A Transcript Of The Video Study
In our previous study, we considered the meaning of the label “Hyper-Calvinism”. I pointed out that Hyper-Calvinism is a caricature of High-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism is the name used by Arminians and lower ranking Calvinists, based on their misunderstanding of higher views of sovereign grace. High-Calvinism, on the other hand, is the name used by High-Calvinists, which more accurately identifies the teachings of this group of believers.
For this study, I would like introduce you to a group of High-Calvinist churches in England called Strict and Particular Baptists. Allow me to give a little background. These Baptist churches in England emerged between the years 1610 and 1633. At that time, there were two main issues which divided the churches. First, there was a matter connected with the Doctrine of the Church, the Lord’s Table. There were some who regarded the Lord’s Table as a Christian ordinance, believing it should be administered universally to all Christians regardless of baptism and church membership. This is sometimes called Open Communion, and those who subscribed to it may be referred to as Open Baptists. There were others who regarded the Lord’s Table as a Church ordinance, believing it should be administered strictly to Christians who have been baptized and in church membership. This is sometimes called Restricted Communion, and those who subscribe to it may be referred to as Strict Baptists. Second, there was a matter connected with the Doctrine of Salvation, Christ’s atonement. There were some who believed the atonement of Christ is universal, provision being made for all sinners. This is called Arminianism, and those who subscribed to it were referred to as General Baptists. There were others who believed the atonement of Christ is restricted to God’s elect, and provision was made only for them. This is called Calvinism, and those who subscribed to it were referred to as Particular Baptists.
Henceforth, some churches would be Open and Particular Baptists, meaning they believed in Open Communion and Calvinism, whereas other churches would be Strict and Particular Baptists, meaning they believed in Restricted Communion and Calvinism. Likewise, some churches would be Open and General Baptists, meaning they believed in Open Communion and Arminianism, whereas other churches would be Strict and General Baptists, meaning they believed in Restricted Communion and Arminianism. There was, therefore, quite a wide range of views on these matters.
The group of churches which are of interest to us, for the purpose of this study, is the Strict and Particular Baptists—the Restricted Communion and Calvinist Baptists. Now, just to underscore the meaning of the name, allow me to define each label:
By “church” is meant a local body of baptized believers covenanted to follow the commands of Christ.
By “baptist” is meant the membership of a church is restricted to those immersed after one’s new birth.
By “strict” is meant the Lord’s Table is restricted to those in membership with a local church.
By “particular” is meant the atonement of Christ is restricted to those chosen by the Father from eternity.
This is what is meant when we refer to the Strict and Particular Baptist Churches.
Now, there were among these Calvinistic churches another issue which brought about a division. Some of them subscribed to high views of sovereign grace (High-Calvinists), whereas others were aligned with moderate views of sovereign grace (Moderate-Calvinists). However, these differences were not made a major point of controversy until the later half of the 18th century, when a Baptist theologian named Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) wrote a book in 1786 entitled, “The Gospel Worthy Of All Acceptation”. In this book, Fuller argued against High-Calvinism, asserting that saving faith is the duty of all sinners and therefore the gospel must be freely offered to them. This articulation of Moderate-Calvinism was warmly and widely received by the Moderate-Calvinists, as it provided for them the grounds upon which they could justify and defend their moderate views of sovereign grace. Such was the influence of Andrew Fuller, that Moderate-Calvinists were soon called Fullerites.
On the other hand, the Particular Baptists who nurtured high views of sovereign grace (High-Calvinists) stood staunchly against the teachings of Andrew Fuller, believing he was making havoc of the faith. They subscribed to the teachings of an earlier theologian named John Gill (1697-1771). Gill was one of the most well known Baptist pastors of his day. For 51 years he served as the pastor of the church which C. H. Spurgeon would oversee around 80 years after Gill’s death. He authored several significant works on the Bible and theology. In fact, he is considered the first Baptist theologian to publish a comprehensive system theology. Early in his pastorate, he rewrote his church’s statement of faith, which has served for the last three hundred years as the basis for the statements of faith for all High-Calvinist Strict and Particular Baptist Churches. Gill maintained high views of sovereign grace and it is for that reason High-Calvinist Baptist churches are sometimes called Gillites.
Henceforth, there are two groups among the Particular Baptists—the Moderate-Calvinists, whose teachings reflect the theology of Andrew Fuller, and the High-Calvinists, whose teachings reflect the theology of John Gill. Those Baptists which subscribe to the teachings of Andrew Fuller today are now known as the Reformed Baptists. And make no mistake, my friends, if you meet a Reformed Baptist, he/she is invariably aligned with the teachings of Andrew Fuller and is linked with this historic branch of Moderate-Calvinist Baptist churches. On the other hand, those Baptists who subscribe to the teachings of John Gill continue to be known as Strict and Particular Baptists. They are aligned with high views of sovereign grace and are linked with this historic branch of High-Calvinist Baptist churches.
It is no secret that I am a Strict and Particular High-Calvinist Baptist, and it is from that point of view that I am bringing this series of studies on Bible Doctrine. This opens up the opportunity for me to say something quite important about this series of studies on Bible Doctrine. I do not represent all High-Calvinists in their viewpoint, or the way they may articular certain teachings. As a whole, most High-Calvinists share the same conclusions on sovereign grace, but how they arrive at those conclusions sometimes take very different paths. What I am sharing with you in these studies is the path that I take through the scriptures and the way that I understand the framework of sovereign grace. I do not expect you or anyone else to agree entirely with every point of teaching. However, I do hope you will always go away with a challenge—a challenge that will either cause you to affirm your own convictions on certain teachings, or, lead you to altar your understanding on those matters. Either way, it is my prayer that you benefit from these teachings; that the Lord will build you up in your most holy faith.
And it is on that point I close this study, looking forward to meeting with you again next time. Until then, may the Lord bless you.
Jared Smith served twenty years as pastor of a Strict and Particular Baptist church in Kensington (London, England). He now serves as an Evangelist in the Philippines, preaching the gospel, organizing churches and training gospel preachers.