Book Reviewed – A Baptist Meeting House – The Staircase to the Old Faith; the Open Door to the New
Author – Samuel June Barrows
Publishing Company – University Press
Copyright – 1885
Reviewed By – Pastor Tim Crockett
Another gift another book read. The title of the book threw me off a bit as I thought this was just another Baptist History, you can imagine my surprise when I began to dig in. It was written by a Unitarian minister. I thought about putting the book aside and reading something else, but my love for church history inspired me to persevere through till the end.
While I understand many don’t, and for good reason, read heretical literature I will from to time do a study on a particular denomination and their beliefs reading their literature and such.
The book itself wasn’t a reprint so the print was a bit small, especially for these aging eyes, but the readability was great and to the author’s credit he kept it interesting, especially his description of New York and what life was like during the 19th century. He begins his narrative talking about his time spent in what he referred to as a Hyper Calvinist Baptist Church.
The author outlines from his early years as a Baptist and ultimately he came to be a Unitarian minister.
The author chose to use the Hebrew meaning for his name which means Ask-of-God.
The detail given in describing what it was like to be in a conservative Baptist church in the 19th Century reminds one of many conservative Baptist churches today. He spoke of times spent in church, serving, fellowshipping, and soul-winning, especially soul winning. For Hyper- Calvinist churches do a lot of soul-winning and they met regularly throughout the week for studies, fellowship, prayer, and soul-winning.
He goes into details about their doctrinal beliefs and it was here where he started to part ways. While many of the practices in local churches do vary he took the plunge when it came to orthodox doctrine or the historic doctrines of the faith.
As he begins to read Unitarian Literature/Sermons etc. in his own words and understanding of things he begins to question what the Bible said and certainly those in authority to expound on or give understanding to the weightier matters of the faith.
His core issue was Calvinism. He said, “The regular Baptist Churches of America have been uniformly Calvinistic.” He believed that there was, “but one Free Will Baptist Church in New York” pg84
The elements of Calvinism that he outlined, and deemed problematic, were: pg 98 (For space and time’s sake could not review every nuance of his argument. Suffice it to say most of what we see here will in one form or another been seen on a Universalist/Unitarian Website under their statement of beliefs.)
- The Sovereignty of God
- The Election of Grace
- The witness of the Spirit
- The perseverance of the saints
- The assured promise of eternal bliss
- Sense of gratitude and obligation
In the chapter titled “Searching the Bible” while he stated he took the Bible as it was without questioning canonization, the writers, and their intent, he did go on to question and ultimately deny the doctrine of the Trinity.
He closes out with his final analyses concerning the doctrinal position of the church namely that of Hyper- Calvinism and of course unbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity.
He went on to leave –rather be excommunicated- his church, branded a heretic, and before long became a preacher in the Unitarian (Congregational – NON-REFORMED) Church.
His first sermon was on the text – God is love!
My takeaway from this book is that there is nothing new under the sun. There are many through the centuries that have left orthodoxy because of hard truths presented to them from scripture. The Doctrines of Hell and God’s judgment and wrath, sovereignty, etc. have certainly caused quite a stir with folks. This is just one book one person among many who have departed from the historic doctrines of the faith.
Well as usual I went longer than I wanted to so I’ll end it here and work on my next review.