The Baptized Churches Of Christ – Appendix B
Reuben Ross preached the first Arminian, or Freewill sermon among Baptists near Port Royal, Tennessee in 1817. The Baptist Board of Foreign Missions had been set up on 1813-1815. During the same time, his brother, Martin Ross, introduced the call for missions in the Kehukee Baptist Association in North Caroline, from whence Reuban had come. The two events so closely joined together possibly is an explanation for the speed in which the Kehukee Churches reacted against the New Divinity innovations, in their Kehukee Declaration (See Appendix E)
The following excerpts on Reuben Ross, was written by the great Missionary Baptists’ light, J. M. Pendleton, to Ross’s granddaughter. The second selection below is Pendleton’s description of the preachers in Ross’s fellowship, which is yet an adequate description of the doctrines and preaching today among Predestinarian Old School Baptists Churches. We have for special emphasis placed some points in bold heading that the reader might be aware that these things were then believed, and are yet believed by the true Church and believers in Christ in this day.
First Excerpt: “Elder Ross Explains His Views.” (Chapter XXVIII.)
We will now pass on to the year 1817, which may be regarded as an epoch in the life of your grandfather, since during this year he gave utterance to those views which culminated in his separation from his hyper-calvinistic brethren, and the organization of the Bethel Baptist Association.
At the commencement of his ministerial labors, as was to have been expected, he adopted the rigid views of his family and of the church to which they belonged, – in which faith so many great and good men have lived and died. It would, perhaps, not be extravagant to say that many of the brightest intellects from the earliest ages of the church down to his own time had contended for these views as for “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
They believed in particular and unconditional election and reprobation, that Christ died for the elect only, and that not one of His elect would ever be lost, or one of the non-elect ever be saved. That the Almighty, who knows the end from the beginning, looking down, as it were, upon the generations of men yet unborn, without the least regard to character or conduct had elected or selected one here and another there to be saved and had passed all others by as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
These views, as he thought, represent the heavenly Father as a parent who had lavished all His care and tenderness on a part of His children only. These He had provided with food, raiment, instruction, and all things necessary to their comfort and happiness. The rest He had left to struggle on as best they might for a time against hunger, cold, and neglect, and finally to perish, not because they were less deserving than their brethren, but simply because it was His will and pleasure to pass them by. [The writer must point out, that Pendleton either misrepresents these elders, or himself does not comprehend the total depravity and willful sinfulness of the reprobates, nor the kindness given them often above His elect in natural prosperity and material comforts. The latter is most likely the case.]
Early in his ministry his mind became perplexed and troubled on this subject. He could not understand how this could be when the sacred writings declare that His tender mercies are over all His works; that “He is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that FEARS HIM and works righteousness is accepted of Him.” But such was his reverence for the wisdom, knowledge, and piety of those who had gone before him and held these views, that he would not permit his thoughts to dwell upon them when he could avoid doing so.
When he came to the West he found his brethren here of THE SAME BELIEF, and tenacious of it to the last degree. They watched over it with the utmost solicitude, and over every member of their communion in regard to it, and especially over their preachers. If one of them was suspected of being unsound in the faith or Arminian in his tendencies, they turned away from him, and his usefulness among them was at an end.
Could this doctrine be true?
He often thought.
Does the Bible teach that our happiness after death depends on unconditional election?
That if elected, we shall be saved simply because we are elected: and if lost, it will be because we are not elected. [Pendleton’s footnote: “The advocates of election would be slow to admit that this is a correct view of the doctrine. They certainly do not believe that election saves independently of a compliance with the requirements of the gospel, but that election leads to such compliance, and that God in choosing ends chooses means to accomplish them. On the other hand, it is not scriptural to represent sinners as lost and punished, because they are not elected; but they are lost and punished for their sins, and for no other reason.”]
He doubts this and is determined to bring all the faculties of his mind to the investigation of this subject, one of the most important in his estimation in the whole range of Christian theology.
On one side of this great argument stands John Calvin, of Geneva, with his hard, cold, merciless, but powerful logic. On the other, James Arminius, of Holland, no less able, with his warn, generous, and merciful interpretation of the sacred writings.
Mighty men, so to speak, have fought under these leaders respectively, and for a long time victory seemed to be perched on the banners of the former; but, in these “latter days,” the signs are, that the views of Arminius will triumph in the end. [Pendleton is quoting from Ross’s biography, and adds this footnote here: “The biographer her expresses his opinion, which he had a perfect right to do; but from this opinion many, no doubt, will dissent. J. M. P. ]
In calling to mind the disadvantages under which your grandfather labored, one can but regret the strait he was in; and nothing shows more clearly what manner of man he was than the patience and courage manifested by him. . . . Gill’s “Body of Divinity” was a book held in high estimation by Baptists at that time. He greatly desired to get it, hoping it might throw much light on the subject of his studies, and he knew it could be had for six dollars. But six dollars were something to him in those days. I remember to have heard him and your grandmother often speak of purchasing this book. Sometimes they almost made up their minds to buy it, and then again declined doing so.
The book, though, was at last bought, and for days we saw but little of him, so much was he absorbed in its perusal. Some time after this he purchased another book, “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation,” by Andrew Fuller, of England, – a work which greatly interested him. [Pendleton’s footnote here: “Andrew Fuller, in his day, found the state of things among the Baptists in England quite similar to that referred to on the theater of Elder Ross’s labors. (They were predestinarians too! Editor). It was to them a troublesome question whether the gospel should be preached to sinners at all. Dr. Gill hesitated about the matter, as we learn from Dr. Cramp’s “History of Baptists.” (Dr. Cramp apparently was no more familiar with Gill’s writing than Pendleton shows himself to be!) Fuller differed from Gill, and believed in an “objective fullness” in the provisions of the atonement of Christ, sufficient for the salvation of all men. He therefore insisted that the gospel is worthy of all acceptation, and is to be preached to men, not as elect or non-elect, but as sinners under the wrath of God and in need of salvation. Eternity alone will reveal all the good accomplished, by God’s blessing, on Fuller’s Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.” J.M.P. ]
He would often speak of the delicacy of his position during these years. He was all the time engaged in preaching, and it was of the utmost importance to express himself so that it might not transpire prematurely to what his investigations were tending. For ecclesiastical history shows that as much wisdom and sound discretion is necessary in religious movements as in those of governments and armies, and that, for want of these, many great and good men have failed in effecting much needed reformation.
Fortunately for him, the Baptists in this country at that time were divided in sentiment in regard to preaching to sinners or calling them to repentance; one class knew that if they were reprobates, it would all be of no avail. Others thought it would do no harm to scatter the seed broadcast, since none but the elect germs would, after all, vegetate and bear fruit. H availed himself of this state of things to the full extent, and urged all alike to repent and believe the gospel.
As he proceeded in his investigations, he saw that the Bible, from beginning to end, was instinct with the doctrine that all our blessings, both spiritual and temporal, are more or less CONDITIONAL. . . .
When asked if there were not texts which seemed to teach differently? He would reply that many good men thought there were such; but that unconditional and conditional salvation could not both be true, since this would involve a contradiction in terms; and hence the conclusion that they were misunderstood, and that, were this not the case, all parts of the sacred writings would be found to harmonize on this subject.
By supplying a word or phrase, now and then, which is done in every language, to bring out the meaning, there would be found, as he thought, but few texts not in accord with the drift and scope of the Bible in its teaching in regard to salvation as being conditional or unconditional.
Having thus satisfied himself that man’s salvation is conditional and depends on his character and conduct and not according to election and predestination, and that the atonement is general, he determined henceforth to preach in accordance with these views, and a fitting opportunity soon after presented itself to address the people in regard to them.
In the month of July 1817, he was requested to preach the funeral sermon of Miss Eliza Norfleet, who had died some time previously near Port Royal, Tenn. From what I have heard of this young lady she was greatly esteemed and beloved in the community in which she had lived, on account of her gentle and amiable character, – one of those bright flowers so often seen to bud, bloom, and fade away in the morning of life. The place where the funeral sermon was preached was a short distance only from Port Royal, on the road leading thence to Nashville, distant only a few miles from the spot where ten years before he had first been heard as a preacher in Tennessee; and now as then in a grove of shady trees and in a community where he was highly esteemed both as a man and as a preacher. The wish was general to pay marked respect to the memory of the departed, and to hear a favorite preacher on the occasion. I have seen lately several old gentlemen of the highest respectability who were then present and from whom I learned many interesting particulars.
Your grandfather, on that occasion, preached a sermon remarkable, both on account of the deep impression it left on the minds of the people who heard it and on account of the important consequences that followed. In the conclusion of his discourse he gave utterance to those views which characterized his preaching thereafter until the close of his ministerial labors; they were as follows:
That the human race in consequence of disobedience, are in a state of alienation and rebellion against their Creator and they must become reconciled to him before they can obtain his favor and forgiveness, – that Christ by his suffering and death has made an atonement sufficient for the sins of the whole world, – that salvation to all who will accept the terms, is as free as the light of heaven or the air we breathe, – that he has given his word to teach them the way and plan of salvation and the terms on which they will be forgiven and received into favor, – that these terms are repentance, faith, love, obedience – in a word to become followers of Christ; – that in addition to the word the Holy Spirit is given to influence men directly to believe in Christ, to love and serve God, and lead pious and godly lives; yet that he never operates with such power on the human soul as to destroy its free agency, but leaves to man the fearful responsibility of deciding for himself whether he will serve God or no.
That is, if we yield to the influences of the Holy Spirit and become followers of Christ, we shall be pardoned and saved. If not, we shall be lost. If we are lost, it will be our own fault. If saved, it will be on account of the goodness and mercy of God and not for any merit in us. That the election spoken of in the Bible is not unconditional, but always has reference to conduct or character. That the Almighty before the foundation of the world elected those to be saved, that he knew from the beginning would love and serve him.
These views, it is said, were received with great joy by the people, and a suppressed expression of approbation was heard to pass through the multitude.
When his discourse was ended he descended from the stand, passed silently through the crowd, mounted his horse and rode home, about twenty miles distinct. He does not wish just now to meet face to face his kind old brethren; those who ten years before had received him with open arms when he first came a stranger among them; who had given him so many proofs of sincere friendship, and came to hear him as one of the ornaments of the church. He prefers at present to persue his solitary ride and indulge his feelings of regret that so often in this life duty and friendship cannot go hand in hand together.
But while he is wending his way homeward let us return to the grave he had just left. Here a little apart from the dispersing crowd might have been seen a group of men, many of whose heads were grey with age, in earnest conversation trying to decide what was best to be done under the circumstances. It was finally settled that Elder Fort should go down to see your grandfather; expostulate with him in regard to his strange discourse; and try, if possible, to induce him to reconsider what he had said in his sermon, and save his church from the great reproach he had brought upon it by falling into the grievous heresy of Arminianism. . . .”
“It is proper here to add that although a difference of opinion in regard to election and predestination, or rather to the grounds of election and predestination, was the chief cause of the wide spread dissatisfaction among the churches at this time, yet this was not the only cause of alienation and estrangement. There was a wide difference also among them on the subjects of an educated ministry and Foreign and Domestic Missions. The Old School Baptists, as we came to term them, were violently opposed to everything new of this sort, and in favor, so to speak, of letting all these things take care of themselves. The others felt a deep interest in sending the gospel into foreign lands, to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, to the heathen nearer home, and also to giving the ministry the advantages of learning and general culture.”
[ Life and Times of Elder Reuben Ross, by J. M. Pendleton, Philadelphia, 1882, pages 278-291.]
This seems a good place to insert the next excerpt showing what manner of elders huddled together that day when Elder Ross introduced his heresy of Arminianism among them at the funeral. Here is J. M. Pendleton’s description of them. Keep in mind, that Pendleton is an adversary to the doctrines the Baptists then believed.
Pendleton’s Description of The Baptists Ministerial Friends of Elder Reuben Ross
There were, besides your grandfather, four preachers of notoriety in the Association (Red River) whom I remember well, and whom I have heard preach many times. Of these personal appearance and the character of their preaching, I have a distinct recollection. These were elder Lewis Moore, Jesse Brooks, Isaac Todevine, and Sugg Fort. I will attempt to describe them, that you may have some idea of the men with whom your grandfather was for many years associated in the ministry.
They were staunch Predestinarians, and gloried in the doctrine they preached. All were of excellent character, and some of them of fine talents. In point of ability it was generally admitted that Elder Lewis Moore stood foremost. He was not above medium height, heavily built, with a short neck, large head, full face, and was rather careless in his dress. Out of the pulpit he had little to say, but in it he was certainly no common man. Before coming to this country in 1728, he was pastor of the Reedy Creek Baptist Church in Warren County, N.C. When I first knew him he was pastor of the Muddy River Church and of several others in this country. This church was, I think, situated somewhere north of Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky. In his style of speaking he was nervous, vehement, and sometimes startling. He seemed to carry in his memory every text in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that bore on election, predestination, and kindred subjects; and could apply them with great force and effect. His irony, too, was exceedingly sharp and cutting.
It was customary in those times for the preachers while arguing their points to call on a brother, or a sister even, to say if what they affirmed was not true. They would do so many times during a sermon after becoming heated by the argument, and the brother appealed to would sanction with great energy. After piling text upon text, and argument upon argument, and making his position seemingly impregnable, he would say:
“Tell me now, Brother Todevine, it not this doctrine true?”
“Yes, Brother Moore, it is true, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
“Sister Owens, is this doctrine true?”
“Yes, brother, and bless the Lord for it.”
“And yet,” he would continue, “there are men in the world, and not a few of them either, who deny the truth of this glorious doctrine of election that has made glad the hearts of God’s people for thousands of years. They say, forsooth, it is partial and unjust, and does not give every one an equal chance to be saved. Now just reflect.
We are all miserable sinners, “conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity;” (Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” ) and if we had our just deserts would every one be sent to hell, and that speedily; but God in His infinite goodness and mercy has condescended to elect and save some of us. And instead of adoring His Holy Name because all are not lost, they are raising a great clamor because all are not saved! A has money and chooses to give B a part of it. The money is his own, and he can use it as he pleases. But it is no sooner known that he has bestowed a portion of it on B than every vagabond in the country denounces him as partial and unjust, because he does not give everyone some, too. Who is injured by this? I would like to know. Some are benefited, but does that defraud any one else? One man makes a feast, and invites his friends to come and partake with him. Those who have not been invited, nor would come if so, raise a howl as if victuals had been taken out of their own mouths. Alas! For the folly and presumption of human beings! It is really past finding out.”
“But let me tell you, my friends, what is really the matter. I am sorry to say it, but according to them, the truth is the Almighty don’t properly understand His business. That is clear from the mistakes He is constantly making. Would it not be a blessed thing if He could have some of our wise men to assist Him? Some that have studied Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in the colleges and high schools, to help Him better govern the world? Or might it not be better still as the poet has said to
“Snatch from His hand the balances and the rod;
Rejudge His Justice; be the god of God.”
Then would follow one of his perorations, or conclusions, which I used to think very fine.
“But, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let not your hearts be troubled at these things. Your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure. Your house is built on a Rock. Let the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing. Greater is He that is in you than they that are against you. Let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The conflict will soon be over, and we shall be where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest. In these bright mansions not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, crowns and diadems and palms of victory await you, which shall be placed on your brow by the Great King Himself.”
It was delightful to see how happy the brotherhood seemed to feel on occasions like this. Every countenance was radiant with these inspiring hopes, but no hands would clap or shouts be heard. These preachers would stop instantly in the midst of one of their loftiest flights should any one give way to his emotions.
Elder Moore believed that long before the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy at the glories of the new creation, the Almighty looked down upon the ages yet unborn, as it were, in review before Him in His determinate counsel and selected one here and another there to enjoy eternal life and left the rest to the blackness of darkness forever; and so He preached. . . .
Elder Brooks, like other Calvinistic preachers of the say, had but little to say to sinners, as those were called who had never made any profession of religion or connected themselves with any church. Indeed, they were tough subjects, and they seemed very much disposed to let them alone. If they were not of the elect, all the preaching in the world would do them no good, so far as salvation was concerned, since they believed Christ had died and saved the elect only.
Why then preach to them at all?
On the other hand, if they were of the elect, nothing could prevent their being called. They would be sure, sooner or later, to come into the fold. Many of these Old Order of Baptists still doubt the propriety of making sinners the subjects of gospel addresses.
[Editor: Perhaps this next paragraph indicates why J.M. Pendleton went Arminian with the New Divinity. He certainly had a very blind spot.]
I have heard the subject of hereditary depravity discussed many times. The argument was about this:- That we are all parts of our father Adam; and when Adam, who was the whole, sinned, we the parts in him sinned also in him; and as he deserved punishment, so do we, as being Adam drawn out at length, as they expressed it. I used, when a boy, to try hard to comprehend this mystery, but never succeeded. We know that one can receive a taint morally and physically by hereditary transmission, as in pulmonary consumption, and bad tempers and dispositions both in men and brutes. But how one can be really guilty for this inherited defect is not so easy to conceive. Sinners were advised to shun outbreaking sins if possible such as horse-racing, card-playing, cock-fighting, profanity, drunkenness, and fiddling and dancing especially.
Election, predestination, the nature and extent of the atonement, the final perseverance of the saints, effectual calling, and the glorious and happy state of the elect after death were the themes on which Elder Brooks and the others loved to dwell.
I have taken unusual pains to recall my early impressions of these old pioneer preachers, who may be considered representative ministers among the Baptists of those days.
But there was one dread thought that often brought these old Christians low even unto the dust. “Am I, after all, one of the elect? May I not, after all, be mistaken? And if so, then all hope is gone!” The storm-tossed mariner, when his boat goes down, may find a plank or broken spar, and on it may reach the friendly shore; but for him who is not of the elect there is no plank or spar or friendly shore; he must sink in the deep, dark waters. There is ground for believing that by this dread apprehension the reason of many has been dethroned.
I have heard many, whose minds were filled with doubts and fears on this subject, converse with your grandfather in regard to it. While troubled with these gloom apprehensions, they might often be heard singing the plaintive hymn:
“’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord or no
Am I His or am I not?”
Before passing on to our next chapter we will add, that there was one theme of which these old Christians never grew weary, and which filled their hearts with unspeakable love and gratitude. That the Almighty should have loved them with an everlasting love, chosen them to be lively stones in His holy temple, made them the special objects of His regard, vessels of honor, while others, as good by nature as they, perhaps better by practice, were vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, seemed at times to fill their hearts with love and gratitude beyond expression.
(J. M. Pendleton, ibid., pages 124-132.]
It seems well to insert here David Benedicts remarks on the origins of the mission and benevolent movements among Baptist. David Benedict is the first “Historian” produced by the Missionary, and was, in fact, one of their main initiators of those movements. Pastor of the Baptist Church in Pawtucket, R.I., he instituted, along with Samuel Slater and Quakers, the first Sunday school in America, in 1820. He was the first to introduce instrumental music in Baptist worship in this country, and he was the first to organized choirs and special singers in Baptist churches. In 1813, he published his “History,” of the Baptists, and desiring to upgrade the status of Baptists, he included benevolent organization of other denominations, making it appear they were “Baptist”. He promoted the union of all Protestants into one single centralized organization. In time, however, personal mistreatment by the Congregationalists turned him away from so broad a union.
Thereafter he worked toward the union of all the various kinds of Baptists into one centralized benevolent organization. His 1848 edition of The History of The Baptists was so blatantly false, that even New School Baptists criticized him. He promised to correct it, and his “correction” is his Autobiographical history, titled, Fifty Years Among Baptists, 1809 to 1859. Here is what he wrote what Baptists were when he first came among them from the Congregationalists Church:
“Sunday Schools and Bible classes, and ALL the other institutions of modern times, for objects of Christian benevolence and moral reform, which are in much successful operation with us, and other communities in the land, were wholly UNKNOWN IN MY EARLY DAY. . . . The idea of a religious newspaper was then nowhere entertained, nor did anyone think of going to the secular press with articles of a religious cast. . . .”
“When I look back, I can hardly realize the changes which have taken place in our denomination, in my day, in the means of intelligence and benevolence. It seems almost incredible that a society which so lately was slow to engage in any new enterprise, and was so jealous of any collegiate training for its ministers, should at this early period have as many colleges and kindred institutions spread over the land; that such a flood of periodicals of kinds should so soon be added. . . that somuch should have been done by this people in the home and foreign mission departments, in the Bible cause, in the publication of Baptist literature, in Sunday Schools and Bible classes, and in labors of various kinds; and ALL SINCE I FIRST BEGAN to collect the scanty and scattered materials for their history. . . . Fifty years ago, NOT AN AGENT FOR COLLECTING FUNDS FOR ANY OBJECT OF BENEVOLENCE OR LITERATURE WAS TO BE SEEN IN THE WHOLE BAPTIST FIELD. . . .”
Note: This being so, and historical documents prove him correct, what can be said about those so-called “Missionary Baptist historians” that proclaim loud and far that the Missionary Baptists can trace their history back to the church in Jerusalem in a.d. 33?
If they can, they must trace them through those Baptists who were opposed vehemently against them!
Here is what David Benedict says about the rise of missions. Remember that he is in favor of them, and the year of this publication is 1859:
“About forty years ago [this would be 1819] the dormant energies of our denomination in this country began to be aroused in favor of some systematic efforts in favor of SENDING THE GOSPEL TO THE HEATHEN. The cause of this movement may be traced to the conversion of Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice to the sentiments of the Baptists, while on their way to India as missionaries, under the patronage of the pedo-baptists [Congregationalists] . . . . Mr. Rice soon returned to America to solicit pecuniary aid for assisting in establishing a BAPTIST MISSION IN THE EAST, which the attention of the American Baptists was now directed in a SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED MANNER.”
(David Benedict, Fifty Years Among Baptists, 1859, pp. 20,21, 53, and 84.)
We need say very little about the whole collection of institutions that identify New School or Missionary Baptists as “Baptists,” compose a completely new denomination and totally separate from the original Baptists in America. Every sovereign grace believer, full well can tell that this group of “Baptists” no longer is capable of preaching the gospel here at home or abroad.
They’ve lost it altogether!
It is rather interesting, that most of these Baptists say “God cannot save a sinner without the preaching of the gospel!”
What does this say of their contemporary members that have never had occasion to hear it?