In using the term “Means”we have reference to its modern usage among Baptists, having direct bearing upon human effort to assist the eternal God either to devise or execute (sometimes both) His eternal purposes of love and mercy toward His chosen children.
This principle can be traced throughout the Divine Record. We have in Genesis iv, an account of the offering of Cain produced by his own effort, and of his wrath because it was not accepted, and every succeeding page traces the same slimy path of earthly means. The blessing of God comes not by virtue of earthly effort, but is the free sovereign and unfrustrable grace of God. “In blessing I will bless thee,” He says to Abraham in Genesis xxii, 17, without any consideration at all of merit or effort on Abraham’s part.
Again in Romans ix, 11, 16; “(For 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.) . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him thatrunneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” And thus we might continue to quote ad infinitum.
The principle of modern Means is probably more clearly seen in connection with the birth of Ishmael, who was the product of Sarah’s and Abraham’s effort to assist the God of Israel in fulfilling His promise, “That in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” - Genesis xxi, 12. All earthly effort to assist the great Almighty God of heaven to raise up, qualify and send to their work ministers, produce graceless members, &c., is but a modern means to assist the Eternal God in executing His promise made from of old; yea, designed “from the beginning, or ever the earth was”to bless His offspring, the chosen people in the Person of His Son. As it is written, “Now, we brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” - Galatians iv, 28.
Such a system of means is therefore an earthly system, the outgrowth of the blasphemous ignorance of that mind which “is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” - Romans viii, 7. One should not, therefore, wonder at what extreme lengths man-made plans of salvation will extend.
Means as here explained indicates a total absence of faith in God,and is the substitute of the arm of flesh for the lack of that living, vital gift of faith. We might class every system that is based upon, or that is the outgrowth of earthly effort as a “system of Means.”It is but little moment how much or how little of such supposed human merit, or duty faith, or duty repentance the system may contain, if human effort is there at all, it is a “system of Means.”
The Gospel system is certainly “Anti-means,”as diametrically and forever opposed to all human agency, directly or indirectly, near or remote in any possible form, either to devise, execute, assist, or in any sense be of service to the Almighty Immortal God, in the execution of His own great and eternal purposes of love toward the objects of His choice. In His great Gospel system;
“There’s not an if, to foul the stream,
Or peradventure there.”
It was a system of Means introduced among Old School Baptists of America, that led many off in the modern track of Sunday Schools to teach (by human effort) Gospel grace, and to send Missionaries to spread by the same false, vain means, a system of men’s invention.
But the name “Means Baptists” began to be applied many years ago to those who claimed that the Gospel ministration was the means, and the preacher an instrument in God’s hands to quicken dead sinners; and we believe that there are a few out in the backwoods of the West who yet hold to that idea, but the great mass of Means Baptists have passed by such an idea now, and the leaders have so changed the doctrines of that denomination as to make them more palatable to the multitude, in order to keep pace with the liberalism of the present progressive and self-styled wise and enlightened age. Great changes have in my lifetime occurred in the theories of the various denominations during the last half century, and no where more pronounced than among the Means Baptists.
If an effort is made by playing upon the natural passions to induce one to unite “with mama’s good ‘ol church;” if similar inducements are used to induce men into the ministry; if natural zeal prevails in the public gatherings or private devotion, these are human means.” Says the prophet, “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk ye in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” - Isaiah L,11.
We might analyze the various doctrines professedly Old School, heard all over our land today, and we could readily discern the death in the pot, (2 Kings iv, 40,) the principle of Means. For instance, a limited so-called predestination denies the sovereignty of God, and hence is an attempted mixture of the false with the true, opening the way for something outside of the boundless dominion of God, to assist, or in some way, to thwart, or change the purposes of the great and all-wise God of Israel. To claim that the “sinner man is born over again,” is certainly a principle of Means,a building of wood, hay and stubble upon the foundation that Christ has not laid, a mixing of flesh and spirit in unholy alliance, to befoul the stream of salvation; and most assuredly is not identified in the Truth, the “river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the Throne of God and of the Lamb.” - Revelation xxii, 1. It is totally contrary to the teaching of the Master that a “corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit;” and a “good tree cannot bear corrupt fruit.”
Most every professed Old School Baptists periodical that now reaches our office, contains glowing accounts of continued baptisms, additions often by the dozen, as though such things were evidences of the favorable state of Zion. Thus old Hagar (Genesis xvi, 4,) vaunted herself, despising Sarai for her barrenness.
To come back to our original inquiry, Who are Means Baptists? The answer to us readily suggests itself. If there are Baptists who introduce the flesh direct or remote in heavenly worship, either in the altar, or in those who worship there, or yet the song that arises from off its holy mercy seat, (Revelation xi, 1,) these are Means Baptists. If there are any who would directly or indirectly undertake to assist the God of heaven in producing members fit for the building, such must be Means Baptists in the modern acceptation of the term; for “the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither; so that there was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” - 1 Kings vi, 7. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” - Acts ii, 47.
Who are Means Baptists? Let the wild shout of fleshly zeal heard everywhere in the camp of our enemies answer the question. Let the disposition to substitute a fleshly substance (“elect sinners of Adam’s race”) for the spiritual substance (Psalm cxxxix, 15, 16,) answer as well. Let the disposition to concede, to compromise, and yieldevery vital point of Truth of doctrine and of order held sacred from time immemorial by the Baptist fathers, answer this pertinent inquiry of today – Who are Means Baptists?
Most assuredly we could not expect clean testimony to come from unclean lips. If the flesh is simply galvanized over with an “Old School Baptist profession,” or if the child of God from bad nursing has become lame as Mephibosheth’s (2 Samuel iv, 4;) or if such an one is not yet well established he sees “men as trees walking” (Mark viii, 24;) of if there have been Jews who have “married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab” (Nehemiah xiii, 23;) then must we expect from such a conglomerated multitude, a strange and weird doctrinal sound, with no certain note; yes, no fixed principles for it is said, (Nehemiah xiii, 23) that their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews language, but according to the language of each people (half breeds, as flesh born of spirit;) to say that God predestinates some things, but not all things; to say that the child of God is half flesh still, and half spirit; to say that a member can be identified in secret orders or not; [thus mixed with the ungodly;] to talk this way about such matters, is to attempt to talk both ways,to hold with the hare and run with the hounds; to talk in the low guttural of Ashdod, for “Means Baptists” is but another name for “Ashdod Baptists,” or better still the name Ashdod.
What we have here written can only apply to natural means; all the efforts which spring from earth is an endeavor to assist the God of heaven, in His great and wonderful work of redemption and/or salvation.
There is a sense in which the term is perfectly proper from Bible testimony, as applied to the means which the eternal God of heaven is pleased to use in the economy of His sovereign grace. In 2d Samuel xiv, 14, we have the testimony; “Yet doth He devise means, that His banished be no expelled from Him.” Again in Hebrews ix, 15, “And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
Most surely we would gladly be called Means Baptists,” if the term “means” were based upon such a construction as named in this holy testimony. But sadly, the term has never been used in any such connection. The word is now, and ever has been applied to the work-mongrel Baptists, who would substitute flesh for spirit, human effort for Divine operations; and in its broader and more general application as we have already showed, it has direct reference to all who would introduce the flesh, either in the organic life of the building, or in the heavenly provisions of grace, Divinely prepared for its enjoyment.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.” - Psalms cxxvii, 1. “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are now made perfect by the flesh?” - Galatians iii, 3.
William Middleton Smoot