Jared Smith On Various Issues

3. The High-Calvinist Churches Were Lifeless And The Particular Baptists Were Dying?


John Piper points out:

“One of Fuller’s critics, John Martin, Pastor at Grafton Street, Westminster wrote, “Sinners in my opinion, are more frequently converted, and believers more commonly edified, by a narrative of facts concerning Jesus Christ, and by a clear, connected statement of the doctrines of grace, and blessings of the gospel, than by all the expectations and expostulations that were ever invented. (Quoted in Morden, Offering Christ, p. 57.) But in fact, the Hyper-Calvinists were not passionately telling the narrative of the gospel story to the lost and were opposed to the new mission to India. Peter Morden points out that “The prevalence of high Calvinism had led not only to a refusal to ‘offer Christ’ but also to a general suspicion of all human ‘means’, such as ministerial training and associating” (Morden, Offering Christ, p. 45). The effect of this rationalistic distortion of the biblical Calvinism was that the churches were lifeless and the denomination of the Particular Baptists was dying.”

Baptist historian Kenneth Dix would disagree with this characterization of High-Calvinism and the Particular Baptists. In an article entitled, “Varieties Of High-Calvinism Among Nineteenth Century Particular Baptists”, Dix wrote:

“The nineteenth-century Strict Baptists believed the distinctive doctrines they held so firmly were rooted in scripture. They were also fully persuaded that in the stand they were making for restricted communion, and against free offer/duty faith teaching, they were doing the will of God. They were convinced that high-Calvinism was Biblical truth. The assumption is commonly made that high-Calvinism destroys or stifles all efforts to promote missionary or evangelistic endeavour. In the case of the Strict Baptists in Suffolk, in London, in many other parts of the country, and in a good measure in the life and witness of Gadsby, this was not true. These men certainly refused to offer the gospel, but they still proclaimed it: they studiously avoided calling on men to believe, but they clearly taught the necessity of faith. They may not have said ‘whosoever will’, but one of their favourite hymns was ‘Come ye sinners, poor and wretched’. And interestingly, J.C. Philpot, who was arguably the highest Calvinist of them all, did not use high-Calvinistic arguments in his opposition to associations or missions. His opposition centred on the leaders in these movements, on those sending and sent, on whether or not they belonged to the living family of God, on whether or not they were the true recipients of the grace of God. The ground of his opposition was experience, not Calvinistic doctrine…High-Calvinism, therefore, does not necessarily sound the death knell to mission and all evangelistic activity. It may not have been the only reason why it was necessary for John Sutcliff and Andrew Fuller to stir the Particular Baptist churches out of their lethargy. After all, William Gadsby was a fervent anti-Fullerite – he was also a fervent supporter of Sunday Schools!”

Stanely Phillips would also disagree with Piper’s representation of High-Calvinism. In his book, “Hyper-Calvinism”, Phillips writes (Page 69-73):

“There were no mission institutions among Baptists prior to the Haystack Kid’s Prayer-meeting in Kittering, England in 1792. These over-zealous disciples of Andrew Fuller’s novelty pressed so hard for sending the Arminian “Gospel” to the East, that Fuller, William Carey, and others formed the first mission society among Baptists on October 2, 1792. Any clear-thinking reader should realize that some other method of Gospel publication must have been in place prior to Oct. 2, 1792! William Carey and his fellows is said to have “prayed down a spirit of missionism from heaven.” Where was that “Spirit” before the Haystack meetings? We are exhorted to “try the spirits,” and we are taught that “by their fruits ye shall know them.” This modern religion’s principles cannot stand that examination. This is eighteen hundred years too late to be considered Scriptural! When these “Missionaries” arrived in India, guess what? There were Christians there to meet them! One seldom hears of that! They had the Gospel of Thomas long before the Missionaries arrived! Two years earlier, John Aspund had printed his Register Of The Baptist Denomination In North America, which listed all Baptist churches in the new Republic; the dates of their constitution, number and names of their ministers, number of members, the State, territory, and county of their location, and, most significantly, what doctrinal persuasion they each held. In 1790, all States in the Union had numerous churches; and doctrinally, ninety-three percent stated that they were of the Calvinists’ persuasion! Only seven percent were Arminian, and NONE WERE PELAGIAN! Not one of them was established by a “missionary”; none had ever been a “mission station,” and ALL had been planted by individuals gathering together to worship or by itinerate or established ministers! In 1790, ALL ministers of the Gospel felt bound by their calling to preach the Gospel freely to others than their own churches. Baptists’ churches expected this of their ministers. This is evident by their ordination charge “to preach wheresoever God in His providence cast your lot.” As it is written in the Book of Acts, “They went everywhere preaching the Word.” The very fact that the overwhelming number of ministers and churches were Calvinists, clearly demonstrates that the Gospel was being preached to sinners by these Hyper-calvinist ministers. [Hyper-calvinists, in the sense that (1) they were “Baptists,” going beyond John Calvin; and (2) they did not utilize what is today termed “missionism.” And (3) they believed in Holy Spirit regeneration of all the elect for whom Christ died! They certainly were not preaching freewillism as a “Gospel”!]

The only form of the word for “evangelist” used in the Scripture is “euaggelistes,” which means “a preacher of the Gospel.” It is derived from the Greek word “euaggelizo,” which means “to announce good news.” Itinerate preaching by Hyper-calvinists is exactly this, and this only! It is the announcement, or publication of salvation by Christ’s atoning death. That, dear reader is the Gospel—not “a free offer.” It is a finished salvation for the chief of sinners. And it is preached by Hyper-calvinists to sinners. Notice here what is not “evangelism”: proselytizing, pressing for decisions, indoctrinating, giving “free offers,” “bribing deciders-for-Christ”, “raising your hands if you are a Christian,” and gimmicks, more gimmicks, and gimmicks galore! None of these things can be “announcing good news;” none are “preaching the Gospel.”

The so-called “Evangelicals” have one primary goal: make a name for themselves by their “soul-winning” skills. If a minister cannot get new members during a so-called “revival,” the religious society which employed him has wasted their money. They want more members, not necessarily more ”believers.” It would be alright if they were their kind of “believers,” but if they were free grace believers, they would be trouble-makers. Members are more likely to pay “tithes” and/or give “offerings.” These revenues are necessary for the religious-business enterprise. It cannot continue without these. The most popular “evangelists”, or proselyters, are those with the most successful skills in decision-making; and they are in high demand. Some do not even bother to serve churches, but make their living hawking Jesus. Basically, then, modern so-called “evangelism” is an economic device, rather than a spiritual one. Spirituality has nothing to do with its motivation. The ministers and “evangelists” are hirelings; and as Jesus declared, they “care not for the sheep.” They weep and mourn publicly over the “lost world,” but never much over the “sheep.” Whatever this religion is, it is a far cry from Biblical Christianity. It is alien to “the faith of God’s elect,” (Titus 1:1.), and obnoxious to any called saint. The Pagans of old at least feared their gods and demons, believing that they were all powerful. But these so-called “evangelists” today, following their missionary craft, have sunk to the lowest levels of deceit. “God,” they say, “can’t save you unless you let Him.” How can this benefit, or be of any comfort, to a sensible sinner? If Christ failed on the staros (tree); if He can’t now save you without you “letting Him;” if He can’t work repentance in one; nor give him faith; if He is now powerless to save him; how, pray tell, can one believe He can come through on the resurrection day? Perhaps the trumpet shall sound, and no one arises! What kind of comfort can one have in a helpless god? The one only true and living God is worthy to be praised. But this god, the “another Jesus” of whom Paul wrote, (2 Corinthians 11:4) is depicted with such inherent weakness and flawed attributes that he is unworthy to be praised. Rather, he is to be pitied. Perhaps that is why those who decide for him do not give him much credit or praise. The best he gets out of them is the interrupting phrase: “Praise the Lord!” during a sermon, which of course, is not praising anyone. To truly praise the Lord, one must set forth the gracious attributes and works of one who is God. Not merely saying the phrase, “Praise God!” but actually doing it.”