Bible Men and Gospelers
(The following meditation was authored by Brother Stephen Pham)
“ ‘They were called Bible men, because they confined themselves to the Scriptures in every thing they said or did…’ In 1589, Burnett says, ‘there were many Anabaptists in different parts of England. They held that Romish baptism was no baptism at all.’ In this century Beacon Cramer cried sadly against those men he calls gospelers. He says, ‘Their tongues are tipped with the Scriptures; they can dispute very copiously for justification by faith, talk with great assurance of forgiveness by the blood of Christ, and boast of their being entered upon the list of the predestinated to glory.’” (Excerpt from Church Identity – Elder Ira Turner)
Let us ponder (to weigh in the mind) the two peculiar labels given to the baptistic fathers of the “faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3): “Bible men” and “Gospelers.” Studying baptistic history (Deuteronomy 32:7) has its benefits and one of them is learning that there has been an unbroken line of congregations since the time of the apostles (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 3:21) that have appealed straitly (narrowly) to the apostles and prophets (Romans 16:25-26) as their only rule of “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Note the plurality in the nicknames given, implying that they were not lone wolves who were too spiritual and wise to assemble with those of like faith and practice (Isaiah 65:5).
Them that are without the house of God, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) may ask, “Is it right to confine oneself to the scriptures in EVERYTHING he/she says or does?” “Is there not liberty in a church to have instruments, buses, and schools as long as it is not plainly condemned in scripture?” “Can we not appeal to the Church Fathers along with Scripture for doctrine?” Well, let us with Jehoshaphat inquire “at the word of the LORD to day” (2 Chronicles 18:4).
In three salient (leap-out) places we are warned against adding and diminishing “ought” from that which we have been commanded by the Lord (2 Corinthians 13:1). To add to these words would procure reproof, condemnation as liars, and plagues; while taking away from the words would cost one his/her inheritance (Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19). From these three places alone let us answer the questions posed. Yes, it IS right to confine oneself to the scriptures in EVERYTHING he says or does; No, the new testament church is NOT commanded to have instruments, buses, or schools; and we would do no better to appeal to “Church Fathers” than we would be to appeal to the four hundred prophets of Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:5). Friend, if you call upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22) you had better be in the “Bible Men” club (That means let your words and deeds be locked up in the scriptures!).
Is your tongue on fire (James 3:6)? How about learning a thing or two from those who had their tongues “tipped with the scriptures?” The first pope (as is supposed by Rome’s cunningly devised fable) declared that “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). The Holy Ghost also testified through the pen of Isaiah that if one did not speak according to the word of the law and testimony, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20). Rather than being praised as religious philosophers (1 Corinthians 2:13, Colossians 2:8) like Thomas Aquinas or Augustine (Papist idols who advocated the persecution of baptistic sects), may we strive to be gospelers who can dispute (contend) copiously (plentifully) for the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3) out of the scriptures (Acts 17:2). By the way, those gospelers were predestinarians. If their views on predestination accorded with Scripture, they did not contend for justification by their personal faith, assurance of forgiveness by the blood of Christ as long as they called upon the Lord, and boast of a loving god who would never pick some out of a fallen lump to save and leave the rest to burn.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: A church comprised of men and women who confine themselves to the scriptures in everything they say or do and have their tongues tipped in scripture is a church in good company with folks throughout the ages who have had their memories preserved in the records of faithful men. It would be hoped that when a man testifies of a minister that he had “never met a man who knew the scriptures like HE did…,” that that minister would also be called a “Bible man” or “gospeler” by detractors. Those would be honorable stigmas. A church with such a minister is a blessed church, and ought to aspire to acquire the amount of knowledge of the scriptures as that man (“whose faith follow” – Hebrews 13:7).