Saturday, October 8, 2011

Elder Joshua Lawrence

Joshua Lawrence (1778-1843) was a leader in the anti-mission movement in the early 19th century and may be considered a founding father of the Hardshell sect. But, like many of the first opposers of missions and theological education, he did not deny that the gospel was a means used by God in begetting the elect. How do we know this?

First, because he, like all the first Hardshells, endorsed the Philadelphia confession, which was itself an endorsement of the London Confession of 1689. This confession clearly taught the use of means in the divine begetting.

Second, he helped to start the old periodical, "The Primitive Baptist," in Tarboro, North Carolina. This paper contains articles which taught that conversion to Christ, by the gospel, was the new birth, a viewed shared by the "Signs of the Times," which Lawrence also supported.

Third, Lawrence was in full fellowship with Elder James Osbourn who taught that conversion by the gospel was the same thing as being "born again."

Fourth, Lawrence also was in full fellowship with Elder Lawrence Greatrake and Elder John M. Watson, who both taught means in being born again.

Fifth, Lawrence subscribed to the Kehukee articles of faith which also taught that being born again involved faith and repentance, and involved a sinner's accepting the gospel's "offers of mercy."

Elder Mark Bennett, an editor of "The Primitive Baptist," published the Kehukee articles in said periodical in 1838. Here are some of those articles:

“An abstract of the principles then agreed to, and the substance of which afterwards was published in print, by order of the Association at Whitfield’s meeting house, Pitt county, North Carolina, 1779, is as follows:

2. We believe that Almighty God has made known his mind and will to the children of men in his word; which word we believe to be of divine authority, and contains all things necessary to be known for the salvation of men and women. The same is comprehended or contained in the books of the Old and New Testament, as are commonly received.

Clearly Bennett and Lawrence believed that salvation involved "knowing" truth from scripture. Some things are "necessary to be known," from the scriptures, in order to be saved.

7. We believe that in God’s own appointed time and way, (by means which he has ordained) the elect shall be called, justified, pardoned and sanctified; and that it is impossible they can utterly refuse the call; but shall be made willing by divine grace to receive the offers of mercy.

Clearly Lawrence, like Bennett, believed that "means" were ordained for the calling and saving of the elect, and that this "call" involved "offers of mercy," and that such "offers" were to be "received."

8. We believe that justification in the sight of God is only by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ received and applied by faith alone.

Lawrence believed that Christ's righteousness was "received and applied by faith," and thus believed that the gospel was a means.

9. We believe in like manner, that God’s elect shall not only be called and justified, but that they shall be converted; born again, and changed by the effectual working of God’s Holy Spirit.

Clearly Lawrence believed that all the elect would be "converted" and that this conversion experience, like regeneration, was by "the effectual working of God's Holy Spirit."

See here for Bennett's article from "The Primitive Baptist."

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