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When Andrew Fuller was wrestling with the question of whether or not the gospel should be preached indiscriminately to all, he found a model for promiscuous gospel preaching in the seventeenth-century English Particular Baptist John Bunyan. Fuller noted that Bunyan, contrary to the contemporary Particular Baptist examples of preaching he knew, regularly addressed the unconverted directly and appealed to them to trust in Christ’s saving work. Fuller would eventually realize that the hyper-Calvinistic approach was an intrusion into Particular Baptist life and not faithful to its original heritage. Seventeenth-century Particular Baptists preached the gospel to all, calling upon all to believe and repent.

HC Funeral Sermon pageAlong with Bunyan, Fuller could have also read the writings of men such as Benjamin Keach, Thomas Harrison, William Collins and Hercules Collins. Each of these men were convinced Calvinists soteriologically, subscribing to the Second London Confession of Faith. Yet, each of these men pleaded with sinners to be saved. In his funeral sermon for Hercules Collins, John Piggott commented upon the evangelistic zeal of Collins by saying that “no man could preach with a more affectionate regard to the salvation of souls.”[1] He later called the regular attenders of the Wapping-street Church who remained unsaved as witnesses to the gospel fervor of Hercules Collins: “You are witnesses with what zeal and fervour, with what constancy and seriousness he used to warn and persuade you.”[2] Piggott then began to plead with the lost present himself by crying out, “Tho you have been deaf to his former preaching, yet listen to the voice of this providence, lest you continue in your slumber till you sleep the sleep of death.” He then closed with these forceful words:

You cannot but see, unless you will close your eyes, that this world and the fashion of it is passing away. O what a change will a few months or years make in this numerous assembly! Yea, what a sad change has little more than a fortnight made in this congregation! He that was so lately preaching in this pulpit, is now wrapped in his shroud, and confined to his coffin; and the lips that so often dispersed knowledge amongst you, are sealed up till the resurrection. Here’s the body of your late minister; but his soul is entered into the joy of his Lord. O that those of you that would not be persuaded by him living, might be wrought upon by his death! For tho he is dead, he yet speaketh; and what doth he say; both to ministers and people, but “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh?”[3]

Historical evidence such as this should put to rest the claims of some that Calvinism necessarily inhibits evangelistic fervor. Hyper-Calvinism, indeed, is an error that must be rejected by Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike. Those who refuse to call upon all sinners to believe and repent are not only disobedient to the clear teaching of Scripture, they are also not living up to the best of their Calvinistic Baptist heritage exemplified by men such as John Bunyan, Hercules Collins, and Andrew Fuller.


[1] John Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 236.

[2] Ibid., 240.

[3]Ibid.

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This post previously appeared at the blog of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. It is also posted at Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

Defending Hercules

A couple of weeks ago (July 12, 2013) on the exceptional blog “Particular Voices,” a quote from Hercules Collins was posted that on the surface appears to be a quite silly argument for believer’s baptism.

francis-mence-vindiciae-129

The citation on the blog was actually from a book by an opponent of Collins named Francis Mence. In his Vindiciae Foederis (a paedo-baptist critique of Collins’ writings on baptism), Mence poked fun at Collins statement. Given that Mence was known for misrepresenting Collins (once falsely charging him with believing in the damnation of all children), I decided to see if Collins had indeed said what Mence accused him of. He had. The context of the quotation, however, puts a slightly different light upon the matter.

The original quote was from Believers Baptism from Heaven, published in 1691 (p. 88). It occurs in the midst of a 14 page chapter that contrasts infant and believers baptism in parallel columns.

In context it is one of many examples listed showing that infants can’t do what believers in the New Testament are commanded, implied, or assumed to do when baptized. The select quotation cited by Mence was in contrast to the statement: “Believers rejoice and shew their full Consent when they are baptized, Acts 8.” (see below)

Collins - Believers Baptism 88

Notwithstanding his tongue-in-cheek comment, Collins point remains. Infants do not rejoice and show their full consent when baptized, instead their response is largely weeping. Although Collins left himself wide-open to the wisecrack made by Mence about circumcision, his point stands regarding infants being unable to give consent or rejoice (since rejoicing would imply understanding on their part). In context, I don’t think Collins statement was as foolish as it initially seemed. It was only a small part of a much larger argument.

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This post was originally posted on ConfessingBaptist.com. It is also posted at Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

On a bit more pleasant note than the Christmas 1677 meeting, the Wapping Church took up a special collection for London pastor Benjamin Keach on December 25, 1679 in response to his recently having been robbed.

December 25th 1679 The Congregation in old Gravell Lane Did then Raise and give to Bro. Benj. Keach when he was Robed the Sum of Three pound five shillings

The church ultimately gave 3 pounds and eight shillings to Keach. On December 30th 1679, it was recorded in the minute book that: “Bro. Collings gave to Bro. Keach the Sum of three pound Eight Shillings which was gathered for him of the Church.”

Christmas 1677

While working through the Wapping Church minute book, I discovered this festive account from 1677. The church had voted to withdraw fellowship from Okey in June of the year. Apparently that was not okay with Okey. Okey had responded by praying for God to kill the pastor, Hercules Collins. The church took the following further action on Christmas Day 1677.

At the Church Meeting in ole Gravell Lane the 25th of December 1677 was John Okey Cut off and Excommunicated from all the priviledges of the gospel for the sin of lying and Revilling and for Refusing to hear the Church: together with his Invocating the God of Heaven to cut off and destroy Bro: Collings and saying also that he would be Revenged.

This post was cross-posted on my personal website.

Hercules Collins Audio

No, we don’t have any recordings from this seventeenth-century Baptist pastor, but I have delivered a few lectures about Hercules Collins which are available in MP3 format below:

Hercules Collins published A Voice from the Prison from his prison cell. This work was an extended meditation on Revelation 3:11 where Christ admonishes the church of Philadelphia with the words, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (KJV) Collins addressed this sermon “To the Church of God, formerly Meeting in Old-Gravel-Lane Wapping, and all who were Strangers and Foreigners, but now Fellow Citizens with the Saints, and of the Household of God.” In this sermon, Collins drew from at least 213 passages of Scripture to encourage his congregation to stand firm in the face of persecution. Collins urged his besieged flock to not abandon the cause of Christ. “Hold fast what thou hast, when Satan would pull thy Souls good from thee; when Relations, Husband, Wife, Children call upon you, and perswade you because of danger to cease from the work of the Lord, then hold fast.” Collins offered as a motivation for holding fast to Christ and His work that the one who stood fast would hear Christ profess to the Father on the day of judgment these words:

These are they which have continued with me in my Temptation; therefore I appoint unto you a Kingdom; therefore, because you owned me in an Evil Day.

These are the Men, Women, People, which spoke of my Testimonies before Kings, and was not ashamed when many Cried, Crucify him and his Cause; these are the Souls which came forth and declared they were on the Lords Side: These are they, Father, whose Love to me many Waters nor Floods could not quench nor drown; these are they that chose me on my own termes, with the Cross as well as the Crown; these have made Choice of me with Reproaches, Imprisonments, with Fines, Confiscation of Goods, Banishment, loss of Limbs, Life, and all, they have born all, indured all for my sake, in the greatest affliction, they kept from wavering, and the more they endured and lost for my sake, the more they loved me.

Temple RepairdWe may say in this case, as we use to speak about Salvation, that we ought to live so holily as if we were to be sav’d by our living, and yet when we have done all, to rely upon Christ and his Righteousness; so we should labour in Study, as if we should have no immediate Assistance in the Pulpit, and yet when we have done all, to go about our Work depending upon God for further Assistance.

Hercules Collins, The Temple Repair’d, 36-37.

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