The Gospel Herald

Thoughts On Responsibility

Gospel Herald 1847:

It appears to me that on no subject are the religious professors of the present day more confused, yea, in the dark, than that of man’s responsibility, and often have I wished that some gifted servant of the Lord would take pen in hand and give a few thought on this important subject. The attempt made by the Rev letter-learned moderate Calvinists of the day, to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, viz, in the matter of salvation, is like searching for the philosophers stone, although a fruitless attempt to discover what, according to their view of the subject, has no existence; or to make two directly opposites meet together. In this, as in all other parts of the jumbled creed, the grand error evidently lies in not making a distinction between things that differ. That every rational, intelligent creature, whether elect or non-elect, is responsible to God for his moral actions I presume no one who professes to take the Bible for his guide will dare to dispute; indeed, I cannot see how conviction could be experienced in the soul of an individual who, at the same time, disbelieved this fact. But, the question is, is man responsible in the matter of salvation? We are gravely told that sinners who have heard the gospel and not savingly believe it, will be responsible to God for not thus savingly believing, and that they will be eternally condemned in consequence thereof; of course it must follow, on the other hand, that those who hear and savingly believe the truth as it is in Jesus, are also responsible in the matter of their salvation, and that while the former are condemned for not savingly believing, the latter are saved for believing, which is making their salvation to be of works, and not of grace, and converting the gospel into a kind of remedial law, or representing it to be at once good tidings of salvation, and good tidings of condemnation. How monstrous! But perhaps the question will here be asked, then is not the believer in any sense responsible to God? I would reply, most certainly he is, but not in the matter of his salvation, which is all of grace from first to last.

I conceive that is is necessary for us to consider man’s responsibility in a two-fold light. First, as a moral agent man is, doubtless, responsible to God, the moral governor of the universe, whose law is holy, just and good; and by that law every man must be judged either in this world or at the last great day.

I believe that the elect are sooner or later judged and condemned, and have the sentence of death in them, see Rom 7:9; 2 Cor 1:9. That, being lost, they may fly to Christ, as a Savior. As it respects the rest, I believe they will be condemned at the last day as transgressors of the law, and not as transgressors of the gospel, which is quite an absurdity. These last will find, to their eternal sorrow, that they are indeed responsible to the great law-giver, and must, in consequence, endure his just and everlasting displeasure, on account of their transgressions. But now as it respects responsibility in the matter of salvation, this must of necessity involve a perfect and complete obedience to the righteous law of God, and a full and ample satisfaction to his justice,. Who, then, I would ask, must be the responsible party in these things, the fallen sinner, or the covenant Head and Surety of the church? If the sinner, then can no flesh be saved. If the Surety, then the sinner for whom the Surety stands responsible must be exempt, for justice could never require two responsible parties. Aye, but, say those who differ from us, are there not terms and conditions stipulated in the gospel which man is in duty bound to fulfill to obtain salvation? I answer, all the terms and conditions stipulated for the everlasting covenant were made with the Mediator, which terms and conditions he performed to the full satisfaction of God the Father, by his incarnation, obedience, sufferings, and death; consequently faith, repentance, &c, are not conditions by or for the performance of which the sinner is saved, but covenant blessings, secured to the “heirs of promise,” and wrought in their souls by God the Holy Spirit, as the means by which they are brought unto the enjoyment of that salvation which is “in Christ Jesus.” But it will probably be asked again, in what sense then are believers responsible to God for their moral actions? To answer this question satisfactorily, it is necessary to bear in mind that believers stand in a different relation to God to that of the wicked or reprobate. The children of God are under his fatherly command and discipline, and as such are in this relationship responsible to him for their moral actions; hence the Lord hath said by David, Psalm 89:30,34, “If his children forsake, &c.” Thus we see that the Lord, the faithful God will not wink at sin in his own children, neither will he pass by it without punishing it in a fatherly way; but this is widely different from punishing men for not being what God alone can make them, viz, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, or, in other words, punishing them in vindictive anger. I shall add no more on this subject, at present, but a prayer that the Lord may grant his blessing. Amen. 


It may be argued the Strict and Particular Baptist churches of the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries were at their strongest when they remained independent congregations, unaffiliated with Magazines and Societies. This strength was lost during the latter half of the 19th century when the churches clamored around favorite periodicals and regional associations. Although the Magazines were largely responsible for creating a party-spirit and culpable for stirring up needless controversy, they nevertheless contain many valuable resources which may prove a blessing for this generation. Although they differed on various points of doctrine, they invariably held to high views of sovereign grace, denouncing as heresy the pernicious teachings of Andrew Fuller. The majority of Strict and Particular Baptist churches during the 18th and 19th centuries were Hyper-Calvinists.