Posted by: stpowen | January 30, 2011

Philpot’s Letter of Resignation from the Church of England

The question of the merits or otherwise of godly ministers remaining within the Church of England has come up on another thread.

J. C. Philpot’s letter of resignation from the C of E is quite well known and I append it below without comment save to say that in my opinion it is unfortunate that he afterwards became entangled with the Gospel Standard Baptists.

March 28 –1835

Mr. Provost:

I beg leave to resign the Fellowship of Worcester College, to which I was elected in the year 1826. This step I am compelled to take because I can no longer with a good conscience continue a Minister or a Member of the Established Church.

After great and numerous trials of mind, I am, as I trust, led by the hand of God thus to separate myself from that corrupt and worldly system, called the Church of England. Her errors and corruptions, as well as her utter contrariety to a Gospel Church as revealed in the New Testament, have been for two or three years gradually opening upon my mind. But though I have thus slowly and by degrees obtained light from above to see the Established Church somewhat in her true colors, it is, I confess, only but very lately that the sin of remaining in her has been forcibly laid upon my conscience. I have felt of late that, by continuing one of her ministers, I was upholding what in the sight of the holy Jehovah is hateful and loathsome.

I have felt that, by standing up in her pulpit, I was sanctioning a system in principle and practice, in root and branches, corrupt before God. I have felt that I was keeping those children of God who sat under my ministry in total darkness as to the nature of a true Gospel Church. I have felt that both I myself, and the spiritual people that attended my ministry, were, in principle and system, mixed up with–the ungodly, the Pharisee, the formalist, the worldling, and the hypocrite. And thus, while I remained in the Church of England, my principles and my practice, my profession and my conduct, my preaching and my acting, were inconsistent with each other. I was building up with the right hand what I was pulling down with the left.

I was contending for the ‘power’–while the Church of England was maintaining the ‘form’. I was, by my preaching, separating the people of God from ‘the world lying in wickedness’–and the Church of England, in her Liturgy and Offices, was huddling together the spiritual and the carnal, the regenerate and the unregenerate, the sheep and the goats. I was contending for regeneration as a supernatural act wrought upon the souls of the elect alone by the Eternal Spirit–and the Church of England was thanking God for regenerating every child that was sprinkled with a little water. True prayer I was representing as the Spirit’s work upon the soul, as the groanings of a burdened heart, as the pouring out of a broken spirit, as the cry of a child to his heavenly Father, as the hungering and thirsting of a soul that panted after God. The Church of England tied me down to cold, hackneyed, wearisome forms, in which I prayed for the Royal Family, the Parliament, the Bishops, and all sorts and conditions of men, with scarcely one petition that the Spirit would rule in a regenerate heart.

My soul was pained and burdened within me at hearing the wicked and the careless take into their lips the sweet petitions of David in the Psalms. I heard around me those who I knew from their life and conversation had never for a moment spiritually felt the pangs of a wounded conscience, say, ‘I stick fast in the deep mire where no ground is; I am come into deep waters, so that the floods run over me’. I heard those who never desired or longed after anything but the gratification of their own lusts and covetousness, repeat aloud, ‘Like as the deer desires the water-brooks, so longs my soul after you, O God’. Those that were dressed up in all the colors of the rainbow, I heard saying, ‘As for me, I am poor and needy’. Graceless men who had never felt a drop of the Spirit’s teachings, and who outside of the Church swore, jeered, and scoffed, would cry in my hearing, ‘Take not your Holy Spirit from me’. Adulterers and adulteresses repeated aloud, ‘I will wash my hands in innocency, and so will I go to Your altar’. While the self-righteous Pharisee would sound in my ears, ‘I will go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and will make mention of Your righteousness only’.

Thus the gracious and blessed experience of God’s saints was mocked and trampled upon, and the fervent prayers and breathings of the Spirit in contrite souls were profaned by the ungodly taking them into their unhallowed lips. And all this I was conscious was not a casual occurrence, or such as arose from the unsuggested will of individuals, but was the deliberate principle and system of the Church of England. I saw it was so by her teaching every child to say he was made in his baptism ‘a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven’. I saw it was so by that system of responses which she enjoins upon all the congregation to make, and again and again has my soul been burdened at hearing the wicked little children around me mock God by shouting out the responses, as they had been systematically trained to do by ignorant ministers, parents, school-masters and school mistresses.

Being for the last three years a hearer and not a reader of the Liturgy, I have been compelled at times to close my ears with both my hands, that I might not hear the mechanical cries of the children, one of whose responses they always thus worded, ‘We have left undone those things which we ought not to have done’. I have groaned within me at hearing the ungodly around me thus mock God, and so far was I from joining in the dead and spiritless forms of the Prayer Book, that I could only secretly pray, ‘Lord, deliver me from this worldly and unholy system’.

Every dull and dry prayer seemed to lay a fresh lump of ice on my heart, and when I got into the pulpit, nothing but the hand of God, to whom I cried for help, could take off that deadness and barrenness which these wearisome forms had, in a great measure, laid upon me. At times, too, when I viewed the gettings up and sittings down, the bowings, the turnings to the East, the kneeling in this place and standing in that, and the whole routine of that ‘bodily service’ with which the blessed Jehovah was mocked, I could not but look on the whole as a few degrees only removed from the mummery of a Popish mass-house.

But though I felt, and at times could groan beneath the wretched formality of the Church of England, I was from two motives chiefly kept within her. One was, that I desired to be useful to the children of God in a dark neighborhood, with whom I had been connected for nearly seven years, and of whom some professed to derive profit from my ministry. The other was altogether carnal, and, though hiding itself in the secret recesses of my heart and therefore unperceived, was doubtless of much weight with me. This was the desire of retaining that comfortable competence which my Fellowship secured. My heart, I freely confess, has often sunk within me at the prospect of my already weak health terminating in confirmed illness, with poverty and need staring me in the face. I was also praying for an opening from the Lord to show me my path clearly, as, though I was determined neither to accept preferment, nor take another curacy, I was unwilling to throw up my ministry until the ‘death of the very aged incumbent.’ Lately, however, I have been brought to see ‘that I must not do evil that good may come’, and that if my conscience was fully convinced of the sin of remaining in the Church of England, no clearer or more direct intimation of the will of God was needed.
Thus have I laid open the inward workings of my heart, and the experience through which I have been led, in order to show that the resignation of my Fellowship and Curacy, and secession from the Church of England, is no sudden and hasty step, but the gradual and deliberate conviction of my soul.
But besides these particular evils under which I especially ‘groaned, being burdened’, as being brought into continual contact with them, I have felt that by continuing in the Establishment I sanction and uphold every other corruption that is mixed up with so worldly a system.

Thus I must sanction–the union of Church and State; the putting of the King in the place of Christ as Head of the Church; the luxury and pomp of the bishops; the giving away of livings for electioneering purposes; the heaping of office by ungodly parents on ungodly children; the system of tithes (I cannot but wonder how men who profess spiritual religion, and call themselves Evangelical ministers, can take tithes from carnal and ungodly farmers; no, as I have known some do, screw them up to the highest pitch, and even employ legal means to enforce their payment; while others of the same name and pretension exact tithes from gardens watered by the sweat of the laborer, and enforce burial and similar fees from the poor, when they themselves ride about in their carriages and phaetons. Of this I am confident, that they are not taught thus to act by the Blessed Spirit, who guides the regenerate into all truth, makes the conscience tender, and gives compassion towards the poor and needy. The New Testament authorizes no other payment to ministers but free and voluntary offerings; and thus all tithes, fees, and dues are part of that ‘mystery of iniquity’ of which Babylon, the mother of harlots, is the head); the principle and practice of Ecclesiastical Courts; the manufacturing of ministers by the gross at the Bishops’ ordinations, and all that mass of evil which has sprung out of a worldly and wealthy Establishment. When Christ has bidden me ‘call no man Father on earth’, and not to be called myself ‘Rabbi’, and ‘Master’, and consequently by no title distinctive of priesthood or ministerial office, I must sanction the decking out of His professed ministers with the trappings of Antichrist, such proud titles, I mean, as Reverend, Very Reverend, Right Reverend, Most Reverend, Father in God, My Lord, Your Grace, and the like.

As a minister of the Establishment I must also sanction that abominable traffic in livings whereby ‘the souls of men’ are bought and ‘sold’ (an especial mark of Babylon, Rev. 18:13), and knocked down to the highest bidder by the auctioneer’s hammer. Thus the whole system, in its root, stem, and branches, manifests itself to a renewed and spiritual mind as part and parcel of that Antichrist and Babylon which the Lord foreshowed His servants should arise, and from which He calls them to come out and be separate.
As a member, too, of the University, and Fellow of the College, I am unavoidably and necessarily mixed up with many evils, which I am convinced are equally hateful to God. Thus, in this capacity, I must sanction the whole principle of a University, as needful to qualify men to become ministers of Jesus Christ. But who that knows experimentally the sovereignty of Jehovah in choosing His ministers will not feel it to be dreadful presumption thus to train up unregenerate men to stand forth in His holy name?

The call to the ministry is as sovereign as the call by grace. And Jehovah will take the tinker from his barrow, and the cobbler from his stall, and send them to preach His Word, as he took Elisha from the plough, and Amos from ‘gathering sycamore fruit’. By continuing, therefore, a member of the University I tacitly set aside the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which can alone qualify a man for the ministry, and substitute a knowledge of Latin and Greek, and such mere ‘letter-learning’ as is called Divinity. But by doing this I necessarily reject as ministers some of God’s most eminent and deeply-taught servants, as Bunyan, Deer, and Huntington; and exalt in their room unregenerate men, who were never taught a single truth by the Eternal Spirit.
And as, by continuing a member of the University, I sanction its principle, so in some measure do I sanction its practice. What that practice is, let those testify who have passed through the various stages of Undergraduate, Bachelor, and Master of Arts. But where in all that practice do I see the marks of Christ, or ‘the footsteps of His flock’? Can they be traced in the drawing rooms and dining rooms of the Heads of Houses? in the Common-rooms of the Fellows? in the breakfasts, wine-parties, and suppers of the Undergraduates? What, I would ask, is usually heard in the latter but shouting, and singing of unclean songs, or conversation on the boat-race, the steeple-chase, or the fox-hunt? And what is commonly heard in the former but the news and politics of the day, and all such trifling, and sometimes even unseemly conversation, as is the mark of the soul that is ‘dead in sins’? Where among all these, either professed ministers of Jesus Christ or such as are training to be so, is the name of the Savior, or the voice of prayer heard? If anywhere, it is among a few despised undergraduates, who have enough religion to see the open evils around them, but not enough grace or faith to separate from the system altogether.

And who that knows the University will not allow the following to be a faint sketch of the course run by most of her children? Initiated in boyhood in wickedness at one of the public schools, those dens of iniquity, or at a private school, in some cases but a shade better and in others worse, the youthful aspirant to the ministry removes to College, where, having run a career of vanity and sin for three years, he obtains his degree. Fortified with this, and his College testimonials, procured without difficulty except by the very notoriously immoral, and those who have shown some symptoms of spiritual religion, he presents himself to the Bishop for ordination. Examined by the Bishop’s Chaplain on a few commonplace topics of divinity, and approved, he is ordained amid a heap of other candidates, without one question of a spiritual nature, one inquiry as to his own conversion to God, or one serious admonition as to his motives and qualifications for so dreadful a work. The cold heartlessness and technical formality usually displayed by Bishop, Chaplain, Archdeacon, and Registrar, with the carelessness and levity of most of the candidates, can never be forgotten by one whose heart God has touched, and who has witnessed the solemn mockery of a semi-annual ordination.
But further, as a Fellow of a College, I am connected with a body of men, who, however amiable and learned they may be (and if I forget the kindness of some of them I would be ungrateful indeed), are yet ignorant of Jesus Christ. Their acts as a body I am a party to, and indirectly, if not directly, sanction. Thus I help to give away college livings to unregenerate men, though I may know in my own conscience that they are not even called by grace, much less to the work of the ministry. I am a party also to giving testimonials indiscriminately of good life and conduct to be presented to the Bishop by the candidates for ordination (the document requiring the college seal), as well as to the electing of Fellows and Scholars for their classical attainments, and thus thrusting them into the ministry, and, in a word, to the whole system of education pursued, which, as a means of qualifying men to be ministers, I believe to be hateful to God.

In short, I am mixed up with a society of men whose life and conduct, however amiable, moral, and honorable, are not those of ‘the poor and afflicted’ family of God. No other way, then, have I to escape these evils, to ‘keep myself pure, and not to be partaker of other men’s sins,’ than by fleeing out of Babylon.

Lastly, I secede from the Church of England because I can find in her scarcely one mark of a true church. She tramples upon one ordinance of Christ by sprinkling infants, and calling it regeneration (the Word of God allowing no other than the baptism of believers, and that by immersion); and profanes the Lord’s Table by permitting the ungodly to participate. The true Church is despised; but she is honored. The true Church is persecuted; but she is a persecutor. The true Church is chosen out of the world; but she is part and parcel of it. The true Church consists only of the regenerate; but she embraces in her universal arms all the drunkards, liars, thieves, and immoral characters of the land. She christens them, she confirms them, she marries them, she buries them. And she pronounces of all for whom she executes these offices, that they are regenerate, that ‘all their sins are forgiven them’, that they are ‘the servants of God’.

If perhaps on a dying bed any doubts and convictions should arise that all is not right for eternity, she sends her minister to visit them, and ‘to absolve them from all their sins’. And having thus lulled their fears, and deluded them to die in peace, she quiets the rising doubts of their friends at the mouth of the grave, by assuring those who ‘this our brother is delivered out of the miseries of this sinful world’, and is ‘committed to the dust in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life’

Oh! could the dreadful veil that hides eternity be for a moment lifted up, we would see that thousands, whom the Church of England is blessing, God is cursing; and that tens of thousands whom she is asserting to be ‘in joy and felicity’, are at that moment ‘lifting up their eyes in hell, being in torment’. And while she thus speaks peace and comfort to all that will call her ‘Mother’, although unregenerate and dead in sins, she in her canons excommunicates and pronounces ‘guilty of wicked error’ all that are enlightened of the Spirit to declare she is not a true church, and separate from her communion. What is this but to remove the ancient landmarks of truth and error; ‘to call evil good, and good evil; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness, bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter’?

At the same time, she shuts up and seals the mouth of all her ministers, and ties them down to say what she says, and to deny what she denies, by compelling them to ‘give their sincere assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the Common Prayer Book, and to promise that they will ‘conform to the Liturgy as by law established’. And if any of them are haply taught of God the things of Christ in their own souls, and having grace and faithfulness to preach what they have tasted, felt, and handled; contradict in the pulpit what they assert in the desk, they are frowned on by Bishops, despised by the clergy around them, and hated by all the worldly part of their parish, until at length the powerful convictions of an enlightened conscience force them to deliver their souls by fleeing out of Babylon.

But I am told that the Church of England is the only true church; that she derives her sacraments and ministers in a direct, uninterrupted line from the apostles, and that to secede from her is to be guilty of schism. But where are the outward marks of this only true church? Where are the ‘signs’ of these successors of the apostles, as ‘wrought among us in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds’? (2 Cor. 12:12). Are they to be found in lordly Bishops, proud and pampered dignitaries, fox-hunting, shooting, dancing, and card-playing clergy? Or are they to be discovered in those mere moral and outwardly decent ministers, who, after their solemn vow ‘to lay aside the study of the world and the flesh’, busy themselves in classics, mathematics, history, modern languages, natural philosophy, divinity, and everything and anything but to know Christ in their own souls?

Where are the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit visible in men, who, not being able to utter a word but what is written down, either copy their sermons from books, or forge out of their own heads a weekly lecture on stale morality? Where are the seals of their commission, whereby they ‘approve themselves as ministers of God, by pureness, by knowledge, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left’? (2 Cor. 6 : 6, 7).
But, perhaps, these outward marks of the successors of the apostles may be discovered in the Evangelical clergy, by some esteemed so highly. What are these, however, as a body, now generally doing but making common cause with the worldly clergy, whom in their hearts they consider to be neither Christians nor ministers, to uphold an unholy system? They are for the most part compounding their sermons out of Simeon’s dry and marrowless ‘Outlines’, looking out for preferment, buying and selling livings, training up their unregenerate sons for the ministry, and ‘putting them into the priest’s office that they may eat a piece of bread’.

Who among them can give a clear and decisive account of his call by grace, or of his call to the ministry? What description can they give of the entrance of the law into their conscience, bringing with it guilt, condemnation, and death, and of a deliverance by the inward revelation of Christ and the application of the ‘blood of sprinkling’? The greater part are violently opposed to the fundamental doctrines of unconditional election, particular redemption, imputed righteousness, and man’s helplessness. And those who do set forth the doctrines of free and sovereign grace preach them with such dryness and deadness as clearly show that they were never wrought into their experience by the blessed Spirit. Under their ministry the ‘spiritual children’ of God will not sit; for knowing little or nothing of the work of regeneration, and the trials, temptations, or consolations of the people of Christ, they cannot approve themselves to the consciences of the spiritual, either as called by grace or as sent to preach the gospel.

Thus, with perhaps a few and rare exceptions, the Clergy of the Church of England, whether Orthodox or Evangelical, correspond to that description given by the Holy Spirit, Micah 3: 11: “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say–Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.”

And need we wonder if, as is the priest, so is the people? The congregation of the High church, or Orthodox clergy, as they proudly call themselves, consists, with possibly a few exceptions, of none but open sinners, self-righteous pharisees, and dead formalists. In this ‘congregation of the dead’ the blind lead the blind, and all their weekly confessions, absolutions, prayers, praises, services, and sacraments are, as they will one day find, but one continual mockery of the blessed God, who requires of His worshipers that they ‘should worship Him in spirit and in truth’.

Of those who sit under the ministry of the Evangelical clergy, the greater part in no wise differ from ‘the congregation of the dead’ described above, being attracted there by the superstitious charm of the Parish Church. Of the remaining part, there may be a few seeking souls who range over these barren heaths, until fairly driven from them by starvation, or brought off by tasting the green pastures and still waters of gospel grace under an experimental minister. The rest are mere formalists, with an evangelical creed in their heads, but without any grace in their hearts; or, if the minister be a high Calvinist, such ‘twice dead’ doctrinal professors as never felt the plague of their own hearts, never had their consciences ploughed up by the law, never loathed themselves in their own sight, and were never ‘plunged in the ditch until their own clothes abhorred them’.

Humble, lowly, contrite souls, who are deeply acquainted with the workings of grace and of corruption, whose consciences have been made tender, and who have landmarks of the dealings of God with them, cannot long continue where they have fellowship with neither minister nor people. And, indeed, so opposed is the whole principle and practice of the Church of England to the work of grace upon the souls of the elect, and ‘to simplicity and godly sincerity’, that a minister, who is not a hypocrite or a formalist, must, when he has reached a certain point in Christian experience, either flee out of her or awfully sin against the convictions of his own conscience. He may remain in her as a presumptuous dead Calvinist; he may take the highest tone of doctrine, and preach Sunday after Sunday about assurance of personal salvation; but if once he describes the work of the Spirit on the soul he must, at a certain point, either come out of her or, by remaining contentedly within her pale, manifest himself a hypocrite in experience, of all hypocrites and of all hypocrisies the most deceiving and the most dreadful.

Can a man, for instance, who has known the work of regeneration in his own soul, and whose conscience is made tender by the blessed Spirit, go on long to lie unto God by thanking Him for regenerating infants? Can he who has been sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and been fed with His flesh, continue long to give the elements of His body and blood to the unbeliever, the self righteous, and the ungodly? Can he who has tasted the covenant of grace, and experimentally entered into the everlasting distinction between the sheep and the goats, go on long to mock God by declaring at the grave’s mouth of every departed unbeliever, swearer, and drunkard, that he is a ‘brother’, and is ‘taken to be with God’?

Notions in the head, however correct, doctrines, however high, a presumptuous confidence of salvation, however loud and lofty, may allow a man thus to trifle with the living JEHOVAH. But a tender conscience, a godly fear, and a trembling sense of God’s holiness and majesty, such as the blessed Spirit works in the soul, must sooner or later bring a man out of this dreadful mockery.

From this worldly and unholy system I now SECEDE; and blessed be the name of God Most High, who has poured light on my eyes to see these abominations, and given me, I trust, a small portion of that faith of Moses whereby ‘he was willing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season’. For sooner far would I die in a workhouse, under the sweet shinings-in of the eternal Comforter, and His testimony to my conscience that I am born of God, than live and die in ease and independence, without following Jesus in that path of trial and suffering which alone leads to eternal life.

But my long relationship with yourself, as Head of Worcester College, and with my brother Fellows, will not allow me thus to dissolve my connection with you without faithfully WARNING both you and them of your present state before God. What marks, then, are there in you, or them, of that new birth, without which none can enter the kingdom of heaven? What signs have you, or they, of a broken and contrite spirit? What marks of ‘the faith of God’s elect’? What inward discoveries have you, or they, had of the blood and righteousness of Christ? What testimony of the blessed Spirit to the pardon of your sins, and to your adoption into the family of God? ‘If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His’, though a sound classic, an acute mathematician, or a learned divine. And to have been professed ministers of Jesus Christ will only add to your condemnation, if you and they live and die in your present state of unbelief and unregeneracy.

I am weak and ignorant, full of sin and compassed with infirmity, but I bless God that He has in some measure shown me the power of eternal things, and by free and sovereign grace stopped me in that career of vanity and sin in which, to all outward appearance, I was fast hurrying down to the chambers of death.

With all due respect to you as Provost of Worcester College,

Yours faithfully,

J. C. Philpot

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Responses

  1. Dear Martin,
    Though I am obviously rather clumsy in putting my ideas over, my heart’s desire is to seek for peace amongst Christians and see them pulling together rather than tearing one another apart. I believe that even the dipped and sprinkled can live in peace. What is required is absolute honesty and abstention from party-mindedness regarding the institutions we find ourselves in where the Lord expects of us that we witness to His glory. We are not of the world but we have a God-given duty to win it for Christ.

    There has been very much Anglican-bashing in your columns and I strove to demonstrate that we should sweep our own stables out before we complain about the dust in others. My last two contributions concerning the party-spiritedness in your columns was to point every one to the real needs in their own organisations, admitting that an organisation of like-minded people is not necessarily a Church.

    To this end, quoting Philpot concerning the Church of England on the whole and his university college in particular, mixing up two quite different problems that Philpot had, is not helpful. Why? Because the relatively healthy spiritual state of the local congregation Philpot shepherded is not referred to, though Philpot referred to it on many occasions. Nor is the devastating condition of the congregation he preferred to take over described in equal critical terms, though Philpot did so. Quoting one set of miserable conditions but not the other is rather unbalanced, to say the least. Also the negative remarks concerning the Gospel Standard churches is, here at least, out of place as the GS churches took the orthodox side on the Sonship controversy. So, too, Philpot, in criticising rightly the Earthen Vessel churches’ view of our Lord let slip many a faulty piece of Christology himself in his view of Christ. One may not agree with the Anglican emphasis of Christ in his offices as per Romaine, which was a point in question at the time, but to substitute ‘mode’ for ‘office’ is hardly more Scriptural. Christ in his Offices is above criticism, Christ as a mode is blasphemy.

    If you analyse Philpot carefully as I believe I have done. He exchanged one ‘form’ for another but Philpot himself remained the same in all the negative things he listed as in the positive. He found, however, many of the people he turned to less appreciative of his witness than those from whom he came. He remained just as pontifical amongst the Baptists as he had been amongst the Anglicans. Though Philpot’s scholarship only reached a minimum level for Oxford standards, he is sadly used as the last court of appeal in certain churches who have no scholarship themselves. His work on the Greek text, which was one of the reasons for changing his ‘form’, is naïve and amateur. Furthermore, I need hardly add that Philpot’s letter has been written by many a Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Baptist who left his denomination because of ‘forms’.

    So, too, Philpot was most dissatisfied with his work-place and his superiors and could not separate his peace of soul in Christ from the everyday problems of his profession. The latter triumphed over the former. Others managed to serve Christ in that background without compromising. Philpot thought he should resign rather than compromise; a false alternative. That was his freedom in Christ but cannot be taken as a rule. I have studied and served in numerous theological faculties and two Bible colleges (LBC, England and Oncken Seminar, Germany) and none of them came up to Philpot’s standards, but I found Christ there and experienced how the devil thinks, for which I am thankful. The discipline, exercise and defeats to my over-proud soul I experienced did me great good.

    If we must criticise, then let us tar all denominations alike with the same brush and do a series on all of them, criticising them all in a similar way to how the Anglicans are criticised so often in your columns. This can hardly be profitable. It seems acceptable in certain circles to throw stones at the Church of England but not those living in glass-house organisations who parted from her to set up rival and more pure establishments, mostly based on externals. Like the New World Experiment of the Congregationalists, they all failed.

    How much more spiritually profitable it would be to discuss the evangelism of our great Church of England Reformers or of the great Presbyterian, Congregational and Baptist missionaries, who happily forgot worldly denominationalism in their zeal to win the world for Christ.

    Most Christian websites have become vales of tabloid tears, bemoaning the theological lepers of the other parties. They have thus become dross. Let us realise that every ‘church’ has its faults, as did those disciplined by the Apostles in the New Testament. However, to withdraw from them would have been voluntary self-excommunication. Surely this is as bad as suicide? If we cannot stay put where we are, we must at least realise that leaving the frying pan for the fire is not a viable alternative.

    Yours in the Great Commission,

    George

  2. Hello George,
    I think I replied to most of your comments on the ‘They went out from us….’ thread. As I said there, I think you cannot be fully appraised of the current state of the C of E. The word of the Lord to those many true Christians who are supporting the assorted deists, socinians, perverts and others within the ranks of Anglicanism by their presence, gifts and efforts is, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?” (2Chron 19:2)

  3. Dear Martin,
    Thank you for your speedy reply, illustrating that you still have not seen or accepted my point which you also did not take up in your ‘They went out from us’ comments. Again you are pointing a finger at the C of E alone without admitting that what you say of Anglican institutions can be said, often with more emphasis, of Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational, Pentecostal, etc., etc., organisations. They all make certain unbiblical traditions matters of saving faith. They all show a frightening anti-Christian display of intolerance which is just as wicked as the Anglican way of absorbing everything. Sadly, however, the latter fault is also very much present in the other denominations, too. They are all corrupt in certain areas, all very Liberal in others and all truly Christian elsewhere. The good work of the Protestant Reformation Society in Anglican circles is a positive case in point and nobody is as critical of the present state of the Church of England as they are but their criticism remains balanced and is transferable to all other denominations. What we need to do is show that God is using people in all these denominations to his glory. This is why in my books, I chose people from different denominations, but the one Church, to show how God is still acting graciously in this fallen world of ours. I do not want you to write equally negative articles on the other denominations. This will be as unhelpful as throwing stones from glass houses at the Anglicans. I would like to see reports on God’s work in all of these organisations. Naturally, if you could find material on how these denominations are growing together again and how true gospel peace between the dipped and sprinkled is being encouraged, I would be all the happier. This is far better than turning one blind eye to what is good and the other blind eye to one’s own faults.

    I believe I have said enough. The next step must be taken by you and the other contributors.

    Yours sincerely in Christ,

    George

  4. Hello George,
    I fear you are still missing my main point. That other churches, including many called Baptist are apostate, I fully accept. The point is that one Baptist church is not bound by Episcopalian or Presbyterian ties to another one. Each is Independent and is ultimately reponsible to its own congregation. Anglican and Presbyterian churches are responsible to their Bishop or Presbytery. Let me give you a historic example of what I mean.

    In the 1840s, Bishop Henry Phillpotts (no relation to J.C.!) of Exeter became enamoured of the Oxford Movement and began to appoint High Church vicars to any vacancies that came up. He sent a man called Fulford to St. Swithin’s church, Woodbury. This man changed the whole shape of the ancient church to make it look like the O.T. tabernacle and bought himself all sorts of Romish accoutrements to wear. He started facing East and waving the elements of communion around and a host of other things. This enraged the good Protestant people of Woodbury, who complained vociferously to Phillpotts who took absolutely no notice. There was no way to get rid of Fulford so long as he had his Bishop’s support, so in the end half the congregation upped and left and built their own chapel. I say the fault for this split lies not with those who left but with the Bishop who imposed his own choice of man upon a reluctant congregation. In an Independent church, the Congregation has the final word, not a Bishop.

    Another anecdote from the present time. As a Gideon, I spoke at what is supposed to be the foremost evangelical Anglican church in a town near where I live. I spoke about the work of the Gideons, mentioning a man who was saved after reading 1Tim 1:15 in a Gideon Hotel Bible. As I closed, I quoted that verse again, asking the congregation if they had seen themselves as sinners because that is whom Jesus Christ came to save. At the end of the service, a lady came up to me and said, “Thank you so much for that. I never knew before why Jesus came!” How can someone sit week after week in an evangelical church and not know why Jesus came?

    I am a little surprised at your comments on J.C. Philpot. According to his son, he achieved a First in Classics at Oxford in 1824 despite being seriously ill during his studies. It was, of course, most unusual for a Dissenter to be an Oxford graduate since they were still excluded from Oxford and Cambridge at that time.

    The reason I said that it was unfortunate that Philpot joined the Gospel Standard Baptists is firstly because they became a quasi-denomination, and secondly because they deny the free preaching of the Gospel. Here are two of their articles:-

    XXXII We believe that it would be unsafe, from the brief records we have of the way in which the apostles, under the immediate direction of the Lord, addressed their hearers in certain special cases and circumstances, to derive absolute and universal rules for ministerial addresses in the present day under widely- different circumstances…

    XXXIII Therefore, that for ministers in the present day to address unconverted persons, or indiscriminately all in a mixed congregation, calling upon them savingly to repent, believe, and receive Christ, or perform any other acts dependent upon the new creative power of the Holy Ghost, is, on the one hand, to imply creature power, and, on the other, to deny the doctrine of special redemption.

    I believe this to be utterly wrong and baneful to the cause of Christ. Some of the G.S. Baptists, like Gadsby and Warberton were much better than their creed, but many others have not been, to the great detriment of their congregations.

  5. Dear Martin,
    Thank you for your brotherly reply. To begin at the end, I am quite in agreement with your judgement concerning the GS Added Articles which are Liberal to the core. I have found no one amongst my friends in the GS who follow them in principle. The only reason I have been given, straight from the horse’s mouth, was that it is a condition of the trusties who are stewards of the GS property and monies that should the Added Articles not appear on their statements of faith, their property and monies will be removed from their organisation. The idea does not win my favour. Nevertheless, I wish I were as fervent in my evangelism as a number of GS people. I hold Ben Ramsbottom, though a Baptist, as being one of my many great mentors in Christ. Furthermore, I did not give a GS any backing in my last letter save addressing a rather misleading remark in your response. We must be always accurate in our criticisms.
    Concerning the idea of a one great organisation consisting of all of the separate churches in the Anglican or Episciopalian system, this was the state in the mid-nineteenth century but is far from being the case now. The Church of England has sadly followed the downgrading and splitting up of the Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists etc.. Besides, it never recovered from its being outlawed in 1643. The Church of England truly died then. This downgrading started at its most radical point in the changing of Reformed theology by the Presbyterians, the introduction of priestesses by the dissenting churches including now the Presbyterians and the sacramentalism and works-righteousness due to a faulty view of the Covenant which pervaded them all. The only difference between a corrupt umberella church and corrupt split-offs is one of extention but not degree.

    Having said that, dissenting churches today are usually organised like the Church of England of yesterday. We have FIEC, World Councils including even Pentecostals, Baptist Unions, Landmarkers, Welsh Baptists, Methodist Boards etc., The Southern Baptist Union in the USA has long since left its sound Reformed roots when people like Dagg, McCoy and Boyce held their sway and become a national church, which, according to some of their major writers like Pool have ‘returned into Egypt’. Of course, he leading them. Furthermore, all Baptists are tied by their sacrament and badge, though they have different interpretations of it. On a chat group for Baptist pastors not too long ago, I asked them to define Baptist Principles, thinking, of course, of Hiscox’ once definitive work. The variety of replies was great. I then asked them why they were thus bound by a rite, about which none of them agreed. As I have said often, to build a church around a rite is not only unchristian but blasphemous. This produced very strong language, one pastor calling me the son of a whore and married to a whore for my enquiry alone. Then all these different men rallied in union around the rite. Doctrine and Christian testimony were abandoned fully. I quoted Gill as having a more balanced approach to the rite and tolerance of other believers. Back came the answer that Gill was apostate as he ‘dipped’ and did not immerse (which was, of course, the same thing to Gill). Furthermore, many ideas of the Oxford Movement, can be found in other denominations. They are not peculiar to the Church of England, nor have they a great say in the present policies of the Church of England in general. They are far too busy quarrelling, as the Baptists and Presbyterians etc. are doing, about more mundane matters. Besides, I am fully conversant with our historical overview which has aided me in coming to the position I have held for some forty years. Can you name a single denomination which is not infiltrated by the same canker?

    Dear Brother, believe me. I have found the ignorance you apply to the Church of England alone in its entirety in all denominations separately.

    Concerning Phipot’s education which was fine as far as it went but it did not go far enough to avoid making the most under-graduate mistakes in his Greek exegesis. Anyway, what did his Fellowship produce in textual work? Little. This, however, was not really my point which was that he is quoted in all matters of Greek interpretation by so many others as THE master of Greek as if he were a second Bengel or better. I was thus thinking more of Philpot’s ghost which haunts many churches rather than the man himself.

    Dear Martin, I still maintain that if we are to have a reformation of character, witness, doctrine and worship in our churches, we must all pull together and stop the present idea of ‘Every man to his tent’, though all these tents are full of holes and their pegs and posts rotten.
    Yours sincerely in Christ

    George


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