Sunday, October 2, 2011

Elders Stephen Gard & James Lee

These were associates of Elder Wilson Thompson. Thompson is recognized as one of the supreme leaders of the "Old School" or "Primitive Baptist" denomination, even though he had some very unscriptural and unbaptistic views. For instance, he taught that Jesus Christ has eternally had a human body. Elder Thompson's autobiography and other works are available on the Internet via Hardshell web sites.

There is no question that Elder Thompson at some point departed from his previous convictions regarding the means of the gospel in the regeneration and salvation of the elect. But, the question is, did he believe it at the first? And, was his later Hardshell views the views of his predecessors in the Regular Baptist Church? In other words, were his views the historic views of Baptists, or a novel hybrid view? The latter is the correct reply.

In his autobiography Elder Thompson states that he was taught Baptist doctrine by Elder James Lee and was later baptized by him. Thompson also was a close associate with Elder Stephen Gard of the Miami Association of Ohio. When the division occurred over the question of "missions," in 1836, Gard and Thompson took the "anti-mission" side and became known as the "Old School Baptists."

However, most of the first anti-mission Baptists did not reject outright the utility of the gospel in the eternal salvation of the elect. Such a view would not become part of the "Old School" Baptists till several years later.

Also, James Lee became a leader on the side of those Baptists who supported mission work. Also, Thompson himself at first supported mission work. And, at the first, no one objected to mission work. Elder Gard also supported mission work before he later opposed it. In 1816 Elder James Lee wrote the circular letter for the Miami Association and it was signed by Elder Stephen Gard.

Here are some excerpts from that circular letter (emphasis mine - SG).

To the Churches of Which She (Miami Assocation) is Composed, Sends Christian Salutation:

Dear Brethren:

IN the Lord, as you will expect an Address from us, at our annual meeting, in conformity to our usual custom, we take a pleasure in gratifying your reasonable expectations, and have chosen for the basis of our Epis­tle, the important subject of Missionary establishments.

When we take into consideration, the state and situation of Mankind, in general, throughout the world, it furnishes an extensive field for the christian's contempla­tion. Has not every Christian in this Gospel Land, the greatest reason to bless and adore Zion's King, for having favoured us above any nation on the earth, that he has not left us to roam in the fields of nature, without the advantages of Civilization antl Education; but that we are highly favoured of the Lord, in that we have the Gospel preached, in its purity and have free access to the written revealed will of God, and every mean[s] necessary (agreeably to God's appointment) for the furtherance and advancement of the Gospel. Notwithstanding we are blessed in so peculiar a manner, there are thousands of the human race, that are left in the wilds of nature on our frontiers, wth no other guide or direction, than that of instinct, while many more who have the advantages of science among them, are deprived of the blessings we enjoy, by their lots being cast in remote regions, where the blissful sound of salvation has but seldom, if ever been proclaimed; in addition to these, there are almost innumerable multitudes, who are led astray by the cunning artifices of fanatic teachers who go about to es­tablish their own righteousness, which is calculated to allure the world in general, and if it were possible, to de­ceive the very elect. Ought not we, Brethren, who are so distinguishable favoured, to try to unite our energies and use every mean within the compass of our power for the advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom, by es­tablishing institutions, and casting in our mites for the support of Missionaries, who are willing to go forth and proclaim the joyful sound of Salvation to the Heathens, or to any of the human family, who shall be destitute of a preached Gospel, whether saint or sinner.

Who knows but the Lord will crown our attempts with success, in bringing sinners from darkness to light, and from the power of the antichristian reign jo the liberty of the true Gospel? Our Brethren in many parts of the United States and in Europe, have set us laudible examples, and we have heard with inexpressible joy, some of the success of their efforts, we have heard good news from Burmah, and that the Lord has blessed their labor, in the conversion of some of the ignorant Hindoos, and our prayer is, that Zion's King may conduct their Missions, and bless their efforts to the bringing of thous­ands of the benighted inhabitants of the East to the true light and liberty of the Gospel.

While our Brethren, in different climes are thus engaged, in trying to promote the Redeemer's cause and Kingdom, shall we be idle, or shall we not rather unite our efforts and use every mean[s] in our power, and pray God to crown our attempts, to the bringing of thousands to the fold of Jesus, such as he will delight to own in the day, when he maketh up his jewels?

The promulgation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ought to be the ruling object of every christian who wishes his fellow beings well, or who has the cause of Zion at his heart. When our Saviour was on the earth, he sent fourth [sic] his disciples to proclaim salvation to a dying world. The Apostles after his ascension were zealous­ly engaged in spreading the Gospel of their crucified Lord, and it appears that the labors of the Apostles and their successors were blessed to the conversion of mul­titudes of the human family, and religion, while estab­lished on its true basis, flourished as far as the Gospel was proclaimed by those inspired teachers.

But we have to lament that the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, has been permitted, for wise purposes, to retard the progress of the glorious Gospel; and had not God in his providence prevented it, would have obliterated the name of Christians, from the face of the earth. But the Lord still had a remnant that had not bowed to the image of Baal, and in his own due time began to work their deliverance, — he has placed his appointed means (to deliver his children from under the tyranic reign of Satan, and the antichristian power) in the possession of his church, and when his appointed time arrives, the means will be blessed to the salvation of the bride, the Lamb's Wife. We know not when, nor in what manner, the Lord designs to bring about his gloribus work of grace; let us therefore exert our power, and all the means in our possession, and look to the Lord to bless our endeavours.

Dear Brethren, be instant at the throne of Grace, pray God that he may send more laborers into the work of the Ministry, for truly the Harvest is great and the laborers few; and now may the God of all grace so reign, rule and over rule, all our efforts and attempts to do the will of our glorious redeemer, in that way that shall best redound to his own honor and glory.

STEPHEN GARD, Moderator.
R. AYRES, Clerk.

Notice that Elder James Lee and Elder Stephen Gard believed that the gospel was the God ordained means of saving the elect! It is the view that Elder Thompson himself believed, at least at the start of his ministry.

Besides these facts, gleaned from the circular letter, consider the fact that the Miami Association had adopted the London Confession of Faith which clearly taught the use of the gospel in saving the elect.

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