This book is unusual. It is dedicated to a particular congregation — that of Tamworth Road Strict Baptist Chapel in Croydon — and addressed to the committee which oversees a small group of churches known as Gospel Standard (GS) Strict Baptists.
The author is plainly expressing a great burden on his heart. It comes as a sobering plea to the GS committee, without rancour or bitterness, but with a longing that churches should be restored to fruitfulness through an increased freedom in the preaching of the gospel, as well as other reforms. Yet it deserves a wider readership, for it deals with matters that still affect many other churches today.
The book is based around a parable which the author has drawn together from many biblical ideas about what God wants his church to be: how it should function, what the pitfalls can be, and the consequences of overemphasising certain truths at the expense of others, or of elevating the opinions of men to the level of Scripture. This parable traces the course of many GS churches, which were increasingly encouraged by the GS committee to regard themselves, from the latter half of the 1800s, as a ‘separate and distinct’ denomination as compared with other Strict Baptists.
With great attention to detail, biblical and historical, the writer then surveys different areas of belief, with a Berean willingness to submit issues to the scrutiny of Scripture. He looks at the evolution of the GS Articles of Faith; then, in more detail, at those which have given much trouble over the years since they were added, and at other Baptist confessions of faith. Towards the end he returns to his parable and suggests two possible outcomes. One of these is full of hope, based on a return to Scripture alone; the other is a warning of continuing decline and final extinction.
The book is not lightweight, but it rewards patient reading and study. It is not comfortable reading, yet as it expounds Scripture, it is capable of it yielding the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
This is a sobering book. Yet words of warning to us all can bring recovery and growth. May God be glorified in his church.