The Relation of the Gospel to the Unregenerate
By Elder J. H. Oliphant
Messenger of Peace—August 1905
I wish to call your attention to the articles of faith of the “Strict Baptists” of England. The names of Gill, Gadsby, Philpot and others are attached as aiding to get them up, and I have no doubt these articles express the sentiments of John Gill. They certainly express what has been held by our people in this country.
Art. 26, “We deny duty-faith and duty-repentance—these terms signify that it is every man’s duty to spiritually and savingly repent and believe. I understand them in this, not to deny it is the duty of men to turn away from their evil ways and believe God’s word to be true, but they denied that true and spiritual repentance is performed as a duty, that men may determine the time and place of it and its duration, etc. It is certainly a blessed sight to see a sinner, broken in heart for sin, but these men did not believe this is performed as a duty. So it is one of the sweetest of all privileges to depend on the Savior for all that fits us for heaven. These men did not believe “duty” to be the right name for it. They held that such a faith as this is not performed as a duty and should not be urged on men as a duty. Men often desire to believe and would often give all they have to believe and say, “O, could I but believe.” It does not seem agreeable to our own experience in these things to regard them as simple “duties,” in the usual sense of the word, at least. Arminians urge these things as duties, in the sense that man can fix on the time, place and amount of them. The law of God, no doubt, demands loyalty, from all of his creatures, and it may be urged that sorrow for sin would surely be in the hearts of men who are loyal, but the primary demand of the law is that we have no sin to be sorry for. When sin is committed the door of hope is forever barred and repentance should not be pointed to as a door of hope within reach of any one—nor as essential to spiritual life, but the opposite should be taught—that spiritual life is essential to repentance. Nor should we teach that final condemnation results from the rejection of offered mercy.
Art. 27, “We deny that the Holy Spirit ever enlightens the non-elect to make them capable at all of receiving grace.” This is sound and essential to the doctrine of grace.
Art. 28, “We reject the doctrine of Baxteriorism, that is to say, that while all the elect shall assuredly be saved, there is a residium of grace in Christ for the rest or any of the rest if they will only accept it.” Fuller, Hull, Baxter and others wanted to invite all the race to come to Christ. And so they laid the basis for this appeal in the atonement. They held that it was specially for the elect, and sufficient for the rest, so that the non-elect will not be lost on account of any scarcity or poverty in the atonement. They held that the atonement had some value outside of the covenant, enough to warrant general exhortations to all men to savingly repent. Our people urged that the atonement is entirely a covenant transaction and that it all belongs to those embraced in the covenant. Hassell says Hall was an “Arminian Baptist,” a “semi-Calvinist.” He was an open communionist. Fuller was the originator of the Missionary Baptists. Baxter was not more than a semi-Calvinist. He wrote a book called “Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted.”
Art. 29, “While we believe that the gospel is to be preached in or proclaimed to all the world, as in Mark xvi. 15, we deny offers of grace, that is to say, that the gospel is to be offered indiscriminately to all.” The salvation of the sinner is not the result of a treaty between the sinner and God, nor does it grow out of a mutual conference between God and the sinner. The gospel is not an offer to save any one.
Art. 32, “We believe that it would be unsafe from the brief records we have of the way in which the apostles under the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit addressed their hearers’ in certain special cases and instances, to derive absolute and universal rules for ministerial addresses in the present day.” “Therefore that for ministers to address unconverted persons or indiscriminately in a mixed congregation, calling upon them to savingly repent, believe and receive Christ, or perform any other act dependent on the creative power of the Holy Ghost, is on the one hand to imply creature power, and on the other to deny special redemption.” I have never heard an Old Baptist minister call on every one to savingly repent and believe in Jesus, except some who went with Elder Pence and Burnam in the 80’s (these were 4-point Calvinists and the fathers of the “Old Regular Baptists” we have today—DM) and those who went with these men I think will finally land with the Missionary Baptists. If we had consented to this manner of preaching we could have avoided the divisions in the 80’s, and I believe that if we would all consent to preaching of this kind Elders Pence and Burnam would accept it as a basis of compromise.
Art. 34, “We believe that any such expressions as convey to the hearers a belief that they possess a certain power to flee to the Savior, to close in with Christ, to receive Christ while in an unregenerate state, so that unless they do thus close with Christ, etc., they shall perish, are untrue and must therefore be rejected. And we further believe that we have no scripture warrant to take the exhortations in the Old Testament, intended for the Jews, in national covenant with God, and apply them in a spiritual and saving sense to unregenerate men.” Our English brethren believe that to call on all men to savingly repent, believe, etc., will encourage men to think that they can do so—to regard the atonement as making some sort of provision for all. In this I think they were right. We may preach election, depravity and special atonement forty minutes and then exhort all to savingly repent and “come to Jesus just now,” and our hearers will go away believing that we are very liberal in our views. Arminians often preach this way, and we have claimed that they are like the cow that gave a good pail of milk and then kicked it over—preach one way and exhort another.
I labored in the ministry with Elders Thomas, Potter, Lampton, Hume and many others now at rest. I do not believe that there is a Baptist now living who will say they ever heard these men call on all to savingly repent. I love our people and their peace and I believe it will be ruin to us when we turn away from this beaten path of our fathers. When the Old Baptists depart from this ground I will have no religious home for I am not going to leave it, the Lord willing. When division came between us and the Missionaries we held they were responsible for it because they brought sentiment and practices hitherto unknown among us. So when Elder Pence and Burnam brought their views into our midst we considered them responsible for the strife that ensued. I desire never to be responsible for division nor to be one that causes division. And if we adhere patiently and faithfully to principles handed down to us by our fathers, we will not be responsible for any strife that may arise among us. Elder Pence urges that our churches were dying out everywhere for the want of his remedy (and I hear some say this today and I think it shameful—DM). But they have lived and grown from then until now and we as a people have lived without resorting to Arminian methods—to mourner’s benches, to Arminian exhortations, etc. Let us patiently and quietly go on as we have been doing, be content with the cross, the Lord will preserve us to time’s end.
Unworthily, J. H. O.
Submitted by Elder David Montgomery | Print This Page
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The Relation of the Gospel to the Unregenerate