Now from this there was a spiritual awakening in the denomination and the fellowships and in several other places. Firstly, among the Baptists. Five Baptist pastors appeared to grasp the truth of the doctrines of grace. At least they all had varying degrees of this grasp. And what they knew they commenced to preach in their congregations. And when they preached it, it caused an upheaval in their congregations. I can remember preaching on the doctrine of election and on total depravity. Now I’ll never forget that. It created such an uproar that you would have thought that I was advocating the people in that congregation to embrace Roman Catholicism. In fact, they would have preferred Roman Catholicism to the doctrine of sovereign election and total depravity. A colleague came to me during this turmoil, and he said to me: “You know that it’s the manner in which you have preached that has caused all this trouble. I preach the same things to my people, but they have received it. We haven’t had this upheaval in our congregation.” And I was very sore distressed to think that it could have been, although I only had preached it in the best way I knew how to preach. But I was prepared to do anything rather than hinder the work of God, or to grieve God, or to hurt these people. However, he returned to his congregation, and he thought, “I’ll make sure that these people know what I am saying.” So one night in a Bible study he got out a blackboard, and he put down, “This is what Arminianism teaches, and this is what Calvinism, or the Reformed faith, teaches.” And when he had put it out like that on the blackboard, immediately he had the same rumpus in his own church. You see, what was happening was that they were interpreting him according to their background. Everything that he said they interpreted, and they thought that he meant what they thought. So I quickly wrote to him, and said I was sorry to learn that he had this terrible rumpus in his church, but that it was the way that he taught it. If he had taught it in the right way, he would never have had it.
Well, then, of course, this started to take place through the five congregations, the five centers, in the Baptist Church. And they called the Assembly together. Of course, yours truly, with my other brethren—we had to go before the Assembly. They didn’t know how to tackle it. In the Assembly meeting they said: “Look, there is disunity, disharmony. And therefore we want all these people in this Assembly to put up their hands who believe that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” Well, of course, we all put up our hands. They looked in amazement. Of course, what we interpreted of “God so loved the world” they interpreted quite differently, because we believed it. We believed what it says. They believed something different. They read something into it. The next question which was put to the Assembly was: “All those who believe that you should preach the gospel to every creature, will you put up your hands?” So we all put up our hands. There was no problem, because it is our duty to preach the gospel to every creature. And they looked absolutely amazed. In the end they dismissed the Assembly, and we went back home again and continued to preach the truth. And, of course, you have no idea: you would have thought that we preached sovereign election and total depravity in the Bible study, in the morning service, in the afternoon service, in the catechism class, and, of course, in the evening service. They said, “We are always hearing it,” and we had only preached it once. You could preach on the Jews; you could preach on any subject you liked. And every time they heard you preach they could hear you preaching on total depravity or election. So it wasn’t long, and there was another Assembly; and we all were back up again. We had to face the powers that be. This time, of course, they knew a little bit; and they knew just how to fish us out. Some of us weren’t afraid a bit. But there were two brethren who sought to hide their position by covering over their wording of the statement that they had made with evangelical jargon; and it was a statement that you could interpret both ways. You could read it as an Arminian and read it as a Calvinist; it all depended on what you were. You would interpret it according to your background. They read the statement in the Assembly, and they said, “Well, these brethren believe what we believe.” And one said, “Mr. Chairman, they don’t. I know that they don’t. I’ve heard them.” “Well,” he said, “Look, you must not say that these two men are liars. They are two faithful men and our own two ordained ministers.” And then they said, “Put some specific questions to them.” So one question was something like this: do you believe that Christ died for every man in the world? Now that had them on the spot. And when they heard it, when the president said, “These men are not going to deceive us,” this put these two brethren right in focus. Now the saddest thing happened that day. They recanted. They publicly recanted. Three of them out of five! And then, of course, when they recanted, this statement (referring to a statement described a little later HCH) was passed in the assembly. There were only two of us out of all those who were sympathetic towards the Reformed faith who were prepared to resist it. It says that whereas a submission from a sub-committee consisting of three members, representing the two opposing views, with the President of the Union as chairman, set up at the direction of a Special Assembly which met on the 28th of November, 1959, conferred for eight hours and agreed that the theological differences were so deep as to be irreconcilable; and whereas the doctrine of unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and associated teachings are plainly not in accord with the accepted Baptist belief in the Baptist Union of Tasmania and the Baptist Unions of other Australian states; and whereas such doctrines can only be presented from Scripture by a heedless disregard of the general trend of the New Testament teaching and the great numbers of other passages of Scripture which plainly teach to the contrary, or by making the meaning of such passages subservient to a theory which for its exponents becomes more important than the Scriptures themselves; and whereas wherever such doctrine is preached in congregations of open-minded worshippers (Mind YOU, open-minded worshippers!) serious disunity results, and the work of the Holy Spirit is quenched; and whereas such doctrines drastically interfere with the character of God and man as revealed especially in the New Testament, minimize the ministry of the Holy Spirit, seriously detract from the meaning of the atonement, rob believers’ baptism of much of its meaning and, carried to a logical conclusion, cut the nerve of all evangelistic and missionary endeavor; and whereas historically such doctrine has always produced inertia and the ultimate death of most churches which espoused it; the Assembly, believing that no provision is made for such extreme doctrine in the ten points of the schedule of doctrine as set forth in the Act of Incorporation, (a) calls upon the associated churches of the Baptist Union of Tasmania to resist the presentation of unconditional election, limited atonement, and kindred doctrines; and upon all ministers, preachers, and teachers to maintain a clear presentation of the whole counsel of God, Who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of repentance; (b) calls upon ministers, pastors and teachers who should find themselves at any time so committed to these doctrines that they should become a major plank in their ministry to consider seriously whether it is not incumbent upon them to resign from the ministry of any constituent church of the Baptist Union in Tasmania.
And this meant that to remain in the church was impossible. The next Lord’s day after that meeting there were thanksgiving services throughout the Baptist Union of Tasmania because three brethren had recanted. That motion was passed, and now what we held dear was forbidden to be taught in the church.
I can remember the deacon who went back with me to my church and congregation. He said, “Can’t you see that this is the hand of God? Why are you so stupid not to see that this is as though God is against you? This is an indication or proof that you’re wrong.” And I can remember saying to him: “My good brother, all they have done this day is pruned that tree of the Reformed faith. It shall flourish again. It shall come again. We may have got rid of people who only never really grasped it.” Then, of course, I had to resign. I resigned from that particular congregation. It is strange enough that in the Baptist Church you could hold most doctrines. In fact, one of the leaders of the Union wrote, “Dare to be free.” But you were free to teach the doctrine of most things.
But there was one thing that you were not free to teach, and that was the doctrines of the Reformed faith. But there was another minister who had previously left. He could see the writing on the wall, and he had left with the greater portion of that congregation. That was the minister I was telling you about who wrote on the blackboard what is Arminian and what is Calvinism. They put him out of the ministry, and so he left with the greater portion of his congregation.
Now I’m going to tell you a couple of more things, and then we’re going to stop for tonight. Now what was happening in these fellowships that started? Well, light commenced, and continued to dawn with them. They conferred with us, and we conferred with them; they had the greatest interest in what was happening to us, and we had the greatest interest in what was happening to them. We found that whether you preached the doctrine of total depravity or unconditional election, wherever you preached it, it caused an uproar. When they commenced to preach it in some of the fellowships, there was uproar there. In one the greater majority of the people left. They went to liberal Baptist churches. But I can remember one pastor telling me, “You know, I know where the truth lies.” He said, “I’ve been like a possum up a tree. I’d get up among the branches, and I would wonder where the root of this thing is, where does it belong, where does this fit, what is the foundation of this grace.” And he said, “I’d come down the tree, or I could see that it was coming from the doctrines of grace. I’d go up the tree. I had a job to look at it; I knew perhaps the place would explode.” And we said to him, “You’ve got some light on the subject, then, have you?” And he said, “Light? I’ve got that much light I need a pair of welding glasses to look at it!” And there he could see the truth. But he said, “What I would need is someone to come to my congregation and to teach them.” And so somebody went. And they taught them that man doesn’t act to become born again; but he is born again, and then he acts. Having taught them total depravity, sovereign grace, on that occasion it pleased God for almost the entire congregation to be persuaded of the Reformed faith.
Now there was another very interesting and colorful character. He was at another one of these fellowships. He was greatly taken up with the mystics. He thought the solution to the problems that we found ourselves in lay in the mystics. According to mysticism. you become governed by your feelings. You see, either you are governed by the Word of God, or you are governed by reason contrary to the Word of God, or else you subject the Bible to your feelings. So if you feel something, it doesn’t matter what the Word of God says: you go by what you feel. Now he was in that position. The story leading up to this is too long to tell now. (This is going back now, of course, to the beginning of the movement in these fellowships. I’ve taken it to the conclusion in the Baptist church. We’re going back now to what was happening right in the beginning of the fellowships.) And I told this man: “Look, I believe the solution lies in the doctrines that are set forth and taught from the Word of God in the Westminster confession.” He said, “No, I couldn’t have that. That’s too doctrinal, too legal, as far as I’m concerned.” He said, “That’s as dead as chaff. I couldn’t have that.” But events happened to shake him. Now I don’t have time to tell you of those events, though they are very interesting. But one day he was in the hospital, and he was reading—I am not sure whether it was Whitefield’s Sermons or whether it was some other divine; I think it was George Whitefield. I can’t think of what book he was reading. A nurse came to him and said, “My word, you’re very interested in that book.” And he said, “Nurse, this book is very interested in me, if you would like to know the truth.” He said, “I am very interested; this book knows a lot about me.” A few days later the doctor went to him. He called on him and said, “Mr. Lyons, you seem to be emotionally upset.” He said, “Doctor, so would you be if you’d been preaching heresy for years and found out that this could destroy people.” And on the broad of his back it pleased God to reveal to him His sovereignty, man’s total depravity, sovereign election. Previously someone had gone to him and told him that he ought to burn all his Calvinistic books. They were heresy. He was only young in the faith then. In fact, he did burn them. But when he found out that he had been deceived, he not only burned every Arminian book—which was a reaction which was natural, I suppose. But he went to his whole congregation, and he took every book they had that was Arminian, and he burned them. And that was the means of the beginning of the development of the Reformed faith in that particular center.
There’s only one more story, and I’m going to leave it there.
There was a group known as the. Worldwide Evangelization Society. And the people of the Evangelical Fellowship, that little group in the beginning, used to send literature into that missionary society, or into that college. Now, of course, you were not allowed to read such literature, because really it was very unholy, unscriptural. It was error. So people were afraid to read it. They used to plant it underneath their beds; and when nobody was looking, they would get away and they would read it. And eventually, through talking to people outside in the fellowships (and they knew them before they embraced the Reformed faith), and they went and talked with them—when they were pointed to the Scriptures, they could see that they were wrong. And what happened? It simply meant that there was a tremendous turmoil in that college. In fact, you were expelled from the college if they caught you handing out such literature. But eventually you could not contain that work of the Spirit of God. It swept right through that college; and those people who were mystics, governed by their feelings, it pleased God by His truth to set them free.
I well remember on one Saturday afternoon that I was going along towards Hobart (I was a minister in the Baptist Church then), and I met this man who was a lawyer. He was a brilliant lawyer. He had become interested in the things of God. And he was conned, if I may use that word—or persuaded would perhaps be a kinder word—to join this society, to go and be a missionary. And when I said to him, “What are you doing here?” he said, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” I said, “Well, what made you come here?” He said, “Well, I was just doing something, and I had this feeling that I must go to Hobart.” But I said, “Did you have any reason to come here?” He said, “No, I’m just waiting for the next events.” Now there was a man who was a clever man, but he had left his reason by the wayside. You see, it really wasn’t spiritual to be rational. You had to go by these intuitions. Now people were governed by that terrible thing, and there are some in this congregation tonight who were there in that college. People had given away their money, their homes; they thought that they merited something. They thought really that it wasn’t Christian to have money, even to work. It was unbiblical. They called it living by faith; but really that is tempting God. God has ordained the use of means, and we should use means. We should have a lawful calling. But when these people were brought to a saving knowledge—or rather they had a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ—but when they were brought to a knowledge of the truth, they were immediately set free. And that movement became such a stir that eventually the principal and those who grasped the doctrines of the Reformed faith—or at least, it was only the doctrines of grace—they were told to get out of that college, and they had to move. Now that is the effect that the truth had when it came.
People who I had known all my life, bosom companions in all those years laboring for God, doing evangelistic work—there was only one person who came to see me when I embraced the Reformed faith. They looked upon you like a leper. You were nothing else but just someone who had gone queer. I well remember the night when they wanted to welcome me to my congregation of that Baptist Church, how really they lauded me to the very sky. I had really to fear what would happen; I was able to keep both feet on the ground. But in just a very short while these same people, when I preached to them the truth, didn’t want me, and they wanted to get rid of me as quick as they could.
Now where the Reformed faith is embraced by an Arminian you can always tell: it’s a soul-shattering experience. It is like as though your very being has been out of joint, and you’ve been put back in joint. Indeed, it is that your whole soul has been out of focus. And then you see God on His throne as sovereign, the sovereign God, the One Who has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, but also the One Who commands us to have Him as our God, and the only way to happiness through our Lord Jesus Christ, and hence the command to repent and believe. And in Jesus Christ there is mercy for the chiefest of sinners.
(This is as far as the first cassette recording carried the story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. At this point they were neither Presbyterians, nor were they yet an organiz6d denomination of churches. They had embraced the so-called doctrines of grace, but not the full Reformed position. As soon as we receive the second recording, we shall continue this story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. HCH)