CHRISTMAS EVANS AND HIS EXPERIENCE WITH SANDEMANIANISM AND SABELLIANISM
Alexander Campbell was influenced by the forces of John Glas and Sademanianism. This emphasized a sterile intellectualism that was in some ways anti-spiritual. Without the influence of Barton Stone and the "Christians" no Restoration Movement would have survived. We need both heart and mind in our spiritual development. The story of Christmas Evans teaches us some valuable things.
[adapted from Sermons and Memoirs of Christmas Evans by Joseph Cross, Kregel 1986.]
(Christmas Evans was born Christmas Day, 1766 in Wales and "was saved" at age 18. He was known as the "one-eyed man from Anglesea that is a prophet sent from God." Large crowds gathered to hear his powerful eloquence.)
About this time arose among the Baptists of North Wales a bitter and distracting controversy, concerning Sandemanianism and Sabellianism, which had been introduced by the Rev. Mr. Jones, a man of considerable learning and influence in the denomination. Mr. Evans was at first inclined to fall in with these doctrines, and participated largely in the strife of tongues. He says: "The Sandemanian system affected me so far as to quench the spirit of prayer for the conversion of sinners, and it induced in my mind a greater regard for the smaller things of the kingdom of heaven than for the greater. I lost all strength which clothed my mind with zeal, confidence, and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ. My heart retrograded, in a manner, and I could not realize the testimony of a good conscience. Sabbath nights, after having been in the day exposing and vilifying with all bitterness the errors that prevailed, my conscience felt as if displeased, and reproached me that I had lost nearness to, and walking with God. It would intimate that something exceedingly precious was now wanting in me; I would reply, that I was acting in obedience to the word; but it continued to accuse me of the want of some precious article. I had been robbed, to a great degree, of the spirit of prayer and of the spirit of preaching."
Mr. Evans thus describes the effect of this controversy upon his people:
"The Sandemanian spirit began to manifest itself in the counties of Merioneth, Caernarvon, Anglesea, and Denbigh, and the first visible effect was the subversion of the hearers, for which the system was peculiarly adapted; intimating, as it did, that to Babylon the crowd of hearers always belonged. We lost, in Anglesea, nearly all those who were accustomed to attend with us; some of them joined other congregations; and, in this way, it pulled down nearly all that had been built up in twelve or fifteen years, and made us appear once again a mean and despicable party in the view of the country. The same effects followed it in a greater or lesser degree in the other counties noticed; but its principal station appears to have been in Merionethshire; this county seems to have been particularly prepared for its reception, and here it achieved by some means a sort of supremacy."
Mr. Evans had been a long time in this controversy, destitute of all religious enjoyment, or, to use his own expressive phrase, 'as dry as Gilboa,' when he experienced a remarkable refreshing from the presence of the Lord. He wrote: "From this time, I was made to expect the goodness of God to churches and to myself. Thus the Lord delivered me and the people of Anglesea from being carried away by the flood of Sandemanianism. In the first religious meetings after this, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost, into the verdant fields of the divine promises. The former striving with God in prayer, and the longing anxiety for the conversion of sinners, which I had experienced at Lëyn, was now restored. I had a hold of the promises of God. The result was, when I returned home, the first thing that arrested my attention was, that the Spirit was working also in the brethren in Anglesea, inducing in them a spirit of prayer, especially in two of the deacons, who were particularly importunate that God would visit us in mercy, and render the word of his grace effectual amongst us for the conversion of sinners."
Mr. Evans now entered into a solemn covenant with God, made, as he says, "under a deep sense of the evil of his heart, and in dependence upon the infinite grace and merit of the Redeemer." Some of this renewed determination can be seen in the following.
1. "I give my soul and body unto Thee, Jesus, the true God, and everlasting life - deliver me from sin, and from eternal death, and bring me into life everlasting. Amen."
2. "I call the day, the sun, the earth, the trees, the stones, the bed, the table, and the books, to witness that I come unto Thee, Redeemer of sinners, that I may obtain rest for my soul from the thunders of guilt and the dread of eternity."
3. "I do, through confidence in Thy power, earnestly entreat Thee to take the work into Thine own hand, and give me a circumcised heart, that I may love Thee, and create in me a right spirit, that I may seek Thy glory. Grant me that principle which Thou will own in the day of judgment, that I may not then assume pale facedness, and find myself a hypocrite. Grant me this, for the sake of Thy Most Precious Blood. Amen."
4. "I entreat Thee, Jesus, the Son of God, in power, grant me, for the sake of Thy agonizing death, a covenant-interest in Thy blood, which cleanseth; in Thy righteousness, which justifieth; and in Thy redemption, which delivereth. I entreat an interest in Thy blood, for Thy BLOOD'S sake, and a part in Thee, for Thy Name's sake, which Thou has given among men. Amen."