Monday, October 3, 2011

Elder Lawrence Greatrake

It is a little known fact that Lawrence Greatrake (1793-c.1840) was one of the first vocal leaders of the "anti-mission movement," and a founding father of the "Primitive Baptist Church," aka "Hardshells." In my studies of Hardshell history I have noticed how there are some founding fathers of Hardshellism who get little recognition, or wholly ignored, such men as Daniel Parker, James Osbourn, John Watson, and Lawrence Greatrake. Why is this?

Who was Lawrence Greatrake?

Greatrake was a staunch "Regular Baptist" and opposer of Alexander Campbell, writing numerous pamphlets against him. Campbell mentions him in his "Christian Baptist." He was involved in the division in the Pittsburgh (Penn.) split over Campbellism, the church that produced Signey Rigdon of Mormom fame. You can read some of Greatrake's writings against Campbellism at

But, not only was Greatrake an opposer of Campbell but also an opposer of the mission movement of the early 19th century. If one reads the old issues (1830s) of "The Baptist" periodical, published in Nashville by R. B. C. Howell, he will learn that Greatrake was alligned with Joshua Lawrence, James Osbourn, John Watson, and Washington Lowe, all leaders in the "anti-mission movement." When the church in Nashville and at Mill Creek experienced trouble with some members who were Hardshells, Greatrake joined with Watson, Lowe, and Osbourn to constitute the minority into Hardshell churches.

Greatrake published, in 1838, a work called "Anti-Missionary Dissertation on the Commission," which I have not yet been able to read, but the sidneyrigdon web page is in the process of making it available. It was published in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

But, although Greatrake, like others in the anti-mission movement, opposed "methods" used in spreading the gospel, nevertheless did not deny that God used the means of the gospel in the eternal salvation of the elect. Greatrake wrote much in poetry form. Notice these words of his.

Sanctify them, O Father, through thy truth,
From the womb of th' morning, and the dews of youth!
Thy word is truth -- no other instrument
Hast thou ordained to make man penitent:
My word is truth -- no other source can prove
The means of blessing to the souls I love.
The world, O Father! hates thy sacred word,
And all the vision that it can afford.
The truth is what must bless the chosen race,
The doctrine I have preached, of sov'reign grace.
Father! give them pastors after thine own heart,
Who shall know the truth, and that truth impart;
That my sheep still may through them hear my voice,
Avoid false doctrine, and in truth rejoice.

For their dear sakes, myself I sanctify,
Am set apart to suffer and to die.
The object is, that they one and all may be,
In time appointed, set apart to thee,
As chosen vessels -- monuments of grace --
A holy nation -- a peculiar race!
The Truth of My Gospel thou hast ordain'd to be,
The blessed means, from all eternity

No! -- miracles were ne'er design'd to give,
That faith by which the elect of God all live!
That is the product of the Spirit's power!
Who have it own the God-head of the doer!
As preaching, so miracles may or may not be,
The means of faith -- as may be God's decree.

The truth is this -- my gospel loud proclams,
To give repentance and faith the Saviour reigns
These fools know not -- 'tis my sovereign instrument,
To make my people truly penitent;
And to their souls the "election's" faith convey,
Which faith shall end in heaven's immortal day.

For them the pages of my sacred word,
Exhortations, precepts,and commands afford --
'Tis by the foolishness of preaching them,
God shews his sov'reign power in saving men!

Man is condemned already -- e'er the gospel came!
And thus of him the words of God proclaim:
If he believe not -- condemn he'll still remain!
If he believe not, then full proof is given
He ne'er was chosen to be heir of heaven!

Then, from Greatrake's non-poetic writings, same page, he says:

"Again we repeat that not exercising evangelical faith in Christ, does not make men guilty -- is not the cause of their final condemnation: But the want of that faith leaves them guilty, leaves them condemned -- leaves them in a state of nature, leaves them where they fell to in Adam's transgression, and where God designed they should remain! For those who pretend to preach salvation by grace, for them to hold such a sentiments is a most gross inconsistency: And yet, alas! how many professed Calvinist ministers do it! But the cause of this inconsistency is most obvious -- to wit: by making it the moral duty of all men to believe, they make it the moral duty of all men to support a ministry as the means by which they are to believe; and they also make it the moral duty of man, woman and child to fill up their meeting houses and make them out respectable congregations: But the truth and the divine commission is, "go, preach my gospel," not as the moral duty of all men to believe, but as the simple (and to the world foolish) means of giving unto the elect repentance and faith! It is the instrument of salvation to the church, not a moral obligation to the world!!"

And, again he wrote:

"Declare the whole counsel of God!! the doctrine of Jehovah's sovereignty is as likely to be blessed by the Holy Ghost to salvation, as that of repentance!

God ordains ONE ONLY, and grand instrument, to save sinners and bless his Church, and that is, his Gospel in all its doctrine, precept and promise!"

See here for these citations from Greatrake.

This is simply more evidence that the first leaders of the Hardshells, ones yet recognized as the great leaders of hardshellism after the "split" with the "Missionaries," believed that the preaching of the gospel was a means used by God in begetting the elect, though they were opposers of the new methods being used to spread the gospel.

Hardshells need to come along and say, either

1) We are not primitive or original, or
2) We can show proof that the first leaders of our denomination rejected means altogether in the work of saving the elect (in which case they need to present the evidence!).

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