May 4, 2009

Old School Antinomian Hyperists

The following is more testimony linking "antinomianism" with Hardshellism and Hyper Calvinism.


By REV. L. O. CRENELLE, ROSELLE, N.J. (published 1885)

"This testimony places our fathers, of sixty years ago, on the recognized missionary platform of the denomination. We reach back through these threescore years, and extend to them the hand of fellowship, and trust their benediction has been with us in the work.

We now pass to the formal division of this body, which occurred during the years 1826 to 1835. In the former of these the entering wedge was inserted, and at the latter date the separation was complete. There may have been some agitation and discussion in private circles before, but all the public meetings of the body were harmonious and evangelical in spirit. And, so far as we can gather, tradition gives substantially the testimony here recorded. When once commenced, the lines of separation were continually drawn more closely, and the work went on, from year to year, till the Warwick Association became an Old School body.

The formal points of division were not doctrinal, nor did they have reference to the order or ordinances of the Church of Christ. Both preachers and churches of that day were Calvinistic in their theology, and some of them were justly styled hyper-Calvinistic. There was a unanimity of sentiment on the necessity of regeneration as a work of divine grace, as to the independence of the church, the observance of the Sabbath, and the immersion of believers on profession of their faith in Christ. The "rock of division" was the missionary agencies of the church. From all the light the writer has been able to gain, the following points are clear: —

First, A committee was appointed to consider and report in reference to mission-work; but, owing to a difference of opinion, the report was never presented. This was the commencement of an agitation publicly against the attitude formerly held by the body, and paved the way for a good deal of discussion.

Second, A council for the examination and ordination of a candidate for the ministry was called. In the examination there was a presentation of Old School, or Antinomian, views of doctrine, — that it was "not his duty to preach to sinners, but only to feed the sheep;" that men are not under moral obligation, and that God creates the soul anew by an act of sovereign grace, without any agency of man. A part of the council refused to set the brother apart to the work of the ministry; but the Old-School party indorsed his views, and ordained him as a minister of the gospel.

Third, An appeal was made to the ministers and churches by a missionary society that had been organized, for money to send the gospel to the destitute. That society was called the "Orange County Baptist Society," and was a voluntary society by the payment of money for the object. It is clear that large and enthusiastic missionary meetings were held, and at one, two were appointed to preach, one immediately after the other. When this appeal was made, it met with a decided opposition from some, who not only refused to contribute for the object, but openly attacked the organization as unscriptural and an invention of men, fraught with evil to the Church. Others continued to give of their substance, and advocated the religious spirit and scripturalness of the Missionary Society.

The leading spirit in this innovation, the agitator and forefront of the movement, was the man afterward known as Elder Gilbert Beebe, in after years the editor of the "Signs of the Times," and apostle of the Old-School party. He was a man of more than ordinary natural endowments, of commanding appearance and ready utterance, and a man aspiring to leadership. He was licensed by the Samptown (now New Brooklyn) church, in April, 1823. Previous to that, he was a member of the Abyssinian Church in New York City, and was a delegate to the NewYork Baptist Association. He was ordained at Ramapo about 1824. Elder Zelotes Grenell preached his ordination sermon; and, after the death of Elder Thomas Montanye, commended him to the church at Deerpark, — now New Vernon. He came into the association, and elevated the standard of opposition to accepted doctrine and practice of the denomination. He was the leading advocate of the Old-School cause; and most zealous in opposition to his views, and in maintaining the missionary polity of the body, was Elder Zelotes Grenell. These two men for years were very intimate. They travelled together, preached in the same meetings, were each strong and influential in the field they occupied. They were in agreement on the great doctrine of Divine sovereignty and purpose of election, and differed but very little at first, but became the advocates of opposite theories of church activities. Each was successful in his own church, — one in carrying it over with himself into the Antinomian ground, and the other in keeping his true to the doctrine of the Great Commission. They both served their generation for threescore years, and died within two years of each other. With them there ranked others as advocates of missions, or opposers of them.

During these years of agitation the process of separation was going on in the association and in the churches. In some cases there was a division in a church, or some withdrew to form a fellowship with one of their own belief. In 1833 a new association was organized, called "The Sussex Baptist Association," composed of missionary churches withdrawing from the Warwick Association. The strength of the latter then became intensely Old School. In 1835 the lines were completely drawn, and the Antinomian element separated from the denomination. In that year the following resolution was passed by the "Chemung Association," and similar ones were put on record by all the Old-School bodies: —

"Whereas, a number of the associations with whom we have held correspondence have departed from the doctrine and practice of the gospel of Christ, and have followed cunningly devised fables, uniting with the world in what are falsely called benevolent societies:

"Resolved, therefore, that we discontinue our correspondence with the Philadelphia, Aington, Bridgewater, Franklin, Steuben, Madison, and all other associations which are supporting the popular institutions of the day; and most affectionately invite all those churches or members of churches among them, who cannot fellowship them, to come out from among them and leave them."

Does not this prove that previous to that time all these associations had been in fellowship, and never were any of the bodies mentioned in the resolution tinctured with Old-School-ism? Does it not also prove that the Old-School party took the initiative in withdrawing fellowship, and hence the claim that they were the primitive Baptist body must be denied by their own showing? Instead of all these bodies "separating from the faith, and giving heed to fables," it was the other party that repudiated the claims of gospel in the church. And then more were they that were disfellowshipped by far than those putting themselves on record as orthodox, in their own views.

The line of division in this conflict is one of vital importance to the interest of evangelical religion. Christ has given a commission to the Church to extend his kingdom by the preaching of the gospel of his grace; and the Church is as truly a chosen and redeemed instrumentality, in the Divine purpose, as there is such a purpose of redemption for a lost world. By some it has been thought there was sound doctrine preached by the Old-School ministry, and that the missionary party were inclined to Arminian views and the undue exaltation of human effort. But this verdict is by no means a true one. The men of God who held to the missionary agencies of the Church in that time were sound in their doctrinal views of election, of Divine sovereignty, of human depravity, and of regeneration. And they urged the claim of the gospel, and held up the atonement of Christ as the only ground of redemption. On the other hand, the truth proclaimed by the Old-School party was only half truth, — a truth on its Divine side. It was a misrepresentation of the gospel revealed by Christ, and to be proclaimed to the world. The instrumentality was devised, though clearly appointed of God. "To comfort the saints," and "feed the sheep," but "no mission to sinners," were oft-repeated expressions of their leader. "Conversion an act of sovereign grace, without any instrumentality of man," was boldly set forth. The first part of the sentence is true, the latter false. How can they believe on Him of whom they have not heard?"

"The question may arise, What is to be the ultimate result of this division? Is the Old- School party to be absorbed and re-united with the Baptist family, as has occurred in other denominations? We discover no indications of such a result. The Divine purpose seems to be, "Divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." The Old-School Baptists are not only "intensely intolerant," but excessively abusive of their Baptist brethren. They hold no fellowship with any other body of Christians. They claim to be the true Church of Christ. It reminds one of the exclusiveness of the Jerusalem church, on account of which they fell out of the Divine plan as an evangelizing agency. Although numbering once one hundred thousand in all the United States, they now fall below forty thousand. They, stand opposed to education and all the benevolent agencies of the Church, as inventions of men and opposed to the spirit of the gospel. They must waste away and disappear, since they are of no value as an agency for evangelization of the world."

The Baptist Missionary Magazine By Massachusetts Baptist Convention, American Baptist

See here

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