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Regeneration--Chapter 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by W.H. Crouse   



Dr. John Gill, when he wrote his commentary of the Bible, held to the doctrine of gospel regeneration--that God regenerates His elect through the means or instrumentality of the preached word. After careful investigation we feel sure his interpretation of certain scriptures relative to the gospel and  regeneration  will admit of no other construction.

In every effort that has been made to reform our faith Dr. Gill’s Commentary has been used against us to prove that American Primitive Baptists have departed from old time Baptist faith and have therefore ceased to be the “original” Baptists. If it were necessary for us to accept all interpretations given by Dr. Gill in his commentary in order for us to be “original’ or Primitive Baptists, there might be some merit in the contention of our adversaries. But the faith of Primitive Baptists of America does not rest upon the belief of Dr. Gill. And the fact that our opponents are always driven to his commentary for proof is evidence that American Primitive Baptists have NOT held the idea of the gospel as a means, or that sinners are regenerated by, with, or through the preached word.

We should be very careful in writing about the dead. They are not here to defend or explain and we should not give their writings a strained interpretation in an effort to prove our position. We observe, however, that later, after years of careful study, and after observing the results and outgrowth of his former position, that he wrote quite differently and indicated that he had undergone a change. In his Body of divinity, which was his last work, written a number of years later than his commentary, he says:

“This instrumentality of the word in regeneration seems not so agreeable to the principle of grace  implanted in the soul in regeneration and to be understood in respect to that, since it is done by immediate infusion and is represented as a creation; and now as God made no use of any instrument in the first and old creation, so neither does it seem so agreeable that he should use any in. the new creation; wherefore, this is rather to be understood of the  EXTERIOR of the principle of grace and the drawing it forth into act and exercise, which is excited and encouraged by the ministry of the word by which it appears that a man is born again. So the three thousand first converts and the jailor were FIRST regenerated, or had the principle of grace wrought in their souls by the Spirit of God, and then were directed and encouraged by the ministry of the Apostles to repent and believe in Christ; whereby it becomes manifest that they were born again.” Volume 2, page 844.

In his Cause of God and Truth, page 180, Dr. Gill says: “There is want of spiritual consideration and attention in every man, until God opens his heart, by his powerful grace, as he did Lydia’s, to attend to the things which are spoken, or which regard his spiritual and eternal welfare. The parable of the seed sown shows that the hearts of unregenerate men are unfit and unprepared to receive the word, and therefore, it becomes unfruitful to them. And that it is only fruitful where it is received in an honest and good heart, made so by the Spirit and grace of God in regeneration; whence it follows, that regeneration is rather a preparation for the right hearing of the word than the hearing of the word is a preparation for regeneration.”

Dr. Gill here stated our position exactly. They indicate to my mind that discovering the legitimate results of his former position he forsook that position and took a stand for the faith expressed at Fulton, in the Cordele Statement, and in the Vidahia Resolution. The reader can form his own conclusions.

That some of our ministers in Georgia have given up the recognized faith of Primitive Baptists to embrace the doctrine Gill forsook cannot be successfully denied.

Elder John V. Kirkland was a great and good preacher, though he left us and went to another denomination. He insisted that God does NOT use the gospel in regenerating sinners and that regeneration always precedes faith. If the reader does not have a file of the Apostolic Herald, let him turn to page 42 of Volume 14 of The Pilgrim’s Banner, if he has that, and read his reply to Dodd of the Baptist Banner.

In the division of the White Water Association in Indiana many years ago one party held that God uses the gospel in the regeneration of sinners. The other party held that God regenerates sinners independent of the gospel--that this work is always done without the preached word. The first party was known as ‘‘means,” the other as “anti-means.” Elder Wilson Thompson led the anti-means party, insisting that God regenerates of himself, by the Holy Spirit, without any other means or instrument. See Autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson, page 447. Wilson Thompson was probably the greatest gift we have ever had in America.
In October 1923, one of our editors (Elder Screws) wrote of Elder Thompson as follows:
“He certainly taught that God uses the preached word in the regeneration of sinners.”
Elder J. Marshall Thomas is a grandson of Wilson Thompson. He wrote the editor, denying and resenting that statement and demanding its retraction.

Instead of retracting, we find in December following the following statement: “We are quoting from Elder Thompson in this issue to show that we did NOT misrepresent matters.” In the quotations he gave from Elder Thompson there is not a single word that could be construed to teach that he held that God uses the gospel in the regeneration of sinners. Not one. In the trial over church property at Rushville, Ind., following the division in the association, to which we have referred above; Elder Thompson was a witness. I have the stenographic record of that case. The following quotation is taken from page 29:

“Wilson Thompson having been sworn and flow interrogated, says: * * * No one point has been more universally subscribed to than the universal corruption of the human species. There can be no means used until they are brought to life. As soon as life is in them, then means may be used; God never appointed any means-Scriptures or anything else-until they are made alive. The Scriptures and the preached word are intended for living men alone. The Bible and the preached word are the means by which God works on men AFTER they are made alive. It is NOT for the purpose of awakening dead sinners--not to give life.”

This testimony was given in the year 1845. It rings true to our faith. It cannot be misunderstood. It is exactly what Primitive Baptists have ever believed and taught. We have in our library his book, Triumphs of Truth, written one hundred years ago (1825) in which he stands as a mighty warrior battling for the same truth we are presenting in these chapters.

Our people very generally know of Elder Wilson Thompson as one of our greatest representatives. Very few of our brethren have any of his writings.

We doubt if another copy of his testimony can be found in Georgia. We do not want to be unkind, hut we cannot view it a light crime against Elder Thompson and against Primitive Baptists for anyone to teach our unsuspecting brethren (and so openly and emphatically) that this great minister was a “means” Baptist. And we conclude that such a representation of him is for the express purpose of removing from the minds of our brethren all prejudice against the “means” doctrine. For certainly many will conclude that if such a great and recognized leader and teacher among us believed and TAUGHT that God regenerates sinners by, with, and through the preached word and died in our love and fellowship, then it should be no offence for others to  so TEACH now. And thus the gate is left ajar for the entrance of error. In this way they plead for “toleration.” And many good, faithful, and unsuspecting brethren who love peace and tremble at the thought of division insist upon such toleration, seeming not to realize that all the while such teaching is being tolerated the seed of error is taking root which must at last end as it did in the White Water Association.

It seemed no great crime for Absalom to sit beside the gate, but his beauty and fair speech stole the hearts of the young men of Israel.

In that trial, under oath, Elder Thompson also said: “Doctor Gill’s Commentaries on the Testament is like other works; on some points he is good and on others as corrupt as any. His works have never been adopted by Baptists.”

In this trial Elder John Sparks, leader of the “means” party, testified as follows:  “The point of doctrine on which the party split, and the difference between them, I understand is this: our belief is that God does use his means, the word and gospel, as his instruments in his own way for the saving of sinners, by and through the direct influence of the Holy Spirit; that word itself is ineffectual unless accompanied by the Spirit. Anti-Means believe that God exercises and uses means in every way except for the regeneration of dead sinners, and in no instance does God use his external agents to make alive the dead sinner.” Page 14.

Kindly and brotherly, and with no intention to offend, I ask my readers, is not this the issue that confronts us today? Was this not the exact issue which caused brethren to suggest the Vidalia meeting? And yet, momentous as was the issue, it was beclouded and belittled, and good and faithful brethren left that meeting bewildered, and many deceived. And those who undertook to clearly present the issue were frowned upon by many and classed as egotists and disturbers who, because of prejudice and jealousy, sought the lives of others.

We assume the fullest responsibility for these articles. If we make a mistake, it is of the head and not of the heart. In the above division my people stood by Elder Wilson Thompson in his contention upon this point. Nettle Creek Church was willing to be cast out of the association rather than tolerate this “means” doctrine. We stand where father stood and insist that Elder Wilson Thompson correctly represented Primitive Baptists and the teaching of God’s holy word. That the Thompson faction made mistakes we have no doubt; but that they were in error on this issue, NEVER!

Elder Grigg M. Thompson (son of Wilson Thompson) was one of the most eloquent speakers and ablest debaters we have ever had. In many discussions with men of other religious orders he successfully defended our position and merited the esteem and commendation of our brotherhood everywhere.

Elder John A. Thompson (son of Wilson Thompson) [Editor’s Note : Actually, he was the grandson of Wilson Thompson. Elder Crouse made a common mistake-- DM] in his memorable debate with Benjamin Franklin (Campbellites) at Reynoldsburg, Ohio, in the year 1874, affirmed the following proposition:

“The quickening of the sinner by the Spirit of God into new life, or eternal life, is independent of the written word or scriptures.”

Please note the wording of this proposition. It leaves no ground to quibble or evade. With the exception of Alexander Campbell, the Campbellites have never had an abler debater than Franklin. He was a finished scholar and an eloquent and forceful speaker. He had had a score of public debates with the ablest men of the different denominations. The fact that our people selected Elder Thompson to represent us against Franklin is evidence enough of their opinion of him as a representative man. We ask you to note carefully, and with open mind, the following quotations from their addresses:

Franklin (the Campbellite): “That God quickens the sinner into new life I never entertained any doubt, and certainly am not here to dispute. Had my worthy friend simply proposed to prove that God does this work he would have had no debate with me. This is NOT what he is here to prove nor what I deny; nor need he quote scripture to prove that he does this by Christ, for I do not deny this, nor that he does it by the Holy Spirit. All this I hold as confidently as he, and all the scriptures that prove this I receive at their full value. There is no issue at all between us here. I believe that God quickens the sinner into new life-that he does it by Christ, by the Spirit and by his grace. On this he need expend no more labor. But the precise point for him to prove is that he does it without the word, the written word, the Scriptures.” -Pages 98 and 99.

Had we not put Franklin’s name to this, our readers might have thought it had been written by some of our brethren in Georgia. This is their language precisely in trying to prove their soundness in the faith. And they tell us in plain words that this is ALL that is required to be sound in the faith on the doctrine of regeneration. And they virtually brand Elder Thompson and the host of Primitives be represented in that discussion as ignorant and worthy of being ‘‘put to confusion” for not giving to Franklin the right hand of fellowship on this issue. Thompson and those he represented, according to our Georgia “means” brethren, were “modern” Baptists and not Primitive.

And, strange to say, there are good brethren who fly to the defense of our erring brethren and insist that this is NOT heresy among Primitive Baptists for the express reason that they insist that it is GOD that regenerates.

This is not, and never has been, the issue. The issue is as to HOW God regenerates. Does Ho do it himself, independent of the ministry and the preached word, or does HE do it through the gospel?
But notice what OUR representative said:

Thompson: “There is not one text in the entire Bible that attributes the quickening of sinners, directly or remotely, to the written word, * * * (1 Cor. 1:18-24.) The gospel is the power of God and the wisdom of God to them who are saved only. But sinners in a state of death in sins are not saved, but lost; therefore the preaching of the cross of Christ is not the power of God to them. The calling here referred to is distinct from the preaching, and instead of being dependent on the preaching, the effect of the preaching depends on their being saved and called. This salvation or calling is from death to life, and is emphatically attributed to the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus, our Lord, from the dead. Rom. 8:11, Eph. 2:5, Col. 2:13. It is just as distinct from preaching or the written scriptures as the resurrection of the dead. But my friend has got around to the often-told theme (told now by Elders Sikes and Screws. -Crouse.) of the Corinthians being begotten by Paul through the gospel. And James says: God hath of his own will begotten us with the word of truth. But what does James or Paul say about the written word quickening the dead sinner into new life or eternal life? Paul did not claim to be their father in the sense of giving them spiritual being; but in the gathering of them into the visible Church he was a father to them. Through the gospel he begat them to many precious privileges; but he who quickened them into eternal life was far above Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas-even the Lord from heaven, a quickening Spirit. * * * Mr. Franklin has searched in vain to find some favoring term to connect the written word or Scripture with the quickening of the sinner into new life, or eternal life; he has found no such term in the word of God, for which reason he fails in his negative on this proposition. The nearest terms he has found are ‘begotten,’ ‘convert,’ ‘power of God unto salvation to the believer,’ and like expressions applied to the word preached to living subjects, which I believe just as much as be does, notwithstanding he says that I do not. I love to believe God’s written word is a means in every connection stated in God’s word. But when I am asked to believe that it is a means used to quicken sinners into new life, or eternal life, I must decline doing so until some proof from the word of God is adduced, declaring such doctrine to be true. I ask Mr. Franklin, as a gentleman, to take back the unkind remark that I do not believe that God does anything by means. God uses means and mediums in all his gracious works, and the means used in quickening sinners into new life, or eternal life, is the Son of God, by the Spirit.”-Pages 116, 129, 155.

This debate was held fifty years ago. It was largely attended. It was published, and thousands of copies scattered throughout the United States. Every true Primitive, who is so fortunate as to have a copy of it, considers it a valuable addition to his library. My father turned his copy over to me. In that discussion Elder Thompson correctly represented the Primitive Baptists of the United States. He defended the doctrine my father believed; the doctrine Nettle Creek church held when we joined them, and the doctrine they hold still; the doctrine the presbytery held that ordained me; it is the doctrine my people have a right to expect me to defend. We propose to do it with such power as God may give us. And any fair-minded Primitive must see that Elders of our body are asking too much when they beg us, for the sake of peace, to repudiate John A. Thompson, condemn his work, and dub him and all he represented as unscriptural in faith and as “modern” Baptists. To this we will not agree. On account of the “progression” of some, we may never enjoy the full fellowship of our brethren everywhere, but we are determined, by the help of God, that no such repudiation of Primitive Baptist faith shall ever be charged to us.

Twenty-one years before this debate was held Elder Joel Hume held a public discussion with this same Mr. Franklin. That was in 1853. It was held at Mt. Vernon, Ind. In that debate Elder Hume taught and defended the same truth.

Elder Lemuel Potter, often in public discussion represented Primitive Baptists in defense of this same doctrine. When the church at Luray, Va., divided over this “means” question, Elder Potter went to the defense of our brethren and met Elder Pence in a public discussion there, and this was the bone of contention-Pence insisting that God used the gospel in regenerating sinners; Potter denying that God ever uses the gospel in that work. Many of our brethren well remember the eloquence, the fire, the earnestness and the power of Lem Potter in defending our faith and in combating the idea that God EVER uses the gospel in regenerating sinners.

The discussion at Luray, Va., was held in 1890. The propositions were as follows:

I.    The Scriptures teach that God uses the gospel as a means to regenerate sinners.--Pence affirmed; Potter denied.    

II.   The Scriptures each in all cases the regeneration of souls without the gospel.- Potter affirmed; Pence denied.

You cannot mistake what Elder Potter understood Primitive Baptist doctrine to be and what he believed the Bible to teach.

In the lawsuit over the church property E. H. Burnam, the leader of the “means” faction, testified on oath as follows:

“And now I will state what our people have always understood by means. Not that a man or all mankind, or all the angels of God and men combined, could ever regenerate one, but that God, as our fathers taught, spoke through the gospel by his Holy Spirit in the preaching of the word at his pleasure to the regeneration of men. I was asked the question by Dr Purifoy in 1889 at Robertson River Church, whether he understood me as saying that those men on the day of Pentecost were regenerated through Peter’s preaching and I said, ‘Sir, you heard me say that God’s Holy Spirit regenerated those men through the gospel which Peter preached.’ I there declared the faith of our people, as it has always been understood. It is God who regenerates, and God alone, and through the gospel.”  The court gave the property to our people, declaring that the Pence-Burnam faction had departed from the old-time faith.

During the discussion of this question in the days of the division, the Pence-Burnam people insisted that they stood for original faith and that we had forsaken the old time faith. They claimed to be THE “regular” or “original” Baptists while we were “modern” Baptists. They insisted that God does the regenerating, but that the gospel is the vehicle upon which the Holy Spirit reaches the sinner. Elder Bradley, one of their preachers, in his testimony in court (over church property) gave this illustration: “God is a hunter. The gun represents the preacher; the gospel the powder; the bullet the Spirit; the sinner the game.”

(We give our gospel regeneration brethren this illustration, but we trust they will never use it.) Of course they argued that God does the killing. And HE kills with the Spirit. But a hunter wouldn’t get much game without “powder.” It takes the gun and the powder for the bullet to get in its work. So, we would have to conclude, that as the gun and powder are essential in order to kill game “with the bullet,” so sinners are not saved in the absence of the preacher and the gospel. Therefore, no eternal salvation except men hear the gospel. That’s where every man MUST land who takes a position in favor of regeneration through or by the gospel. He can’t escape it, strive as he may to avoid it.

Let me quote one of our Georgia brethren again: “Saved through faith, NOT to the exclusion of faith; and this faith is given THROUGH THE PREACHED WORD.”

That’s exactly what Bradley said. The game was killed by the bullet, through the gun, NOT to the exclusion of the gun; and the gun was made effective through the powder.

Bradley’s illustration will exactly fit the position of our Georgia brethren, unless perhaps we should add that, notwithstanding they say sinners are NOT saved to the exclusion of faith through the preached word, yet the hunter in EXCEPTIONAL cases kills game without any gun, powder, or bullet. And, probably, we should add, that in case he uses a club, stone or cord they are not to be considered as a ‘‘means’’!

Elder Rufus Reed, in conversation with Elder E. W. Thomas, used the following illustration:
“Regeneration is correctly represented by a man boring a hole with an auger. The man represents God; the auger the preacher and the gospel; the hole bored, the sinner saved.”

Since the man couldn’t bore the hole without the auger, we would have to conclude that sinners can’t be saved without the preacher and the gospel. See? You can’t escape that conclusion once you take the position that God uses the preacher and the gospel in this work. The way to use that illustration would be to make the man represent God and the auger the Holy Spirit and leave the preacher and the gospel entirely out of it.

Elder John R. Daily was recognized everywhere as one of the ablest debaters we have ever had. He knew our doctrine and was able to defend it against all corners. He had many public discussions and by all his opponents was recognized as a foe worthy of their steel. In 1894 he debated with a Mr. Weatherford, of the Campbellite denomination. Weatherford affirmed and Daily denied the following proposition: “The Scriptures teach that God uses the preaching of the gospel as a means in the regeneration of sinners.” Weatherford quit before the debate was half over and a Mr. Johnson took his place. It was a great victory for our people.

Brother Daily had a debate in 1895 with a Mr. Williams of the Campbellites. This was where the writer was fully converted (not regenerated) to old Baptist faith. Their first proposition read as follows: “The Bible teaches that sinners are regenerated by means of the gospel-the spoken or written word.” Williams affirmed and Daily denied. Another GREAT victory for Primitives.
After Elder Todd left us and went to the Missionary Baptists, carrying with him a number of our young ministers, there was a sharp contention which finally led to a public discussion at Ewing, Ill., in the year 1912. The Missionaries selected their strongest man, W. P. Throgmorton, to represent them; Primitives selected Elder Daily to represent them. This discussion continued four days. In this discussion Throgmorton affirmed and Daily denied the following proposition: “The Scriptures teach that God employs the Preaching of the gospel as a means in the regeneration of sinners.”

In defending his proposition Throgmorton said: “Is faith the work of the sinner? No, sir. ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” -John 6:29. The question before us is not a question as to what God’s power is. It is a question as to what God’s method is. God could make the giant oak of the first without an acorn. But that is not the method he employs. He employs the acorn. And he as truly makes the oak when he employs the acorn as he made the first oak that was without an acorn. So our question is not whether God regenerates sinners! That is in my affirmation; I say in it that God regenerates sinners. We both agree that he does. But my affirmative is that, in doing it, he uses the: preaching of the gospel. That is not ruling God out. God is in, and God does the work! And we are both agreed to this. The ONE question is: Does God, in regenerating sinners, employ the preaching of the gospel as a. means? * * * That is what I have to prove and that is what I am going to prove. ** * Our question is not whether salvation is conditional or unconditional; our question is just one thing: whether God employs preaching in the regeneration of sinners! * * * Another preliminary remark I desire to give you. This remark is that in denying my proposition Brother Daily is out of harmony with the Old Baptist Faith. Do you get that? In denying my proposition Brother Daily is out of harmony with the Old Baptist Faith! He sets himself squarely against the Old Baptist Confession of Faith. If he shows that I am wrong in this discussion, he will show that the Old Confession of the Seven Churches in London, of 1644, was wrong. He will show that the Somerset Confession (1656) was wrong. He will show that the Old London Confession of 1689, of which his people have boasted so much, is wrong. If he shows that my proposition is wrong, good-bye to the doctrine of the old Baptists. I am here to defend the Old Baptist Faith, as to what is involved in this discussion. Brother Daily is here to oppose it, and to overthrow it, if he can! Will you ‘Old School’ Baptists follow him in this?”

That was what Throgmorton, the Missionary champion, said in opposing Primitive Baptists in public discussion thirteen years ago. The preacherswho now try to fasten this doctrine of gospel regeneration on us say EXACTLY the same thing. One would think they have borrowed their language from Throgmorton.

Throgmorton said further: “God employs the word of God in producing faith. By this faith men are saved, have life, are purified, are regenerated. (Eph. 2:8) ‘By grace are ye saved through faith.’ Not BEFORE faith. Not WITHOUT faith, but by faith. And how does faith come? ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’“

We have read just that, too, in the writings of some preacher besides Elder Throgmorton.
I gather the following from Brother Daily’s reply:“This proposition was worded by my opponent. He would not consent to have the word necessary in it. In our correspondence, he insisted that no Missionary Baptist, no representative Missionary Baptist, had ever taken the position that the preaching of the gospel is really necessary in the regeneration of sinners, and so would not have the word necessary in the proposition.” (Another similarity.-C.)

In one of his speeches Throgmorton said: “Now, Brother, come up to the trough and lick salt. It is NOT the preacher that gives the life. It is God. And HE gives it by MEANS of preaching.”

In another speech he said: “The truth is Brother Daily limits God’s power. He holds that God CANNOT use the preaching of the gospel on a dead sinner. He thinks God CANNOT use it in the regeneration of sinners. We say he can and does.”

We are quoting these passages from Throgmorton to show our brethren that when Elders among us say that ALL it takes to constitute us sound Primitive Baptists on this fundamental of our faith is to believe THAT GOD REGENERATES-no matter what means is employed, they are either ignorant of Primitive Baptist faith or deliberately try to deceive. The point at issue is NOT as to whether or not God regenerates sinners, but HOW does he do it.

Elders Sikes and Screws agree with Throgmorton that God ordinarily does this work through the gospel. Primitive Baptists have ALWAYS held that God NEVER employs the gospel in the regeneration of sinners.

In 1907 Elder C. H. Cayce represented our people in a public discussion with I. N. Penick (Missionary Baptist). Elder Cayce affirmed that “The Scriptures teach that sinners are regenerated, or born again, independently of, or without, the gospel as a means,” and Penick affirmed that “The Scriptures teach that in regeneration, oil the new birth, the Lord uses the gospel as a means.” I do not think I have ever read a clearer presentation or abler defense of Primitive Baptist faith than was done by Elder Cayce in this discussion. It is to be regretted that the edition of this published discussion is exhausted. It ought to be in every Primitive Baptist home.

In this discussion, Penick said:

“Now, notice. The Lord is to regenerate a soul. He is to do the work. He is the efficient great cause. He is the one that is to bring it about. The question is, Does He use HIS word as a means in that work, or not? My opponent says that he does not. I insist that God has arranged and planned it all as he pleases, and that it has been his purpose to use his word, not my word, your word, but HIS word. * * * Possibly I might use a simple illustration. With respect to the new covenant: suppose I take a fountain pen here. Here is ink in it. * * * Here is Christ, the writer; here is Paul, the pen; here is the heart, the paper; and the Spirit is the ink. Now, the means is brought in contact. The means don’t save by itself. The Spirit is brought in contact; there is CONTACT of both. There is God’s word, there is God’s minister, and there is God’s Spirit. When a man denies that the means is used, or when he denies that the Spirit is used, we are there to say that both the Spirit and the word comes into contact with the heart.”  I suppose Elders Screws and Sikes would have urged Elder Cayce and our brethren to be “calm,” that there was nothing in Penick’s position to get scared at or to fuss over.

We give space for Elder Cayce’s reply to this illustration:

Cayce: “He makes an argument on the fountain pen, and quotes 2nd Cor. 3:3: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart * * * Remember the pen is the preacher. Look out now! Ex. 31:18, ‘And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the FINGER of God.’ There is the law, written on tables of stone, on Mount Sinai, written with the finger of God. Dent. 9:10, ‘And the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the Lord spake with you in the mount.’ Deut. 10:4, ‘And HE wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the Lord spake unto you in the mount * * * and the Lord gave them unto me.’ Now, Titus 8: 8-7  ‘For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly--through Elder Penick? NO! ‘THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR SAVIOUR; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ If language means anything, God the Father is represented by the penman, Jesus Christ is represented by the pen, and the Holy Spirit is represented by the ink. Thus the three-one God is engaged in the salvation of sinners, saving them from the ruinous consequences of sin, and giving them a home at the Father’s right hand. II Tim. 1 :8-11,----‘who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.’ According to Brother Penick’s argument, as I see it, life is brought through the gospel; but the life and immortality are brought TO LIGHT through the gospel. Nothing can be brought to light that does not exist already. If the life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel, the life and immortality exist in. the character before the gospel brings it to light. Now, as to 2 Cor. 3:3: Just as the law was written on mount Sinai on tables of stone. BY THE FINGER OF GOD, so God’s law is written in the heart, on fleshy tables of the heart, WITH THE FINGER OF GOI). So, then, whenever you say God uses you in this work, you say, by that, that you are the finger of God. And as there are so many of your brethren among the Missionary Baptists who propose to do the same work, tell us, How many fingers does God possess?” Thousands of our brethren heard and have read that discussion. It was published in book form and the demand was so great that the issue was soon exhausted. It met with universal praise and commendation from Primitive Baptists. That debate was held in July 1907. And God now has a few fingers among our brethren in Georgia!

Elder John Clark, a recognized leader among Primitive Baptists, for years editor of Zion’s Advocate (afterwards edited by T. S. Dalton, C. H. Waters, John R. Daily, and now by R. H. Pittman) in an editorial on this subject in June 1858, said:

 “We can conceive how agencies and instrumentalities can be employed in ministering to the living, but what place they can have in giving life, we cannot so readily conceive. * * * Is it scripturally true that God uses instrumentality in quickening, or giving life, to sinners dead in trespasses and sins. The burden of proof, we know, rests upon these who affirm this, but let us see a moment what saith the revelation of God upon the subject. * * * (John 5:21, 25; Born. 4:17, 2 Cor. 3:6, Eph. 2:4, 5, 10; Col. 2:13, 1 Tim. 6:13; Heb. 4: 12.) This array of scriptural testimony is sufficient, we should think, to establish the proposition that God quickens the sinner independent of means.”

In a letter written in the year 1908, just a month before his death, and published in Zion’s Advocate, Elder J. H. Purifoy said: “For a few years after I left the New School Baptists I was very much unsettled on the means question. Like a man walking through a mud hole,some of the mud will cling to him as he comes out of it, but when I investigated that point thoroughly In the light of the Scriptures I became fully convinced that God does not use the preached word to quicken sinners and make them alive from death in trespasses and sin. ‘You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sin.’ How? Through the preacher? Nay, verily. It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profiteth nothing. Is not God the father of his children spiritually as the natural man is the father of his children naturally?”

Elder S. A. Paine, of Texas, who many times successfully represented us in public discussion, in his book entitled Campbellism; A Religious Deformity, says:

    “I will now prove that the salvation, which is by the faith of the creature, is not regeneration, but a salvation of those already born of God. We refer you first to Romans. 1:16, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.’ Who, then, is a believer? As we have before proven, they are born of God, justified, etc. Then the gospel ‘saves’ those who are born of God. It does not born them. The question is often asked; if they are already born how and in what way does the gospel save them? The gospel is to God’s children what your father’s teachings; corrections and reproofs are to you.

There is a practical or gospel faith that no one can have without the gospel. See Romans 10. ‘How can they believe on him of whom they have not heard, and how can they hear without a preacher?’
This is the message that Cornelius needed AFTER that God had cleansed and justified him. It was by Peter’s mouth that the Gentiles were to hear the gospel and believe. Acts 15: 7. It was not by the message of Peter’s mouth that the Gentiles were to be cleansed or justified, but to believe. Men believe only as they have been given ability. God gives ability in regeneration to believe the gospel. See 1 Cor. 3:5. This shows that God gives the ability  before the gospel will make a believer. The sinner being saved by grace is enabled to then believe in Christ and rejoice in the salvation so graciously bestowed.”

Elder J. H. Oliphant has probably written more for publication than any other minister we have had in America. His writings have been very acceptable to our people and his soundness in the recognized faith of Primitive Baptists has never been questioned. In his book Regeneration, he says:

“The reader will see that I have taken the view that the Bible was never intended by its Author as a weans or instrument through which eternal life is given. These acts are evidences that we are the children of God. A man may have this Spirit, and never have opportunity to see its fruits, but still he would be a child of God. Fruit has simply nothing to do in producing the tree. The tree may he good, and we never see any of its fruit. The question how long a man’s nature may be changed before he manifests that change to others does not touch the point at issue. The Spirit must be in men first. ‘Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ IS born of God.’ In the order of nature the birth is first, and let the interval be long or short, the birth is antecedent to believing. A man may be of God, and never have an opportunity to hear on earth, and yet he would be of God. The act of believing is evidence of life, and nothing more. Life precedes any impression made by the word, and it is the cause of its favorable reception. Hearing and believing are not the cause of passing from death to life, but the evidence of it; passing from death unto life is first. This life may be in men, idiots, and heathens, who may never have opportunity to manifest it; yet to heaven they will go.”

This was sound Primitive Baptist doctrine, and unless I am very much deceived, it will still pass as “legal tender” among our brethren in Georgia.

Writing us under date of March 17th, 1924, Elder Sylvester Hassell says:

    “So far as I know, the Kehukee Association never entertained or  endorsed the doctrine that God sometimes uses the preached gospel in regenerating sinners. * * Man, not regenerated by God’s Spirit, may have a natural conviction of sin and conversion (a turning from their outward evil conduct). In my time I never knew one of our ministers or members to believe or maintain that the preaching of any man is a means of regeneration; nor do I suppose that in 1778 any minister or member of the Kehukee Association held that the Holy Spirit comes through the human preacher to quicken into life a person who is dead in sin. He may regenerate a sinner while a minister is preaching, but He does so by His own direct operation in the sinner’s heart or spirit. True conviction and conversion are the effects of immediate Divine regeneration.”

Under date of November 21st, 1923, Elder C.H. Cayce writes me:

“I do not think that the London Confession teaches that the Lord uses the gospel as a. means in regeneration, but to the contrary, that the gospel call is not sufficient to that end. Regeneration is by the direct and immediate work of the Spirit always. Life is never given through a medium.”

Elder E. W. Thomas writes me as follows:

 “It seems strange that after the subject of the gospel as a means through which God regenerates sinners has been so thoroughly discussed by our people the past thirty years, any one should now have the effrontery to say it was Baptist doctrine. If any question can be settled, it surely is settled, that Primitive Baptists believe that in the regeneration of sinners God acts independent of all means and instrumentalities. To say that God sometimes uses the gospel as a means, I think, is begging the question and trying to hide from the real issue and putting up a camouflage for protection. I would utterly be at a loss to know what scripture to quote to prove that God sometimes regenerates through the gospel. I fear this is only a subterfuge and not the sincere faith of its advocates. This question was agitated among Primitive Baptists at the time I begun preaching. The division in the Danville (Indiana) association in 1890 was caused chiefly-almost exclusively---from this doctrine and others that are naturally and inseparably connected with it. From my experience in controversies on this subject, I have observed that brethren taking this view have been slow and cautious to commit themselves clearly and plainly on the subject.”

We cannot add further testimony as our space is limited, but from what we have given in this article the reader can clearly see what has ever been the recognized faith of Primitive Baptists on this subject.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 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.