Jerry C. Brewer
Elk City, Okla.
A wonderful and horrible thing is happening in Zion. Having fought our way from the Babel of sectarianism and established the church of Christ on the North American continent, we find many among us now murmuring for the soul-damning fleshpots of Calvinism. The fervor and enthusiasm with which members of the church are today embracing the devilish doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit is a festering sore on the body of truth. The idea that the Holy Spirit performs an operation upon or within the Christian, separate and apart from the word of God, is a soul-damning lie that has led millions of Calvinistic adherents to perdition. Philosopher “wannabes” among us may call it an operation that is “in conjunction with the word,” but it amounts to the tired old Baptist doctrines from which good brethren departed almost two centuries ago. The present Holy Spirit mania among brethren will surely lead us backward to the superstitious ignorance that characterized previous generations of Calvinistic adherents.
Jesse L. Sewell was one of those whose study of the Bible brought him out of the superstitious darkness of Calvinism. Born into a Baptist family in 1817, he married in 1839 and began preaching in the Baptist Church that same year. But his serious study of the Bible soon set him apart from his Baptist preaching brethren, as David Lipscomb noted:
His disposition to study thoroughly and closely whatever he attempted, and his critical mind and well balanced judgment, led him to a different style of preaching from the Baptist preachers generally of that country…the preachers, however, feeling reproved by his knowledge of the Bible, as compared with their own ignorance of it…or really alarmed lest vital, heartfelt religion should be sacrificed or suffer from this book preaching, soon began to complain that he preached too much about and from the Bible, and not enough of the work of the grace of God in the heart, and the converting power of the Holy Ghost. They were afraid he would sacrifice heart experience for a book religion. (Life and Sermons of Jesse L. Sewell, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1954, pp. 54-55).
The most striking thing about the above is that the same accusations and complaints against Bible preaching are now coming from our own brethren 150 years later! Not content with a “Thus saith the Lord,” they would foist upon us that “Holy Ghost religion” of 19th century Baptist Calvinism that was “better-felt-than-told” and then accuse us of being divisive if we don’t swallow it! Mark it down, brethren. it won’t be too long before the Holy Ghost maniacs among us begin calling the Bible a “dead letter.” Right now they tell us that the Holy Spirit operates through the word of God upon the hearts of alien sinners, but directly, “in conjunction with” the word of God, upon the hearts of Christians. That’s half-way back to Baptist Calvinism and but a step away from the claim that the Holy Spirit directly converts men to Christ. That’s exactly where their doctrine will lead! And when that happens they will regard the Bible as the Baptists did in Jesse Sewell’s day—a “dead letter.” David Lipscomb further noted that the Calvinists in Sewell’s day had no use for the Bible in their preaching.
While he was yet regarded a sound Baptist preacher, he and a brother preacher were from home preaching together. Sunday morning when they started for the meeting, his companion observed Jesse had his Bible. He turned and very seriously said to him:
‘Brother Sewell, I am sorry to see you carry that book with you to church.’
‘Why so?’ asked Brother Sewell.
He replied, ‘I am afraid the people will think we learned our sermons out of it.
This was the very thing brother Sewell was, even then, trying to do. The other was ashamed of it. With him to learn from the Bible what to preach, was to ignore and deny the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, was to surrender and trample underfoot, the claim that he was a chosen mouth-piece of the Almighty, and was to disrobe his preaching of its divine authority and make it the imagination of a poor human being. (Lipscomb, p. 55)
It was his love for, and preaching of, God’s revealed Biblical truth which eventually led to Jesse L. Sewell’s expulsion from the Baptist Church on the first Saturday of February, 1843. Jesse Sewell was an honest seeker of truth and he found it in The Bible. That same Bible will lead men to the Lamb of God and his precious cleansing blood today. Everything man knows of God, Christ, The Holy Spirit, the mercy of God, the grace of God, the blood of Christ and salvation is to be found within the Sacred Volume. Proponents of the false idea that the Holy Spirit works “in conjunction with the word” wouldn’t even know there was a Holy Spirit were it not for the Bible, and their feeding at the slop troughs of Calvinism will only lead them and their coterie of admirers away from that source of divine truth and back to the Babylon of sectarianism.