Samuel Pearce, the Baptist Brainerd, was not a Theological Snob

Tom Nettles
| July 5, 2017
This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Southern Baptist Theology

Is it really true that “Calvinism has a history of deleterious effects on evangelism and missions and promotes unparalleled theological snobbery and querulousness?”

I recently read a new edition of Andrew Fuller’s Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce. Pearce wrote a letter to William Carey, a Calvinist missionary in India, about his own desire to join Carey there and work side by side with him for the conversion of the “Hindoos.” In that letter Pearce said:

“I believe, that if I were more fully given up to God, I should be free from these distressing workings of mind; and then I long to be a missionary where I should have temptations to nothing but to abound in the work of the Lord, and lay myself entirely out for him. In such a situation, I think, pride would have but little food, and faith more occasion for exercise; so that the spiritual life, and inward religion, would thrive better than they do now.”

I thought about this statement of Pearce, as well as his entire life, and compared them to the officious declaration of Calvinism’s problems. “Well,” I again thought, “Pearce’s Calvinism did not snuff his fires for evangelism, nor did it make him brimming with snobbery. As to whether his honesty about his internal life can be called querulous . . . it seems more like Romans 7:23, 24.”

There are bad eggs that float to the top of any system of thought, religious or non-religious, and perhaps the author of the above quotation has met some who claimed to be Calvinists; or perhaps he merely extrapolated from his caricatures what he would expect of a Calvinist. Samuel Pearce, and hundreds of others, were nothing like that unfortunate description of Calvinism. I wonder why this detractor, obviously earnest and so I hope also sincere, would not know of men of that character.

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