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George Ella, Biographical Sketches

Sir:

It is understandable that one who identified himself so closely with the English Reformers, Whitfield and the Marrow Men should be criticised by Arminians. For Huntington, Arminians were Antinomians who rejected the condemning and convicting use of the law in evangelism, inviting sinners to approach God “as if they had never apostatized”. They believed that man was not totally fallen but was naturally able to make saving decisions. Huntington preached a full gospel whereas his Fullerite and Wesleyan critics taught respectively that the doctrines of grace were for believers only or to be rejected as ‘the religion of the Turks’.

Contrary to adverse criticism that Huntington stood alone, he was supported by a relatively large number of Independent, Anglican and Baptist ministers. Huntington upheld the Biblical teaching of Christ’s imputed righteousness which Fuller rejected and Wesley often ridiculed. Huntington was a great winner of souls and preached to thousands. He was able to reap a prodigious harvest, especially in his old age. Andrew Fuller complained of the increased blessings and church growth in the churches associated with Huntington whilst his own association churches shrunk.

Huntington’s congregation, though composed mostly of poor people, though even members of the Royal family attended his meetings, gave so liberally to the work of the gospel that Huntington’s major critics sent their people to approach those leaving Providence Chapel after the service, asking them for gifts to support their own churches. In his recommendatory foreword to J. H. Alexander’s fine book More than Notion, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones relates how he advised his Westminster Chapel congregation to make this book on Huntingtonian piety compulsory reading. Lloyd-Jones thanked God for the book and said that the people he described “show the vital difference between a head-knowledge of the Christian faith and a true heart experience.” This was the essence of Huntington’s ministry.

George Ella

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George M. Ella is a historian, author and biographer. His writings may be accessed at the online archived, ”Biographia Evangelica”.

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In July, 1988 an anonymous article appeared in the Banner of Truth magazine, surprising and shocking many readers. It was a fierce attack on the person and testimony of William Huntington, known affectionately as ‘the Immortal Coalheaver’. The article, which followed a similar attack on John Gill by Robert Oliver the previous year, was planned to start off what the BOT calls an ‘important controversy’ to warn readers against the traditional Calvinism of these men.

In Huntington’s case (though Gill’s was not dissimilar) the BOT were faced with two difficulties. First, it was obvious that Huntington had the largest congregation in London during the latter part of the 18th century and was the most popular and most read Calvinistic preacher and evangelist of his day. This historical fact alone still persuades many Christians to take Huntington’s message seriously. The Banner is now finding it necessary to play these facts down, portraying Huntington as an eccentric bother-causer in some hole-in-a-corner of church history with no lasting testimony to the present generation.

The second difficulty was that Huntington was a Five-Point Calvinist of the type that had become very rare indeed as the 18th century ended. This led the Banner to make two very strategic moves. The first was to suggest that though Huntington was sound on the Five-Points, he was far from sound on other doctrines, thus shifting the fulcrum of Calvinism from the doctrines of grace to a new area of discussion. Then as they could neither prove that Huntington was deficient on the Five-Points, nor come up with a contemporary name who was more proficient in those matters, they began to emphasise that Huntington stood alone amongst evangelicals in general and that anybody viewing Huntington as the most vocal preacher and teacher of his day, can only do so if they ‘denigrate’ (their very strong word) his evangelical contemporaries in all denominations . It would now seem that the Banner has stopped looking for a Five-Point man to…

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The Banner critics portray Huntington as living like an Eastern Nabob in the lap of luxury. Providence Chapel paid their pastor a salary of £100 per annum at the beginning of his ministry but this was rapidly doubled. This was not an unusual amount. Rowland Hill, the only London pastor who could compete in numbers received half to a third more salary than Huntington. James Hervey (1714-1758) received £180 per year and also the profits from a farm which had been in the family for generations. In spite of his popularity, Hervey’s congregations was only half that of Huntington’s. Pastors in patronised livings, however, often received between £600 and £1,000 a year. Many Evangelical clergymen such as Moses Browne, Vicar of Olney when John Newton was his Curate, pastored a number of churches on a sinecure basis which brought them in huge sums. Others such as Dr John Cowper, William Cowper’s father, combined his pastorate with a lucrative sinecure governmental position. Be that as it may, when the news of Huntington’s salary travelled through the London churches, pastored by ex-public school boys and university graduates who were often paid far less, criticism grew. How could an untrained labourer earn as much as a university graduate? Thomas Scott, who always had difficulty making two ends meet, was scathing in his criticism.. When he heard that Huntington was in financial difficulties, too, he gloated to his friends that if he had as much money as Huntington, he would know how to manage it better. This was the kind of unfair criticism that Huntington was reaping from all quarters. Most of the evangelical ministers in London, including Scott, however, were heavily patronised by such benefactors as the…

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One evening, Huntington was sitting by the fireside reading his Bible when he came across the words, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you,” John 14:20. These words were at first incomprehensible to Huntington as he had not experienced being ‘in Christ’ and being thus a new creature. “There must be some secret between Christ and those whom He will save, that I am ignorant of,” he exclaimed. As he thought on these things all his sins paraded themselves before him and all his false hope disappeared in a twinkling. Great conviction came upon him but his first thoughts were of hatred to God for putting him in such a position. He shouted out to his wife in great fear, “Molly, I am undone for ever; I am lost and gone; there is no hope nor mercy for me; you know not what a sinner I am, nor what I feel!” Amazed Mary tried to comfort her husband as well as she could but her Christian experience was weak and she did not know what was happening to him.

All through that night Huntington confessed his sins to God but dare not plead with his Maker for forgiveness as he was so certain that his own iniquities had damned him, cutting him off from God’s mercy for ever. He staggered to work the following morning looking at the horses and cows in envy telling them that they would never be punished for their sins and they would never have to stand trembling at the Judgement seat only to be cast into hell. Next came an overbearing conviction that he could escape all by taking his own life but soon thoughts of the wrath to come after death drove Huntington back to thinking more soberly. In this way Huntington lived through the days of the following weeks overcome with horror at his own self and at his hopelessness until he was completely run down and exhausted. But going one morning to work, Huntington suddenly asked himself which part of the…

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The news that Carey Publications were to publish the lives of these three 17th century Baptists filled me with a feeling of hopeful expectancy. The three Ks have aided my own understanding of the ways of God immensely and I know from my correspondents that there is an awakened, wide-spread interest in them. Michael Haykin’s book thus comes at a most appropriate time.

My expectancy was dampened by Robert Oliver’s foreword in which he takes up his pet theme, Hyper-Calvinism, and back-projects it onto the teaching of Kiffin and Co., arguing that they were against it, whereas they had nothing to do with it, or rather, nothing to do with this modern controversy which is forced onto the churches, leaving havoc and destruction in its wake. This raises the question of whether we have an objective study of the three Ks before us, or are they being misused to batter down the Biblical strongholds of those who cannot accept modern re-definitions of Calvinism and the denial of the ‘particular’ nature of the Atonement.

In his introduction, Prof. Haykin mentions the respective importance of the three Particular Baptists in drawing up the London Baptist Confessions, combating the Seekers, introducing hymn-singing and establishing a Biblical Baptist heritage. Some insight is then given into the sources Haykin has used for his work and good friends are thanked for their support. In keeping with the re-classification of the past, hinted at in Oliver’s foreword, though the book deals with Particular Baptists and their heritage, this historical and doctrinally sound title has been dropped and not once are the subjects of this study named with their own honourable name.

In Chapter One, Haykin examines three major theories of Baptist origins. The Successionist view traces the…

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Tobias Crisp served the Lord during a time of civil war and ecclesiastical unrest. There were threats of a papal take-over in the Established Church and Amyraldianism, Arminianism, Grotianism and Socinianism were flooding into the country to water down the faith inherited from the Reformers and defended by the Puritans. Crisp found these new religions false as they did not exalt Christ.

Entering the ministry as an unconverted man

This ‘holy and judicious’ person, as Augustus Toplady describes Crisp, was born into a family of London sheriffs and aldermen and was educated at Eton, Cambridge and Oxford, finishing his studies by gaining a D.D.. He married Mary Wilson, an Alderman’s daughter, and the couple were blessed with thirteen children. He was ordained Rector of Brinkworth in Wiltshire in the year 1627. It seems that Crisp entered the ministry as an unconverted man. His preaching was highly legalistic, emphasising good works as a means, rather than an outcome, of grace. Yet, he strove earnestly to glorify God in his life and ministry and quickly gained a reputation for popular, forthright preaching. As Crisp delved into the Word to bring comfort to lost souls, his own soul lost the shackles of trust in his own righteousness and he was granted faith in the righteousness of Christ who bore away his sins.

Preaching the whole gospel to the whole man

Crisp now became a seeker and healer of souls second to none in this time of disruption. He preached the whole gospel to the whole man as revealed in the doctrines of grace outlined in Scripture and in the witness of the New Testament saints. Soon people flocked from miles around to hear him preach. As he had a large family estate which brought him a steady income and also a large rectory, he put all to the…

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Part II: Brine’s Theology

In his Treatise on Various Subjects Brine says his calling is to defend the doctrines and principles of our religion, and to vindicate the sacred Word of God. As time is less than our subject craves, I shall select a few of his defences and vindications relevant to today’s debate and deal with justification, duty-faith, redemption, regeneration and sanctification.

Justification

Biblical justification involves the full salvation of sinners, including election, union with Christ, adoption, forgiveness of sins, imputation, redemption, regeneration and sanctification. Today’s Pseudo- Reformed claim that justification is a mere legal formality from God’s side pronounced when sinners exercise duty-faith. Sanctification then fills justification’s empty vessel by adherence to a cut-down moral law. Brine, arguing in his Defence of Justification from Eternity for the Reformed position against a critic appropriately called Bragge, confesses that he learnt his doctrines from Gill. A modern Bragge, writing in Errol Hulse’s Reformation Today therefore says:

“The spiritual heirs of John Gill . . . totally deny regeneration, the new birth, conversion, effectual calling, and vital union with Christ. According to them, why should one have to be born again if he was eternally justified in Christ in eternity past?”

This is typical of Reformation Today’s Counter Reformation folly. Of course, God does nothing in ‘eternity past’. There is no such thing. Eternity is not controlled by past, present or future time. Gill’s and Brine’s doctrine of justification centres on the elect being placed in union with Christ in eternity. They recognise union with Christ, effectual calling, regeneration and conversion as the direct application of justification by our God who…

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Part I. Brine’s Life

First, a few words of explanation. You might think there is more George Ella and our present contemporaries in this lecture than John Brine and his. This is because there is a good deal of John Brine in George Ella and most of our contemporaries positively hate John Brine so we must deal with them firmly but fairly or Brine has taught us in vain. So I am very blunt and particular in my evaluation of Brine’s reception today amongst our self-styled ‘Moderate Calvinists’. Nowadays, these moderately Reformed ministers who strive immoderately to muzzle us are rejecting every single doctrine of the Reformation, ridiculing and condemning those who do not share their errors. Whether I speak in Germany, Britain, the USA or Canada, my ubiquitous critics phone, write or visit my hosts to tell them how surprised they are to find they have invited such a Hyper-Calvinist and Antinomian to address them. Why, they say, he does not believe that the only rule of salvation and sanctification is found in the Mosaic moral law! One hears regularly of free grace believers being excommunicated by churches who have opted for Fuller’s Christ-denying fables. At present, the Founder’s Ministry in the USA is striking decade-long friends from their lists because they still believe the…

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One of the most successful Baptist contenders for the truth in the 18th century was John Gill (1697-1771) , a London pastor who was second to none in the kingdom for scholarly learning and prowess as a preacher. Sadly Gill has faded from the reading of most evangelicals, owing to the fact that his successors held to a radically different view of the gospel. Now he is being rediscovered as the number of publications dealing with him over the last few years show . Something, however, is going seriously wrong. Though contemporary American works such as Thomas J. Nettle’s By His Grace and for His Glory and Timothy George’s essay on Gill in Baptist Theologians show clearly that Gill was no Hyper-Calvinist but a great Reformed 18th century defender of orthodoxy and Baptist apologist, he is being displayed in modern British evangelical circles as a Hyper-Calvinist heretic with not an ounce of evangelical acumen in him. Jack Hoad in his book, The Baptist, maintains that “Dr John Gill was the prince of the hypercalvinistic preachers”, calling those Hyper-Calvinists whom he believes adopt “a supralapsarian view that God`s decree of election preceded his decree to permit the Fall of man.” Hoad is convinced that it was Gill’s influence ‘which was a major factor in the retention of a High Calvinist theology’ in the Baptist churches.

Peter Naylor, in his history of the Particular-cum-Strict Baptist churches entitled Picking Up a Pin For the Lord, equates Hyper-Calvinism with High-Calvinism which he defines, following Andrew Fuller, as being “more Calvinistic than Calvin himself”. Of this teaching he says:

‘High Calvinism’ was a theological system which would appear to have co-ordinated two denials. First, there was the denial that God calls all who hear about Christ to believe in him; no man is obliged as a matter of duty to trust in Christ as a condition of salvation. This denial applied to both the…

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The witness and teaching of Dr John Gill (1697-1771) so impressed his friends Augustus Toplady and James Hervey that they maintained his work would still be of great importance to future generations. This also became the conviction of John Rippon (1750-1836) and Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), Gill’s more well-known successors to his pastorate, but it was also the testimony of those who served for shorter periods at Carter Lane such as John Martin, Benjamin Francis and John Fawcett. The witness of these faithful men of God has helped point generations to Gill’s works which have subsequently enriched their lives.

The present evangelical establishment is apparently striving to unite Calvinism with Arminianism, Baxterism and worse in an effort to promotean ecumenical doctrinal mish-mash which will suit all sides. Symptomatic of this is the new fashion of stressing the universality of the atonement, the belief that Christ died in vain for certain lost sinners, the myth that the covenant of works has been annulled for sinners, a rejection of preaching the law as a preparation for the work of grace and the idea that salvation comes through repentance and faith as human agencies in regeneration. This is all backed up by the nonsensical theory that the Father and Son represent paradoxical modes in the unity of the Godhead. Such a deviation from the witness of the Bible has resulted in the clear teaching of Particular Baptist John Gill being rejected for the syncretism of Andrew Fuller who succeeded in combining Arminianism Baxterism, Latitudinarianism and Socinianism and presenting it as The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.

A by-product of this U-turn in modern evangelical thinking is a critical reassessment of the writings of John Gill and a re-interpretation of the works of those who have referred to them in an apparently positive way in the past. Typical of such revisionism, and following on a series of similar re-constructions concerning the life and writings of William Huntington, is the article entitled John Gill and C. H. Spurgeon in Issue 386 of the Banner of Truth magazine authored by the Rev. Iain Murray. In this essay, an ominous foretaste of a larger work on Hyper-Calvinism to follow, Iain Murray suggests that Spurgeon is ‘over generous to Gill’ and that Rippon is too…

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So often when speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit which infused the churches with new life in the 18th century, mention is made of Anglican stalwarts such as Whitefield, Hervey, Toplady and Romaine. The works of these men through God’s sovereign grace cannot be praised enough but the fact that recent biographers have highlighted their activities has tended to give the impression that other denominations, such as the Baptists, were quite inactive during this period. This is by no means the case as the testimony of John Gill shows.

John Gill was born in 1697 in the town of Kettering and became a member of the Particular Baptist church there before being called to the pastorate at Goat Yard Chapel, Horselydown, London. This church, now known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle, is famous in Baptist history for being pastored by such prominent men as Benjamin Keach, Benjamin Stinton, John Rippon and Charles H. Spurgeon besides Gill.

When Gill took over the Goat Yard church, its doctrines and methods of church government were far from Biblical. Too much emphasis was placed on the supervisory rights of extra-church affiliations which robbed local churches of their sovereignty. An association of ministers who met regularly at a Coffee House, of all places, had set themselves up as joint-elders of the Particular Baptist churches in London claiming the sole right to ordain pastors and deacons. Indeed, an influential minority in the churches maintained that they had no rights of their own regarding the…

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The Ministry of Septimus Sears (1819-1877) as Seen By his Congregation and Challenged by David Gay

Septimus Sears, renowned in England as one of the country’s most outstanding pastors and preachers, started his ministry at the age of 20 before taking over Clifton Strict Baptist Church, Bedfordshire which he shepherded from 1842 to his death in 1877. Sears suffered all his life from severe heart trouble and was burdened by long periods of paralysis and typhus. His neck bones were so deformed that he had to wear an iron collar to support his head. Nevertheless, he preached three times on the Lord’s Day and often during the week. He edited two Christian magazines, The Little Gleaner and The Sower, and published many sermons besides a number of popular hymnbooks and poetical works. The invalid pastor-poet established a school for poor children, founded organisations to care for orphans and the needy and erected homes for widows and the aged. He believed that gospel witness should be social and practical as well as spiritual. His labours were immense in the Lord and certainly not in vain.

All gospel-minded Christians will thus profit from reading the following testimony to Sears’ preaching penned by his converts, congregation and friends.[1. Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Late Septimus Sears] They say his preaching included: “the infinite and inflexible justice of God in His…

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Part Two: The Mission Prospers

The mission at Serampore prospered and spread. Carey was given the most prominent building in the city for the church in which he preached for the next thirty-four years. The town of Serampore, too, prospered as it proved an asylum of peace for fugitives from the Americo-Franco-British wars and it persuaded many wealthy investors to settle there. More missionaries were urgently needed as Brunsdon soon died of a liver complaint. Fountain, who was doing pioneer work at Dinapoor, also died after a short illness. Thomas rejoined the mission but became insane and soon died.

The missionaries were able to purchase a very large house in the middle of the town with two acres of garden from the Governor’s nephew for £800. In no time, Ward had set up his press, sufficient paper was at hand and he began to print the Bengali Bible. Due to the generosity of the Danish King, the missionaries were able to add a school, a college, a hostel and private houses so that within a few years, the buildings alone of the mission station covered five acres. These were set in several acres of botanical gardens. Soon after settling in Serampore, Carey realised what a godsend Ward and Marshman were. He told the Society…

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My reason for publishing this account of William Carey and his Indian mission on my website.

On 18-21 February, 2010 a conference will be held at Muscle Shoals, Alabama under the theme ‘The Quagmire of Hyper-Calvinism’. The key speaker will be Dr. Michael Haykin who will lecture on Andrew Fuller as a missionary pioneer. The myth that Andrew Fuller pioneered a missionary movement is superstitiously believed by Dr. Haykin and his circle but the Baptist Missionary Society Fuller helped to found came at the rear end of a long line of Christian missionary organisations whether church based or, like the BMS, a para-church movement. Andrew Fuller was not the instigator of this missionary society but William Carey who urged the Baptists to act as other churches and nations had been acting for centuries. When Carey reached India, he had more support from Continental missionary societies and missionary minded friends from Scandinavia and Germany than from the Baptist Missionary Society which Fuller re-structured it Carey’s absence. Indeed, Carey founded his mission in a Danish, not British Protectorate. So fierce was Fuller’s and later Ryland Junior’s chauvinistic, political interference in the Indian Mission that Carey had to complain that Fuller’s influence was a ‘killing’ influence and that Ryland’s letters to the mission were ‘evil’. So, too, the myth that the BMS supported the…

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A number of modern writers who preach common-grace and duty-faith as redemptive means in evangelisation, view John Collet Ryland as a Hyper-Calvinist. Such a person, a recent BOT article tells us, does not appeal to sinners, “directly encouraging them to trust him (Christ), and appealing to them to do so now.” Obviously, given such criteria, Ryland’s critics know nothing of his extensive gospel ministry or are deliberately introducing a new conception of what ‘directly encouraging sinners’ means. Most of their ‘encouragement’ is found in their slogan ‘God’s provisions and man’s agency’ which stresses the need for man to use all his supposed natural abilities and duties to grasp out and take God’s provisions in Christ. Ryland affirmed that salvation was all of grace. Only then could he preach to sinners that salvation was truly there for all who repented and turned to Christ. Otherwise there would be no gospel for any man. The legalism of the duty-faith protagonists was thus obnoxious to him. Referring to the false doctrine introduced by Andrew Fuller and the two Robert Halls and supported by his son, Ryland said, “The devil threw out an empty barrel for them to roll about, while they ought to have been drinking the wine of the kingdom. That old dog, lying in the dark, has drawn off many good men to whip syllabub, and to sift quiddities, under pretence of zeal for the truth.” Sadly, this empty barrel-rolling and the verbal froth whipped up by redefining theological basics and making grace law-bound has become the favourite game of nominal evangelicals in the Reformed camp.

As a preacher, pioneer Baptist John Collet Ryland, according to his colleague and biographer William Newman (1773-1835) was ‘a star of the first magnitude’. Converted under Benjamin Beddome in revival days, on taking over a…

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In 1692, New England was in a tumult. Within a matter of weeks no less than 150 suspects had been charged with witchcraft and in the Massachusetts colony frightened men women and children believed that the devil was on the loose. The epicentre of this wave of evil which was to alienate children from their parents, churches from their pastors, servants from their masters and even wives from their husbands was the small community of Salem several hours ride on horseback from Boston.

Salem, though of very insignificant size, has received an over-proportioned importance in American ‘popular’ history as an example of how the Puritans strove to purge a town of its sin by burning its evil-doers[1. There were no burnings in Salem. The numerous novels and films dealing with these ‘burnings’ are pure flights of the imagination.]. To a balanced Christian mind, Salem ought rather to be an example of how superstition and lack of spiritual insight can so blind secular authorities and social critics that they see the very men who were gifted by God to…

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The ‘Enlightenment’ that brought a deluge of immorality

The French occupation of Germany under Napoleon’s Dictatorship caused political, social and religious unrest which lasted well into the present century. The Corsican upstart conscripted Germans and compelled them to suppress their fellow-countrymen or forfeit their lives. One man by the name of Oncken, a citizen of Varel in present Schleswig-Holstein, decided to resist the tyrannical French and campaigned to overthrow the occupational forces. Napoleon’s spies, however, were everywhere and Onckenwas compelled to flee to England to carry on his work of liberation in exile. On January 26th, 1800, a son was born to the ex-patriate whom, in God’s providence, he was never to see. The child’s name was Johann Gerhard Oncken. It appears that his mother died in childbirth and the tiny baby was taken care of by his grandmother who prayed for the day when her son would return a freeman. Her hope was in vain. Oncken died in exile two years later.

Biographer, J. H. Cooke, writes “The French armies brought the…

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