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THOMPSON’S FIRST AFFIRMATIVE ADDRESS

ELD. J. H. LAWSON: Dear Sir — I engage with you, an acknowledged champion of the cause you have espoused, and a Christian gentleman of true merit and ability, to discuss the momentous subjects involved in the propositions we have chosen.

I approach the investigation affirmatively, realizing the sacredness of the proposition which I affirm as treasured in the hearts of my people.

The absorbing question pertaining to the divine arrange­ment of God for the salvation of depraved sinners to enjoy eternal life, has engaged the penetrating minds of the noblest of earth, who, with profound solicitude, have searched the holy oracles of God for light and knowledge. These may be classed, as to belief, into two general divisions: those who believe that salvation from alienation to eternal life is wholly the work of. Christ, as the one Mediator between God and men, and those who believe that the salvation of the alien sinner is conditional upon voluntary obedience to requirements of God, by the alien sinner.

This separation of children of God in belief and attendant practice I attribute to bias of mind, as a result of false teaching. In view of this and other important reasons, I engage with interest to pursue this investigation, as a faithful servant of God, and shall endeavor to manifest true charity toward all, of opposing views.

To all who are interested: Eld. Lawson and I have mutu­ally agreed that we will discuss the pending propositions in a courteous, Christian spirit. We submit to your judgment as you peruse the following pages, as to whether each has complied with the solemn pledge, or has violated it. The proposition: The church to which I, J. M. Thompson, belong as a member is scriptural in origin, doctrine, and practice.

1st. This church, scripturally designated by us, is called “The Church of God.” As there have been departures from the faith and practice of the church, to distinguish the church by name, from heretical bodies, it has been known in past cen­turies by a variety of names. Opprobrious names have been given in derision by enemies of the church.

2nd. This church is scriptural in origin, having Jesus Christ as founder, builder, and head, by whom it was set up and has been preserved.

3rd. It is scriptural in doctrine, because it faithfully promulgates the doctrine of God, our Savior.

4th. It is scriptural in practice, as the commands of Christ are enjoined upon each member, and violent, incorrigible violators are excluded. Also, in persistently resisting innovations by the introduction of false doctrines and practices.

I shall not attempt to give the exact date or place of the setting up of the church, or kingdom, for this is immaterial. To support my proposition it is important only that I clearly identify the church of which I am a member with the church to which the three thousand souls were added on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:47.

I shall not set up the claim of incorruptibility in doctrine and practice at all times and in all places. The apostles com­plained of irregularities in their day, and churches which were in Asia were reproved by Christ.

My first argument in support of my proposition is founded on the promise of Christ. Mat. 16:18. “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This promise has been fulfilled in the perpetuity and contin­ued preservation of the church. The footprints of the flock are to be seen in the centuries which have intervened. Daniel prophesied that the kingdom which the God of heaven should set up should never be destroyed. Dan. 2:44. The gates of hell have at no time prevailed against the church, or kingdom of Christ. Therefore the visibility of the true church may be traced in regular succession from its origin to A. D., 1898. Historians agree that, mainly, the church continued as a chaste virgin for more than two hundred years. In the third century there was a marked division, in which Novatian and Cornelius were acknowledged leaders.

The editor of the Religious Encyclopedia remarks: “Nova­tians, a numerous body of Protestant dissenters from the church of Rome in the third century, who, notwithstanding the representations of their adversaries, have some just claims to be regarded as the pure, uncorrupted. and apostolic church of Christ.”

Historians agree that many of the Novatians were driven by persecution from Italy to the valleys of Piedmont at different times, who were afterwards called Waldenses.—Baptist Succes­sion, pp. 142, 143.

Theodore Beza, the successor of Calvin, says: “As for the Waldenses, I may be permitted to call them the very seed of the purer Christian church, since they are those that have been upheld, as is abundantly manifest, by the wonderful providence of God.”—Jones’ Church history, p. 263. The German and Dutch Mennonites were Waldenses by name. “We have now seen that the Baptist, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in latter times, Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, who have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account, the Baptist may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles; and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages.”— Religious Encyclopedia, p. 796. Mosheim, also, concedes their descent from the Walden sea. Ch. His., p. 491.

Many of these Mennonites immigrated to England, and planted the standard of righteousness on the British Isles.

Crosby writes: “In the time of King Edward, the Sec­ond, about the year 1315, Walter Lollard, a German preacher, a man of great renown among the Waldenses, came into Eng­land; he spread their doctrines very much in these parts, so that afterward they went by the name of Lollards.”—Cros. his., -Vol. 2, p. 46.

Bishop Burnett testifies, that many German Anabaptist who were forced by revolution to leave their country, located in England. Cros. his., Vol. 1, p. 18.

I have proven an unbroken succession of the Baptist church, which maintained the identity of the Church of God, and unfurled its banner in England, where dauntless heralds of the cross, proclaimed the gospel in defiance of cruel threats and vindictive persecution. The first Baptist church in America was planted under the -ministry of Eld. John Clark in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1638.

This statement is confirmed by the inscription on his tombstone. Baptist Succession, p. 57. The epitaph says: “He was a native of Bedfordshire, England.” That he came to the Island in March 1638, and shortly afterward gathered the church and became its pastor.

“Samuel Jones, of South Wales, with a number of other Baptist, emigrated to America in the year 1686, and settled on the banks of the Pennepek in Pennsylvania, and went into church organization at that place.” Davis His. Welsh Baptist, p. 67.

The perpetuity and identity of this church, as the Church of Christ, is supported by many witnesses of whom I have in­troduced a sufficient number to establish the fact. It was and is invincible, and can never be destroyed. Jesus promised to be with his church “alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mat. 28:20.

In view of Daniel’s prophecy, the promises of Christ, and the historical proofs given, I argue that the Primitive Bap­tist church is the Church of God, and that Jesus has been with her all the way, so that the gates of hell have not prevailed against her.

I base my second argument on the sovereignty, immuta­bility, and foreknowledge of God. We believe: That God sovereignly rules, performs, controls, and disposes, conformably with his will and purpose to the full and final consummation of all that it was his pleasure to do: That God has never been disappointed by failure. His arrangements have never been frustrated by men nor devils. He declares: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Isa. 46:9, 10. With infinite foreknowledge of all events he could declare the end with precision. For he saw in every minutia the fulfillment of his unfrustrable will. Our God, in whom we believe, is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Jas. 1:17. He says: “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye Soils of Jacob are not consumed.” Mal. 3:6.

God had an eternal purpose in Christ to make known his manifold wisdom. Eph. 3:10, 11. He purposed to save and call his people with a holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace given them in Christ before the world began. 2 Tim. 1:9. This purpose of God is expressed in covenant, will, or testament.

Jesus testifies: “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should hose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Jno. 6:88, 39. We see that God, the all-wise, unchangeable sovereign over all cre­ated things, had given to his Son a people, and, that the Father’s will was, that he should save them all, he gave his Son power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as he had given him. Jno. 17:2. We read in the song of Moses: “The Lord’s portion is his people: Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” Dent. 32:9. The portion or people that were given to the Son were called Jacob. Acts 11:26. They were “predestinated unto the adop­tion of children by Jesus Christ to himself.” Eph. 1:5. This was the purpose of God before the foundation of the world. He chose all in Christ, who had been predestinated unto the adoption of children, “that they should be holy and without blame before him iii love.” Verse 4.

Those whom God foreknew as the portion given to Christ to be his people; the lot of his inheritance, he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first­born among many brethren. Rom. 8:29. So, in the wise counsel of the great “I Am,” he did elect a people whom he gave to his Son. This election was not based on any good or evil done by those who were elected, as Paul has clearly illustrated. “The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger.” Rom. 9:11, 12. This is given as a true, plain, and concise presentation of the doctrine of election. Paul affirms: “The children of the promise are counted for the seed: For this is the word of promise: At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.” Verses 8, 9.

Again: “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” Gal. 4:28. Isaac was promised to Abraham con­trary to nature and human expectation before he had. a being. As Isaac was promised to Abraham, so the elect were promised to Christ in the covenant, will, or testament of God. They were given to him in covenant. Election is the sovereign act of the all-wise, unchangeable God, whose throne is in heaven.

We are to learn from the illustration given, that God elects and predestinates that one, or many of his creatures, as he sovereignly wills, shall inherit blessings that others shall not in­herit, be they men or angels. It shows that the election ante­dated all sin and righteousness of the elect, and of the non-­elect, and was in no way predicated upon the acts of either. The election of a people for Christ, as taught in the Scriptures, in no sense ever has, or ever will cause the reprobation of any man. It was not because of sin, neither did election necessitate sin. The election of a part to heirship with Christ effects only those elected.

A church which does not hold to the scriptural truths, as here given of the sovereignty, immutability, foreknowledge, predestination, election, and eternal purpose of God, does not believe in God, and is unscriptural. To hold them sacred as the revelation of God is a mark of the true scriptural Church of Christ.

Some have an imaginary God who would save all, but can­not. Their rock is not our Rock. Respectfully,

J. M. Thompson.


LAWSON’S FIRST REPLY

ELD. J. M. THOMPSON: My Dear Sir—It is, I trust, with becoming reverence, that I enter into the investigation of this great subject with you, as an acknowledged champion of the cause you represent, as shown in your endorsements by your leading men.

I ask God’s richest blessings to rest upon this work,, and pray that truth may be advanced, and error relegated to the background by this discussion.

I am sure that you are as able to represent the cause you have espoused as any man in the Baptist church, and that if you fail to establish your proposition, that it will be no fault of yours, but simply because the Bible will riot sustain you.

I recognize the fact, that if you and the people with whom you stand identified are right, that I and the people with whom I stand identified are wrong and vice versa.

This is to be a search for truth as revealed in the Bible, and I ask all to read the entire book with unbiased minds and to accept every truth presented by Eld. Thompson and myself for the sake of truth. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Jno., 8: 32. Without further introduction, I will now proceed to the in­vestigation of the subject before us, and will call your attention first to the reading of the proposition which is as follows: The church to which I, (J. M. Thompson) belong as a member, is scriptural in origin, doctrine and practice.”

Please note this rule: “The terms in which the question in debate is expressed, and the point at issue, should be so clearly defined that there could be no misunderstanding respecting them.” Hedges’ Rules of Logic, Rule 1, p. 159.

Has Eld. Thompson “clearly defined” his proposition? I think not. He says, “I shall not attempt to give the exact date of the setting up of the church or kingdom which is im­material.” Why is it immaterial? Are you not affirming “The church to which I (you) belong as a member is scriptural in origin”? When did it have its beginning? Can’t you tell? If you don’t know when it began, how do you know it is scriptural in origin? Why did you affirm that part of the pro­position? Does the Bible speak of a Baptist church? If so, where? Jesus said, “I will build my church,’’ but he failed to say one word about building a Baptist church. Without even making an attempt at “ origin “ he tries his hand on perpetuity. You say: “ The footprints of the flock are to be seen in the intervening centuries,” and “The visibility of the true church may be traced in regular succession from the Pentecostal Man­ifestation to A. D. 1898.”

Then after giving a number of quotations from historians, says: “I have proven an unbroken succession of the Baptist church.”

What do you mean by the word “Baptist church”? Do you mean such people as are now called Baptists? If so, there is not one word said of it prior to 1607.

Put your finger on the page of history that says anything about such Baptists as those with whom you stand identified, prior to 1607. I freely admit that there were people who re­jected infant baptism and immersed believers only, but, my dear sir, there are many people on earth now who do the same, but are not known as Baptists, neither have they fellowship in the Baptist church. You say a line of succession can be traced from the Apos­tles to A. P. 1898. Suppose you begin with your own congre­gation and undertake to “run the line.” How far back can you go? Try it. If you undertake to begin at the other end of the chain, you will first have to find a Baptist church to begin with. You can’t find one in the Bible. Not one that wore the Baptist name! Not one that used the Baptist creed!

The truth is, you had as well undertake to track a mosquito across a continent of fog, or overthrow the Rocky mountains with a broken corn stalk! It can’t be done!

He tries to link the Novatianists with the Church of Christ and then the Waldenses with the Novatianists. The chain as presented would be as follows:

Churches of Christ, Novatianists, Waldenses, (but as yet no Baptists!) But were those Novatianists in “faith and prac­tice,” identical with the Baptists with which Eld. Thompson is identified? We will see about that. We invite your atten­tion to “Cook’s Story of the Baptist.” He says: “The Novatians next invite our attention. They derived their origin as welt as their name from Novatian of Rome who lived about the middle of the third century, A. D. 250.”—Cook’s Story of the Baptists, p. 34.

On page 28, he speaks of clinic baptism (persons who had water poured on them while on sick beds) and says: “The Clinics were regarded as arm exceptional class of Christians and their rights to the privileges of the church was often disputed. A notable instance is found iii the case of Novatian at Rome, in the early part of the third century. He was elected to the office of Bishop but his ordination was opposed on the ground that he had received only clinic baptism, yet owing to his splen­did endowments this objection was overruled and he was set apart to the ministry.” On page 33 he speaks of the different bodies of Christians as follows: “In the next place consider the various bodies of Christians who arose between the days of the apostles and that of the reformation. Many of them, who, during those times, were stamped as heretics, were noble reformers who sought to resist the progress of apostasy, and tried to bring the church back to the simplicity and purity of the scriptures, or, failing in this they separated from the church, which had finally become hopelessly corrupt, and established churches of their own, after the gospel pattern.” From these plain historical statements the following facts are deduced: (1). In the beginning of the third century the apostasy began. (2). That Novatian was a member of the church that went into final apostasy. (3). That he had received only clinic baptism. (4). That he withdrew from the apostate church and estab­lished churches on New Testament principles. (5). That the churches thus established by him were afterward known as Novatianists. We also learn from “Buck’s Theological Dictionary,” page 411, that Novatian and the Novatianists be­lieved that baptism was necessary to remit sins. They held that if one had sinned and had been cast out of the church that he could not be restored. The church “Had it not in its power to receive sinners into its communion as having no way of re­mitting sins hut by baptism; which once received could not be repeated.” Is there any Baptist doctrine in that? Are you “identical in faith and practice”? If the salvation of your soul depended on your proving “Baptist Succession,” there certainly would be no hope for you! Where did you originate? Where is your boasted perpetuity? Eld. Thompson says: “I argue that the Primitive Baptist church is the Church of God” (mistaken again Eld. Thompson. The Primitive Baptist church is the Primitive Baptist church. L.) “and that Jesus has been with her all the way so that the gates of hell have not prevailed against her.” If the Church of God ever became “identical in faith and practice” with the Primitive Baptist church, then the Church of God was destroyed, and the Primitive Baptist church super­seded it. Which “ horn” will you take? If the Church of God was superseded by the Primitive Baptist church then the Church of God was destroyed. If it was not superseded by the Prim­itive Baptist church, then away goes your proposition!

Eld. Thompson then proceeds to define some “doctrine” of the Primitive Baptist as follows: “I base my second argu­ment on the sovereignty, immutability and foreknowledge of God,” and then explains what he understands by these terms in the following: “We believe that God sovereignly rules, performs and controls and disposes conformably with his will and purpose, to the full and final consummation of all that it was his good pleasure to do. That God has never been disappointed by failure. His arrangements have never been frustrated by men nor devils.” These statements may mean much or little, at the will of Eld. Thompson. While I believe that God is a sovereign, (Supreme Ruler) immutable (unchangeable) and foreknows (knows beforehand) yet I don’t believe either, probably, in the sense that Eld. Thompson does. It has never been the will of God to rule or control men without use of means, or without consulting the will of those ruled, but if Eld. Thomp­son’s statement is true that says God’s arrangements (none of them) have never been frustrated by men or devils, then the devil in Eden did exactly what the Lord willed him to do. Man could not frustrate the will of God, so God had it so ar­ranged that Adam must eat! Neither the devil or man was in any way responsible for the fall, according to that theory, for that would have frustrated the will of God How does this sound by such statements as “God wills not the death of any,” “ Whosoever will let him come,” “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

But when he explains election and “ predestination “ he says: “ Election is the sovereign act of the all-wise unchange­able God. * * * That the election antedates all sin and righteousness of the elect and of the non-elect, and was in no way predicated upon the acts of either.” This conclusion he draws from Rom., 9:11, 12, which says: “ The children (Esau and Jacob) being not yet born neither having done any good or evil that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth: It was said unto him The elder shall serve the younger.” To what were these chil­dren elected before they were born? To salvation? I deny it, and demand the proof! Paul’s brethren in the flesh were “the elect,” but many of them were unsaved, for Paul said “ Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” 2 Tim 2:10.

He quotes quite a number of passages of scripture on elec­tion (some without any “ election “ in them) and tries to make it appear that those who were elected, were elected to salvation unconditionally. He assumes the very point he ought to try to prove! He next quotes “ The Lord’s portion is his people Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” and then adds: “ The por­tion or people that were given to the Son were called Jacob. Acts, 11:26.” Please read Acts, 11:26 which is in part as follows:

“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Not Jacob, or Baptist, but Christians. He then proceeds in the fol­lowing strain: “Those whom God foreknew as the portion given to his Son, to be his people, the lot of his inheritance, he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Rom., 8:29.” Paul, in Rom., 8:29, said no such things as you attribute to him. Those that Paul spoke of had been “glorified” when he wrote of them. Rom., 8:80. Have you been glorified? If so you ought to leave this world and if not you ought not to say that Rom., 8:29, 80 refers to you. In R. W. Thompson’s concluding remarks he says: “Some have an imaginary God who would save all but can not. ‘Their rock is not as our Rock.’”

It is not a question of God’s power to save, but will he save a man who does not want to be saved? The God I wor­ship is a God who can and will save those who obey him, but those who will not come to him have no promise, for God never did say that he would throw a rope around them and take them to heaven any way. You had better examine your “rock” for I am confident that you stand on a sand foundation, (human tradition) “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”  
        
Faithfully,
J. H. LAWSON.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 06 November 2007 )
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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.