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Written by W.H. Crouse   

 

SCRIPTURES RELIED UPON TO PROVE THE MEANS DOCTRINE

We now come to consider the scriptures relied upon to prove the means doctrine-that God regenerates through the ministry and the preached word. Let the reader give careful consideration. If the Scriptures here quoted do NOT prove this doctrine, then it cannot be proven.

1.    1 Corinthians 4:15: For though ye have ten  thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

In the consideration of this scripture we observe first that the Apostle claimed paternal relationship to these Corinthian brethren. He called them his sons. “As my beloved sons I warn you”-verse 14. They had had many pedagogues, schoolmasters or instructors; if it were possible that they should have ten thousand more, yet they had but one father, and that was Paul. The Apostle then shows them upon what foundation he claimed that relationship, viz., for in Christ Jesus he had begotten them through the gospel. v. 15. Whatever is embraced in the word “begotten.” it contains the sole ground for the relationship which Paul claimed they sustained to each other, viz., father and sons.

Jesus said to his disciples, “And call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father which is in heaven,” Matt. 23:9. And in his instruction to them in regard to prayer, he said, “Pray ye, our Father which art in heaven,” Matt. 6:9. Jesus plainly taught here that saints have but ONE father, and that Father is in heaven; and yet Paul would have these brethren at Corinth to recognize him as their father and that they were his children.

This shows conclusively that Paul was not properly their father, nor were they properly his sons. The text cannot be taken in its literal meaning. All must readily admit that God is properly the father of all his children. We are not said to be born of Paul, nor of Apollos, but “born of God.” And John, speaking of this spiritual relationship, says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” 1 John 3:2. Not sons of some gospel minister, but sons of God. The sense in which Paul was their father was infinitely below the sense in which God was their Father.

And inasmuch as God alone is our Father in regeneration, and as the sole ground upon which Paul claimed to be their father is embraced in the word “begotten,” we argue that it cannot here mean  regeneration.

Many words, in the Scriptures, are used in a metaphorical sense. In Romans 4:16, Abraham is said to be “the father of us all”; but none would be so foolish as to claim that it was through Abraham that we were regenerated. It is also said of Abraham, “That he might be the father of them that believe.”

Now, in some sense Abraham IS to be considered as our father, but not in the sense of regeneration. In Judges 18:19 we find this language: “And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father.” The word father here must be understood in some explained sense. Paul calls Timothy his son (1 Tim. 1:18 and 2 Tim. 1:2) and yet there was no natural relationship, and no room is left for us to believe that Paul had anything to do with his regeneration for Timothy was a beloved disciple when Paul first met him. Acts 16:1-3. Job said he was “a father to the poor,” Job 29:16; and Joseph said God had made him “a father to Pharaoh,” Gen. 41:8; but neither of these scriptures can refer in any sense to the work of regeneration.

Paul was their father, not in the sense of regeneration, but in that they were made disciples by his ministry. He had established the church among them and brought them into the church. He was the minister by whom they believed. By him they had been brought from forms of idolatry to the faith of the gospel and the true service of the living God. He had laid the foundation among them and others could only build upon the foundation he had laid. As a “fisherman,” divinely sent, he had fished them out from among the world and brought them into the service of the Master. In the sense of faith and service he was their father and they were his sons.

We next observe that whatever work is meant by the word “begotten” Paul did it. It was his work. Note his language: “I have begotten you.” He didn’t say God had begotten them, but he positively declared, “I HAVE.” If regeneration is here under consideration, then the proposition is established beyond dispute that one man can regenerate another man. Not that he does it by his own strength and power, we admit; but by the power and strength given of God, or God’s power working through him, or  however it may be explained, HE DOES THE WORK, nevertheless. This language will not admit of the elimination of Paul in this work. It would be just as reasonable to conclude that when the Bible says Philip baptized the eunuch that it means God baptized him, or when it says David killed Goliath that it means God killed him, or that when we are told that “Sampson arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went out with them, bar and all,” that it was not Sampson, but GOD who did it, as to say that it was not Paul, but God, who begot these Corinthians. There are many instances in the Bible where men were used as instruments to do great works, and in every case they were made able to do the work, and they did it in a proper sense. Sampson had to be given supernatural strength to do the things he did, and they are recorded as his acts, although performed by strength given by the Lord. Certainly David could not of himself have done what he did; he did it through and by the help and strength of the Lord; but nevertheless DAVID KILLED GOLIATH; it was his act, and is so recorded.

However much God and the Holy Spirit may have dwelt in, and wrought through Paul, yet it remains that PAUL BEGAT THESE BRETHREN; and if begotten means regeneration, as our means brethren insist, then Paul REGENERATED them. Strive as they may, they cannot escape this conclusion. And inasmuch as our means brethren deny that one man can regenerate another, we insist that they have no right to use this text to try to prove the  instrumentality of the gospel in regeneration.
The Bible often speaks of men saving others; but in no case does it have reference to the work of regeneration. This work is ascribed alone unto God, and God never moved and inspired any poor mortal to say to another “I have REGENERATED you.” NEVER!

The word “begotten” does not necessarily refer to regeneration. Note the language of the Apostle Peter: “Who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3. We are very sure this does not mean regeneration. By the resurrection of Jesus their hope had been restored, and they had been inspired with new confidence. Men are not regenerated but once; but Peter says, “Who hath begotten us again.” When Paul says he had begotten the Corinthians, he has no reference to regeneration. God never taught Paul that regeneration was any part of the work he was to accomplish through the ministry of the word. But Paul had accomplished through the gospel the work for which God had taught him the gospel was designed; he had preached to these people and the good ground had brought forth fruit; he had begotten them to gospel faith, and hope, and service.

Many who read these lines are thinking just now of some dear servant of the Lord who, through his preaching, brought them into gospel faith and hope and service. Others may preach well; many may be abler in the expounding of the word; numbers may be found more eloquent and of more commanding presence; but somehow, when we are in our right minds, there remains, a peculiar tenderness and affection for the watchman which first “found us and took away our veil” from us. We crown him with all the honor God will allow; but in the work of regeneration God alone shall have all the praise.

Before we pass from this scripture let us notice Paul’s teaching in the chapters preceding this. Upbraiding them for saying, “I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos,” Paul says: “Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase,” 3:5-6.

Paul was here explaining to these erring brethren just what it was that had been done by the ministry and the gospel. What was it? Apollos had “watered;” the gospel he preached had come to them like the rain and the dew. But rain and dew doesn’t give life, nor does life come to dead vegetation THROUGH water. So this could NOT refer to their regeneration.

Paul had “planted;” Does this mean that he had planted eternal life in them? Does this refer to regeneration? If so, then again we insist that Paul DID regenerate them, and this our means brethren will not accept, for they say, “It was God that gave the increase.”

I submit that if “giving the increase” was regeneration, then, “planting” was NOT. Planting and increase are two separate and distinct things. According to nature, planting is essential to an increase; it MUST precede. And if the “increase” was regeneration, and the “planting” was the preaching of the gospel by Paul, have we not established then that the preached word is absolutely essential to regeneration?

In verse five Paul explains that be and Apollos were simply “ministers by whom ye believed.” They had made believers out of them. And unless making believers is the same as regenerating dead sinners, Paul bad nothing to do with regeneration. If they do mean the same, then ministers can and do (under the blessing of God) regenerate others, for it is abundantly taught in the Scriptures that ministers make gospel believers.

After stating that they had made believers of them, Paul adds, “Even as the Lord gave to every man.” Whatever is included in that expression-whatever it was that God gave to every man (every man that believed)-was necessary in order for them to believe. Without it they never would have believed. And whatever it was, it necessarily PRECEDED their belief. If it was regeneration or the implantation of divine life in the soul, then they were regenerated BEFORE they believed and these ministers making them believers had nothing to do with their regeneration. They were too late for that.

Let our means brethren answer the following questions:

1. Which comes first in point of time, belief or regeneration?

2. Can an unregenerate sinner, dead in sins, have gospel faith?

3. If not, would it not follow then that he must be ALIVE (regenerated) before belief?

4. Is belief pleasing to God? Paul declares, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  Rom. 8:8. Are unregenerate sinners in the flesh? If so, can they please God by having gospel faith?

5. Faith is said to be a fruit of the Spirit. Do unregenerate sinners have the Spirit? If not, can they have faith?

6. Can belief spring from an impure heart?

7. Do unregenerate sinners have a pure heart?

8. In one place we are told hearts were purified by faith. Acts 15:9. If this means in regeneration (and not in a practical sense, as our people explain it) does it not necessarily follow that faith must be found in an impure, unregenerate heart? for how could faith purify unless faith existed BEFORE the heart was pure? If the heart has to be pure (regenerated) before there can be faith, it is too late for faith to purify in that sense.

9. “Whosoever behieveth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” 1 John 5:1. Which was first, the birth or the belief?

10. Are any born of God who does NOT believe? If not, and Paul was correct when he said, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10), how would it be possible for any one to be regenerated who had not heard the preacher?

We Primitive Baptists insist that regeneration must precede gospel faith or belief-before the preached word will make a believer the sinner must he made ALIVE. Making alive is God’s work independent of the ministry and the preached word. It IS the work of the ministry to make believers and disciples; God makes CHILDREN. Some of these Corinthians were attributing too much to the ministry and Paul reproved them.

Again: “For we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God,” 1:23-24. They preached the gospel to ALL it did not have the same effect upon all. To some it was a “stumbling block” and ‘‘foolishness;” to others it was Christ the power and wisdom of God. Why this difference? It is to be found in this expression, “But unto them which are called.” Those first mentioned were NOT called; the later class was. It is admitted that this is the “effectual call” or regeneration. It is the same thing that we found (in 2:5) had to precede belief. This language will not admit of the position that this call was simultaneous with their preaching to them this gospel. It preceded, made the preparation for the gospel’s reception, and was the ground and reason why the gospel did not come to them as it came to others. The same thing is taught in verse 18: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” It cannot be denied that “saved” here means regenerated. And the word ‘‘saved,’’ in verse 18, and the word ‘‘called,’’ in verse 24, has identically the same meaning.

And we observe again that if the change wrought in the hearts of men by being “saved” and “called” as Paul here expresses it, was done THROUGH their preaching, then regeneration is confined to the scope of the preached gospel. This calling was either something separate and apart from the preached word, or it was inseparably connected with it. If the latter, none are regenerated without the gospel. If this call (or regeneration) is separate and distinct from the preaching of the gospel, we can understand how God might call (regenerate) WHILE they were preaching; but if it is THROUGH the minister and his preaching that sinners are thus called, then none are regenerated except those who hear and not until they hear the gospel preached.
The word “save” is used with a different meaning in verse 21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save the-in that believe.”  The believer, as we have seen, is already born of God. Therefore Paul could not have meant, “to regenerate them that believe.” And besides, if Paul was here telling how it pleased God to regenerate sinners, we come again face to face with two Arminian premises, both unscriptural, viz.,

1. If regeneration is meant, none are regenerated except believers. And since the gospel is necessary to belief, (Rom. 10) none are saved except they hear the gospel.

2. It also places belief BEFORE regeneration; and we then have dead sinners, carnal, in the flesh, without the Spirit, who cannot please God, exercising gospel faith.
 
Saved here does NOT refer to regeneration; but those regenerated or effectually called are, by the gospel, to he saved in a practical sense.

3. James 1: 18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.”

4. 1 Peter 1:23: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”

The means brethren always assume that “word” in these texts, means the written word. Word is one of the names of Christ Jesus the Lord. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” “All things were made by him.” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”-John 1:1, 3,14. “And he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.” Rev. 19:13.

Word in James 1: 18, 1 Peter 1: 23, John 1:1, 3, 14, and Rev. 19:13, is translated from the Greek word Logos. This being true, and in view of the general teaching of the Scriptures, before our brethren can use James 1: 18 and 1 Peter 1: 23 to prove that sinners are born again by the written word they must PROVE that “word” in those passages means the written word. Until they do so, we will continue to believe that the word by which the dead are made alive is Christ the living Word of God. Eternal life is not in the written word, but in Christ. We are taught that Christ as the Word made all things in creation; and it is just as clearly taught the new creation is through Christ and NOT the written word. This is the “incorruptible seed.” John says, “this is the record that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

5.    Acts 26:15-18: “For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness * * * delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

This is one of the scriptures to which Elder Screws cited us to prove that it is a “Bible doctrine” that God uses the preached word as an instrumentality in the work of regeneration. (See Vol. 3, No. 9) That a Primitive Baptist minister should so interpret this scripture will seem strange indeed to our brethren. If his interpretation of this one text is true, it means the complete overthrow of EVERY fundamental of our faith. If the work which God here assigned Paul was the regeneration of the Gentiles, Brother Screws need not seek another text in his effort to put to confusion, and the destruction of the faith of those whom he styles “modern” Baptists; with shamed faces for their ignorance and almost unpardonable sin through all these years, they should fold up their tents and silently steal away into the land of oblivion. If God sent Paul out to open the blind eyes of the dead in sin; to turn alien sinners from the power of the Devil unto God; to bring the spiritually unborn from the darkness of death into the light of life; to cause the lost to receive the forgiveness of sins; to bring those who were by nature the children of wrath into sonship with God and the inheritance of the saints, -I say, if this was THE work which God assigned this minister of the gospel, then indeed have Primitive Baptist violated their Commission and well deserve the condemnation of men and the fierce judgments of Almighty God. For certain it is that we have never conceived this as any part of our mission; our denomination has not only neglected THIS commission but they have determinedly opposed it.

Surely our brethren have not realized the awful and fatal consequences that must result by fastening this interpretation of scripture upon our people or they would not have been so quiet, and for so long, and heedless of the pleadings of some of us, who for all our protests have received but one answer, viz., the charge of being possessed of an evil spirit. We have been condemned by some for insisting that this teaching is heresy, but in the name of our blessed Lord, and in his Spirit, we ask in all candor: if this is NOT heresy among Primitive Baptists, then what IS heresy? And can it be supposed that we can accept this interpretation or tolerate this teaching and retain the love and fellowship, or respect, of our brethren at home and abroad? Is it not high time that we were laying aside all prejudice and personalities and coming to the rescue of that banner which has been so gloriously and bravely flung to the breeze and defended by our fathers, but now already in many places has been trailed in the dust?

This commission was given to Paul by Jesus Christ himself. Notice the last expression: “By faith in me.” Read Romans 10 again, and once more note that if regeneration was the work assigned to Paul, then regeneration is again confined to the scope of the preached word. Isn’t it strange that one will give all these scriptures this interpretation and then play so much upon the term, “in some cases?” Be not deceived. If it is in some cases through the gospel, it is in ALL cases. And the position of those who teach this strange doctrine among us is that only in EXCEPTIONAL cases does God vary from the rule of regeneration through the preached word. Dorcas is the rule; Lazarus is the exception. And we are now told that even the revelation which Christ told Peter God had made unto him (Peter), as  recorded in Matt. 16:17, was made THROUGH Andrew his brother!

Elder Screws makes this commission of Paul’s identical with that given to Christ, as recorded in Isa. 42:6-7. “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” This interpretation has too much use for man and too little use for God; “too much humanity, and not enough divinity.” Paul was a sinner to be saved, but not a savior of sinners. Are Primitive Baptists now to take a position that must lead them at last to conclude that there are as many saviors as there are ministers of the gospel?

Paul was not commissioned to open BLIND eyes. He could not do that. That was the commission of Christ. It requires a greater force to open blind eyes than is found in the gospel. Men’s eyes may be opened by moral force, but it will never cause a blind eye to see. NEVER! Ministers, by gospel teaching, through the grace and blessing of God, are able to open eyes, in a sense; but they cannot cause the blind to see. And the work Christ gave Paul to do in his commission was to be HIS (Paul’s) work-it was to he done by Paul. The light of the sun will enable us to see objects about us, but it never has caused blind eyes to see, and was never intended to do so. Christ was among the Gentiles opening blind eyes. Paul was to open eyes closed by falsehood and error by the proclamation of truth. He was to “sow” the seed, but only the GOOD GROUND would bring forth fruit. He was to be a minister and a witness. Sinners are not regenerated by the ministry and witness of men. Teaching will not bring about this change.

Paul was never commissioned to regenerate anyone, or to give to any dead sinner eternal life. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ (Born. 6:23), but never THROUGH Paul or any other preacher.

6.   2 Corinthians 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 Cod not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” This is another one of the texts Brother Screws says he relies upon to prove the instrumentality of the gospel in regeneration. 

It seems to us that it will be rather difficult to hold that position concerning this text and still say that the gospel is not a means. Paul illustrates the regeneration of these saints by the writing of a letter. It is an impossibility to use this illustration and put the preacher in it without leaving one of the persons in the Trinity out. This text is always used against us in public discussion with the Arminians. They make Christ the penman, the preacher the pen, and the Holy Spirit the ink. This leaves the Father out of regeneration entirely. If you make God the penman you must leave Christ out. And they always prefer to leave out the Father or the Son rather than leave out the preacher! Now, let us notice this illustration. If Christ is the penman, the preacher the pen, and the Holy Spirit the ink, and the hearts of men the paper, then please tell us how the Holy Spirit could reach the paper or heart without the pen or preacher. Here we have a penman and plenty of ink; but how can he write on the paper without something to serve as a pen?

There we are again. No preacher and gospel, no regeneration. The reader cannot but see how that all roads traveled by the means brethren center in this one proposition. They can’t escape it, though they strive ever so hard to do so. But, again: If the pen represents the minister, how can we say that the ministry is not a help and a means? Was the pen no help or means to the person in writing the letter with ink? Let Elder Screws answer.

Elder Penick (Missionary) used this scripture as proof in his debate with Elder Cayce. Here is what Penick said: “I might use a simple illustration. 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. I use that to  illustrate this point in getting the matter before your mind. 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.” (Page 289.)

Thus you see that our means brethren offer nothing new. All their proof texts are the proof texts Arminians have used against us time and again in public discussions. The only possible difference between Penick and Elder Screws on this text is Brother Screws’ play on the word means. And Penick will understand that well enough that it will not affect his fellowship for Brother Screws in the least.

Now, the real import of this scripture is this: God is the penman; Jesus Christ is the pen; the Holy Spirit is the ink; the hearts of men the paper. And as God wrote with his own finger upon the tables of stone (read the entire chapter), asking nothing of Moses, so God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, writes upon the fleshly tables of men’s hearts. This is that circumcision not made with hands (Coal. 2:11). It is done by the FINGER of God. Ex.  1:18; Deut. 9: 10. Gospel ministers-not even Primitive nor “Original” Baptists, are to be considered fingers of God. All thus  ircumcised in heart-written upon by the FINGER of God--are said to be “the epistles of Christ.” To them Paul ministered; “ministered by us.”

Our brethren can readily see that Paul had no reference to regeneration in verse 2.


7.   Acts 2:37: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

We are next cited to this text as proof of the gospel as an instrumentality in regeneration. We are told that these were not regenerated when they entered the house at nine o’clock that day. “Pricked in their heart,” we are told was regeneration. This was done BY and THROUGH Peter’s preaching; therefore, it is argued, they were regenerated by or through the instrumentality of the gospel.

I am sure my readers will not agree that this preacher and the gospel were no means or help in pricking their hearts. We cannot read this scripture and its connection and come to that conclusion. That it was through Peter and the message he delivered that their hearts were pricked is certainly beyond dispute.

There is but one question for us to decide: Will the preached gospel prick the heart of an unregenerate sinner? Will it have that effect upon the DEAD?

Will it thus affect a heart of stone? We can readily understand how the preached word would have that effect upon LIVING subjects, with hearts of “flesh”; but we can not understand how it could thus affect those who had not been made alive by the quickening power of God. If it be said that the Holy Spirit pricked them, and not the preached word, the point is yielded, for it is thus admitted that the gospel CANNOT reach the dead, alien, unregenerate sinner. But we would have the reader note that this text doesn’t say, “While they heard this, they were pricked in heart,” but “When they heard.” It was what they HEARD that pricked them; and DEAD men, UNREGENERATE men, do NOT hear. They were listening to the word (gospel) of God. “He that is not of God heareth not us,” I John 4:6. To be “of God” is to be born of God. These, who were pricked in heart by Peter’s preaching, were “of God” or they would not have understandingly heard Peter’s words. They were therefore born of God. And being born of God before they HEARD, it was NOT through Peter’s preaching that they were regenerated.

8.    John 17:20 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”

Let the reader remember that we were referred to this text as proof of the INSTRUMENTALITY of the preached word in regeneration. It is evident; therefore, that Brother Screws understands that regeneration is connected with gospel belief; that making believers through the preached word is the same as regenerating sinners. If he does not so believe we cannot understand why he cites us to this text to prove his position. The only work referred to in this text is the making of believers through “their word”-the gospel. It was through “their word” that certain ones were to believe. If that teaches the INSTRUMENTALITY of the preached word in regeneration, then belief and regeneration must be inseparably connected. And if to be made a believer is to be regenerated, and they were to be made believers through the preached word, we would have to conclude that none are regenerated where the word is not preached. See? And we remember that Brother Screws said THIS text includes ALL the elect who should be given to Christ.

If this means regeneration, we would be compelled to say that through the preached word unregenerate men are made believers. For if they must be regenerated BEFORE they can believe (as we insist) then believing through the preached word is too late for this text to prove the instrumentality of the preached word in regeneration or eternal salvation.

Gospel faith is produced in the hearts of the regenerate through the preached word. This is a part of the work of the gospel ministry. It is necessary to gospel service. But we are not to conclude that NO ONE except gospel believers are regenerated and reach heaven. If so, then all infants, idiots and heathen are forever lost!

9.    Ephesians 5:25-26: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”

We have already given notice to Elder Screws’ position on this text. We suppose the church here means all the church. It was the church for which Christ died. It is to be sanctified, cleansed and washed. Elder Screws says this includes regeneration and that this is to be done BY the word-the preached word. We make the following observations:

1.    The church is to be sanctified and cleansed.

2.    Paul says this is to be done “with the washing of water, BY the word.” He makes no exception whatever.

3.    If he has regeneration under consideration, and if he means by the word the written or preached word, then, since none can get to heaven without regeneration, it must follow that none will ever get to heaven who have not come under the influence of the gospel.

Whatever washing and cleansing of the church is to be done BY the preached word, is NOT a washing and cleansing from original sin and guilt, for that is done by the blood of Christ through the Holy Spirit; but it is a practical cleansing and washing. And this the gospel will do. God doesn’t wash and cleanse alien sinners in regeneration by the gospel; to say that he does, is to deny the whole tenor of the Bible and place the ministry and the gospel in a field of labor where God expressly, time and again, says they cannot go.

10.    2 Thessalonians 2:13-14: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through  sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This has been frequently quoted and stressed as a proof text by Brother Screws in contending for gospel instrumentality in regeneration. We have noticed it somewhat in a former article. In the first place let us observe that if regeneration is here in this text connected with the belief of the truth and the call of the gospel, then there was not a single one of these Thessalonians who had been regenerated WITHOUT the gospel. Not one. There was no exception to the “established rule” in this church. We do not know how many members there were in this church at that time, but it seems a little strange that not a single one was to be found here who had been regenerated without a preacher. Every member was a Dorcas; there was not a single Lazarus among them. It does seem that there would have been at least one “exception,” if God only regenerates “in some cases” through the preached word.

Now, what proves too much for a proposition proves nothing. And their interpretation of this scripture makes it prove too much for their position-at least at the present time. In fact the reader will note that if Elder Screws is right in his interpretation of ALL these scriptures, his great difficulty is, not to find one who was regenerated through the instrumentality of the preached word, but to find ONE who was NOT. So far, Brother Screws has only referred us to one-Paul; and Brother Sikes tells us that even Paul was regenerated through means and instrumentalities.

If “belief of the truth” is connected with regeneration, HOW much of the truth does one have to believe to be regenerated? Elder Screws says all “thus chosen are caused to believe the truth.” (Vol. 3, No. 7, page 1.) He admits that but few of our people throughout the United States for many years have believed that God regenerates through the preached word; Dr. Watson, in his attack upon our people, charged us with having woefully ignored the teaching of the Bible on this line. Now if Elder Screws and Dr. Watson have the truth, the rest of us have not--the denomination has not believed the truth on this point. If Elder Screws is correct in his interpretation of the book of Revelation, a very large percent of our people have not and do not believe the truth on that line. If Elder Sikes was correct in his explanation of election and atonement, as given us in his pamphlet, the great body of our people have not and do not- believe the truth concerning those doctrines. This being true, I ask, in all seriousness, have the great body of our people ever been regenerated? Were they chosen in Christ? And how about the other religious bodies who deny very much which we contend to be the truth-even salvation by grace? Are any of them of the elect? Are any of them regenerated? If so, just how much truth does one have to believe to be regenerated? These are fair and serious questions, and we feel that we have a right to a clear and honest answer, if indeed one must believe the truth or be classed as unregenerate, and not of those chosen in Christ from the beginning.

God teaches the doctrine of eternal, particular and unconditional election. His choice was “from the beginning.” He chose these very Thessalonians-that was personal. He chose them unto salvation THROUGH sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. He chose ALL his people at the same time. “Belief of the truth” comes through the gospel. It is something they DO. If this means regeneration, does this not smack of conditionalism? If not, why not? Are men active or passive in believing the truth? Does God compel his children to believe the truth? If so, how does it come that so many of them do not believe the truth? If the gospel compels saints to believe the truth, why don’t ALL saints who hear the gospel believe the truth? Are any of the elect in lands where the truth has never been proclaimed? If so, how did God choose THEM unto regeneration?

Salvation and regeneration are not synonymous terms. Salvation is a much more comprehensive term than regeneration. Salvation includes regeneration; but regeneration does not include all of salvation by any means. There is a sense in which we were saved when Christ died on the cross; there is a sense in which we were NOT. There is a sense in which we were saved in regeneration; there is a sense in which our salvation was far from complete even then. Salvation began in eternity, in the mind and purpose of God; it began IN us in regeneration, and it will not be complete until every heir of promise, in soul and body, shall be safely housed in heaven.

We are to be personally brought into the enjoyment of this salvation, first, “through the sanctification of the Spirit,”-that is regeneration; second, “through belief of the truth,”-that pertains to this life and is that phase of salvation sometimes called “time” or “common” salvation. Christ said, “Except a man be born again he can not see the kingdom of God;” but no where did he say, Except a man believeth the truth he cannot enter heaven. Unto salvation we ARE called by the gospel (but not unto regeneration)-unto that salvation which God has designed for us in gospel faith and hope and service.

11.   Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith.”

Elder Screws insists that this is regeneration, or eternal salvation, and that the faith here mentioned is that faith of which Paul speaks in Romans 10, which he (Paul) says one CAN NOT have without hearing of Jesus through the preacher. And we have seen that he (Elder Screws) very emphatically declares that sinners are thus saved THROUGH this faith and “not to the exclusion of it,” that Paul here lays down the irrevocable plan, and only way, whereby sinners dead in sin are brought to LIFE in Jesus Christ.

We are not going to discount the intelligence and ability of Elders Screws and Sikes by saying they can not and do NOT see that if this interpretation be true there can be no such thing as regeneration  without the gospel and the preacher. Our readers see it, I am sure.

If regeneration is brought about through faith, and that faith is produced (or given) through the preached word, then strive as we may to prove otherwise, it is forever established that where the word is not preached there is no regeneration.

We do not want to be unfair. Elders Screws and Sikes say they do NOT believe that regeneration is confined to the scope of the gospel. Very many of the ablest ministers in the Missionary Baptist denomination say the same thing. But having taken this position on this text, and interpreted other scriptures to support it, the great body of that denomination NOW believe and insist that there is no regeneration where the gospel is not preached.

Elders Screws and Sikes may never go that far; but having taken the Missionary Baptist position on this text, and others, and teaching it among us, it is only a question of time until it produces the same effect among us that it has among the Missionaries. Gill’s position on these texts helped to open the door for Fuller’s teaching; and it was doubtless the observation of the fruits of this teaching that led Gill, in his maturer years, to repudiate his former teaching.

According to this interpretation we must find ANOTHER plan of salvation taught somewhere in the Bible or even those who die in infancy are lost, since they cannot have THIS faith which comes by hearing the preacher.Where do we find TWO plans of eternal salvation taught in the Bible? Where?
“By grace are ye saved.” Will anyone, infant or adult, be saved any other way? ALL of us, whether Primitive, “Original” or “Modern” must answer emphatically, NO. Well, then if this eternal salvation comes to dead sinners by grace THROUGH FAITH, and this faith comes through the preached word, how will infants, idiots or heathen be saved?

The position of these brethren on this text must revolutionize the thought, the preaching, and all the activities of our denomination. It identifies us with the Means Baptists, and makes the fence so low between us and the Missionary Baptists that we may soon expect our flocks to be ring-streaked and spotted.

And it matters not how sound these brethren may preach on other lines; they may become quiet on this particular issue; but everywhere this seed has been sown it is taking root, and must bring forth its harvest unless speedily rooted up. If we are right in our contention-if our people agree with us in our defense of our recognized faith-then do we not have the right to expect that they condemn this heretical teaching, that it be stopped, and that our ministers and periodical labor to reclaim those who already have been led astray and to fortify our people against its destructive influence?

We seek the destruction of no minister. We welcome into our ministry any worthy man called of God. But let it be known by all who would enter our ministry that we have a recognized faith, and to that faith they are expected to be true. If they are coming among us to REVOLUTIONIZE us and to introduce destructive innovations-if they feel to be a MOSES specially called and divinely sent to lead poor, ignorant and deluded Prims out of the darkness and the mire into which they feel our fathers led us- then let the signboards upon every road which leads into Zion bear the inscription, written in letters which he who runs may read, “Not Wanted.”

We have many doctors among us who would prescribe for the peace, health and growth of our people. If I may pose as a doctor, I would prescribe the OLD TIME FAITH, THE OLD TIME RELIGION, ONLY SOUND AND SPIRITUAL HYMNS in harmony with the faith we believe, and humble, simple, quiet devotion in such faith in our Father as will not shrink though pressed by every foe.

Some of the divisions among us were uncalled for and brought about by designing men. But much of the confusion among Primitive Baptists was caused by restless and unstable leaders who sought to revolutionize the denomination, and who were unmindful of the feelings and hearts of their brethren and turned a deaf ear to all their entreaties. It is useless to plead and beg for peace while the foundation stones upon which peace, love,fellowship and union rest are being removed.
We quote here another text, often used by Arminians to support the interpretation given of Eph. 2:8, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the
glory of God,”-Romans 5:1-2. It is argued that we are saved by grace, BUT that we have access INTO this grace through gospel faith. And since we cannot be saved only by grace, and we cannot get into this grace only by gospel faith, therefore the absolute necessity of the preacher and the gospel in order for sinners to be saved.

How would our means brethren answer their argument? Is there any way they could answer it without first giving lip their position in reference to Eph. 2:8? Primitive Baptists have given their interpretation of these texts. Let the reader study it and take it for what he considers it worth.

“By grace are ye saved”-saved with an eternal salvation. Paul has special reference to the work of regeneration as shown in verse 10. “Through faith”-the avenue through which we have personal knowledge of this salvation. Faith is the eye by which we see and the hand by which we lay hold of the blessings laid up for us in this wonderful salvation in Jesus Christ. It is not the hand by which we lay hold of eternal life in regeneration; this would put faith BEFORE LIFE. It is that by which we consciously and experimentally have access into this grace “WHEREIN WE STAND” and thus rejoice in hope. This faith justifies us, not at the bar of God, but at the bar of our own conscience; there it declares to us that we are righteous. It is to us the evidence of the things God has done for us and in us and of the things yet held in store. This faith, as a seed or substance, is laid in the heart or soul in regeneration, is the work and fruit of the Holy Spirit, and is said to be the gift of God. Experience, environment and teaching will develop it, and under the gospel it buds forth and blooms into belief in Jesus Christ, which is termed gospel faith.

It might very properly be said that no regenerate person, infant or adult, is without THIS faith mentioned in Eph. 2:8. But it may be there only in substance undeveloped. The same may be said of all the Christian graces. MANY saints die without ever having GOSPEL faith, having never come under the sound and influence of the gospel. In this life our knowledge of our salvation and justification and the inexpressible joy that comes as the result of this knowledge depends largely upon the gospel-the written or spoken word. Instances of regenerated characters who had never heard the gospel are given us in the New Testament; but it would be impossible for us to imagine the exact feelings and experiences of a child of God who has never known anything of the Bible. Just how much the light of eternal life within and nature without would manifest this faith we do not know. Faith, whether ‘‘given” or “gospel,” is NOT the avenue through which LIFE flows into the soul dead in sin, but it IS the avenue through which knowledge comes to the NEW BORN soul.

Elder Sikes lays great stress upon certain scriptures which speak of righteousness being imputed by and through faith. If these texts mean to teach that the righteousness of Christ is imputed or made over to us in the court of heaven and at the bar of God WHEN we, as unsaved and unrighteous sinners, exercise faith, then EVERY fundamental of our doctrine falls.

Sc far as eternity and heaven are concerned, and as respects the covenant and the law of God, our faith has absolutely nothing to do with our justification. When Christ died, his death absolved from ALL guilt every one embraced in the covenant of grace. He then and there extinguished their guilt. It was done by substitution. Our sins were imputed to him and his righteousness was imputed to us. And through that transaction, ALL the saints of all ages-the millions of his people who were yet unborn-stood fully justified and righteous before God.

To undertake to so explain these scriptures as to bring atonement and justification by the blood of Christ down to the TIME when the sinner believes is a complete denial of the fundamentals of Primitive Baptist faith. It forces a new explanation of election and atonement.

We ARE justified by faith; and his righteousness is imputed to us by and through faith; not as respects the law of God and the court of heaven, but experimentally-in our own knowledge, to our great comfort and joy and peace.

“Study to show thyself approved unto God; a workman which needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -Paul.

 

CONCLUSION

The writer realizes his accountability to God for his own stewardship. Every word that I say and every act of my life shall be brought into judgment. Though our sins were imputed to Christ and his righteousness imputed to us, and it is alone through this imputation that we can hope to reach heaven, yet it is true that in this life whatsoever we sow we shall reap. And God has said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” We know what it is to have the consciousness of his approval, and we know full well the keenness of his judgments. In the fear of Almighty God we send forth these pages.

The trials and conflicts, sorrows and disappointments of twenty-six years in the service has seasoned us much as a soldier of the cross; Satan’s fiery and poisonous darts have so often been hurled at us that we have become immune to fear, for we take shelter under the wings of Him whose cause we undertake to serve and whose truth it is the delight of our soul to teach and defend; and as between the doctrines of the Primitive Baptists and the best of friends it does not require one moment for us to make our choice.

We are not the leader of any faction nor do we seek to be. We do not want strife and division- we pray division may come no more to our distressed people. The hearts of the true in Israel sink within them at the thought of another conflict. Many would feel like giving up in despair. But truth is worth contending for and defending, though time and again assailed.

So many things have happened among our people in Georgia that it sickens the heart of those who have lived in hope of a general union of our people throughout the United States. The writer has kept in close touch with our people everywhere. He has been in touch with the leading ministers throughout the different states. Whatever else may be charged against him he does not believe that it can be truthfully said that he does NOT know Primitive Baptist Faith. Our people may have been mistaken in their interpretation of the Scripture, but what their interpretation is and has been, the writer most confidently asserts that he KNOWS.

For that Faith we intend to fight. With us there will be no compromise. We are pastor of four churches which have a combined membership of five hundred. They give me and my family a liberal support. They are as good and faithful brethren as are to be found anywhere. We are sure they stand true to old time Primitive faith. But whatever their attitude may be, by the help of God we expect to stand with those who love the old time doctrines of our church, the good old-time religion of the fathers, and who seek not the applause and favor of the world nor to pattern after her by the addition of aids and auxiliaries, and who do not seek to make the church a place of show and entertainment but rather a place of humble devotion and solemn service where God is feared and hearts beat in love and fellowship sublime.

Our experience has proven, it seems to us, that it is exceedingly dangerous for the church of God to attempt to be “progressive.” There are always those in the church who have more zeal than knowledge, and little things-harmless and sinless within themselves, once introduced, pave the way for radical departures, Little by little those who know little of our doctrine, and perhaps care less, and who thirst for the applause and companionship of the world, will edge in the things of the world until there is at last trouble, and perhaps division.

We are thoroughly convinced that the church of God needs no additions, no worldly affiliations of any nature. Just as she came from the hand of Christ our Savior she is ALL the Christian needs. And it should be the desire of our hearts to keep that church pure that we may hand it down to our posterity in its primitive beauty as the greatest of all legacies.

Let us stand firm and true for the faith to which our people have subscribed through all the years, for that faith is, as we verily believe, THE faith once for all delivered to the saints.

               WILLIAM H. CROUSE.

 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2006 )
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Purpose

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.