Anyone with a small amount of understanding of European and American history would, at least in College, cover the period of the Protestant Reformation. If they passed the course, they would know that the Protestant Reformation was produced by the Augustinian Order of the Catholic priesthood, and these men were absolute predestinarians within the umbrella of the Medieval “Church.” Hence, the great bodies of Reform churches were known as “Calvinists,” because an Augustinian theologian, John Calvin, systematized the doctrines of Christianity into a standard format, made up logically into five cardinal principles. These five principles, referred to frequently as the “Tulip Doctrines,” were: Total Depravity and inability of natural fallen man; Unconditional election and predestination; Limited Atonement or particular redemption; Irresistible Grace or effectual calling; and Perseverance and Preservation of the saints to glory.
One who is knowledgeable of Calvinism, will also know that Calvinistic doctrines were the overwhelmingly and generally held doctrines considered the Christian faith in all nations, until the gradual rise of the opposing freewill doctrines of the anti-Christ, advanced by James Jacobus Arminius in the Netherlands, and these five opposing views were known as “Arminianism.” As late as 1790, ninety-three (93) percent of all Baptists in America were “Calvinistic.” Only seven (7) percent were Arminians.
In 1782, a minister in the Particular Baptist denomination in England (the Predestinarian group) advanced a compromise designed to combine the Particular Baptists with the General (Freewill group) Baptists. He was Andrew Fuller, and he borrowed the Catholic theologian, “Saint” Thomas Aquinas’ view that the atonement, or death, of Christ was sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race, but was only efficient for the elect and predestinated child of God. The sufficiency of the atonement in that statement was the doctrine of the General Baptists. The efficiency of the atonement was the doctrine of the Predestinarian Particular Baptists.
I wish to present a hypothesis, which anyone may challenge – that is alright with me; that there is a “spirit of anti-Christ” and a “body of anti-Christ.” It is the spirit of anti-Christ that draws into the body of the anti-Christ. It is historically recognized as that spirit of the unifying of various religions into an organized religious fellowship, especially under, or by, political powers. Constantine the Great, by fiat, ordered all the ancient pagan religions to unite with Christians, and he organized the Roman “Church” himself. It was a polyglot of paganism, each contributing various aspects of the ritual of the State Church. From the pagans we get the cross of Talmuz, Easter, Mass and Mass for Christ (Christmas), Oblisk, liturgies, sign of the cross, the decorated evergreen tree (Jeremiah 10:2) etc.
No sooner had the Protestants broken free from Rome in the Sixteenth century, the spirit of the anti-Christ began the movement to unite them into STATE RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. Like Mama, like daughters!
The same anti-Christian spirit rose up among the Baptists. At first, they were independent churches with Christ as their sovereign Head, and stood in opposition to Magistrate controlled religion. Strangely, under persecution by the Puritan-State powers, efforts at unification to band together against a common foe led to the first organizations of Baptists churches. The first of these was the Philadelphia Association in 1707. Under its influence, independent General Baptist churches in the Carolinas were converted to Calvinism, and organized into the Kehukee. The Elkhorn in Kentucky and the Miami of Ohio, the Warren in NY & Conn. were organized by the Philadelphia. It was the Philadelphia Association that set forth the plan ultimately utilized to organize a National Baptist Denomination – the Tri-ennial Baptist Convention, in 1814.
While Baptist churches in America were combining to develop a body that would eventually be anti-Christian; in England, the unifying movement was the development of “Baptist Ministerial Associations.” Baptist churches found that they had to go to ministerial Pubs to have ministers to preach and minister the ordinances, ordain ministers, etc., for them. It was these that formed the Baptist Union and gained control over the evangelical and combined Baptist churches. In all such combinations, the results were (1) enslavement of churches and weak ministers; (2) power to enforce the rule of the “acquired leadership,” upon both churches and ministers; and (3) the threat against anyone that stood steadfast on the doctrines of free grace.
The term “down-grade” is attributed to Charles H. Spurgeon, who borrowed the phrase from the railroad industry. It referred to the steep and dangerous mountain slopes over which railroads were built, and the rapid fall of locomotives that lost control or power, and ran rapidly down the steep slopes to destruction. His analogy was that the Baptist Union, cut free of their Calvinistic moorings, was on a dangerous “down-grade” into Socianism – which they were. The “down-grade” period resulted, in 1890, to the official vote to refuse to establish Calvinism as the doctrinal basis of the Baptist Union. Spurgeon died outside of the Baptist Union two years later heart-broken seeing the total and official apostasy of the Baptist Union. It should be noted, that Spurgeon shared the heaviest guilt, for his constant fighting against the Strict and Particular Baptists as “Hyper-Calvinists.” He had, more than any other minister of influence, pressed freewillism upon his followers, and discovered his horrible mistake too late to rectify his wrong.
While we can read his papers on the “Down-grade,” yet we at the same time ought to watch the same development in America. In 1886, Patrick H. Pell, the first President of the Southern Baptists Convention, who for seventeen terms held that post, preached his last sermon on “Divine Election.” He has left us his book on Predestination, written in the 1850’s, when he was surprised that someone would argue that Arminianism would triumph over Calvinism. He did not believe such possible, even as Spurgeon did not think it possible. But, alas, IT IS. In America, the rise of Socianism among the Northern (American) Baptists led to their ultimate liberalism and arrogant agnosticism, and was accompanied in the rest of the nation by the rise of carnal emotional revivalism - freewill in exercise! From Holy Spirit regeneration, to gospel regeneration, the nation moved; and from gospel regeneration to decisional regeneration it ultimately climaxed. The Missionary Baptist denominations also reached the same degree of the “Down-grade” as the English at about the same time: 1889-90.
All that is nice for a Primitive Baptist to report: No? How does one account for the Old School Baptists, holding to the doctrine of the Particular Baptists, believing in (1) eternal vital union of Christ and His church; (2) the preparation of the “earthen vessels,” “vessels afore prepared unto glory,” and the spiritual birth of the seed of Christ in these tabernacles of flesh, to the (3) absolute predestination of all things to bring these sons of God unto glory to the position of the Arminian that (a) the Adam man is born all over again, (b) that the natural man is the subject of the spiritual birth, and (c) limited predestination of four (perhaps five) things being all that God has to do with in salvation; and finally to today’s full-fledged Pelagianism and agnostic view of a vacated throne of God in “time salvation”? I ask, how can one account for such an apostasy?
Visit a Predestinarian Old School Baptist Church, listen, observe, and take mental notes of all you encounter. Go the following Sunday to a Conditional Primitive Baptist Church, listen, observe, take notes of all you encounter there. And on the following Sunday go to any First Baptist Church in anytown in the US, listen, observe, take notes on all you observe. Would you say they are all “working for the same place?” Would you think that they are close enough to New Testament doctrine and practice to warrant the name of being a “Christian Church”? What can answer the differences you observe?
Simply: They too, were caught up in the “Down-Grade,” and followed the same course, the same pattern, and arrived pretty much at the same place and at the same time as the others: 1890. In the 1850’s, the Second Great Baptist Separation took place as the “down-Grade” carried off the Clark Regulars into the Fullerite “Means” doctrine. They were right behind Charles H. Spurgeon! The desire for all the Old School/or Primitive Baptists “to get together,” led to the unification movement of 1886-1890. In 1907, the great Fulton Baptist Convention met in Kentucky, and made their agreements, united their fellowships, and set up their “rules of order”. They modified the London Confession by line-item-veto(!), i.e., by foot-notations.
The Conditionalists contributed their conditionalism; the “Time-salvationists,” contributed their “time salvation,” the “Socians” contributed their universal salvation, the Clark Means contributed their hatred of the Truth, they struck hands, and the deal was done.
For the next two decades the mergers synthesized, and then these Hybrids began excluding anyone from “our order” that were “absolutists,” that believed in eternal vital union, that denied the old man of the flesh was changed in the new birth. As more and more true believers were ostracized, more and more a need to separate was concluded. For the next three decades, once again the Third Great Baptist Separation took place.
Guess what? Immediately, the two groups began again to “Lets get together,” and the Predestinarians tried again, only to split in the mid-1950’s. But the tyranny of the corresponding groups today is a legacy of the spirit of the anti-Christ that prevailed throughout all these centuries of Christianity.
I conclude: If God has absolutely predestinated that all His people be organized on earth into one great big fellowship of churches and associations, it would long ago have been so. Hence, it follows it is NOT the eternal purpose of God that His people be organically unified here on earth into a man-made and controlled giant “Church.” The “Down-Grade” has no bottom; nor are there “sand traps” for run-away churches.
Yours, Stan P.