Earthen Vessel 1891:
Inaugural Address To The Churches, Delivered At The Annual Meeting Of The Metropolitan Association Of Strict Baptist Churches, March 10th, 1891, By The President, Mr. W. K. Squirrell, Pastor Of Hill Street, Dorset Square, Marylebone.
“Go in this thy might.”—Judges 6:14
Dear Brethren,—next to my call by grace, I feel it is my highest privilege to belong to the Strict and Particular Baptist Denomination; a denomination that, amidst all the tendency of the times towards indefiniteness, and the hollow cries of spurious charity, abides by the truth of God, and adheres to New Testament order of Church government. Thank God, dear brethren, we believe something, and that something is increasingly dear to us as our rule of faith and practice, “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Moreover, my heart is glad, and my spirit greatly rejoiceth, that within our denomination there are to be found such associations as the one on the behalf of which we are now speaking, and which, we believe, in the hands of Zion’s King, is a living and increasing power for good.
It is my honour, as President of the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches, to address you this evening. For the information of strangers (and I hope there are some present), let me say that this Association will not much longer be a ruddy youth, seeing that it is just twenty years of age today, and will therefore soon emerge into the strength of early manhood. But what shall we say of that twenty years? Crowded with goodness, and mercy, and mutual usefulness they have been. Those of us who have marked its rise and progress, bless God that it lives today and is doing well. Surely its continuance proves “The Lord reigneth.” None but Himself could have brought things to the present happy issue. We remember well the announcement of its birth, and how that announcement was received by many, who said “it’s still-born, and will lie still evermore;” but when they saw its lungs were inflated, and heard its feeble cry, then they said, “it will cry itself to death, and that quickly”; but, strange to say, some saw “it was a proper child,” and with God’s blessing and great care, the child lived, and grew, and talked, and walked, until the day came when its foes said, “Smother it, smother it”; but it was too late, for the child had waxed strong, “The arms of its hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob,” and for years now we have rejoiced to see true unity of action, increased power, and plenty of “Go” in the stalwart youth. For this we praise the Lord right heartily; nor are we unmindful of our indebtedness to those godly men and women who, “through evil report and good report,” “abode by the stuff;” many of whom, we may say the greater part, “remain unto this present; but some are fallen asleep.” The Lord grant that a double portion of their spirit may be ours, and that gathering up their mantle, we may use it as only God’s true Elishas can, as becometh true men with a noble and glorious ancestry.
Now, we have a message from God unto you, and that message is full of “go” and “might” to go with, so that we may be stimulated as an association to push on aggressively, believingly acting on the Divine Word to Joshua, “There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”
Our Word is found in Judges 6:14. It was to Gideon; Gideon is dead, but Gideon’s God liveth ever, and bids me say, “Go in this thy might.”
I.—Let me ask, what “might” have we?
(1) We reply, the “might” of circumstances rightly used, the student of life will grant me; that the office of circumstances is simply to develop character; hence they either break or make the man; so of associations: they die or live, languish or thrive, not so much according to events themselves, but rather according to the power, or want of power, to utilise all things wisely to a given end. Natures of the jelly-fish type, to which this Association does not belong, may have power to sting, may possess sense and organs of a rudimentary kind, but lack discernment to use events advantageously. These, before the heat of difficulties, quickly melt away.
But note, our Gideon, his work follows that of our noble-hearted Sister Deborah, whose name signifies a bee, and she had been busy as a bee, under God, and had, doubtless, something to do with making Gideon a man of mettle. Mark what was said of him by the searcher of hearts and the infallible judge of human character, when he appeared most weak, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Now all things appeared against Gideon, but for the fact that his valiant heart would ere long make all things observe the purpose he desired and God intended. I grant you his difficulties tended to make him feel his weakness, but with that conscious weakness came the sure development of latent powers and peculiar gifts. Apply this to the life of our Association of Churches, and also to that excellent association of itinerant brethren, in the midst of which God is today training, and from which He will bring forth, many a Gideon, with a heart of valour to do His work, with the might of circumstances wisely used. We bless God with all our heart the path has been uphill work; so uphill that “we had fainted unless we had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” But, glory be to God, our associated hearts have “believed,” and believing we have seen that “goodness,” therefore we have not fainted; but if faint we are still pursuing on the old lines of eternal truths and yearning to be a mighty power for good. Then, brethren, “Go in this thy might,” “Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Tim. 2:7).
(2) As Gideon, so have we the might in which to go; it flows from the eyes and lips of our self-revealing Lord. Alas! alas! some would have us spend our precious days in beating our corn behind the wine-press; their only notion of service being to conserve the truth. I grant you, that in this slip-shod age, the high honour falls upon us, as to be “set for the defence of the Gospels”; but is it not incumbent upon us to “be found holding forth the Word of Life, that we may rejoice in the day of Christ”? Increasingly are we feeling our solemn obligations as a denomination in this respect, so that, not only is Gospel literature sent broadcast through the land, but our young men, clothed with the Spirit of God, as Gideon, are to be found at the corners of our streets—doing what? Lamenting with bitter lamentations the spread of error? Nay, far better than that, preaching—yes, preaching “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God committed to our trust,” with no uncertain sound.
“Their heroism I much admire,
May they be filled with heavenly fire.”—W. K. S.
We are told “The Lord looked upon Gideon, and said, Go in this thy might. Have I not sent thee?” In that look and that command “Go,” and that kindly assurance of all-needed help concealed from a mere fleshy mind under the words, ”Have I not sent thee?” we have the very quintessence of “mightiness.” Let any man, woman, or dear child, or an association of Churches, but feel the deep, holy, helping, meaning of that look divine, and it will stir and vitalise their entire being.
Let but the wave sound, “Have I not sent thee?” fall upon the circumcised ears of this godly assembly, and to a man, we shall be able to do and to dare as we have never done before. True, jealousy, over our own hearts, and the glory of Jehovah, may cause us to need our double sign of fleece both wet and dry, and God may see fit to apparently thwart us, by sadly reducing our army of mere human strength; yet the eyes that looked upon us, and the lips that spake, will show us by our dreamy foes, it may be, even as he did Gideon, that though a cake we be, and that but as a tumbling barley cake, yet by the mightiness of our living and revealing Lord, by whose incarnation He bids us drink the strength of divine and human sympathy, in the one cup, such strength as can cheer the heart of the weakest of men to “the help of the Lord,” till naught can withstand, so that the enemies of God and truth shall become our friends or flee before us. Then “Go in this thy might.”
(3) We have the “might” of creed formula, but some man will say, “Is not theology progressive, and is not the majesty and glory of truth such that it defies systematising?” Oh! foolish heart, thou wouldst be wise above what is written, for it is a fact that truth has its limits, although the tape line of our puny minds, I grant you, cannot measure so much as a tithe of the diameter of that vast circumference, yet it is so. We are not to be tossed to and fro like children by the nurse, or “carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lay in wait to deceive,” nor drift into anything like uncertainty.
Does not the present outlook into the religious world remind us that creedless men, creedless Churches (so-called), and creedless associations are the curse of Christendom? But our might, our realised impetus to “Go,” is that, like our sturdy fathers, we have our creed, we believe something and rejoice to make it known. Now a creed is a definite summary of what is believed, and I shall take this opportunity of publicly declaring the things most surely believed by us as associated Churches. It is recorded in our Annual Report, as follows:—
Doctrinal Basis, approved and adopted at a meeting of brethren appointed Delegates by the several Particular Baptist Churches in and around London, holding Strict Communion principles, convened at Soho Chapel, Oxford-street, on March 10th, 1871, for the purpose of forming this Association.
1. The equality and distinct personality of the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, in the unity of the Godhead.
2. Eternal and personal election unto salvation.
3. The fall of mankind in Adam—their guilt and condemnation—together with their entire and universal depravity, by which they were utterly alienated from God, and are unable in and of themselves to turn to Him.
4. Particular redemption by the vicarious sacrifice of Christ.
5. Justification by grace, through faith, by the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Regeneration and sanctification by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of Divine truth, and that saving faith is not a legal duty, but the sovereign and gracious gift of God.
7. The absolute necessity for a holy life, as the result of true faith and the evidence of regeneration.
8. The final perseverance of true believers.
9. The resurrection of the dead, and the universal judgment.
10. The everlasting punishment of the wicked, and the everlasting happiness of the righteous.
11. The duty of preaching the Gospel to every creature of the fallen race of Adam.
12. The necessity of baptism by immersion, on a profession of repentance and faith, in order to Church fellowship and admission to the Lord’s table.
13. “The congregational order of the Churches,” by which we mean that, while mutually helped by Association, each Church maintains its right to act for itself in the fear of the Lord.
Now, dear brethren, shall we, with such a creed as that, made up of streams flowing from the very river of God, of truths out of the book of eternal wisdom, truths which we deem all-important to be taught in our schools, the welfare of which now engages the prayerful attention of this Association; and from the desk and the pulpit, I say, shall we be content with either our usefulness in the past, or some little advancement in the future? God forbid! Remember, we live in a stirring, but degenerate age.
The Church of Rome is busy on every hand with her accursed system, and, sad to tell, she has her allies in the Established Church. Yes, men, heaven forgive me, things, meanly doing the dirty work of the Pope, yet glad are they to eat clean Protestant bread.
Again, I can only remind you that from hundreds of our dissenting pulpits you can no longer hear the Gospel’s joyful sound, but philosophy “falsely so called,” while their programmes show that every worldly amusement is resorted to. “Forsooth,” say they, “we must get the people together”; and well they may, seeing that the lover of the dance, the play, the theatre, can have his vitiated taste highly gratified within the walls of many a place “called the House of the Lord.”
With these solemn facts before us, I, notwithstanding, believe that, “for every age God has His men.” Shame upon us if we do not push out as a denomination and “go ” right to the front, in every good word and work. Let them say, “What do these feeble Jews?” It may be we are filled with the “might” of the Divine Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, and with that word of the Lord, ”Have I not sent thee?” and beneath the inspiring look of His eyes, we may prove to be the very people to build the temple of the Lord. Solemn obligations are ours, because great and many are our privileges. Let our Sister Deborah arouse us as only women can; mighty soul was she, though of the weaker sex. Judges 5:10: “Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.” If so greatly privileged, with freedom and judgment in the ways of the Lord, if honoured to ride as the princes and nobles of Israel on white asses, be it yours to “speak” abroad “the righteous acts of the Lord,” lest, by a guilty silence, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”
I believe more thoroughly today that which I have had in my heart for years—viz., that if we, the Strict and Particular Baptist Denomination, be wise, and truly desire to be used of God, then a glorious future is before us. Are we not designed by the King of kings and Lord of lords, not only to be a light, but “a burning and a shining light,” that no bushel can cover, or extinguisher can put out.
But if the transition (to quote another figure), is not too sudden, I ask, seeing that we must move on or die out, are we to recede as a people with the ebb tide? I answer, with thousands of voices from every part of our dear old England tonight, “God helping us, No! Never!” Then spread the sails that witness to many a storm in the past, and in them catch the heavenly breeze, for heaven is for us and with us, and onward and upward with the flood tide, brethren and sisters beloved, let us speed our way; the stirring times demand it, and while there are many faithful preachers of truth outside our denomination, yet the times favour us. Not a few hearts are weary of the pulpit foppery, of being mocked every seventh day, after a week of conflict, with mere oratorial display; and sometimes worse than this, for from the very pulpits from which their fathers were fed with the “finest of the wheat,” now, semi- infidelity is the “savoury meat.” Thousands and thousands of precious immortal souls are being led by what are wrongly called men of “advanced thought,” from pillar to post, not to find truth, but only a ghost. Then onward, brethren, for life is earnest, time is short: “The night cometh when no man can work.” We shall have plenty of sleeping time for there bodies of ours in the grave—the grave I say, to which we are all fast hastening. If we be true men, then we are God’s men for this present age. Let bigotry die, and narrow-mindedness be a thing of the past, for they have had a long day in some quarters; and let us, with trumpet sound, fill the whole earth with the music of “the everlasting Gospel,” in which we have personally found “all our hope and all our salvation,” and by which Gospel, through the Eternal Spirit, our instrumentality shall gather in poor sinners from north and south, from east and west, “according to the election of grace,” to sit with us at Emmanuel’s feet, and join us with right loyal hearts to “Crown Him Lord of all.”
Just a word to those Churches of the “same faith and order,” be they great or small, that still remain outside the privileges of our association. We do not crave your help or support, for we hate patronage, whether it be that of the State, of a community, or of a single individual; and well we may, seeing that “the Lord of hosts is with us.” But should you desire fellowship with us as brethren beloved in the Lord, a hearty welcome awaits you, and mutual help will follow. Does Father Prejudice stand in the way? if so, I would affectionately say, “Let him no longer stand between you and the blessings of associated life.
Now, concerning the collection, I need only say, we very much need what I know it will be a pleasure for you to give—an out-and-out good collection, given as under the eyes of Him who said, “Go in this thy might.”
——————————- The churches of the Association were anti-fullerite, rejecting as heresy the pernicious teachings of duty-faith and the free offer of the gospel. The sixth article explicitly states that “saving faith is not a legal duty, but the sovereign and gracious gift of God.”
It was made part of the constituting “Rules and Regulations of the Association”: “That should a Minister or Church depart from the Doctrinal Basis of the Association he or it be excluded on proof of the fact.”
The Reformed Baptists discarded this Article and Rule when they commandeered the Association in the 1960’s. There are currently no ministers or churches belonging to the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches (now called the Association of Grace Baptist Churches) which represent the founding principles of the Association.
Ironically, the first church (hyper-calvinist) to spearhead the formation of the Association (1871) was Bethesda Chapel (then called Silver Street Chapel), Notting Hill Gate, under the pastoral ministry of David Crumpton. The last hyper-calvinist church to belong to the Association was Bethesda Chapel, Notting Hill Gate, under the pastoral ministry of Jared Smith. The officers of the Association gently encouraged the church to resign, as it was the only congregation subscribing to high views of sovereign grace.—Jared Smith
William Knibb Squirrell (1846-1894) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He served the pastorate of four churches—(1) Trinity, Borough; (2) Meopham, Kent; (3) Enon, Woolwhich; (4) Mount Zion, Hill Street, Dorset Square. He was also served as President for the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches.