Charles Carrin is my dear friend. I know him personally, albeit far too briefly, having met him initially in the first part of the ’90s. Charles Carrin is the real deal, a genuine, Spirit-infused, Spirit/Fire-baptized, yet thoroughly humble “man of God!” Now an octogenarian for two years, he is a Spirit-ignited prophetic patriarch and elder-statesman to the Church Jesus is building, hailing from a by-gone and vastly under-appreciated era and personal wilderness experience but bringing forth with him a quality and quantity of wisdom manufactured and tempered in the crucible of trial, trouble, and tribulation that is not only rare, but genuinely rarefied. Words fail in attempting to describe the value and worth of “old soldiers,” in the words of General Douglas MacArthur, such as Charles Carrin, but perhaps the most fitting words are that he exemplifies the Scriptural phrase, “treasure in earthen vessels.” I regard him as one on the same plane as the likes of Tozer and Ravenhill to their generation. In this open-letter, Charles trumpets a profound, poignant, piercing, and powerful prophetic message to former fellows of a denomination he still cherishes that gave him the “left foot of fellowship” when he finally eschewed its warnings and teachings, accepted and obeyed God’s Word, and received the Father’s Promise of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, after nearly 30 years of dedication to and ministry in that denomination. But, we publish this heartfelt cry because of its applicability not only to the constituency of that particular rapidly declining denomination, but also to many other denominations and sects of believers, as well as whole “movements,” who claim the name of “Christian” and a “name” of being alive, but are really spiritually dead (Rev. 3:1). I highly commend this letter to you for your reading and meditation—and then your weeping, mourning, repentance, and praying—as it pierces your heart. “If anyone has an ear, let him hear” (Rev 13:9). [Steven Lambert, Publisher]
An “Open-Heart-Letter” to Primitive Baptists (and others)
By Charles Carrin
In 1950 I sat in the congregation of the Atlanta Primitive Baptist Church and listened to messages by Elder Maurice Thomas. The building was packed-out every night and the Presence of God over-lay everyone. Elder Thomas was not an ordinary preacher. His sermons were powerful. None of us had ever heard an Old Testament prophet speak but the sense of the evenings seemed to be like that. During the singing, shouting broke out in the congregation. This particular night was different. Brother Thomas was burdened about the future of our 3,000 Primitive Baptist Churches in the U.S. We listened somberly as he read from Revelation 2:5: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Brother Thomas sensed dark clouds on the Primitive Baptist horizon and told us so. He emphasized that God removed the candlestick only when churches had fallen.
At the time I was 20 years old—I am now passed 80—that was more than 60 years ago, but Brother Thomas’ closing statement that night was one I never forgot. He said: “Once God has removed the Candlestick there is no record of His ever putting it back.” That evening there was no rejoicing, only a profound sense of warning to the churches. I left the meeting very shaken and walked most of the way home. Brother Thomas was right. There were signs all around us that the body of churches we loved was in far greater danger than we had realized. One fact was obvious: Our historic, pioneer Associations were all dying.
In the years and decades that have passed since that unforgettable night, my love and concern for all the churches have only deepened. Please know it is my love for you personally and the lasting impact of that sermon that now prompts this letter 60+ years later. What I share—in careful detail—must be said while I can still say it. I had moved to Atlanta the year before, 1949, having been ordained in Miami, and was pastor at the Memorial P.B. Church just a mile from the Atlanta Church were Brother Thomas spoke. Half a mile from my church was the East Atlanta P.B. Church and a mile beyond that was Bethany Church. There were probably 25 Primitive Baptist Churches in the area now occupied by metropolitan Atlanta. Many had fine brick buildings and historic cemeteries. Some 500 other P.B. congregations were scattered across Georgia. But the outlook was frightening. The churches were divided into a myriad of warring groups that forbade fellowship with each other. Each of the three congregations nearest my church represented a different faction. Where Jesus had called His disciples “together,” (Luke 9:1) Primitive Baptists had defiantly torn them apart. Significantly, the Atlanta, East Atlanta, West Atlanta, P.B. churches were not allowed fellowship with each other.
The oldest church in the city of Atlanta was Utoy Primitive Baptist and the oldest in adjoining DeKalb County was Hardeman Church. Atlanta’s pre-Civil War history was vested in both. I worshiped in these old-line congregations and loved being with them. They were precious people. Having grown up in the old line–which was dear to me, but being baptized and ordained in a group not recognized by them brought great heartache. I had family members in both camps and I loved both. Once at Bethany Church I dropped onto a pew and broke into hard sobbing. I desperately wanted their fellowship. Still in my teens, I was left to weep alone. No one came to question my grief or console my sorrow. Even at that young age I did not merit their concern. These were good people who loved God but whose religious legalism forbade their embracing someone outside their faction.” Even so, I kept attending Bethany Church as often as I could. The East Atlanta Church would have refused me totally. Knowing that, I never went.
The rejection I experienced had a positive effect. It motivated me even more to discover why Primitive Baptists treated each other like enemies. Little Flock Church in Miami where I grew up and had loved me as a child now held my ministry in contempt, even though we were agreed theologically. It, like most others was locked into the mind-set of 18th century pioneer-tradition. Old customs held equal authority with Scripture. Though my Atlanta congregation was growing I still knew that “death was in the pot” and eventually awaited all of us (2 Kings 4:38-40). Something was stalking the denomination that we did not know how to stop. Nor did we know when, where, how, it began. Elder Thomas’ message reinforced that fear.
In 1953, I could endure the pain no longer and asked the Primitive Western Union—of which my congregation was a member—to authorize me to write a letter to all Primitive Baptist Churches in the United States. The purpose was an appeal that we pray for each others restoration to the unity and power of former years. With the Session’s approval I then hand-addressed letters to more than 3,000 Primitive Baptist Churches in the U.S. I remember the number very well. Every state was represented. After mailing them I waited fearfully. When responses began arriving they were not only discouraging but in some cases hostile. I was rebuked angrily for thinking that churches “needed the petition of designing men for their health and well-being.” In some cases, I was ordered to remove church names from the list. My weeping intensified.
Today I doubt that 500 of those 3,000 churches are still alive, and all these are tragically small. They wield no power beyond their own membership. Unlike our ancestors who helped shape America, P.B. influence in public life today is non-existent. Because of that spiritual decline, I must share some observations I gained over the past 62 years of ministry. Part of this will be facts you may not want to hear. Even so, the motive behind my letter is love for you and the churches we have mutually served. Regardless of your faction, I ask you to hear me to the end. Like most of you, I came from a long Primitive Baptist background. My great-great-grandfather was a circuit-riding P.B. Elder who traveled horse-back in Florida between the Seminole and Civil War eras. I love his memory and his ministry. His Bible is my cherished possession.
In my youth I had the privilege to travel with Elder W.I. Dobbs of Girard, Illinois. This precious old brother preached in the 1800s and told me how they once had to cut pasture fences to make room for their huge congregations. In one year he baptized more than 500 new converts and his father baptized over 700. Other pastors did equally well. They were in revival. But, during Elder Dobb’s lifetime, Old School Baptists—as they were known in Illinois—dropped from a pinnacle of glory into oblivion. The “pillar of fire” moved but they refused to go with it (Exo. 13:21). As an anguished P.B. Pastor I had to know why this had happened. There were times when I shouted my frustration at God, “Why? Lord! Why?! “Why are the mighty fallen and the weapons of war perished!” (2 Sam. 1:27). I felt like Eli’s daughter-in-law who said, “The glory is departed from Israel for the ark of God is taken” (I Sam. 4:22). “The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate” (Lam. 1:4).
Since the night of Elder Thomas’ warning I have watched Primitive Baptist Churches die in epidemic proportions. Whole states were emptied of them. The oldest pioneer churches in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, other territories, had been Primitive Baptist. Many were outposts of American history. I once sat alone in the handsome brick building that had been Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood church and wept before the Lord, “Why? Lord, Why?!” As an adult, Lincoln publically renounced the denomination. I was the final Primitive Baptist speaker in another historic New Jersey Church that had Revolutionary War soldiers and a signer of the Declaration of Independence buried near the door. George Washington’s Chaplain, John Gano, had preached there. That day, with city officials present, the church officially closed its doors and the last surviving member walked away. The beautiful building with its wrap-around balcony is now a museum and its Colonial Cemetery a National Historic site. This wonderful church was one of the 3,000 I had written in 1953.
I waited a long time for God’s answer to my question about the decline, but when the first part came—as if by thunder—it was in our history. You probably know that in 1832 at Black Rock Church in Baltimore County, Maryland, a large number of Baptist Pastors and laymen met to protest changes that were appearing in the churches. Specifically, they opposed six new practices: Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, Bible Societies, Missions, Theological Schools, and Protracted Meetings. Other efforts that would have promoted church unity were also opposed. Their concerns were not about doctrinal issues but practical.
My personal view of Black Rock or these six topics is of no value. The only thing of importance is what history has confirmed: A century and a half after the Black Rock meeting thousands of its participating churches were dead. Disastrous fighting and declarations of non-fellowship broke out and infected every congregation that joined the movement. Even peace-loving churches who later took part were affected by it. These churches were not killed by Sunday Schools, Missions, Tract Societies, etc. Not at all. On those issues the churches were strongly agreed. The villain was something totally different.
After years of puzzling over the disaster, I am now convinced that God gave us an example of that killing force in the Scripture—and expected us to benefit by it. It is this: In the gospel of Luke, when Jesus and the disciples traveled through Samaria, the townspeople were rude to Jesus. They realized that He, like other Jews, was going to ignore their needs and not remain among them. The scene quickly grew ugly. James and John became angry and urged Jesus to let them “call down fire from heaven” and burn up the Samaritans (Luke 9:54,55). The disciples were anxious to destroy these people. Jesus rebuked the brothers, saying, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of.” According to Jesus, the apostles’ anger was not just human-emotion. Far more than that, their desire for revenge came from an unclean “spirit” speaking out of them. This killing-spirit which was eager to decimate others, was still hiding in these men.
On another occasion Jesus rebuked Peter sternly, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me for thou savorest not the things that be of God but those that be of men.” (Mat. 16:23). There is no mistaking that language. Satan was speaking out of Peter’s mouth. In both cases Jesus pointed to demonic power latent in Peter and the others.
In a different situation John told Jesus, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.” Jesus said to him, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:49-51). Jesus rebuked John for thinking that his group was the only one of true discipleship. There were sheep in other folds, which—like it or not—John was commanded to accept (John 10:16). Then, as now, such spirits influence believers negatively while they remain undetected. Nor do they leave voluntarily; they must be cast out. Thirty-percent of Jesus’ recorded ministry was spent in direct conflict with such spirits. Though we P.B.’s have not used it, nor believed it, Jesus gave us authority to cleanse ourselves from their defilement (Luke 10:19).
My conviction is this: If such dangerous, divisive spirits could infect the disciples in Jesus’ day, they are certainly more capable of doing so now, and I am convinced it was this kind of villain that secretly embedded itself in the 1832 meeting. Why do I say that? Look at the results! Thousands of churches have been destroyed. That was not the work of the Holy Spirit! Even churches that temporarily escaped later became victimized by it. Like Achan’s wedge of gold—stolen and out of sight in the floor of his tent that caused Israel’s defeat—so P.B.’s have been defeated by this alien spirit (Josh. 7). Jesus warned us about this danger. He said “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mat. 11:12).
When Part-Two of my question was answered, it was not history, but a frightening rebuke from Scripture. More than the first, it shook me to my core. Here it is: Jesus said “Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away” (John 15:3). Jesus cursed the fig tree that sapped the ground and produced nothing in return (Mat. 21:19). John the Baptist warned Israel, “Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Mat. 3:10-11).
Listen carefully to these words: Churches either bear good fruit or God removes them from His garden! There is no exception. I looked for Primitive Baptist fruit. There was none. Evangelism was dead. Charity was non-existent. The churches existed solely for themselves; no one else. All fruit-bearing practices, by default, died at Black Rock. As a result, hundreds of fruitless congregations had fallen victim to God’s axe. This shocked me: God Himself had been the executioner. He was the one who cut down barren ministries and cast them away. Nor was He impressed with their “sound doctrine” or their role in history. Good fruit was what He required.
You may disagree with God’s principle but it is still His practice. Hosea said of the Jews: “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (Hos. 10:1). According to Scripture, churches must bear fruit that benefits people beyond their own membership. Primitive Baptists emphatically refused foreign missions and all other fruit-bearing action. We happily preached “grace” as a doctrine but rejected it as a vital practice in the life of the church. To that, God says “No! Bring the axe!” We can put our heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge this tragic reality if we like—but we merely compound our rebellion. With thousands of closed church buildings and ineffective ministries no other proof is needed. “Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down!” Period. That says it. No further discussion is needed.
For years I prayed desperately for the restoration of our Primitive Baptist denomination. Finally it dawned on me: It is impossible to revive a tree that God Himself has removed. This may shock you but I no longer pray for the denomination’s restoration (1 John 5:14-16).
Some readers are probably saying, “Who does that old man think he is?! What right does he have to criticize me and my church?!” I say again that my only motive is love for you and all the churches. But I will be totally honest with you, and before God. At my age, I have nothing to lose by speaking truth. More criticism will have zero affect on me. Instead, I shout God’s offer to the few surviving churches: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14).
That message begins with the conditional term, “IF.” The prophet Ezekiel said it this way: “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezk. 33:11). Jeremiah joins him, “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jer. 8:22). The church’s health has not recovered because the Eldership is unwilling to admit its failure and correct it. Until they do, the Holy Spirit will stand apart. Do you need more proof of what I say? The Holy Spirit is doing nothing to keep the denomination alive. Without His life-giving power, P.B.’s are sunk. That is true no matter which faction you claim. Hear this: Fruitlessness is the direct result of unclean spirits!
If a hospital were to have all its patients die, there would be an immediate outcry. Police, news reporters, spectators, would converge on the scene. An investigation would be ordered and a Grand Jury convened. It would be national news. Doctors would be put on trial, convicted, and sent to jail. Not so when thousands of Bible-loving churches perish. There is no alarm, no concern, not even from their own ranks. No one seems to care. Pastors are automatically exempt from suspicion and accusation.
Let me illustrate that point: I read an article in the Banner-Herald (a publication of which I was once editor) that listed a dozen new church buildings that had been constructed by help from the Primitive Baptist Builders. Thank God for that! But, as I read the list of names I realized that every one of the congregations had already died. Even with new buildings not one of the twelve had survived. Other denominations were already occupying the facilities the Primitive Baptists had constructed. Was that distressing news followed by an urgent plea for denominational leadership to meet for immediate repentance and prayer? Of course not! Were “the priests weeping between the porch and the altar, saying, ‘Spare thy people O Lord, give not your heritage to reproach’”? (Joel 2:17). Absolutely not! Why not?! In this denomination the leadership justifies its failures, it does not correct them. If the early church had observed Primitive Baptist practice it would not have survived the first century, and the name of Christ would be totally unknown today. P.B. claims to being the “original church” are an insult to Jesus, who “loved the church and gave Himself for it,” (Eph. 5:25), and to the Holy Spirit who empowered it at Pentecost (Acts 2).
Is failure what Jesus expected when He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18)? Did He expect disciples in our day to fail when He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Mat. 28:20)? Is failure part of the New Testament gospel? Did Jesus promise that? No! He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)!
Where there is no power, the Holy Spirit has not come—upon or in the midst! In spite of that fact, dying P.B. churches and powerless ministries arrogantly claim to have the only valid baptism, the only valid communion, the only valid gospel. Paul was very fearful of baptizing in his own name (1 Cor. 1:15). Primitive Baptists (along with some other denominations; –ed.) have no fear at all and continue the practice unashamed. After 2,000 years of work on the earth, if the dysfunctional P.B. Church is the only church the Holy Spirit has been able to produce He is a total, utter, failure. Read that statement again. It is true. As a long-term P.B. Elder I am willing to say it. Millions of believers around the world are legitimately receiving both baptism and communion in which Primitive Baptist have no part. In spite of their efforts to make changes, my own progressive P.B’s. are in as tragic a decline as the original old-line. Why? They are still trying to evangelize the doctrines of election and predestination instead of evangelizing Christ (Acts 26:18). They refuse to deal with their theological biases and admit their rejection of authentic Scriptural truths. “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezk. 18:31).
But, I need to confess my own sin and failure as a P.B. Pastor. For 30+ years on the radio and in my pulpit, I too desperately tried to evangelize the doctrines of election and predestination. I failed. I tried to convert people to our church instead of converting them to Christ. I failed again. I tried to convince people of the validity of our baptism above all others. That also failed. I re-baptized all who came. I denied Communion to those who had no P.B. baptism. Worse still, I was ignorant of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God. Finally, after a crisis confrontation with the Holy Spirit, I was forced to see that Jesus spoke the word “church” only three times in Scripture (Mat. 16:18; 18:17). But, He spoke of the Kingdom more than 130 times. Jesus loved the church. Yes! gave Himself for it, yes! (Eph. 5:25). So must we. But, His focus was on the Kingdom. I will always love the Primitive Baptist Church. That will not change. But, God forgive me for believing it was the whole church and for honoring it above the Kingdom! The local church—by whatever name—exists solely because of the Kingdom above it.
Hear me! I love the church and will serve it until I die. But, to be like Jesus, my focus must be on the Kingdom. If you and I focus on the church we will miss the “gospel of the Kingdom,” (Mat. 24:14), the “keys of the Kingdom,” (Mat. 16:19), the “parables of the Kingdom,” (Mark 4:11), and much, much more of Kingdom authority.
Jesus said, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God surely the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mat. 12:28). The church has no such power. Nor does it have a gospel. Only the Kingdom has the gospel and the power (Mat. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14). It is a specific gifting from the Holy Spirit! A Primitive Baptist “gospel” is pointless and powerless. It is self-centered and destructive. If the gospel we preach is not impacting the world around it, we have the wrong gospel. I don’t care how expert we may be in Bible doctrine, if the Holy Spirit is not using our message to bring others to Christ and submission to the Kingdom, our preaching is a failure! Where is the grief-stricken conscience that drives P.B. pastors to their knees, asking, “Am I to blame for the death of my church? What is wrong with my preaching?! Why am I not getting New Testament results?” If we genuinely and sincerely ask God, He will tell us.
I will go further in acknowledging my own sin.
For 30 years of ministry there were certain New Testament scriptures which I was unable to preach. Why? I felt honor-bound to interpret every Bible verse through our Articles of Faith. If scriptures did not agree with the Articles I thought I was confused about the Scripture. The Articles were right (I reasoned). If I had preached any Scripture contrary to the Articles I would have been excommunicated. I am convinced many other godly pastors are submitting to the same tragic error, and getting the same zero-results in their ministry.
Today I realize that the enormity of Scripture can never be reduced to a few humanly-composed statements of faith. But, you don’t have to believe me. Look at facts! Look at history! Look at statistics! Look at what the Holy Spirit is now doing in China, Africa, South America, where millions are coming to Christ and the church is exploding. In the years of my own ministry believers in China have grown from 50,000 to more than 100,000,000. And that occurred under vicious Communist persecution. Are these Christians real? Yes! They are true lovers of Jesus.
As a disciple of Christ, be honest enough to stare reality in the face. Can Primitive Baptist deadness, failure, and fruitlessness, possibly be the work of the Holy Spirit? God forbid! Not only so, but God warned spiritless pastors when He said, “I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand” (Ezk. 34:10).
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!, says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: ‘You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,’ says the Lord.” (Jer. 23:1-3).
Am I concerned? Of course I am. Angered? Yes! I was concerned 60 years ago when I heard Brother Thomas’ preach! I wept. I mourned about it. That night I went home groaning over the danger we were in. What we were forewarned that evening has fully come to pass. Vainly, I pleaded with the churches 60 years ago. And I am doing so again. Jesus has not changed His mind since He said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (God) takes away!” Did you hear that? If your ministry and your P.B. church are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, expect to be cut off! You will not be spared. Jesus said of one figurative tree, “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: Cut it down! (Luke 13:7). Jesus’ patience lasted only three years. Primitive Baptists are entering two centuries of fruitlessness, and then wonder why they have no anointing, no power, no help from God.
You pastors need to get out of your religious boxes and realize God was speaking to you when He said, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19). Did God really mean that? Yes! Primitive Baptists, like others, have the responsibility to choose life or death, blessing or cursing. The choice is ours. We can deny that message if we choose, but God is the One who said it. The Kingdom of God is still here for those who choose to function in its power. If your ministry is fruitless and failing, it is your fault. Make a change. The Holy Spirit is not to blame for your foolishness. “…it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Primitive Baptists, hear me! Preachers had better come to terms with God. He is not going to adjust His Word to your religious absurdity. Don’t fight against Him (Acts 5:39). The New Testament is not merely a book; it is an unbreakable Covenant! You have dared to use your religious scissors to cut out parts that did not fit your doctrine. Stop it! No part of God’s Word is expendable. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). Jesus Himself said, “The Scripture cannot be broken [lit., divided, rent, fragmented, edited –ed.]” (John 10:35). Hop-Scotch theology is phony as a three-dollar bill. No part of New Testament truth has ceased (Gal. 3:15-17). You and I are commanded to “Preach the Word!”—not parts of the Word—and not P.B. opinion (2 Tim. 4:2). I am convinced of this truth: It is impossible to preach the full New Testament message and not get New Testament results. For that reason I repeat the question, What genuine New Testament result is the Holy Spirit bringing to Primitive Baptist churches and ministries? Before you answer let me illustrate why I ask.
Little Flock Church where I grew up is dead. The once beautiful and crowded Miami Church that baptized and ordained me is dead. My first church in Atlanta is dead. Utoy is dead. The church served by Elder Gilbert Beebe, Moderator of the Black Rock Conference, is dead. Thousands of great churches are dead. Others have a name that they are alive, but in reality are dead (Rev. 3:1). Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). It is impossible to speak Jesus’ words through the gospel, and death to prevail. Genuine, authentic gospel imparts life! It is “Spirit!” These churches died because they did not have a full New Testament gospel. They had a Primitive Baptist substitute. The substitute killed them. That terrifies me. It ought to terrify you. Churches do not die of old age; they have to be killed. What kills them? Preachers with a synthetic gospel! The prophet Hosea shouted an identical warning to ancient Israel, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!” (Hos. 13:9).
I am fully convinced of this: God saw the fruitlessness, religious legalism, and fighting, in P.B. churches, and removed the Candlestick. It is gone. Gone forever! The Candlestick is not coming back. Hear me: Nothing will ever restore it! The denomination cannot be revived. Stop trying! It is finished. Bury the dead past and get on with reality! The P.B. “tree” has been cut down! “The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us that we have sinned!” (Lam. 5:16). Do I believe this? Yes! Absolutely! Nor will I be quiet about it! The Holy Spirit will never be tied to a dead tree stump. Don’t try to keep Him there. Brother Thomas’ 1950 warning was prophetic (Acts 2:17). Whether you like my saying it or not is not my concern. My only desire is to see you rescue whatever time remains, and move on with an authentic New Testament ministry. This is not 1832! It is 2012! God expects us to act accordingly. We are in the end-times of human history. Wake up! We were not sent to embalm the dead, but to raise the dead.
“Am I Become Your Enemy Because I Tell You The Truth?” (Gal. 4:16).
More readers are probably saying, “Old man, you have slammed us with blame. Do you have anything good to say? Is there any encouragement, any hope? Can you offer help?” Yes. Thankfully, there is great hope! And this brings me to the most important part of this letter. While I was still a young man in Atlanta I acquired an antique book, 1777, by Obadiah Holmes, a New England Baptist pastor who lived in Colonial Boston, 1606-1682. He told his congregations to ordain no deacons, make no important decisions “Until the Holy Spirit has fallen upon you.” (Acts 8:16; 10:44; 11:15). This brother was the first historic Baptist I heard talk that way. I knew our Anabaptist forefathers in medieval times experienced the “filling of the Holy Spirit.” That was the secret of their success under horrendous persecution. Scripture speaks repeatedly of the Spirit’s baptism, and church history is full of instances of it. The “Promise of the Father” that Jesus gave the first disciples (Acts 1:4-8) is our promise too! It was this blessing to which Obadiah referred.
Many years after reading Obadiah’s book, I realized that this same provision was intended for me and every believer today. You, me, other pastors, and their churches, can receive the filling of the Holy Spirit, and be restored to powerful ministries (Acts 9:17). Primitive Baptists who make that choice can flourish again; not because they are P.B, but because they are disciples of Jesus. Anyone seeking that impartation must place a higher value upon the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Kingdom identity than he does denominational ego. Religious pride must end. Fighting must cease. The flag of truce must be raised to fully acknowledge the Kingdom of God. There is no other choice.
In 1977, at the absolute bottom of hopelessness and despair, I finally experienced the “filling of the Holy Spirit.” What I read from Obadiah Holmes years before and what Jonathan Edwards described, became my own experience. That awesome day my life was permanently, wonderfully, changed. “Heaven came down my soul to greet, And Glory crowned the Mercy Seat.” For two full years I never read a newspaper, watched TV, or sang a secular song. I would let nothing interfere with my new love for Jesus. Self-discipline had nothing to do with the change. The “Promise of the Father” had become my most cherished possession (Acts 1:4). Beginning that day, I saw the Kingdom of God as never before, and my ministry exploded with new meaning and purpose. I do not write out of theory; I write out of an absolute encounter with God.
Even in my old age, I now see more people changed by the power of God in a few months time than I did in all my P.B. years combined. Many of these come to meetings battling life-crushing problems of alcoholism, drug addiction, suicidal depression, illnesses, other crises. They come weeping, asking the “way to Zion” (Jer. 50:5). That includes pastors, doctors, college professors, airline pilots, professional athletes, people of every sort, and those from the poorest walks of life. But—as Jesus promised—they are set free and filled with the Holy Spirit. One of my former P.B. members in Atlanta who had been an alcoholic for eighteen years was delivered in a few minutes time by the Holy Spirit. She never drank again. Best of all, she was filled with the Spirit and her life radically changed (cf., Acts 1:5). Jesus did for her what detox, therapy, loss of family, had never been able to do. Would I return to my former ministry in which such hurting people were left to drown in their misery? Never! I cannot go back.
Physically, I am strong, my mind alert, my energy high, and my travel-schedule full. In recent years I have been on as many as 70 airline flights annually. Why? “This gospel of the Kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Mat. 24:14). I will never retire. “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8-9). Jesus Christ is everything; I am nothing. Hallelujah!
My baptism in the Spirit also proved to be the most costly experience of my church life. Others did not believe the genuineness of what had happened, and my Primitive Baptist ordination was revoked. I was barred from the denomination. Friends whom I had loved and trusted for decades vanished overnight. Some refused to speak. Nor was I notified when others died. The pain of my Bethany Church rejection came roaring back in a profoundly harder way. Even so, I have no regrets. Today, I love Primitive Baptists more than ever; you and I are part of the Body of Christ worldwide. I am surrounded by great saints of God who share my identity in the Kingdom. With new wind behind me, the Holy Spirit has sent me to preach in surprising places around the world—Alaska to Argentina, Kazakhstan to the Caribbean, London’s Westminster Chapel to thatched huts in the jungle, house-churches to huge congregations, even Jewish synagogues and Catholic seminaries. People everywhere reach across denominational lines to know the reality of Jesus and the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who seek the Promise of the Father, receive it. Everywhere I go I meet disciples who are desperate for God. His love binds them together more solidly than any doctrine or brand of denominationalism ever could.
At Christian gatherings in England, South America, Asia, and other parts of the world, I have been embraced by total strangers—Pakistanis, Egyptians, Chinese, Latinos, Jews, Sri Lankans, Africans, Iraqis, Europeans, and a host of others. We had never met previously, but all of us had received the Holy Spirit’s wonderful baptism (John 14:16-17). We hugged, loved, and wept in each others arms like long-lost family members. These gatherings represent some 500,000,000 Christians worldwide who now believe in the Spirit’s Gift. One precious Chinese pastor near my age had spent eighteen years working in the cesspool of a Communist prison. When he was finally freed he immediately returned to his preaching about Jesus and His gift of the Holy Spirit. These are Kingdom saints who have marched through martyrdom and pain. They have not divided the church; they have united it. I am humbled to be in their midst.
Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitfield, Count Zinzendorf, Charles Fenny, Dwight L. Moody, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, thousands of the great and small across the centuries, received the filling of the Holy Spirit. Moody said he was so overwhelmed by the presence of the Spirit during his encounter with Him that he cried out for God to “stay His hand.” I too have experienced the Spirit’s Glory in that incredible way. It is real.
A century and a half ago, Charles Spurgeon shouted this warning to the church:
“Death and condemnation to a church that is not yearning after the Spirit, crying and groaning until the Spirit has wrought mightily in her midst. He is here! He has never gone back since He descended at Pentecost … Brethren, if we do not have the Spirit of God, it were better to shut the churches, nail up the doors, put on a black cross and say, ‘God have mercy on us!’ If you ministers have not the Spirit of God, you better not preach and you people had better stay at home. I think I speak not too strong when I say that a church without the Spirit of God is rather a curse than a blessing. This is the solemn word: ‘The Holy Spirit or nothing–and worse than nothing!’”
I am not asking you to believe me or these other men. I am asking you to believe that the Kingdom of God, the Church, the Body of Christ, is still here in its original fullness. I am asking you to believe the total message of Scripture, and not confuse that with Primitive Baptist’s favorite verses. You, your ministry, your church, can thrive again if you fully identify with the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit will anoint you with His presence. He can “restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25).
That can happen now. We are in the “end times” of which Paul speaks in Second Thessalonians 2. Widespread apostasy is exploding in much pseudo-Christianity that rejects the Scripture. Don’t ally yourself with them by rejecting any part of God’s Word. Jesus confirmed the New Testament by sprinkling it with His own blood (Heb. 9:13-15). We must have all of its truth, wisdom, oil, and light to survive the future’s darkness (see, Mat. 25:4).
Whether you love me or loathe me does not change the fact that I care enough for you to pour out my heart in honesty and boldness. I love the Kingdom, the church, and you who serve it.
You may wonder why I am writing this now, and why at such great length. Somewhere among Primitive Baptists I fully believe there are younger men whose hearts the Lord will open to what I say (cf., Acts 16:14). These will take the censer from Maurice Thomas, Obadiah Holmes, me, others, run into the camp of Zion and stop the plague. As Aaron, they will stand “between the dead and living,” and the devastation of the destroyer will be stayed (Num. 16:48-49). Such men will not be silenced again by the vain tradition of their fathers (Mat. 15:3-9; Mark 7:8-13). Not so. The Anointed Word will be in their mouths as “burning fire shut up in their bones” (Jer. 20:9).
Even as I write, my heart is praying loudly, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which of these You have chosen to take part in this ministry” (Acts 2:24). “God Almighty! Raise up more Joshuas and Calebs who will boldly cry for Israel to ‘follow the cloud!’” (Num. 14:6). “Lord, give us men, like those in Moses’ day, who seek baptism in the ‘sea and in the cloud’—the water and the Spirit” (1 Cor. 10:2). “Hear me! O Lord, hear me! Send them to the Rock to drink and be filled!” (John 4:14). “Jesus, Let them hear your invitation, that if they, ‘being evil, know how to give good gifts unto their children how much more shall their heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him’” (Luke 11:13-14). “Lord, inflame their hearts to ask, to weep, to cry aloud, to press in, until they have received! Let every Primitive Baptist, all others with them in the land, hear your voice saying again: “‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…” (John 7:37-39).
Primitive Baptists, hear me! Jesus has now been glorified. The Holy Spirit has been given (Acts 2). You may come and drink! Start praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Better yet, get a group of believers together, fast and pray. Don’t stop until the Holy Spirit has fallen upon you (Acts 10:44)! Receive what Obadiah Holmes shared with his congregations. You too will step into the “Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Life will return to your flock. The death-plague will vanish. And because your ministry has been renewed—is now Kingdom-connected—and not merely the old wineskin of the past (Mat. 9:17), you will find God’s Candlestick blazing around you. Many others have come. They have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and been restored (Acts 19:1-8). Life has returned to their ministries. Why not you? “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him that heareth say, ‘Come.’ And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
That invitation is to you, your ministry, your church. Run to the Rock and drink! Come now!
Books by Charles Carrin — via AMAZON.COM
CHARLES CARRIN’S ministry spans the final half of the twentieth century. He was ordained in 1949 and in his youth traveled with men who preached in the 1800s. For the first twenty-seven years of his ministry, Charles was a hyper-Calvinist Baptist pastor and Presbyterian seminarian who denied the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit. Mid-way in his ministry that abruptly changed when personal crisis forced him to acknowledge Scriptures he had previously ignored. The truths he saw could potentially destroy his denominational ministry and at that point he had no hope that another, more wonderful ministry awaited him. As a result of his submitting to God in that crisis, Charles emerged with an amazing anointing of the Holy Spirit. Today, his ministry centers upon the visible demonstration of the Spirit and imparting of His gifts. He, R.T. Kendall, and Jack Taylor travel together holding Word-Spirit-Power Conferences. He travels as a guest minister, teaching believers how to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. His ministry website is: CharlesCarrinMinistries.com.
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