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Written by John H. Fisher   

Letter from Elder J. H. Fisher
The Gospel Messenger--1894

DEAR BROTHER RESPESS: THE GOSPEL MESSENGER is a welcome visitor to my home. Its pages are filled with good matter for comfort and edification to the Lord's humble poor. I have now been taking it two years and have both years put together in book-form. They are so convenient for future reference, and it is the safest way to keep and preserve them. I would greatly regret parting with them; yet if I did not have them bound I would be sure to lose some of the numbers. Every family with children ought to have them bound together.

It seems to me that at this present time the GOSPEL MESSENGER is filling a very important and peculiar need. What awful times we are living in! What strange things we so often hear East, West, North and South I have been very forcibly impressed by some things said by Bro. Hassell. I was very glad to meet him here in Texas a few days ago, and to hear him preach and talk on the Scriptures.

These evils which are sometimes seen and heard among us, should not go unrebuked. But some one says, "I was impressed by God's Spirit to say and do as I did." Well, well, that is good if what was said is true. But recently a lady preacher said that she was inspired to stand up before mixed assemblies and preach the gospel. Baal's prophets all told Ahab to go up to Ramoth-gilead and that he would prosper. Zedekiah, one of them, made him horns of iron (powerful illustration), and he said, "Thus saith the Lord, with these shalt thou push the Syrians until thou hath consumed them."--I Kings xxii. 11. So then I say, if God's word is most positively and plainly against a doctrine or practice, I cannot believe the Holy Spirit impresses or inspires the teaching of it. Certainly the Spirit does not impel one to contradict the real and literal meaning of Scripture. There never was a lady impressed by the Spirit to "teach or to usurp authority over the man," or to speak in the churches as a preacher. So, you see, the people at large have been made to refrain from objecting because of the witty arguments made by these traveling lady preachers; saying that they were called and impressed to go. All such is of the flesh and sin. So, sometimes the flesh betrays us. We may think a brother minister has special impressions to say certain things, or to write them, and he himself may believe it of the Spirit. But maybe in less than a month or week he has a different view of the matter. Then we know that one or the other views were not given by the blessed Spirit of God.

Again, our criticism may be in the wrong spirit and not of the Lord, though literally correct; yet, nevertheless, literal correctness is pre-eminently important. But now I very freely admit that this is worthless when we come to spiritual profit, edification and growth in grace, unless the glorious and enlightening Spirit of Jesus comes upon us and in us. "Without Him we can do nothing." But when a man contradicts the literal meaning, it certainly cannot be of the Spirit, even though he be one of the Lord's ministers. Lately, I heard two editors preach. The first one took up the commission, as he called it (Matt. xxviii. 19). He thought it ended with the Apostles, etc. The other, who followed immediately, took a different view, and said that he believed that we were laboring, as ministers, under the same commission; that we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. We ought not to want the people to think for a moment that what we say from the pulpit is to be always taken as from the Spirit. And yet we can't say only what we believe. Some of us believe wrong, and therefore speak wrong. I don't know that any one is right on every point, but surely the church has the mind of the Lord. It is at their feet and in the light of God's revealed word that I am willing for all of my words and actions to be tried. If not thus disposed, I desire to be. If I preach something which is not in full accord with known truth, then I am perfectly willing to be instructed in the right way of the Lord, from the poorest brother or sister in the Lord's house.

Though Apollos spake boldly with great might and ability, I find, he was not above private instruction, nor too haughty to be taught by a man and woman who were tent makers. [This woman was God's appointed teacher, who taught and, spoke as the Spirit gave her utterance, I don't think she squared herself before a great congregation, to teach crowds, because she was accustomed to hear Paul, who says "I suffer not a woman to teach or usurp authority over the man," "but to keep silence in the churches, &c."]
It seems sometimes that the members have to submit to the diction of preachers, instead of the preacher being submissive to the Lord's Aquilas and Priscillas. I believe that the Lord's way is to put the "judgment" in the church and not in the ministers as such.

The Old Baptist churches of this country it seems to me have been contented with predestination, election, effectual calling, quickening of dead sinners by omnipotent power without any other means, final preservation and perseverance of all the election, resurrection of the dead, final judgment, etc. These with the idea that it is all done for the poor, lost, depraved dead sinner, as consequence flowing out of the atoning death of Christ, seems to me to involve mainly all the essential tests among them. Of course there are many technicalities and forms of expression, but it certainly ought to be settled and tested by Bible expressions only. Those who desire to adopt sonic peculiar expression of their own, as a test, are surely wrong. What divided the two great wings of the Baptists, for the most part, was the Fuller idea of the Atonements that is, that Christ's death did not save all he suffered and died for. This, for instance, is a heresy that is too plain to need any exposition. It has been often exposed. While most of the churches are settled and stayed on this great doctrine, there seems to be some who would lead off into Fullerism under a little but different phraseology. So far as I have been able to find, there are but few. We must up and speak out when these essential truths are assailed.

But the great desire of my heart is to see what a dear brother (who is editor of an Old Baptist paper in Tennessee) wrote me lately. He says: "Those who hold to the doctrine set forth in. our articles of faith, even though there be slight difference in opinion on some points; I don't think such difference should be a bar to fellowship, nor that it should cause brethren to devour each other or be split up into factions, parties, etc. I would be glad to see all sound Primitive Baptists in peace with each other, and a. general line of correspondence extending directly and indirectly all over the United States."

Surely this is the true spirit. Those who swallow anything for peace are seriously wrong. And those who are continually making new verbal issues, and adopting new tests, never heard of, even under similar circumstances are surely wring. Non-fellowship resolutions against expressions of views, when practically the same, or almost so, seems to me a serious mistake. May the dear Lord teach how not devour, but to bear such other's burdens. (Gal. Vi 1, 2).

In hope of heaven,
J. H. Fisher

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.