"FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us," on the subject of the "resurrection of the dead," it seems fitting and proper that we, likewise, should leave on record, for those who shall come after us, a declaration of what we understand the Scriptures to teach concerning this all-important subject.
This matter is most profoundly wrapt in mystery, and. it is utterly impossible for any human being to fully explore its height, its depth, its breadth and its length. In attempting to set forth our views, we shall undertake to approach the subject from different angles: (1) by writing in a general way, and (2) by dealing with various individual texts of Scripture treating upon it. We shall then present the writings of other men who, in our opinion, more or less lend support to our conclusions. The names of the authors of a number of the articles to be found in Part I of this book are very familiar to many of our readers. They traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada and the esteem in which they were held by sound and peace-loving brethren was such that no one should dare question their integrity, or their gifts as able expounders of God's blessed word. In Part 2 we will present the writings of those whose views are not in accord with our own, but notwithstanding the fact that we do not agree with what they say, we shall defend to the death their right to say it.
According to Hassell's Church History the oldest Old School Baptist Church in the United States, which was organized in the United States is the church at Hopewell, N. J. (The Welsh Tract Church near Newark, Del., is the oldest Old School Baptist Church in the United States, but it was constituted in 1701 in South Wales, and so far as we know is the only church in the United States that was organized in Europe.) We wish to quote here from page 555 regarding the Hopewell, N. J. church, as follows: "The church, composed of twelve members, five of whom were Stouts, was organized at the residence of Joseph Stout, April 23, 1715, upon these eight fundamental principles: 1st. The Three-Oneness of God; 2d. His Self-Existence and Sovereignty; 3d. The Total Depravity of the Natural Man; 4th. The Eternal, Personal, Unconditional Election of all the Members of the Body of Christ; 5th. The Specialty and Definiteness of the Atonement; 6th. The Necessity of a Spiritual Birth in order to Worship God in Spirit and in Truth; 7th. The Sovereign and Efficacious Operation of Divine Grace upon all the Vessels of Mercy; 8th. The Baptism of Believers by Immersion." We see from this that the subject of the RESURRECTION was not among the eight fundamental points of the Hope-well Church.
Elder Hassell, speaking of the "Old School, or Primitive, or Predestinarian, or Covenanted Baptists of the United States and Canada" (pages 620-621) has this to say: "I believe that, both in doctrine and practice, they come much nearer than any other professing Christians to the models of the apostolic and primitive churches, as described in the New Testament and in Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' and in the most reliable Church Histories. At the same time, like the apostolic and primitive churches, they neither are nor claim to be perfect, only in Christ. Like those churches, they are not yet perfectly united in all points of doctrine and practice; there being still some diversity among them in the understanding of the mysterious doctrinal truths of the Trinity, Predestination, the nature of Regeneration, the condition of the soul between death and the end of the present dispensation, the Resurrection of the body, and the Judgment after Death - and in the practice of Feet-Washing, the Laying on of Hands on all baptized Believers, the Proper Attitude in Prayer, the Manner of Opening Church Conferences, and the Method and Amount of. Contributions to the Temporal Assistance of the Ministry. But in the great central doctrine of Salvation by Grace alone, through the Electing Love of God the Father, the Redeeming Love of God the Son, and the Renewing Love of God the Spirit, and in the heartfelt obligation of adorning this holy doctrine with godly lives and conversations - they are perfectly agreed. In reference to other matters, not so essential now to be understood, and upon which they cannot now reach perfect harmony, it becomes them not to fall out by the way and unchristianize one another, and indulge a fleshly spirit in the use of harsh and bitter language, but to await the sunshine of new and clearer revelations in that Perfect World of Light and Peace and Love to which the saints are hastening. Then, in answer to the prayer of our great High Priest, all the redeemed family of God - all the members of his Mystical Body - shall be perfectly one, even as the Father and the Son are one. John 17:20-23." We have quoted the foregoing from Hassell's Church History to show that the subject of the RESURRECTION is one upon which the brethren have not been agreed, while the doctrine of Salvation by Grace is one, as we have contended through the columns of the Signs of the Times for years, upon which all genuine Old School Baptists do agree.
Because there are two schools of thought prevailing among us on this subject, we shall endeavor, to the very best of our ability, to cling to the Scriptures of eternal truth in expressing our thoughts, believing as we do that they (the Scriptures) are the only infallible guide and rule in things pertaining to the kingdom of our God. We would, therefore, earnestly request our readers to most carefully examine what we shall have to say, as well as that said by others, and put it all to the acid test of the Scriptures. Whatever does not measure up to their standard or is found to be wanting by such a test, regardless of who the writer is, should be discarded and cast aside as being unworthy of the serious consideration of those who profess to love our Lord in sincerity and in truth. This should apply to all men and all groups of men, regardless of the age of the world in which they lived and wrote.
Since we once believed as many who disagree with us now, we shall strive to show ourself most charitably disposed towards them, and we earnestly hope that they, in turn, will be charitable toward us, as the main reason for our publishing a book in which both sides of this question is presented is to instruct, enlighten and edify the body of Christ, insofar as it is possible for us to do. It will be seen from the articles of others which we shall present that able brethren in the past, though differing on this point of doctrine, did not cease to walk together in love and fellowship. This was as it should have been, and we will do well to emulate their example in this day and time.
We were young in years when we were brought out from the New School Baptist order and became identified with the Old School or Primitive Baptist Church. At first, we accepted, almost without reservation, whatever was preached by Old School Baptist ministers, regardless of who they were or where they came from. For awhile after we began to speak in public we even followed the custom witnessed in our youth by closing our own public utterances with such requests as that "the Lord would on the morning of the general resurrection day, raise these vile bodies from the dust of the earth, unite them with the spirit and receive them up into glory." At the time we were not aware that the Bible contained no such expressions. As time passed and we became more heavily burdened with the preaching of the Word, the seriousness of this matter made us go often to the throne of grace to seek earnestly God's guidance in all things, and when we were called to the pastorate of churches we were made to diligently inquire of the Lord concerning these matters and to desire that he would make of us a workman approved unto Him, that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The more we searched the Scriptures, the more we became convinced that such prayers as we and others were making were not according to Bible teaching and we honestly believe that God has opened our eyes and that he has given us an understanding of this phase of His glorious truth, the same as he has other points of doctrine, such as Salvation by Grace, Predestination, Election, etc. We are fully persuaded that the understanding which we have was not received of man, or from man, and that neither were we taught it but by the Holy Ghost. We firmly believe that God has so taught and instructed us that we can say of a truth with a great Apostle that whatever knowledge we may have of spiritual things came from God, and not from man. This being the case, we shall not presume to force our views upon our readers, but leave the matter in God's hand to teach them, if it be his will so to do. Some seem to feel it is perfectly all right for us to retain the same view of this matter that we held when in our unregenerate state, but we feel to know, so far as we are concerned, that a change has been wrought in us and that we no longer see and understand the matter as we once did, and we have only God to thank and praise for it. We are definitely convinced that many of God's ministers even are still under the influence of their early or present surroundings, environments, customs and traditions, and that God alone can set them free.
In this connection, we wish to relate one of our early experiences which left a lasting impression upon us. There was an able and highly esteemed Old School Baptist minister - one whom we shall never doubt was truly called of the Lord to proclaim his everlasting gospel - who was one of the most scholarly men in the country. He was also an Editor and Publisher of an Old School Baptist paper. He used to express his views on certain points and in substance emphasize that if one did not believe as he stated the matter, that one was not a genuine Old School Baptist. There were a few points which we did not and could not bring ourself to see as he presented them, which caused us great distress of mind. During our concern and trouble of mind, lasting over a period of two or three years, we tried to reason that with all of his knowledge and understanding of languages, particularly of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, to say nothing of English, he must be right in his conclusions, but at the same time we could not become reconciled to accepting his views. Finally, a feeling came over us that this minister with all of his knowledge of languages was just as dependent upon the Almighty for a true and correct interpretation of the Scriptures as the most ignorant man who ever lived, and with that feeling our mind was relieved and we could and did rest in peace. This experience and others have been the means, we hope, of rooting and grounding us in the belief that the religion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ can only be understood by God revealing it to his people.
We have stated that we know there are those who differ with us on this subject, and we can as truthfully say that we are well aware of the fact that there are at the same time, many who see eye to eye with us and rejoice in our understanding of the matter.
In December, 1926, we published in book form a collection of articles on the subject of Predestination. This book was most favorably received by Old School Baptists throughout the country, and we are sending forth this second book in the hope that it, too, will be kindly received by those who are lovers and seekers after truth, and that God will use it for his own glory and for the comfort and edification of his saints.
Humbly submitted by one who sincerely hopes he is a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
R. LESTER DODSON
The Resurrection of the Dead