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Written by J.T. Stinson   


The Gospel Messenger--June 1897

Elder S. Hassell—

DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST: I feel, since reading the last number of the MESSENGER, impressed to write a few lines to the brethren, though I feel very un­worthy to take my pen in hand to try to admonish them. I have been a member of the Baptist Church for about twenty-five years, and have been trying to preach for them about twenty-three years; have devoted almost all my time the last five years to preaching; have never made any long trips, but have visited some of the churches in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and now I have this to say, that I feel very unworthy the fellowship and love of such a grand and noble people. I want to live and die with these lovely people—they are so dear to me. My soul is sometimes made to run over with joy when I see these dear people meet in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace. No wonder David said, “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell to­gether in unity!”

“Oh, could I stay with these so kind,
How it would cheer my drooping mind,
But duty makes me understand
That we must take the parting hand.”

 But we do not always find the people of God in such a state. I could name sections in Virginia and Kentucky where the people of God were once in such a state; there were none of the isms or ites amongst them.

They preached salvation by grace, according to the predestinating purpose of God and His electing love, and admonished the churches to faithfulness in duty. Under their labors the churches were in peace; God added daily such to them as should be saved. But alas! in many of those churches things are different now. Sweet fellowship is broken; brethren devouring each other. In some places the work is already consummated, the brethren gone, the old meeting-house torn down and gone, or used for a stable or some other purpose. Oh, let us consider, brethren, what is the matter? What has brought about such a change? I must say, in some cases, the churches have neglected their duties to those who labor for them in word and doctrine. But this is not all; in many instances the ministers have entered into dis­cussions on the following subjects: “Eternal Vital Unity,” “Eternal Children,” “the Absolute Predes­tination of All Things.”

In many churches a war on these points has resulted in their entire destruc­tion; in others they are fast dying out. “Oh, that my head were a fountain that I might weep for the slain of the daughter of my people!” In the midst of this confusion last fall, a brother remarked, “it was all right, that God had so purposed, and it had to be.” A brother replied, “God’s people had sinned, and we are only reaping the reward of the fruit of our doings.” It seems clear to my mind that the lat­ter brother was the one that gave glory to God, for “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” God is even long­suffering toward us. “Oh, foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” Ye did run well, who did hinder you? Gal. v. 7

“This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you.” “I would that they were even cut off that trouble you.” These persuasive, bewitching doctrines that divide and subdivide the Lord’s poor trembling ones, are not of God, but of men. To see brethren that have so sweetly and lovingly lived together, divided and torn asunder, is a pitiful sight indeed. Brethren have told me that they were so troubled and grieved under such trials that they could not sleep a good night’s sleep for months. Oh, brethren, the dear people of God have enough to suffer without needlessly bringing such strife among them to add grief to sorrow. Why not seek the things that make for peace, and words whereby one may edify another? “Seek peace and pursue it.” It is unpleasant to me to speak of some things that I have recalled; but I do it that we may take warning; that we may profit by what we have learned, and not fall into the same errors and consequent confusion.

I think a brother means well many a time when he undertakes to explain a mystery, but the minds of the hearers are simply confused, and no one comforted. Sometimes I have heard brethren take as much as two hours in trying to establish their theory of a mystery, as though their salvation depended upon their believ­ing his theory. Just think of it—a large audience leaving the church-house, and, maybe, nine-tenths of them confused in mind! A poor sister has carried her darling babe, and come for miles, to hear a comforting word, her heart aching with grief; but no word of cheer or comfort for this poor mourner, but she hears something deep, mysterious, that she can’t un­derstand. She leaves disheartened, discouraged, and concludes she had better have stayed at home. I have traveled some in those sections and have met our friends in this condition who had not attended church meetings for years. These things cause me to mourn, and these are some of the things that cause Zion to languish. But, brethren, do not think that such a state exists extensively among the Baptists in this country. No; the most of our Associations of churches have stood aloof from these things and are getting along well.

I once knew a church that had for years been looked upon as a model church; she had a model preacher, but at last he died, and they elected them a new pastor. They progressed very well for awhile, but their preacher got to be so hard a Baptist that he seldom heard a preacher that he considered entirely sound in the faith, though we were all proud of him and considered him a strong man. The churches he had the care of just thought no one else could preach as he did. Of course it did not take other brethren long to find this out, so that field was almost entirely given up to him. The churches soon grew very cold and formal; and there was a period that it was seldom, if ever, anybody joined the church. People out of the church were taught to believe that, if they ought to join the church, they would be compelled to join; therefore they concluded they were not fit to join. But, alas! poor brother, he left this extreme, and is now preaching Arminianism, and tried his best to take the churches off with him.

For twelve long months the fight lasted; brethren that had lived till they were now, many of them, old and gray-headed, in sweet fellowship together, were now at war with each other. Christ says, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt, or maimed, or blind, than that thy whole body be cast into hell.” Surely this church was in such a state. No peace, no fellowship, no soul-ravishing revelations of God’s presence and love, but all enveloped in gloom and darkness. But they proceeded, at last, to exclude the brother, with twenty-three others that stood with him, and notwithstanding that he has now tried to keep up the fight for nearly three years, and having the sympathy of all the Arminian orders, the church has been wonderfully blessed. As soon as they did their duty, it seemed as if a cloud was raised and driven away from the church. The glorious sunlight began to shine, and there have been numbers added to the church. Visiting brethren have come from far and near to preach for them, and they have been made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. Breth­ren have seen their sons and daughters take up the cross of Christ and lovingly tell their hopes and fears. And not only the young, but many, that had lived out of their duty for years, came forward, told their experience and were baptized. One sister, seventy-five years old, who had been out of her duty about fifty years, when baptized, exclaimed, “How pleasant it is to obey the Lord!” and with many words did she praise the Lord and confirm the brethren. Many cups ran over with joy. They had brought the tithes into God’s storehouse, and received the blessing accord­ing to His promise.

God does not predestinate against Himself. God is Love. His mercies endure forever, even His long-suffering to­ward His poor, transgressing, wayward children. Should I count His mercies they are more than the hairs of my head. Oh, could I express the emotions I feel in my poor heart when I think of His mercies to me! Could I but express how loving I see Him to be! The doctrine of Predestination and Election is comforting and edifying to God’s people. It is only those extremes that cause God’s people to mourn. I met with a dear brother last fall that, in trying to justify those extremes, used this illustration. He said: “When our children get up a little size we burn them a little to let them know the danger of fire.” I asked him if we would burn our children to death in order to teach them such lessons; for many of God’s people are in a state of death,, wherefore he saith, “Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light.” Of course, he had to answer “No.” Then I said, “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more your Heavenly Father, who is right­eous.” Brethren, let us encourage all the gifts in the church. We need the foot, the hand, the eye. Let each brother abide in his own gift wherein he is called.

Don’t conclude, because you can’t explain the doc­trine of election, predestination, effectual calling, re­generation, and sanctification, that you are of no use to the church of God. I believe these things as strongly as any of the brethren, but I have learned that I cannot explain them like many of our minis­ters, to the comfort and understanding of the dear brethren. But I hope, by the grace of God, that I have been enabled to set forth the duties of the saints to each other, and to God, and to humbly admonish them to do the same. I have been surprised at the forbearance and love the brethren have manifested toward me. Ah! brethren, do we not all need the spirit of forbearance, that we may not make a brother an offender for a word? If a brother cannot see everything just as we do, surely it will not help him see, to punch his eyes out. It will not convert him from the error of his way by talking about him be­hind his back, calling him a Fatalist, Arminian, and such like epithets. I know of good brethren that are now very useful to the church of God, that have been reclaimed from their errors. They never could have been reclaimed by abuse. The word of the Lord says, “If a brother be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thy self; lest thou also be tempted.”

I once knew a brother that was very hard toward erring brethren; be would chastise them very severely and roughly for their wrongs; but, poor fellow, he was also tempted, and went very far into sin, and lost fellowship with the church. After being out twelve months or more, he asked to be restored, and it took him over twelve months to get back into the church “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” “If any man think he standeth, let him take heed, lest he fall.” Farewell.

With love to all the saints,

J. T. STINSON

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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.