Now during this time the members of this group—they had no conception of the doctrine of the church, but realized that this work of an interdenominational nature had no future—some of them decided to commence fellowships, little groups of people in certain areas. And I ministered to them. Others went into the Baptist denomination. There was a general concern among the so-called evangelicals in that denomination about modernism and about the fact that it made inroads into the pulpits. This was manifested in various ways in the studies for the training of the ministry, as well as their policy for evangelism; and also the ambition of that church was to join the World Council of Churches. So in that denomination there was formed what was known as the Baptist Alliance. It was an unofficial movement, but just a few statements from it. It says that there is therefore an evangelism that is humanistic and producing a baseless faith with no change of heart, thus improperly acknowledging articles so and so of the doctrinal basis. And this drift, their statement says, is being accelerated by the apostate educational system being forced upon our prospective ministers in contravention of the declared doctrinal basis, and so on. And this was the aim of the society. It was to combat an encroaching apostasy, modernistic beliefs and practices, worldliness, dishonesty, Free Masonry, unchristian ideals within the denomination, and wherever found, as disloyalty to Christ, the true Head of the church. It was going to promote evangelism of the kind that strictly honors the Word of God, the sovereignty of our Lord Jesus, and produces a true repentance from worldly and selfish sins and a true faith which can be seen in its obedience to God. Those are just some parts of their statement.
But this never got off the ground because the leaders of that movement were afraid of the leaders of the denomination. The leaders in the denomination put tremendous pressure on them. And unfortunately, the leaders of this alliance were afraid to launch out to do what they knew they should do. But owing to the ineffectiveness of this Baptist Alliance, a group of people, mostly of Baptistic persuasion, gathered under the leadership of a Mr. Ian Morgan. He was then a deacon in the Baptist Church in Launceston, in the north of this island. Strangely enough, Mr. Morgan was only a Christian for a few years. He was converted during a mission when we had ceased to make any public appeals. And under the preaching of the Word of God, as he was sitting one night, he said, “If this is the kingdom of God, I’m not within bull’s roar of it.” And it pleased God to cause him to seek the things of God, and eventually he was apprehended by the grace of God and brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. He had not very much to unlearn, and that was a tremendous help to him. But in 1958 he produced a paper, with the assistance of another fellow-elder. And the name of this paper was “The Effect of Humanism and Evolutionary Thought in the Teachings of the Church,” that is, the Baptist Church. Well, it deals with several things. It deals with modernism, the liberal and modern theologian, his history and background, humanism that invades the fundamental church and pulpit, the doctrine of decisions and decisionism, the power of man to choose, the reasons for calling for decisions, the product of fundamentalized humanism, and the positive gospel of phariseeism. Now that was published, as I said, in the year 1958. It was sent to all the Baptist Churches, and to all those who were interested in evangelical things, as we termed it then.
Now this created a real stir. In fact, it was published at the same time as the Russians put up their first Sputnik. But this created more concern in the Church than the Russian Sputnik did over here. The reaction to it was that there was not only a stir in the Baptist denomination; but both Mr. Morgan and his companion, who was a fellow deacon, were removed from the diaconate of that church. And they were removed without having been charged with any particular thing. When they were removed from the diaconate, they could see that on account of the attitudes of the people there who wanted really to get rid of him, that there was no alternative but to resign. They established what was known as the Evangelical Society. They accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith as their standard, with the exception of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper.
Now by this time the great doctrines of the Reformation commenced to dawn on the souls of several people in this island. The first thing that was discovered was the doctrine of sovereign election, that man never chooses God; or, as our Lord says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” That was the first thing. You might ask how did they come to discover this? Well, they had a copy of the Westminster Confession, as stated before. The man who started the Baptist Alliance also had a copy of this first. He used to use it when he went to certain campaigns, or perhaps, I suppose, you would say they were conventions. And he used to copy the statements out of the Westminster Confession and put them on the board. And he would take the Scripture proofs, and he would make a Bible study of them. One day a certain person caught him with this, and they said, “Where are you getting that from?” And he said, “I’m taking it out of the Westminster Confession.” The person said, “That’s Roman Catholicism,” and never turned up again to hear the Bible lecture after that day. So he said to us, “Whenever you use this, never let on where you get it from. Just take the statements, use the Scripture references of the statements, but don’t let anybody know where you get it from. If you do, they’ll say, ‘We believe in the Bible,’ and they won’t listen to it even though you say that this is what the Bible teaches.”
Well, at first this group started to grapple with this great fact of sovereign election. When they had discovered it, or God had revealed it to them through His Word, then they put out articles, making use of the works of some old divines; and they sent them around to the other smaller group, and the smaller group sent them on to other places. And people commenced to buy the Westminster Confession. I never had a copy, but I bought a copy; and I’ll never forget the copy that I bought. I bought it from Mr. Morgan. And we were really at that particular time in the throes of what might be called, perhaps, an unholy war. But when I went to buy the Confession from him, we were so taken up with what was happening that he gave me the change of a pound; and I kept the change and the pound note and the Westminster Confession, and went home. I thought I had a tremendous deal, but never knew that I’d done it. And he returned inside laughing. And it was only when one of the members told me what I had done that I eventually, of course, made restitution.
The next right doctrine was that of man’s inability to do spiritual good. Really, normally we start with man’s inability to do spiritual good and then come to the doctrine of election. But this is how it came to us. First of all, election; then, of course, man’s inability to do spiritual good. Well, they sent out 120 copies each week on whatever subject they were doing. And they sent them out to the churches and to a missionary college here, known as the World Evangelization Crusade, and to other places which were interested. Now when it pleased God to give this revelation of Himself in His Word, it was a soul-shattering experience. In fact, the only way I can describe it is that it was like pulling the plug out of the bath. And just as the water goes out of the bath, all the religious sentiment went out of us. In fact, it let all the mysticism that was in us go. I believe the truth is the axe to all heresy. And this is what happened. We discovered that we had to unlearn all that we had learned, and had to admit that we were wrong. In the light of this revelation, we saw God upon His throne. We saw Him as Sovereign. We had used the term “sovereign” before, but we never understood what it meant. And in the light of this revelation, those people were humbled before God. They confessed of the little knowledge that they had of the truth; and because of the little knowledge, those who had to teach and preach almost despaired. And I want to say that there was no wild fire, or strange fire, when this came. If there is anything that will humble you, it is the doctrine of sovereign election, the sovereignty of God! And when one understands it, it’s the means which God uses to humble you before Himself.
It was during this time that a minister came to the island from another Reformed church. After he returned from the island, he wrote in a Reformed magazine the following comments:
“Recent movements in Tasmania toward the Reformed faith have gladdened the hearts of all to whom the faith of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin is precious. The writer is able to give firsthand information on the quality and manifestation of the work. That it is the work of God there is no doubt. There has been a tremendous outburst of intellectual activity in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. It has stimulated and elevated their lives. Christians who have never read a book for years now have moderate-size libraries with which they appear to be very familiar. Young ladies, as well as housewives, are conversant with the Confession of Faith, Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, and the works of the British Puritans. This especially amazed the writer. For the interest of ladies is usually centered in the realms of fashion and food, babies and household furnishings. In addition to this outburst of sacred study, there is a spirit of love, an open-mindedness that is rarely met with in Christian fellowship. Although under pressure from former friends and associates—for Calvinism is an offense to many—they exhibit no bitterness, only the desire to win them and interest them in the way of God more perfectly. Amongst themselves they are tenderhearted and share a concern for the welfare of each other. This latter attitude, so sorely lacking in our churches today, was a characteristic feature of primitive Christianity. Behold how these Christians love one another was the verdict of the wondering pagans. One is also impressed by the consecrated lives that these dear brethren live. And we out of the older Reformed movements might take a leaf out of their book. They spend their time, energies, and talents in seeking to know the will of God and the truth of the Scriptures. If you join their company, you will find their conversation is on a very high level. The Person of Christ, the sovereignty of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of the church they discuss with earnestness and relish. Their time and money is not frittered away in frivolous and harmful amusements. They are in earnest. The revelation of God’s sovereign majesty has come as a glorious light. The Bible is a new book. One of the saddest features of the movement has been their disappointment with the worldliness of the brethren of the Reformed churches. They cannot understand how Christians, especially those who profess the truth which God gave to His church at the Reformation, can waste money on tobacco, on the pursuit of worldly amusements, such as the patronage of the cinema, where a godless way of life is portrayed and encouraged. They wonder why Christians have an appetite for these things. In consequence they have been repelled by those who have so much to teach them. Let me say, in conclusion, that these brethren were a challenge and an inspiration to the writer as he moved among them. They have all the enthusiasm of those who have discovered a wonderful treasure. Their zeal in spreading the truth is a reflection of this. Some have criticized them for being aggressive; and so, no doubt, there has been a lack of wisdom on some occasions. But maturity comes with time and reflection. And there are signs already that their zeal is being tempered with discretion, although it is by no means abating. May God grant to us all such an insight in His holiness and majesty and such an insight into the grace that receiveth sinners that we with awe and devotion shall carry our faith to every creature in this land.” This is a quote from Rev. Edwin Lee.
(to be continued)