the Spirit as a total and complete work of conversion carried on in the heart by the Spirit in a direct manner…Believing that the whole of regeneration and conversion is accomplished by a direct work of the Spirit in the heart, and that repentance and faith are the fruit and evidence of a soul already saved, the preacher has no exhortation left to make!”

This is a classic Reformed (Fullerite) Baptist position. I respond:

First, the “hyper-Calvinist” does believe the regenerating work of the Spirt is total and complete.

Second, the “hyper-Calvinist” does believe that repentance and faith are the fruit and evidence of a soul already saved.

Third, the “hyper-Calvinist” distinguishes between the work of regeneration and that of conversion—regeneration is the Spirit of God working in the sinner both to will and to do of His good pleasure (impartation of a new nature); conversion is the…

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Winning Souls

15 May 2019, by

This teaching video is part of a daily series I publish entitled “Daily Breads”. Selected videos are uploaded to the online resources of the AHB.

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