A Brief Review of Strict Baptist Periodicals (UK)

English Strict Baptist Magazines Of Old

The following is a work in progress and is sure to have some gaps and errors (especially as it pertains to original publishing dates in light of periodicals with shared names and the length of time that has transpired since the magazines were first released). Lord willing, as time and insight allows, I hope to be able to clarify some of the uncertainties mentioned below. For now, this is a listing of some of the early Strict Baptist magazines/periodicals (with brief descriptions of each); these magazines, to one degree of faithfulness or another, focused on “high doctrine” and experimental religion.

The Gospel Standard; or Feeble Christian’s Support Magazine
The most conservative and faithful of the Strict & Particular Baptist magazines, The Gospel Standard Magazine was originated by John Gadsby (1808-1893) in 1835 with the assistance and support of his father, William Gadsby (1773-1844). The magazine was commenced to contend for the doctrines of grace, but especially for the necessity and gracious, sanctifying effect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of the Lord’s people. It also advocated believer’s baptism and strict communion. The preaching of such men as William Gadsby, John Warburton, John Kershaw and J. C. Philpot (one of the first editors of the magazine) stood out against the more moderate and general Calvinism which, along with the infusion of a dry and legal spirit, was beginning to appear in Baptist churches (thus, some sources identified the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists as Huntingtonian Baptists due to their shared emphasis on doctrinally sound experimental/experiential preaching). As one old, well-tried Christian exclaimed of Mr. Gadsby’s ministry, “It is not a new doctrine – but the old, preached with life and power.” The circulation of the magazine grew rapidly and was much appreciated by many who found it an interpreter of their experience and proved the Lord’s blessing on it. In the early 1860s the editor, J. C. Philpot, gave a most gracious defence of the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus, concerning which there had been many errors propagated and which resulted in a division among the Strict Baptist churches.

It was as a result of this division (and perhaps also the division brought about by the views promoted in The Gospel Herald Magazine in general, and those views of Mr. John Stevens in particular regarding the Pre-existarian error) that many of the Strict Baptist churches began to align themselves with the Gospel Standard Magazine and have become known as Gospel Standard Baptists. Thus a list of Gospel Standard churches appeared; there are about 115 at the present time including those from overseas. The Gospel Standard Strict Baptists separated, and remain separate, from the other Strict Baptists to this day.

The Gospel Standard is still published and is currently edited by B. A. Ramsbottom. The Friendly Companion Magazine was begun in the mid 1860s by John Gadsby as a magazine for children; it is still published alongside the Gospel Standard and is edited by Gerald D. Buss, pastor of the Old Baptist Chapel, Chippenham, Wiltshire (http://www.gospelstandard.org.uk/history.html).

The Earthen Vessel and Christian Record Magazine
Another conservative Strict Baptist magazine centered upon sound experimental preaching was The Earthen Vessel which started in 1845 by its editor and proprietor, Charles Waters (C.W). Banks. Also associated with the Earthen Vessel was Thomas Stringer and James Wells (and also perhaps Joseph Irons and Robert Hawker). The Earthen Vessel was somewhat renown for being rightly critical of Spurgeon and his error (Spurgeonism). The following quote has been attributed to the magazine:

What is Spurgeonism but Fullerism? What is Fullerism but moderate Arminianism, and what is Arminianism but free-will and free-grace mixed with the traditions of carnal men, dished up by a depraved, inventive genius, and instructed by the Devil to overthrow the grand old cardinal doctrines of the Bible, and rob Jesus Christ of his crown?

James Wells was a highly popular experimental preacher (he preached at the Surrey Tabernacle, Southwark) who had quite a following. However, he was deemed be highly controversial and abrasive by many (especially amongst those under the ministry of Mr. Gadsby and Mr. Kershaw, the former of whom he is said to have insulted in regards to his age and usefulness). It seems that Mr. Wells’ controversial statements played a major role in keeping the Gospel Standards and the Earthen Vessels from unifying. The Earthen Vessel editor, Mr. C.W. Banks was a personal friend and defender of James Wells; however, he thought highly of the Gospel Standard ministers and personally held to the doctrine of Eternal Sonship. Nonetheless, it “seemed to him to be a matter of indifference whether it was believed or not” (http://www.blunhambaptist.org/Blunham%20Chapel%20Account.htm). He published works from various sources (including J.C. Philpot) in his magazine and reportedly stated

“Whether a work be sent us by ‘Standard men’, or ‘Herald men’, or ‘Vessel men’, or any other class of men (terms we would not employ were they not so much in use), if those works are designed for the elucidation of pure Gospel truth, and for the separation of the precious from the vile, they shall always be as faithfully noticed by us as our small abilities will allow.”

However, it seems that the Earthen Vessel later became identified with the Non-Eternal Sonship position. J.A. Jones had an article published in the Earthen Vessel denying the Eternal Sonship of Christ. Mr. Philpot rebutted Mr. Jones’ position in the Gospel Standard Magazine, only to have James Wells write his own rebuttal against Mr. Philpot’s stance in the Earthen Vessel. Although Mr. Banks publicly sided with Mr. Philpot on the issue, he allowed Mr. Wells to publish his rebuttal in the October 1860 edition allegedly thinking that the discussion would be beneficial for God’s people. Sadly, although the controversy eventually died down, the rift remained and the Gospel Standards distanced themselves from the Earthen Vessels as a result. The Earthen Vessels eventually merged with the Gospel Heralders; they are now collectively known (along with other former, non-Gospel Standard, Strict Baptists) as the Grace Baptist Assembly (dropping the word strict from their title altogether).

The Christian’s Pathway and Calvinist Pulpit Magazine
The Christian’s Pathway Magazine was published by Francis Kirby (minister of Mount Zion Strict and Particular Baptist Church, Margate); it too was a conservative, experimental, Strict Baptist magazine. Apparently, the magazine was first published as The Calvinistic Pulpit (1891-95) and then continued as the Christian’s Pathway from 1896 forward. One source states that the content of the magazine suggests that the editors were in favour of peaceful relations between the separated Strict Baptists groups, recommending that his readers attend Gospel Standard society annual meetings but being rather uneasy about the Gospel Standard’s treatment of Earthen Vessels over the Eternal Sonship controversy.” (http://reynoldsbooks.weebly.com/1/post/2010/01/latest-books-18-january-2010.html). The status of this magazine is not clear to me; one source states concerning this magazine: “they were a smaller group that grew up in the later 19th cent, but were eventually reabsorbed into the Earthen Vessel group” (http://www.baptistboard.com/archive/index.php/t-7780.html).

The Gospel Herald; or, Poor Christian’s Magazine
Samuel Collins was, for many years the acknowledged leader of the Strict Baptists in the county of Suffolk. In 1832 (some sources say 1831) he devised a plan to produce a cheap monthly magazine for the Strict Baptist Churches and the following year the first number of The Gospel Herald Magazine was produced. For a number of years he took the whole responsibility for its publication and editing (http://www.strictbaptisthistory.org.uk/_private/scollins.htm). The Heralders were experimental in their preaching as well, and produced many sound works. Some notables associated with the Gospel Heralders included John Foreman and John Bloomfield. Apparently, the Gospel Herald was created with the aim of warning its readers against Arminianism and, like the Earthen Vessel, they went so far as to criticize (legitimately, and rightfully so) C.H. Spurgeon’s open-invitation style of preaching (http://www.theologian.org.uk/churchhistory/englishbaptists.html#b7). Sadly, though this magazine was deemed by many to be conservative, I found several instances of published articles wherein the author(s) clearly engaged in the heresy of Spurgeonism (embracing Arminians as fellow-Christians). In fact, The Heralders seemed to have no qualms embracing Quakers as well. For more on the matter see my article titled: http://lookuntothelord.com/2010/03/20/gospel-herald-compromise/

The Gospel Ambassador; or, Christian Pilgrim’s Friend Magazine
I am not sure who started The Gospel Ambassador, or when (perhaps 1840/41), but it was alleged (by someone whose article was posted in the Gospel Heralder magazine) to have been set up to “address the errors found in the Gospel Standard and Gospel Herald Magazines.” Any information available on the editor(s) and principle ministers associated with this magazine would be greatly appreciated. It would appear that James Wells was closely associated with the magazine – or those who edited it. Mr. Wells was apparently in a very heated controversy with Mr. John Kershaw of the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists (the latter writing negatively about him in a sermon); in 1846, the Gospel Ambassador published an article(s) in favor of Mr. Wells. Likewise, the magazine defended a Mr. Osbourne who was alleged to have said something to the effect of “I’d rather preach to drunkards than to those doubting and fearing.” Mr. Osbourne was prevented from preaching at a Gospel Standard church as a result, and the Ambassadors felt the need to come to Mr. Osbourne’s defense (an interesting act given that the Gospel Ambassador appeared to promote experimental preaching). Nonetheless, the Ambassador contained the sermons of Mr. Kershaw, Mr. Warburton, and Mr. Gadsby, so it must have recognized the blessings of the ministry of the Gospel Standard ministers. Please note that this magazine is distinct from the earlier Gospel Advocate and Impartial Investigator Magazine.

The Primitive Church (or Baptist) Magazine
In the book “The Press in English society from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries” by Michael Harris, Alan J. Lee, they deemed The Primitive Church Magazine to be the “best known of the less rigid Strict Baptist journals.” This Magazine started in 1838 and lasted until 1865 and in 1863 the editor was the Reverend W. Stokes of Manchester (U.K.).

The Gospel Magazine and Protestant Beacon (a.k.a. the Spiritual Magazine)
The Gospel Magazine is a Calvinist, evangelical magazine from the United Kingdom, and is one of the longest running of such periodicals, having been founded in 1766. Most of the editors have been Anglicans, but they were deemed High-Calvinists and thus closely associated with the Strict and Particular Baptists. Some notable editors included Joseph Gurney, William Mason, Augustus Toplady (who used the magazine as a platform to denounce the heretic John Wesley), George Cowell, and particular Baptist minister John Andrew Jones (possibly the same J.A. Jones associated with the Eternal Sonship controversy as mentioned above in the Earthen Vessel section, but I have not verified). John Newton also contributed to the magazine. The Gospel Magazine Trust are currently working to have all of their extant copies – going back 240 years – digitised and uploaded onto their website and available to read on their archives page.

Between 1783 and 1796 the Gospel Magazine was suspended for some time and a magazine called the Spiritual Magazine was produced (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gospel_Magazine). The Spiritual Magazine, appears to be separate from The Royal Spiritual Magazine published by the Reverend John Allen in 1752. Mr. Allen was a Calvinist-Baptist theologian and the pastor of a Particular Baptist Church in London. Mr. Allen was a leading Pre-existarian, predating Mr. Stevens (of the Gospel Herald). However, one source (The Press in English society from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries By Michael Harris, Alan J. Lee, footnote #82) states that the Spiritual Magazine ran alongside the Gospel Magazine from 1825 to 1852. The Gospel Magazine, the Spiritual Magazine, the Spiritual Wrestler, and Zion’s Trumpet were all published by the same publisher.

Note that Volume I, No. 1, of the Gospel Magazine (New Series) was released in January, 1840.

[Please see Mr. North’s comments below for corrections to some of the above; I would incorporate it into the body, but would like for him to have the credit on the matter].

Zion’s Trumpet; or the Penny Spiritual Magazine
The Editor, Edward Palmer, first published Zion’s Trumpet in 1834 (1834-68). It was a more liberal Strict Baptist magazine, possible associated with C.H. Spurgeon (though I am not certain). This appears to be separate from the periodical that Robert Hawker published in 1798, also titled Zion’s Trumpet (http://grace-gospel.org/robert-hawker.htm).

The Spiritual Wrestler; or Zion’s Children in the Wilderness Magazine
The Spiritual Wrestler was published in 1847 by the same publisher as The Gospel Magazine, the Spiritual Magazine, and Zion’s Trumpet — I am still researching this particular magazine (not much is available on it except that it was clearly experimental in nature).

The Voice of Truth; or Strict Baptists’ Magazine
The Voice of Truth was first published in 1863; the editor was Thomas Wall (I believe). It was created to be the ‘official journal/magazine for the Strict Baptist denomination’ in the tradition of Gill and Brine (perhaps, as opposed to the Huntingtonian Strict Baptists like the Gospel Standards, Earthen Vessels, etc.).

The Baptist Quarterly produced a write-up on the history of Strict Baptist magazines that can be found here. Please also see Mr. North’s statement (correction) concerning the Gospel Magazine in the comment section below.

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