Chapter 9 – Why So Great An Apostasy?
Observing the rapidity in which the greater portion fell from the doctrines of grace and New Testament order, one must ask: “How did this come to pass so quickly?”
Were they not established in the faith of God’s elect?
Did they not actually believe what they had so recently written in the Articles of their Faith for all men to read and understand?
Did they understand the meaning of their own hand-written declaration that “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament is the written word of God and the only rule of faith and practice”?
Why did they use the word “only,” unless they really meant to restrict their activities to the word of God?
Their preachers almost unanimously declared the absolute sovereignty of God; the total depravity and inability of man; the unconditional election unto grace; the effectual calling to salvation by the Spirit; the substitutionary life and death of Christ for the penalty of the elects’ sins and the consequent imputation of His righteousness for their own; and the finished and accomplished salvation by Christ on the cross.
Did they not often rejoice with tears streaming down their cheeks at such glorious God-honoring doctrine?
Eye-witnesses – even their enemies – have left on record that they had observed this scene often. Their enemies scoffed at their tenderness toward such harsh doctrine!
How then shall one grasp so quickly a change in the Baptist denomination?
This author has a three-fold hypothesis:
(1) The time had then arrived for the fulfillment of the prophesy of the latter day apostasy.
(2) They were more willing to choose their delusion than to preserve the truth they had held to so dearly.
And, (3) they had gained too much confidence in the flesh – both theirs and others – that they dared to go bravely into the unknown zeal and frenzy of that age, even where angels feared to trod.
We ask no one to take our analysis as the gospel truth. We will not “draw swords,” nor “shed blood” with any disputant. We only offer our own private view, and hereby make it public.
First, the time had arrived, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, to usher in the prophesied “latter days.”
“. . .There shall be false teachers” [Recall the seminaries of learning so often read herein?] who privily shall bring in damnable heresies [Are not views derogatory of God’s sovereignty and free grace damnable?], even denying the Lord that bought them, [we will comment on this below] and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many [very much as a horde for numbers] shall follow their pernicious ways [and this they surely did]; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” [and this is for certain the result]. And through covetousness shall they with feign words make merchandise of you [this is the most notable trait of all their so-called “good works”]: whose judgment now of a long time lingerth not, and their damnation slumberth not”
(II Peter 2:2-3).
Read the rest of the chapter, but notice this verse in particular: “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (verse 15).
Couple this phrase with that to the angel of the church in Pergamos “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14, Numbers 24:14 & 25:1; 31:16).
How does this fit the rise of the Modern Missionary Movement?
Simply, Balaam accepted “wages” to prophecy, and the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions developed one of the world’s most highly organized systems of collecting money to hire preachers of unrighteousness!
A hired ministry is a Balaam-like ministry, condemned by the New Testament.
Included in these New Testament warnings is one like to this, i.e., “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Korah)(Jude 11).
Have you wondered what Core (Korah) was condemned for?
It was for saying that all the children had a right to prophecy, and raised a rebellion against Moses. The earth opened up and swallowed he and his band into hell.
What does this have to do with this subject?
Simple! The Board did not see it necessary for a God called, qualified and sent ministry. They hired students to “train” for the ministry in seminaries of learning, primarily because God was not calling, qualifying, and sending them out as fast and as many and to the places as the Board thought necessary.
They became Corites (Korahites)! (See Numbers 16:1-49).
We said we would comment on that phrase “denying the Lord that bought them.” My first remark is this, the word “Lord” in this text is not the word used for the Lord Jesus Christ, but despotes.
Second, as it applies to this subject, how can one comprehend such elders as these: J.M. Pendleton, who preached the truth, and went blind to them, and even turned away from them?
Of Reuben Ross, who for ten years preached the absolute predestination of all things, unconditional election for the elect only, and then quickly, in one sermon, overthrew all he had formerly preached?
Or of Elder David Benedict, who for fifty years preached the truth, and then went directly, knowingly, and even admittedly against them?
Of Jesse Mercer, who founded the University of his name in Macon, Georgia to teach preachers the truth of free and sovereign grace, and then apostatized the truth?
Or of Elder James Manning, a long advocate of the truth, who took the charge of an Arminian congregation, and died in their favor?
Or Elder Isaac McCoy, a free grace preacher, who sold his soul to work the wickedness of the Board and became an enemy of God’ suffering poor?
Or even, alas! Andrew Fuller, a PARTICULAR Baptist minister, who introduced the Roman Catholic doctrine that the “atonement of Christ was sufficient for the sins of the whole world, where the gospel was preached, but efficient for the elect only?
Must we again rake Charles Haddon Spurgeon over the ashes for his participation in the calamity that brought the Baptists to the level of Freewillers? NO! We will spare him. He did repent, make acknowledgment, and returned to the Church before he died. That alone, is a good testimony in his favor.
Secondly, “They were willing to choose their delusion.” They testify repeatedly of their embarrassment of the Baptists. They wanted to be accepted with the dignity lavished upon the Congregationalists and Presbyterians, who had an “educated” and “enlightened” ministry. They were ashamed of their lowly, humble, and unassuming virtues. They, as Israel before them, said: “Give us a king, that me may be as other nations.”
They, nor Israel, knew of what they were asking!
They got more than they bargained for. They set out to win the world for Christ, and filled their ministries with them!
They lost the gospel altogether!
“Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighted in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and bring their fears upon them. . . .”
Again, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:11-12).
How serious is believing in and standing for the truth!
How dangerous to play games with it!
Here is a quote from a letter of the Missionary Adoniram Judson’s wife, when she wrote back home and told her friends that she had been baptized a “BAPTIST!”
“Can you, dear Nancy, still love me, still desire to hear from me, when I tell you I have become a Baptist?”
(Letter dated September, 1812. Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine, n.s.111, 294).
The American Baptist Magazine reported “Objections against joining a Baptist church presented obstacles. There are obstacles in the way of a person of taste and refinement joining a Baptist Church.” The writer expressed the objection, saying, “To go down into a river to be publicly baptized is considered by many a mean and degrading thing . . . It is but just to observe that the Baptists as a body do not lay stress upon going down into a river. In Europe they almost universally have baptisteries in the meeting houses . . . But this is a mere circumstance.” [When Speaker of the House, The Honorable Sam Rabin, was baptized by the Primitive Baptists at Killeen, Texas, Walter Cronkite reporting it on national T.V., smirked, “The Honorable Mr. Sam does not look so honorable dripping wet!”]
As one writer expressed his attitude: “The defensive bravado (of the Baptists) is also evident in the favorite Baptist hymn of the period sung by those who marched to the river to be immersed while crowds of curious Congregationalists stared at the bizarre spectacle.”
Its first verse began,
“I am not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend His cause,
Maintain the honor of His word,
The glory of His cross.”
My point here is this: There were enough of these kinds of “Baptists” cloaked in among our people, that they were glad to forsake their humble origins, doctrines, and joys, in the delusional dream of raising the so-called “dignity” of the Baptists to a higher social status.
And while gaining “First Baptist Status,” they are not yet accepted on the par by the masses with the other clerics of “better class churches.” In return, they lost all that they formerly had, including the divine Presence in their worship. Even a hint of their written doctrinal Articles is suspect to every member of that class of “Baptists.” Under the pretense of raising money, developing methods and organizations, to preach the gospel to the heathen, they instead, became the heathen (doctrinally), and altogether lost the gospel!
Thirdly, “They had gained too much confidence in the flesh . . . both theirs and others.” For Baptists on the Frontiers of America, John Gill was the accepted “authority” on all doctrinal points. He was the humble frontier preacher’s “Theologian.” We mean no ill to John Gill in what we here write, but point out how serious it is for men to have “confidence in the flesh.”
We believe that one of his views set the Baptists up for the fall!
Not intentionally, but John Gill’s view that the reign of the antichrist was near at hand, set them off on a wild and mad frenzy of emotionalism and sentimentalism that catapulted the Mission system upon the world stage.
Writing in 1766, Gill said:
Now this seemed to be a probably era to begin the reign of antichrist; and as this was in the year four hundred and seventy-six, if one thousand two hundred and sixty years are added thereunto, the fall of antichrist must have happened in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty-six; (1736) this some learned men were very confident of, especially Lloyd, bishop of Worcester, a great calculator of times, affirmed, that all the devils in hell could not support the pope of Rome, longer than one thousand seven hundred and thirty-six. But we have lived to see him mistaken; more than thirty years have since passed, yet the popish antichrist is still in his seat; though his civil power has been weakening, and is still weakening; so that it might be hoped, he will, ere long, come to his end.” . . .
“Now if to the above date (a.d. 606) are added one thousand two hundred and sixty years, the end of antichrist’s reign will fall in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-six (1866): according to this computation, antichrist has almost an hundred years more to reign.” . . . . “But now supposing these dates could be settled with any precision, as they cannot, until more light is thrown on them, which perhaps may be, when nearer their accomplishment; yet the time of the second coming, and personal appearance of Christ, and of the millennium, or thousand years reign upon it, cannot be known hereby; because the spiritual reign of Christ, will only take place upon the above events. . .”
(John Gill, Body of Divinity, Book VII, page 450, Maon Jones, Printer, Ill.)
In his Commentaries, he often mentioned the “Spiritual Reign of Christ” separate and apart from His “Personal Reign.” He gave as the sign of its accomplishment as being when the pope of Rome would loose his “civil power” over the nations of Europe & the Americas. This took place with the Treaty ending our “War of 1812.”
Notice that year! No wonder Missionary Baptists published a paper titled, “The Baptist LUMINARY.” Or Alexander Campbell’s The Millennial Harbinger!
The circular letters of the Baptists during these two next decades is awash with the millennial theme: Christ is on His way, and we can convert the whole world to Christianity forthwith! Baptists, filled with pride, anticipated a rapid rise in their status among men, and desired it so much as to abandon their doctrines, principles, and practices – the very things that made them “Baptists”!
One other illustration of this point, and we will pass on: Samuel Jones, preached the “Century Sermon” in 1807, of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. In it, he had these choice statements ready at hand for us.
“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitation: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left.”
“These are the words of the elegant and sublime Isaiah, who, on account of the clearness of the discoveries made to him of the gospel day, obtained the name of the evangelical prophet. Indeed in some places his predictions have the air of history, rather than a prophecy.
The passage before us refers to the implantation of the gospel among the Gentiles. It began to be accomplished in the days of the Apostles, and has been fulfilling in all age of the Christian church to this day, and will continue so to be to the commencement of the millennium. “Their sound,” says the Apostle, “went into all the earth, and their word unto the end of the world.” (Romans 10:18). . . . “What shall we say of the missionary spirit, that has for some years, and more especially of late, prevailed in many places, and among different societies, with a view to spread the knowledge of the gospel and the way of salvation among the heathen in various parts, as well as among Christians in places destitute of the means.”
(Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, 1707-1807, page 453-454.)
The above sermon was preached only seven years prior to the take-over of that Association, and many others, by the New Divinity followers of Andrew Fuller’s friend and disciple, William Staughton.
We conclude, that a large number of Baptists, most coming from the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Episcopal churches, being embarrassed by the humbleness of their low estate, were ready, able, and willing to discard “the faith once delivered the saints,” and drank in the delusion God sent upon them.
We are more than two-hundred years since the beginning of the New Divinity School and the first Baptist missionary society, AND THEIR MILLENIUM HAS NOT COME!
Instead, we see the fulfillment of “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, EXCEPT THERE COME A FALLING AWAY FIRST, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
In every age of the Christian dispensation, there have been more sound free grace believers, even in times of severe persecution, than we can find today.
If this text, is appropriate at the time of the rise of antichrist, how much more in this latter day?
In our day, we can witness some who in words can identify with the doctrines of grace, yet for the same reason as the early Missionaries, attend Arminian services so that they may please their spouses, their children, their friends, or parents.
Others may come to the knowledge of free and sovereign grace, and yet stay in Arminian groups in the vain hope of leading them out of their error. They seem not to give any thought after they “lead them out,” where they would “lead them to” since they have stayed “where they are”!
Few can bring themselves to return to the pre-Fullerite Baptists and walk in the ways of their spiritual forefathers. This would cut too deeply into the flesh, and none of us are eager to lay it aside for the sake of purity in the doctrine, faith, and practice of the apostles.
Our forefathers in the faith of God’s elect believed, and recorded, that they believed the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament was the word of God. Many will yet say the same. However, they also stated that these Scriptures “are the only rule of faith and practice.”
That is still where every “baptized church of Christ” must stand.
This uniqueness is a sanctifying element to the Church, for it “separates” a Church and congregation from all other religious institutions; even more than its doctrinal foundation. There is a great number of “Calvinists” and “Hypercalvinists” that have left the modern religious institutions, call themselves “New Testament Baptists,” “Reformed Baptists,” etc., but can in no wise truthfully declare that they believe the New Testament is “the only rule of faith and practice.”
No doubt, many do in fact, and seriously, consider the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the inspired word of God and the only rule of faith. Many of them are extremely close to the full understanding of the doctrinal basis of the true Church.
It was this belief that strengthened their resolve to follow the Lord in the truth of His word, and oftentimes under severe censure by their dearest friends and/or family members. This writer has been there!
But, for inexplicable reason, they just cannot bring themselves to cut loose from the false institutions and their carnal trappings under which they were reared.
There can be no true “Reformed” anything, that is not actually “re formed,” and reformed on the inspired word of God for their faith, practice, and order. The New Testament practices, stripped of all the novelties of the Modern Missionary Movement, or “so-called benevolent societies,” are the most difficult aspects of the surrender to the absolute sovereignty of God over all things. There is always that lingering notion “We will not have this man to reign (govern) over us.”
This same carelessness, or embarrassment in being “different,” or appearing “backward,” without style, humble, or common, is the plague of all the churches of Christ in all ages. This unwillingness to “take up thy cross and follow Me” is the greatest impetus in the churches’ apostasy; and it is the greatest impediment to a true and full reform necessary for a “baptized Church of Christ” to return to the “faith once delivered to the saints.”
Maybe we ought to stop singing that precious hymn our forefathers’ relished so dearly:
“I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend His cause,
Maintain the honor of His word,
“The glory of His cross” – until such time that we can bear the full weight of that cross, and return to the ancient faith, as articulated in the inspired Word of God.
There is a very simple premise upon which a true reform can be had: If Jesus said to do it, then, do it!
If the New Testament said to do it, then do it!
If Jesus said: “Don’t do it,” then don’t do it!
If the New Testament says “Don’t do it.” Then again, don’t do it!
When a Church with its congregation can walk by this rule, that Church and congregation will, if God is present in them, be a “baptized Church of Christ.”
It will be predestinarian in faith, primitive in its order, New Testament in its practice, and a beauty to behold to every living child of God. Then will the called of God love to assemble together; they will delight in the word and fellowship one with another. Truly, peace like a river will flow out of Mount Zion, and then in a much more observable manner, Christ will be “King of the saints,” and they shall be subjects of the great King in His kingdom on earth. It was “prepared for them from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 5:3; Matthew 25:34).