A Book Review from Books at a Glance
In Baptist History, there are many figures that shine bright, but one often undervalued individual is Benjamin Beddome. In Glory to The Three Eternal: Tercentennial Essays on the Life and Writings of Benjamin Beddome (1718-1795), that seeks to be amended. In this new addition to the Monographs in Baptist History the editors seek to reveal the solidity and fruitfulness of Beddome’s ministry, thus acquainting a new generation to a largely forgotten leading Baptist of his time.
But just who is Benjamin Beddome? Beddome was a Particular Baptist of the eighteenth century, and a pastor of a congregation at Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, who labored during the time of Newton and Whitefield. The contents of Glory to The Three Eternal focus on several aspects of Beddome: a short biography of his life, his Trinitarian theology, his Christology, his Pneumatology, his hymnody, and his stance in regards to Hyper-Calvinism.
To start off, Gary Brady gives a brief overview of Beddome’s life. Sprinkled throughout this chapter are various quotations from Beddome’s hymns/poems, of which there are many! It is made abundantly clear that Beddome was indeed an orthodox Particular Baptist of his time, or as Brady puts it, “a Strict and Particular Baptist and a Sabbatarian in the best sense.” One is brought to see that Beddome was a man who loved God and Christ deeply with a reverential fear that poured forth into his pastoral labors at Bourton-on-the-Water. Near the end of the chapter, Brady narrows in to some specifics regarding Beddome, such as his character and influence, his personal library, and his writings, which include a catechism, many hymns, and what has been recorded of his preaching. There is much to be gathered here, especially for the preacher in regard to an example of a holy life lived for the sake of his congregation.
Michael A. G. Haykin then takes on the subject of Beddome’s Trinitarian theology. More specifically, a majority of the attention is given to Beddome’s catechism, A Scriptural Exposition of the Baptist Catechism by Way of Question and Answer, or A Scriptural Exposition for short. Beddome’s Scriptural Exposition was basically a reworded version of Keach’s catechism but added sub-questions and answers to the main questions. Here is where Beddome’s robust Trinitarianism shines forth. Haykin shows in detail throughout the rest of the chapter the specifics of Beddome’s Trinitarianism, revealing that Beddome was indeed a Baptist Divine par excellence, and that we still have much to glean from his Scriptural Exposition. Both pastors and congregants will find excellent information here, especially in regard to studying/preaching on the Trinity and leading family devotions.
Following Haykin, Jeongmo Yoo tackles the topic of Beddome’s Christology. During the eighteenth century, Christology was a hot topic among Particular Baptists, considering the rise in popularity of Socinianism. With this in view, Beddome’s Christology becomes a topic of great interest to the reader. While Beddome didn’t write any works specifically on Christology, Yoo shows that one can get an overall idea of Beddome’s views through his Catechism and his extant sermons. Throughout this chapter, Yoo sets forth a beautiful tapestry of Beddome’s beliefs regarding Christology, showing how he held to orthodox Christology and beautifully holding in its’ tension the mystery of the Hypostatic Union, without trying to over-explain it. This chapter is a goldmine for preachers, theologians, and church historians, as it gives ample resources for preaching on Christology, aiding in formulating one’s own doctrine, as well as historical data on Christology during the eighteenth century.
Next, Daniel S. Ramsey covers Beddome’s Pneumatology. Throughout this chapter, Ramsey goes through multiple topics regarding the Holy Spirit, such as His role in creation, the earthly life of Christ, conversion, illumination, union with Christ, and much more. While deeply interesting, this appears as the weakest chapter in an otherwise excellent book. The biggest shortcoming is that, while presenting important and interesting information, Ramsey does so in a bullet point type matter, briefly commenting on each topic and not giving much depth. This may be caused by a lack of source material, but it leaves the reader desiring more, especially considering the topic at hand.
Following the topic of Pneumatology, R. Scott Connell discusses the hymns of Beddome, and does so quite exquisitely. Throughout this chapter, Connell gives the reader a large sample of Beddome’s hymnody, showing specifically how his hymns are extremely Evangelical and Baptist. Connell shows how it was generally Beddome’s routine to write a new hymn for his church to sing every Lord’s Day, that would be related to the message that was given that day, so as to aid the congregants in remembering the contents of the message throughout the week. It is a shame that Beddome’s hymns are so little known today, as in his own day he was as well known as Anne Steele, considered only second to her among the Baptists. At the same time, with the resurgence of older hymns, a few of Beddome’s have come to light once again. One only has to think of Did Christ O’er Sinners Weep? To give an idea of just how wonderful Beddome’s hymns truly are, we quote the above mentioned hymn in full:
Did Christ o’er sinners weep?
And shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief
Burst forth from every eye.
The son of God in tears
Angels with wonder see!
Be thou astonished, O my soul,
He shed those tears for thee.
He wept, that we might weep;
Each sin demands a tear;
In heaven alone no sin is found,
And there’s no weeping there.
Joy beams in every eye,
And fills each holy heart;
All join to sound the triumph high
In praise to bear their part.
This chapter, if taken seriously, will greatly aid the pastor and/or music leader in the church, in both choosing excellent hymns to sing as a church body, and possibly nudging pastors in the direction of writing hymns for their congregation as well.
Lastly, Jason C. Montgomery discusses Beddome’s relation to what he calls “the Modern Question.” The term “Modern Question” comes from a work penned by Matthias Maurice, an eighteenth-century Congregational minister. The full title of the work is A Modern Question Modestly Answer’d, and it dealt primarily with the topic of whether or not it is an unawakened sinner’s duty to believe in Christ. The concept of what we now term “Hyper Calvinism” was a hot topic among eighteenth-century Baptists, so it is only natural to ask where Beddome fit in with all of this. Just as Maurice’s answer to the “modern question” was yes, it is the duty of all sinners, whether awakened or not, to believe in Christ, so also did Beddome answer in the affirmative. Despite not writing directly on the topic, Montgomery shows that we have more than enough information from both his Catechism and extant sermons to show that Beddome believed in duty-faith. This chapter is extremely important, especially from an historical standpoint. There is a stereotype of older Reformed Baptists being against missions and pleading with the lost to repent and trust in Christ. While this may have been true of some, Montgomery shows that this definitely was not the case for all, especially the likes of Beddome, as well as Charles Spurgeon and others. While it does not seem that Hyper Calvinism is due a resurgence any time soon, this chapter will prove helpful in staying the rise of the erroneous view.
Overall, Glory to The Three Eternal is a wonderful addition to the Monographs in Baptist History series, and we continue to look forward to future additions. The work will prove beneficial to a diverse readership, touching on subjects such as Church History, Baptist History, Christology, Hymnody, Pneumatology, and Trinitarianism. We trust that the work will also prove instructive to preachers and teachers of the Word, showing them through the example of Beddome how a shepherd ought to conduct himself towards his sheep, and love them to the end.