Jared Smith On Various Issues,  The Earthen Vessel,  William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Spurgeonism And The Strict And Particular Baptists

Earthen Vessel 1896:

[A Note From The Editor: That which William Styles warned against in 1896 came about shortly after the Second World War. I have therefore provided footnotes where an explanation may be helpful—Jared Smith]

To The Editor Of The “Earthen Vessel”:

Dear Sir,—For some time I have felt the need of a few straight and honest words on this subject, for the instruction both of brethren who are not sentimentally with us; and also of some of the members of our own Churches. The principles which distinguish us as a section of the Baptist denomination seem to be but little known. Our own friends manifest far less determination than they used, in contending for the faith—while hardly a month passes, but I am entreated to advance the interests of brethren holding the late Mr. Spurgeon’s creed, by introducing them to some of our vacant pulpits, as if their views and ours were all but identical and our differences were most immaterial and unimportant.

The term “Strict and Particular Baptists,” as it is now universally understood by Christians in England, stands for the small section of the Baptist denomination which adheres to the Faith and Order of the Particular Baptist Churches of the last century, and repudiates as unscriptural and erroneous the doctrines promulgated by Andrew Fuller; and the way of administering the Lord’s Supper introduced by Robert Hall. The central doctrine which we eschew, is duty-faith, though this is inseparably connected with several others. The prominent practice is heterogeneous communion at the breaking of bread, but this also inevitably leads to other and serious aberrations from the Church polity of the New Testament.

Our disruption from the main body of Particular Baptists was not a sudden one—like, for example, the secession of the Scottish Presbyterian Dissenters from their national Church in 1843. Little by little, the fathers and founders of our Churches became convinced that error was displacing truth—that the notions of men were being substituted for the institutions of Christ: and one by one, here and there, gatherings were held, Churches were formed, chapels were built, and our predecessors gradually assumed the position of a distinct section of the Baptist denomination. The Norwich chapel lawsuit, which occurred in 1810, broke the last links which held us in ecclesiastical fellowship with our brethren. A few ancient Churches, it should be said, continued loyal to their original constitution and principles; those at Keppel-street, Little Alie-street, and Colnbrook remaining so to this day.

‘l’he views of our hononred forefathers may be gathered from their writings. They never called themselves Calvinists, and, as a rule, knew little or nothing of the tenets of the great reformer. They held that salvation in all its branches is determined by the covenant of grace—that the redemptive and atoning work of Christ are co-extensive, and are both restricted to the elect of God—that Divine power will effect what gracions purpose has decreed—and that the glorified saints after the day of judgment will correspond exactly and numerically with those whose names were, before time, enrolled in “the Lamb’s book of life.” They believed that the non-elect are the objects of God’s benevolent care: and that they will be equitably judged at last for their disobedience to His law. They, however, denied that Christ is offered to all men; that salvation is contingent on the will of man; that spiritual faith is the duty of the unregenerate; and that a refusal to comply with God’s overtures of mercy will augment damnation. They also maintained that the Lord’s table is a Church ordinance, and that those only should be received at it, who are practically obedient to the Master’s commands concerning baptism and Church fellowship.

Such, it can easily be shown, were the principles for which our predecessors made a stand; and for the perpetuating and promulgating of which our chapels were acquired or erected. Such, I maintain, are also the distinguishing views of our section of the denomination at the present day. Persons who do not hold them are not Strict and Particular Baptists.[1]

The Spurgeonists—if I knew a better name for them, I would employ it—are quite another section of the Baptist denomination.[2] They consist of the brethren who gathered round their great chief in 1888 and 1889, when the Down Grade controversy was raging;[3] and of others who have since joined their fellowship. Many were educated at the Pastor’s College. A few, however, of their more prominent leaders were not. They stand (to their honour be it said) as remote from the rationalistic and semi-Pelagian section of the denomination, on the one hand, as they do from ourselves on the other. Their creed embraces all the leading features of the system commonly called Calvinistic—that of the Westminster Assembly’s Confession of Faith, for example.[4] It, however, includes the pernicious and contradictory doctrines for which Andrew Fuller contended;[5] and which John Martin, John Stevens, John Foreman, John Andrews Jones, James Wells, and William Palmer, so conclusively opposed.

Their views can be ascertained from the declaration published in each Report of the “Home Counties’ Baptist Association,” to the Membership of which, it will be remembered, C. H. Spurgeon himself was admitted, in a very solemn and impressive way, shortly before his last illness.

To one article of this Declaration I call attention. “8. The duty of all men to whom the Gospel is made known to believe and receive it.” Contrast this with the Declaration which forms the doctrinal basis of our “Metropolitan Association”[6] and likewise of the “Strict Baptist Mission.”[7] “Saving faith is not a legal duty, but the sovereign and gracious gift of God.” Here then the divergence between our Spurgeonite brethren and ourselves is made clear. They insist on duty-faith as an essential truth. We repudiate it as a momentous error.

Now, dear Mr. Editor, when the Earthen Vessel was in your father’s hands, many years since, he inserted a noble article by the late J. A. Jones, demonstrating that duty-faith cannot be introduced into a creed, otherwise truthful and sound, without its in a great measure, subverting the whole. He was right. No error can subsist alone—and the preacher who contends for duty-faith, is sure to be betrayed into other and most serious mistakes.

I write then to plead, as I have consistently done, for more than twenty years, that we and Fullerites or Moderate Calvinists should keep ecclesiastically clear of each other.[8]  Our Churches sometimes choose them for pastors,[9]  but invariably, after they have made a brief commotion, a withering blight comes upon everything; they unsettle, if they do not divide our causes; they upset the faith of our young people, and infinitely distress our older ones; and finally retire “unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”[10]

True, there is a fascination about them—their so-called earnestness—their (not very extensive) scholarship—and the apparent “go” which promises so much and does so little; but I challenge anybody to produce one instance in which the ministry of such a brother has proved a real spiritual and permanent blessing to a Church of our faith and order, while I know of several cases in which the most melancholy and disasterous results have followed.

When my Spurgeonistic brethren are at work on premises which they can honourably occupy, God is my witness that I seek to act as their affectionate and unselfish friend; as many of them would, I am sure, testify. They cannot, however, consistently and righteously come on our premises as labourers for God; and it is our duty to protest against their so doing.[11]

I am, truly yours in Christ,

W. Jeyes Styles

[1] This is a point for which I also have been contending many years. The history of the Particular Baptists has been grossly revised by those wishing to identify themselves with its rich heritage. The judgment of history depends on those who write it.
[2] Modern-day Spurgeonists belong to the Reformed Baptist movement.
[3] The Downgrade Controversy was fought within the Baptist Union. This Union was organized in 1812 around the teachings of Andrew Fuller. While many of the Particular Baptist churches in sympathy with these teachings joined the Union, the Strict and Particular Baptists remained separate. Before the end of the century, General Baptists had been welcomed as members, opening the doors to liberal theology. Such was the outcome of Fuller’s “Evangelical Calvinism” and the Particular Baptist churches subscribing to it—unsound theology led to unwise ecumenism, resulting in full-blown Arminianism and Liberalism. While Spurgeon is credited with attempts to close the floodgates, it must be remembered his Fullerite teachings are the cause of their being opened in the first place.
[4] Spurgeon was a lover of the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, having it reprinted for his congregation in 1855. Although the document carries the name “Baptist”, it was actually a republication of the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith with minor adjustments. It was a favorite of Spurgeons for the same reason it is a favourite of the Reformed Baptists—it leans heavily on a Presbyterian view of ecclesiology, also borrowing the undeveloped teachings of Covenantalism, securing free willism a place in soteriology and evangelism. With regard to Presbyterian ecclesiology, Spurgeon was one of the first Particular Baptists to install a ‘plural eldership’; with regard to the undeveloped teachings of Covenantalism, he believed God has a common grace unto salvation, intrinsic to a conditional covenant of grace (separate from the covenant of redemption), requiring all sinners to savingly believe on Christ.  
[5] The undeveloped Covenantalism of the 1689 Baptist Confession, together with its offshoots of error, should not be confused with the modified Calvinism of Andrew Fuller. Although free willism is woven through the soteriology and evangelism of both sets of teachings, yet Fuller arrived at his conclusions with a modified Calvinism, denying several fundamental articles of the faith, such as the vicarious atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is therefore quite surprising that men such as John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and Michael Haykin of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, should crown Fuller with honor or choose to be his disciple. 
[6] The Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches was spearheaded by David Crumpton, who also served as the first Secretary. It was during the fourth anniversary celebration of the church which now meets at Bethesda Chapel, Kensington Place, London, that Crumpton discussed the possibility of organizing a new Association. Incidentally, this is the church I served as pastor for twenty years. The Association was organized in 1871, with twenty-three churches joining. The doctrinal basis that “saving faith is not a legal duty,” was a phrase introduced by John Hazelton, to ensure only High-Calvinist churches be members. One of the rules for Membership required every church subscribe to this article, failure of which would result in dismissal. The churches remained faithful to the teachings, which is what William Styles alludes to in the article. However, in 1966 the Association adopted a new doctrinal statement founded upon the teachings of Andrew Fuller, thereby uprooting the teachings and heritage of the High-Calvinist churches. The Association is now called The Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East), the foregoing history either ignored or revised by them. Bethesda Chapel resigned from membership in the early 20-teens, it being the last High-Calvinist Strict and Particular Baptist church to serve as members—the first to join, the last to leave. Strict and Particular Baptists commonly say of those churches who abandon their teachings and heritage, “They’ve gone ‘Grace'”, meaning, they’ve become Grace (or Reformed) Baptists. 
[7] The Strict Baptist Mission was organized in 1861 by the same circle of Strict and Particular Baptist churches which formed the above Association. They were High-Calvinist Baptist churches. To be clear, a High-Calvinist Baptist church denounced the teachings of Andrew Fuller, believing he was a heretic. They did not offer the gospel in their preaching, nor did they make the gospel conditional on the sinner’s faith. These teachings are derogatorily called “Hyper-Calvinism” by the Reformed Baptists, yet it was the Hyper-Calvinists who established the Strict Baptist Mission and supported its evangelistic outreach for the first hundred years. After the Second World War, the Reformed Baptists gained control of the Strict Baptist Mission, changing its doctrinal statement and its name. It is now called Grace Baptist Mission, promulgating Andrew Fuller’s gospel. If it be asked what happened to the Baptist Missionary Society overseen by Andrew Fuller in the early 1800’s, it suffered a similar fate as the Baptist Union. 
[8] William Styles no doubt knew the vulnerability of the churches belonging to the Association and the subtleties of Fullerism, suspecting that such an open departure from the faith could easily unfold. 
[9] This is one of the leading causes for the churches and the Association adopting Fullerism after the Second World War—open the pulpit to error, and the church will soon enough embrace it. 
[10] I have received testimony from many Arminian Baptist churches in the Philippines that the Reformed Baptists (Fullerites) have carried out this divisive work in their congregations. They tell me the Reformed Baptists are on a mission to “reform” churches, and since they believe their teachings are correct, they feel justified to disturb the peace of churches and divide congregations. 
[11] I share this sentiment. I wish to act as an unselfish and affectionate friend to the Reformed Baptists, but they must tread their own path, create their own history and earn their own heritage. When they jump on our path, revise our history and speak of our heritage as their own, all the while condemning the “Hyper-Calvinism” of the churches they claim to represent, are not they acting the part of selfish and unaffectionate friends? 

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)