I became somewhat facinated in Gambrell while reading By His Grace and For His Glory by Dr. Tom Nettles. He was an officer for the South during the Civil War and then went on to be a pastor, seminary professor, missions superintendent for Texas, and the editor of several Baptist newspapers. But all that doesn’t intrigue me that much (ok maybe the part about the Civil War). I really like some of the things that he wrote, the post from Sunday has one of the quotes but I want to add a couple more.
He said this when writing about how doctrine was being replaced by feelings and promoted mostly by the “revivalism of the sensations order.”
It abounds in clap-trap, and after a community has been swept by it, by-and-by, when the revivalist has gone, nothing substantial remains. There is no substratum of truth upon which the convert can stand. I do not undervalue evangelism. The true evangelist is a gift from Christ, and two things go with him — he preaches in the Spirit and he preaches God’s revealed truth. By these signs he may be known with infallible certainty. The cure for both evils named is a return to biblical preaching, both as to Spirit and substance.
Revivalism may not be as big of a problem today as it was in his time, but contemporary readers could replace revivals with seeker friendly mega-churches. Most times when all the show is wiped away “nothing substantial remains.”
Gambrell was a Calvinist as were most of the SBC founders contrary to what some may say. (Mike over at Outside the Camp has written this post about that. If you get a chance I hope that you can read it. He has done an excellent job of explaining how history shows that the SBC churches came from the English Baptists and not the Anabaptists.) He however was NOT a hyper-Calvinist (neither are any Reformed people I know) and wrote this paragraph that beautifully dismisses the idea:
“If a man is going to be saved he will be saved anyway,” is not true. He will be saved, but God’s way, not anyway. And God’s way is by the preaching of the gospel, which he has given command shall be preached to every creature. Through the preaching of the gospel he will take out of all nations a people for himself.
Amen. He also says that hyper-Calvinism should be sunned “as we would the black plague.” Writing like these make me interested in not only Gambrell but other saints who have paved the way before us. May we learned from his teaching still and preach the gospel for what it is avoiding the trap of trading it for false emotions.