On the Doctrines of Grace [1925]


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XVIII. The Family

Atherton had several interviews with the Charity Commissioners about the matter. He persuaded them that there were still Calvinists in England and that a Calvinistic minister could be found for Thornton Rust. Peacock went to view the Trust property and speak to the trustees.

Hammond, was minister and schoolmaster at Thornton Rust. One distinctive characteristic of the SGU as Atherton conceived of it, which remains to this day, is its strictly non-denominational basis. The SGU does not take, and never has taken, a position on issues outside the central questions of the doctrines of grace. There are many issues over the which Calvinists disagree - the free offer, baptism, establishment, the text of the New Testament, to name but four - but these are not the concern of the SGU, which exists to give Calvinists a common platform for the proclamation of the doctrines of grace, whatever other differences they may have.

Thus when in a Rev.

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MacFarlane criticised the SGU for not holding "the general call of the Gospel" the committee refused to be drawn into a dispute which was no business of the SGU. The question arises today in the form of discussion over the "free offer" of the Gospel; but the SGU has no opinion on the matter.

The pages of its magazine are open to all who hold the doctrines of grace, regardless of their position on this or any other subsidiary matter. Sinden had been one of the founders of a not dissimilar organisation, the Calvinistic Protestant Union, in others involved included A. Sinden was Secretary of the CPU until his death in In Sinden founded a quarterly magazine to publicise the activities of the Society for the Relief of necessitous Protestant Ministers, their Widows and Orphans, commonly known as "The Ministers' Relief Society".

Peace and Truth, as it was called, was intended for local distribution only, but soon attracted attention from other parts of the country.

Doctrine Of Election part 1

In he gave Peace and Truth, which until then had been his personal property, to the SGU, the only condition being that the Relief Society had the use of the inside front cover of the magazine for advertising. The arrangement was that Sinden would provide material for the first six pages - though he sometimes used less - and the SGU the remaining ten; for some years this was reflected in the title, which appeared in the form Peace and Truth and Sovereign Grace Union Record. Sinden died in December the last issue to contain his contribution appeared in January Peace and Truth is still published quarterly by the SGU and contains, as it always has, a variety of devotional, theological and historical articles, together with book reviews, comments on the contemporary scene, and news of the SGU.


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After Atherton resigned as Secretary, he was succeeded by W. Burbridge as "Acting Secretary" "for the time being". The office and bookroom, previously in the parsonage at Camberwell, were moved to Ludgate Circus. These were destroyed in an air raid in December Despite the war, meetings continued to be held, and Peace and Truth and other SGU publications continued to appear. The committee even started activities during the war.

A monthly prayer meeting in the City of London was started in and lasted until The same year the committee formed a sub-committee, the "Vigilance Committee", to watch on matters of public interest, such as legislation on the subject of education: these were the years leading up to the passing of the Education Act, and in the SGU published some pamphlets on syllabuses in Religious Instruction as required under the Act. After the war, the SGU continued in much the same way. Peace and Truth announced a new two-tier committee system, with a General Council, consisting of the vice-presidents, branch representatives and "others willing to serve" settling general policy, and an Executive Committee responsible for the day to day administration.

This arrangement probably did not comply with the rules, and is never mentioned again. Another attempt ten years later to change the administration by including representatives of the auxiliaries on the committee also foundered quickly. The publication of books and pamphlets and the magazine continued, and the Vigilance Committee continued to keep an eye on public affairs and contact the appropriate public figures when issues of spiritual importance came up.

Outwardly, nothing changed. Nothing changed. But that was the problem. The office administration became increasingly out of touch with the needs of the SGU, and Peace and Truth, the basic design of which dated from and had looked old-fashioned in , scarcely changed until As early as , problems began to appear.

Miss Harris, the Secretary's full-time assistant, was in poor health, and Peace and Truth appeared only once in , once in , twice in and once in A slightly smaller format was adopted in , and the issues numbered in a "New Series" starting at No. Three issues were published in , four in and three in ; but after that quarterly publication was resumed for a few years. By now the orignal supporters were dying. There was new support for Calvinistic doctrine from other quarters, notably The Banner of Truth, mentioned in Peace and Truth in as "A most timely publication which we warmly commend".

The SGU no longer had a near-monopoly in the proclamation of the doctrines of grace. By the late 's it was losing members, and was badly in debt. Problems with the production of Peace and Truth began to recur. Only two issues appeared in , one in and one in A new Secretary, David Ellis, was appointed in A more modern style was adopted for Peace and Truth, which was produced three times in and quarterly thereafter.

Membership increased fairly rapidly: about new members joined in the period The practice of writing to public figures was resumed, and the letters were printed in Peace and Truth. New auxiliaries were formed, new local conferences were organised, an Australian representative was appointed, and for a while there was a branch in the USA.

Early in the office and bookroom were moved to Redhill, and a full-time assistant, Miss Valerie Streeter, engaged. But more problems were to follow. Financially, the SGU remained very insecure. David Ellis fell ill in and resigned from the Secretaryship; Valerie Streeter married and moved away from Redhill. The work was carried on by temporary helpers; and, amazingly, publication of Peace and Truth was not affected.

History of the SGU

The committee asked K. Matrunola, a former Scottish Baptist minister then living in Suffolk, to examine the state of affairs at Redhill. During he became Secretary in succession to David Ellis, and as a result of his work and recommendations, far-reaching changes were made. The office and bookroom were closed; the SGU withdrew from the book trade altogether, although one of the committee members handled second-hand books for a while.

Administration was carried out from the Secretary's home in Suffolk and later, when he became minister of Salem Baptist Chapel, in Portsmouth. In some ways, the pattern of activities emanating from the manse at Portsmouth in the early s was very similar to that emanating from the parsonage at Camberwell in the s; in others it was radically different. The policy of the committee in the s was to avoid controversy about politics or Roman Catholicism, and to emphasise the doctrines of grace. The Vigilance Committee was abandoned, and when, at the Annual General Meeting, the question of a forthcoming change to the law which would make it possible for a Roman Catholic to become Lord Chancellor was raised, the committee refused to take a position on the question, and suggested that members concerned about the matter write as private individuals to members of Parliament.

For financial reasons, publishing books was out of the question, but Peace and Truth, which Kenneth Matrunola edited for most of his time as Secretary, was developed as a theological and devotional magazine very much like Sinden's pages in the early years.

An article on tracts in sparked off an attempt to get into the business of publishing evangelistic tracts, another activity which had been characteristic of the SGU in the s, but this petered out. Specialised agencies better equipped for this task were already beginning to appear. Kenneth Matrunola resigned in He left the SGU fitter and stronger than it had been at any time since the war, and laid the foundations of the remarkable resurgence in SGU activity of the past ten years.

His successor as Secretary and after just two issues had been prepared by someone else Editor was Anthony Tait, the minister of a Baptist church in Southend-on-Sea. A large page size was adopted for the new-style magazine, with the type in double columns. Productions by photographic methods made it possible to include illustrations on a scale never attempted before: virtually every article was accompanied by a photograph or a drawing. The articles, which were generally short, covered a wide range of topics, and the whole magazine was lively in presentation and content. The number of subscribers rose, though not by as much as might have been hoped, while a survey of readers' opinions in produced too small a response to be at all useful.

The financial position of the SGU was transformed in the years by the receipt of three substantial legacies. The money received was used to finance an essay competition in , and to resume book publishing in The purpose of the essay competition was to encourage new writers, and the winning entries were published in Peace and Truth. For many years the doctrines of grace were virtually unknown in England: the Sovereign Grace Union stood almost alone.

This is no longer the position. There are many Calvinistic churches in the country now; and there are several publishers of Calvinistic literature.

Distinctive Doctrines We Believe

The recurrent crises of the SGU since the last war have been largely the consequence of a revival of interest in the doctrines of grace such as Atherton and his associates longed to, but never did, see. What is the place of the SGU in this changed situation? Indeed does it have any place? Or is its work completed? The future of the SGU is bound up with the question of whether these remain legitimate and necessary aims.

This is the overall purpose for which the SGU exists. The doctrines themselves are defined in a brief basis of faith, but the most important sentence is the one that comes at the end: "In reference to the above, consult the XXXIX Articles of the Church of England, the Westminster Confession, the Savoy Declaration, and the Baptist Confession of The critical point is that the SGU is strictly non-denominational: it provides a forum for Calvinists who are divided on other issues to express their common faith and proclaim their common Gospel.

In this it is probably unique, and it is essential that the SGU clings tenaciously to it: without it the SGU has no reason to exist. The second aim is To print and reprint literature expounding such doctrines. Today, this is done mainly through Peace and Truth, although other publications are issued occasionally. Though the need for sound Calvinistic literature is not as urgent as it was in the early years, Peace and Truth continues its ministry it penetrates into places where denominational magazines do not go, and circulates among readers who cannot read a more theological magazine or afford a more expensive one.

The third aim is To encourage publishers to issue such literature and to help its circulation by purchase and distribution to Clergy, Ministers, Christian Workers, Theological Students, Members of Parliament, and others. This may be considered along with the fifth aim, To circulate tacts, pamphlets and books, maintaining the Doctrines of Grace, which may be presented to the Union for that purpose, and to print and circulate such tracts, etc.

In their present form, these paragraphs are probably obsolete. The distribution of literature on a complimentary basis is prohibitively expensive, and its impact is small. The circulation of literature to members of Parliament implies a particular view of the relationship of the church and state which is not held by all members of the SGU, and would be better omitted.

One very important activity carried out under these paragraphs is the provision of bookstalls by the auxiliaries. The fourth aim is To hold Conferences and Meetings to re-affirm the old truths in these days of apostasy and declension. Conferences and meetings are needed less, and held less, than in Atherton's day.

Yet the need does remain: SGU meetings provide an opportunity to introduce Christians to the doctrines of grace, and to enjoy fellowship across denominational boundaries. Meetings are announced in Peace and Truth. Paragraphs like this, which define a position negatively, are dangerous. They can degenerate into a list of "enemies", and they can get out of date, as the fashion in heresies changes. Yet, taken in a proper frame of mind, this paragraph defines more clearly than any other what the business of the SGU is.

Probably all three terms were originally envisaged as having reference to trends in the Church of England; but together they constitute a repudiation of all priestly systems. Individuals within those systems are not condemned: otherwise objective consideration of pre-Reformation Christianity would be impossible, and the SGU would be in no position to offer help to true believers trapped in priestly systems and unable to find the way out. More specifically, two forms of the doctrine which deny the Reformation principle of salvation by grace can be distinguished.

High-church Arminianism teaches justification by faith but adds to that faith the necessity of works of a ceremonial or ritual nature; evangelical Arminianism teaches justification by faith alone, but makes the source of faith out to be the will of man. Both are errors. The SGU repudiates them, and affirms the historic Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone through grace alone. Rationalism is the belief that man is the measure of all things, that there is no reality beyond what man can appreciate. Theological liberalism not to be confused with political Liberalism or economic liberalism is the reduction of theology to a man-made system of morality.

Rationalism and liberalism are equally denials of the Gospel. As applied to the Bible, with its multiplicity of manuscripts, it is a very complicated matter, and it is inevitable that difference between Christians will arise: the SGU is therefore neutral on textual questions.

Higher criticism is the art of determining the date, author and literary form of a work of literature. Legitimate subjects for biblical higher criticism will include the differences of emphasis between Kings and Chronicles, the date and authorship of Job, or the light thrown on Acts by our knowledge of the Roman Empire. But too often higher criticism is made the excuse for discrediting the Scriptures, and denying the trustworthiness of its writers, even to the extent of saying that they lied about their identities.

Such criticism is utterly subversive of the true Gospel. It cannot be ignored, but it must be answered. The Word of God is true, and can and must be shown to be true.

All these errors are rampant at the end of the Twentieth Century, just as they were when the SGU was formed in There has been a great revival in Reformation doctrine in the past thirty years; but there is still work to be done. And as long as old errors persist, or find new names and present themselves as newly-discovered truths, there will be a need for the kind of non-sectarian, interdenominational testimony that societies like the Sovereign Grace Union can give. Many people have helped me with material about the past history of the SGU : E.

Ager, H. Appleby, D.

The Long Night of Sorrow - Psalm 6

Burbridge, Mrs J. Cole, Miss E. Couchman, W. Gellion, J. Hougton, K. Howard, H. Jarvis, Rev. Jones, M. Kimmitt, Mrs M.

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Jauncey, Ernest. The doctrine of grace : up to the end of the Pelagian Controversy, historically and dogmatically considered. Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video.


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On the Doctrines of Grace [1925] On the Doctrines of Grace [1925]
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On the Doctrines of Grace [1925] On the Doctrines of Grace [1925]
On the Doctrines of Grace [1925] On the Doctrines of Grace [1925]
On the Doctrines of Grace [1925] On the Doctrines of Grace [1925]
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