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Written by J.S. Newman   

THE PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS ARE NOT ULTRA-CALVINISTS. 

We frequently hear some of our brethren saying that the Baptists in John Gill's day were ultra-Calvinists; and they are fond of repeating the saying of a Missionary Baptist that "the prevailing doctrine among the Baptists at that time was ultra-Calvinism." The Baptists of the old order, I am glad to know, are not now, nor never were ultra-Calvinists. The Baptists are not in debt to John Calvin for a single truth he may have contended for, for the very good reason that the Baptists had that truth before he was born. John Calvin was born at Noyon, in Picardy, July 10, 1509. He was raised a Catholic. After he embraced Protestantism he was forced to leave France; he settled at Basle. At this place he published his celebrated "Institutions of the Christian Religion. We next find him at Geneva, where Fatal and other reformers induced him to live. At Geneva he was chosen as a minister of the gospel. John Calvin denounced the tyranny of Rome, but had Servetus put to death because he was an heretic according to his views. Michael Servetus was passing through Geneva and John Calvin saw him and immediately had him seized by the magistrate as an impious heretic. Forty heretical errors were said to be proven against the unfortunate Servetus; and because he would not give up his heretical views Calvin ordered the unhappy man to be burned. So on Oct. 27, 1553, Servetus was conducted to the stake where he was tortured for two hours before death relieved him. John Calvin of course believed that God had purposed for him to have Servetus burnt to the stake. Elder Bartley believes that very sin of Calvin was purposed of God, and one of the number God had fixed for Calvin to commit. Elder J. C. Sikes believes that God purposed for Servetus to go when he did, and just as he did, that God had ordained everything leading to the burning of Servetus.

In speaking of cold-blood murder Elder J. C. Sikes said: "But I have always claimed that that, together with all things else, were embraced in God's predestination, and comes to pass at the very time and in the very way God had determined for it, and I am astonished to think that anyone claiming to be a Primitive Baptist will deny it." Baptist Trumpet, ,March 27, 1902.

John Calvin was president of what is called by historians a "Consistory," which was composed of six preachers and twelve lay men. This Consistory was for the purpose of excommunicating persons of every age and sex. A child was beheaded for striking its father and mother. Another child for attempting to strike its mother was sentenced to death, but on account of its youth the sentence was commuted. But the child was publicly whipped with a cord around its neck, and then the child was banished from the city. "A woman was chastised with rods for singing secular songs to the melody of the Psalms."

Oh, how sad and heart revolting to think that we have men among us today who boldly tell us that John Calvin and his hell-hounds beheaded the little child in conjunction and agreement with the will and purpose of God. Declare it not in Gath, publish it not to the world that this consistory or pandemonium presided over by the devil and his willing subjects had met to do whatever God had determined before to be done.

It is claimed that the "Catholics have murdered fifty million human beings, with every imaginable device of diabolical cruelty, thus shedding enough martyr blood to fill a stream ten feet wide, ten feet deep and twenty-five miles long." Hassell. All this, we are asked to believe, occurred in keeping with the will and predestination of God. Just think, a few Old Baptist preachers are now .spreading and publishing it to the world that the Catholics anciently murdered, tortured, fined, imprisoned, whipped and put to death innocent men, women and children in agreement with the will and purpose of God.

I will refer to some of the sayings of John Calvin and ask those that delight to be called ultra-Calvinists to consider well his sayings: "Hence men will repent or not repent, be lost or saved; precisely as God has decreed from all eternity." Smucker, pp. 163, 164. This text is easy of solution. If you repent, God decreed it; if you do not repent, God decreed that you should not.

John Calvin, in his Institutes, book 3, chapter 5, said: "Predestination, we call the eternal decree of God, by which He hath determined in Himself what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man therefore being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is either predestinated to life or death."

This is just what the absolute and eternal fixedness of all things plainly asserts, and Dr. Carlton so understood it. He said: "And what a wise provision in God's eternal purposes, and how moralizing in its tendencies, for man not to know that he is doomed to hell by the eternal decrees of heaven." Diagram of the Churches, p. 18.

Again John Calvin says: "Predestination, by which God adopts some to 6he hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no one desirous of the credit of piety dares absolutely to deny." Book 3, ch. 21, sec. 5, vol. 2, p. 144.

Again John Calvin says: "But though I concede to them, that Paul softens the asperity of the former clause by the difference of phraseology, yet it is not at all consistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to any other than the secret counsel of God." Book 3, chapter 23, vol. 2, p. 164.

In speaking of the Divine will Calvin says: "Which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of everything that exists." Book 3, ch. 23, p. 165.

This is what Mohammed taught and that is where Calvin got it, and the Baptists who believe it got it from John Calvin. In speaking of the finally impenitent Calvin says: "But though I ever so often admit God to be the author of it, which is perfectly correct." Ibed, p. 166.

The reader has doubtless heard some of the asserters of the absolute predestination of all things try, after saying that God's eternal purpose embraced all things and that all things are precisely as God originally intended them to be, to show that God is not the author or cause of all He predestinates. Have they ever explained that point to your satisfaction? I venture the assertion that they have not.

In speaking of life and death John Calvin quotes Valla approvingly, who says: "Both life and death are acts of God's will, rather than of His foreknowledge. If God simply foresaw the fates of men, and did not also dispose and fix them by His determination, there would be room to agitate the question, whether His providence or foresight rendered them at all necessary." Ibed, p. 169.

John Calvin said again: "The Scriptures proclaim that all men were, in the person of their father, sentenced to eternal death. This not being attributable to nature, it is evident must have proceeded from the wonderful counsel of God." Vol. 2, p. 170.

Again: "Nor should it be thought absurd to affirm that God only saw the fall of the first man and the ruin of his posterity in him, but also arranged all by the determination of His own will." Vol. 2, p. 170.

Again John Calvin skid: "For the first man fell because the Lord had determined it was so expedient." Yes, some one has said the covenant would have been a failure without it; hence the doctrine, let us do evil that good may come. "The reprobate wish to be thought excusable in sinning, because they cannot avoid a necessity of sinning; especially since this necessity is laid upon them by the ordination of God." Vol. 2, p. 172.

Augustine, who was a Catholic monk, said: "The whole mass of mankind having fallen into condemnation in the first man, the vessels that are formed from it to honor are not vessels of personal righteousness but of Divine mercy; and the formation of others to dishonor is to be attributed, not to iniquity, but to the Divine decrees." p. 174.

Calvin quotes the above saying from Augustine approvingly. The only apology I offer the reader for the copious extracts I have made from John Calvin's Institutes is to show you what he believed on the subject that is now interrupting our peace and happiness. When you read all his sayings in this chapter will you please ask yourself the question, Do I believe in ultra-Calvinism?

The old London Confession of Faith is a partial transcript of the old Westminster Confession of Faith, which was gotten up by Old School Presbyterians. Here is what the Presbyterians said: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death." Confession, p. 27. In regard to the above article here is what the English Baptists of 1689 said: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace, others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice."

If the English Baptists believed, as the absoluters do, that some men were ordained to everlasting death, why did they change part of the article so as to have it read, "others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice"? Again, when the English Baptists got to the 7th article of the Westminster Confession they left it out entirely. Here it is: "The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice." Presbyterian Confession, p. 30. The absoluters follow the Westminster Confession, and not the London Confession of Faith, on the decrees of God. Who are the Primitive Baptists on this point?

Again Calvin said: "In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the scriptures we assert that, by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined both whom He would admit to salvation, and whom He would condemn to destruction." Book 3, chapter 21. "Many indeed, as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that any one is reprobated. But this is puerile and absurd, because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation: whom God passes by He therefore reprobates; and from no other cause than His determination to exclude them from the inheritance which He predestines for His children." Book 3, chapter 23.

Brethren, are you ultra-Calvinists? If so, here is something else you believe: "They further object, were they not by the decree of God antecedently predestinated to that corruption which is now stated as the cause of their condemnation? When they perish in their corruption, therefore, they only suffer the punishment of that misery into which, in consequence of His predestination, Adam fell, and precipitated his posterity with him." Ibed, p. 166.

Let us hear Calvin again: "I confess, indeed, that all the descendants of Adam fell, by the Divine will, into that miserable condition in which they are now involved; and this is what I asserted from the beginning, that we must always return at last to the sovereign determination of God's will, the cause of which is hidden in Himself." If a little ultra-Calvinism is good, I guess more is better. So here is more of it: "I say, with Augustine, the Lord created those whom He certainly foreknew would fall into destruction, and that this was actually so, because He willed it." Again: "For since God foresees future events only in consequence of His decree that they shall happen, it is useless to contend about foreknowledge, while it is evident that all things come to pass rather by ordination and decree." Again, the man the Old Baptists borrowed the doctrine of predestination of all things from said; "it is a horrible decree, I confess; but no one can deny that God foreknew the future fate of man before He created him, and that He did foreknow it, because it was appointed by His own decree." Again Calvin says: "But what reason shall we assign for His permitting it, but because it is His will? It is not probable, however, that man procured his own destruction, and without any appointment of God." Book 3, chapter 23, sec. 8. In writing Castellio, John Calvin said: "You say Adam fell by his free will. I accept against it. That he might not fall, he stood in need of that strength and constancy with which God armeth all the elect, as long as He will keep them blameless. Whom God has elected He props up with an invincible power unto perseverance. Why did He not afford this to Adam, if He would have had him stand in his integrity?"

This is the man from whom the Old Baptists have borrowed the doctrine over which they are wrangling today. Let some one who thinks he is able show that the Old Baptists had the universal decrees of God in any of their confessions of faith before they adopted it, after it was formulated by the Old School Presbyterians in 1643. The Baptists had their articles of faith prior to 16i3. Let me tell you now, no Old Baptist preacher will attempt to prove by history that the Primitive Baptists had an article in their confession of faith even favoring the unlimited predestination of all things prior to 1643. The inveterate enemies of the Primitive Baptists formulated the phrase"predestination of all things," while Elder G. Beebe added "absolute" to the phrase. So we have absolute predestination of all things good and evil as a bone of contention. As long as men insist upon the use of the above expression there will be trouble in Zion.

The Baptists made a compromise with the Arminians in 1787 (see Coffee's History, p. 100) and I for one am not willing to compromise with the "absoluters". This heresy has been wrapped up in the Baptist family until there is a stench in the Old Baptist camp. "And I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils; yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord." Amos 4: 10. Indeed, the prophecy of Isaiah is true: "And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of clothing; and burning instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty men in war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground." Isa. 3: 24-26. Yes, in many places the dear people of God are sitting upon the ground, their hands are feeble and their knees are week. Oh, that the dear servants of God would go forth in the Spirit and power of the God of Israel and strengthen the feeble hands and confirm the weak knees, and say to them Of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not, behold your God will come with vengeance and save you, and then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, and your hearts will be filled with joy, and peace will flow like a river of water, you can drink and quench your thirst, yes, eat and be satisfied. Oh, that we could humble ourselves in sackcloth and get down on our bended knees at a throne of God's grace and confess our faults to each other. It certainly would be a day of rejoicing to see the dear people of God lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset them and run with patience the race set before them, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Any doctrine in which- we cannot see Jesus is false and should be shunned by the children of God.

In conclusion let me kindly ask the reader to carefully compare what I have said with the Scriptures and christian experience and I shall be satisfied. Should it be the means of converting one, yes, just one, from the absurd notion that God has purposed his sins, I will be happily remunerated for all my trouble and expense in preparing this little volume.

To my children in the flesh I want to say that when you are called upon to pay the last tribute of respect to your poor imperfect father, will you occasionally get this little volume and read it that you may know where he stood on this great and marvelous question. Let me say to you plainly that there is nothing but grace that can save you and give you a home in heaven. May the robe of righteousness and Lhe kind protecting hand of Providence be over you and around you. May His love be in your hearts to regulate your life in the way of righteousness and peace, and give you a sweet calm and repose when the curtains and stings of death are drawing near to thee. Each of you are near and dear to your father and mother, and we want to live with you while we are here, and when we die we do not wish to be separated from you. May the peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I hereunto subscribe my signature this the 16th day of January, A. D. 1903.

JOSEPH SYLVESTER NEWMAN.
    
Glen Rose, Somervell County, Texas.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 September 2006 )
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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.