Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Christmas Evans & Sandemanianism 9: Concluding thoughts.

His meeting with God on the mountain had restored Christmas Evans' zeal for evangelism, and God would once more use him to win many to Christ.

As for J. R. Jones, Ramoth, he seceded from the Welsh Baptists after 1798 after a meeting in which he accused the Welsh Baptists of: ‘errors in faith and practice’. He joined the Sandemanian ‘Scotch Baptists,’ along with the Churches that followed him.[1] On his death in 1822, however, he was on the verge of leaving the Scotch Baptists because of a disagreement about eschatology.[2] Many of his churches at that point re-joined the Welsh Baptists, although some, like the little chapel at Criccieth, redoubled their efforts. Rejecting the idea of a paid ministry, this chapel called as one of its two elders David Lloyd, a shoemaker. His grandson, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, was named after him. By the time he came to Criccieth, however, the church had split with the Scotch Baptists and embraced Campbellite principles.

What, then, can this singularly unhappy episode teach us? The first is that the Church is most in danger from error and heresy at the close of times of blessing. Sandemanianism emerged into England and Wales in the wake of the Great Awakening, as the initial fervour was cooling. Similarly Sandemanianism among the Baptists of North Wales occurred in a pause between two movements of the Spirit. At these times we must be especially careful. Secondly, we learn that the effect of Sandemanianism is coldness and a dropping away of hearers, for Sandemanians are keener to make converts to their system than converts to Christ. Accordingly, Sandemanians, like the promoters of similar errors today, will tend to pitch their address to Christians, not enquirers, and often concentrate on new believers. As systems, these tend to attract controversialists and breed divisiveness and pride.

Finally, however, and here I must rebuke myself, we learn that our methods should be those of Thomas Jones of Glyn Ceiriog, firm but polite. Remember, brethren: ‘Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed about the body of Moses, he dared not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord Rebuke you.’ In dealing with those who we believe are guilty of a serious distortion of the Word of the Lord, of ‘turning the grace of God into licentiousness,’ we must remember that our behaviour will witness to the truth of our faith. Men were drawn to Glas by his holy life. They should be drawn to the wells of life and truth by a holy winsomeness. Let railing and blasphemy be the province of heretics, not the field on which Christians enter. And above all, let there be no bitterness, only a holy zeal to bring back the Master’s straying sheep.

[1] J. Hugh Edwards, MP, The Life of David Lloyd George with a Short History of the Welsh People (London, 1913), vol.ii, pp.59-60.
[2] Tim Shenton, Christmas Evans: The Life and Times of the one-eyed Preacher of Wales (Darlington, 2001), pp.59-60.

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