Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hardshells & The London Confession VII

Chapter 132

In the preceding chapters it was shown that the Hardshells who met in Fulton, Kentucky in 1900 confessed adherence to the London Baptist Confession of 1689.  They did this because this was the Confession that their forefathers had all adopted and is the major link in proving their supposed right to be called "primitive" Baptists.  However, even as many later Hardshells confess, the Confession clearly teaches both the absolute predestination of all things and Gospel means, the two major doctrines rejected by the Hardshells in Fulton.  Many Hardshells acknowledge that those Fulton elders simply were trying to distort the Confession on these doctrines to make it agree with their views.  This has led many of today's Hardshells to distance themselves from the London Confession and seek to find another line of "succession" for their churches.  Michael Ivey sought to find it in the Welsh Baptists through the Midland Confession, but in this he failed, as I have shown in separate postings in my "Old Baptist" blog and will incorporate in the future into this book when I review Hardshell histories.  Elder Harold Hunt, long time elder with the Hardshells, wrote a book in 2007, referred to previously, wherein he acknowledged that the Fulton elders were attempting to make the London Confession to say what it does not say, and also admits that it taught the Gospel means position.  This led Hunt to affirm that the Hardshells cannot claim succession through those churches who endorsed the London Confession and sought, like Ivey, to find another ancestry.  He claimed a succesion from the "AnaBaptists." 

Every Hardshell when first confronted with the London Confession and the work of the Fulton gathering is forced to decide whether 1) the London Confession teaches means, and 2) whether the Fulton footnotes are accurate interpretations of the Confession or vain attempts to "explain it away."  When I first read the London Confession as a young elder with the Hardshells, I saw clearly what it taught and I also saw how the Fulton footnotes were not honest interpretations of the Confession,  This caused me no small amount of discomfort since the elders at Fulton were some of the "great" men in the Hardshell denomination. 

In the previous chapters we have gone through the London Confession, looked at the Fulton footnotes, and shown how the Confession taught the Gospel means position and that the footnotes were indeed attempts to make the Confession agree with Hardshellism's "no means" position.  We also cited works by some of the signatories to the London Confession, particularly Keach's Catechism, to show what was clearly the understanding of the London brethren.  In this posting we will now cite some statements from some documents of the oldest associations and periodicals in America and from some of the leading men who wrote to explain the London Confession in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  We will also cite some of the first leaders of the "anti-mission" movement.  This will show that it was always the understanding of the oldest Hardshell churches that the London Confession taught the Gospel means position. 

In the "Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor," a Hardshell periodical from the 1830s, a writer wrote (see here): (emphasis mine)

Extracts From Circular Letters. The Elders and Messengers, composing the Lexington Particular Baptist Association—to the several independent Churches, of which it is composed, send greeting (1841).

"Whatever may be the instrumentality, which may be employed, the Holy Ghost alone begins and completes the work of awakening the dead sinner, and giving him, and supporting in him, eternal life. It is the Holy Ghost alone, that causes the sound of the Gospel, "the voice of the Son of God" to reverberate through the cold and dreary regions, of the sinners heart, and that brings him to the sense of hearing. It is the Spirit alone that accompanies the sense of hearing, in the sinner, with the sense of seeing; and removes all impediments to his having a view of the rays of light, which beam forth from the Sun of Righteousness; from whence he now hears a Voice that speaks, as never man spake: by which illumination he is brought to discern, that the great things—the incomparable accents of the said voice, are irrefragible truth. By this light the Spirit leads the awakened sinner, to a knowledge of the only true God." (pgs. 38. 39)

"But notwithstanding this, he desires happiness as much as ever; but he does not desire it at the expense of God's glory. He now is prepared to be brought to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Spirit leads his mind to trace these rays of light to their source; and to his unspeakable astonishment, he discovers that the source of this incomparable light, is the Lamb of God..— The Sin Atoning Lamb!!—that all these emotions within him, have originated from the Spirit of Christ!—generated &. nourished by the fructifying rays, that emanate from this Sun of suns,— the Sun Of Righteousness! His soul is absorbed with wonder mid amazement! Here he beholds the Way, the only way to God,—here he beholds the Truth, the truth of God,—and here he discovers and realizes the Life, the life of God. These views [brought home in the Spirit's power,] transform his soul into the likeness of Christ—He now has the Spirit of Christ."

"These divine realities take possession of every Christian heart; and when the sinner is thus taught, he may then be said to know the Lord Jesus Christ. And this knowledge is eternal life. "And this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, & Jesus Christ whom he hath sent." This knowledge has a transforming influence upon his soul, and he aspires to a greater knowledge of this kind—to "grow in grace and increase in the knowledge of Christ Jesus." All this knowledge &, change, is free sovereign grace." (pgs. 38, 39)

Elder Daniel Jewett was editor of this periodical and many of the first generation Hardshells wrote for it, including Elder Osbourn, Elder Beebe, Elder Wilson Thompson, Elder Stephen Gard, etc.  In that same periodical, Osbourn was a frequent writer. 

Here is what Elder Osbourn, a leader in the original division between the "Old School" and "New School," wrote about the purpose of the gospel (emphasis mine SG).

"But if so be that the specific object which the Deity had in-view, and designed to accomplish by means of, or in a way compatible with the gospel which he ordained and promulgated, was the eternal salvation of the bride, the Lamb's wife, Rev. 21; 9; we then of course may safely conclude, that that specific object must and will be accomplished, just in that way and manner as infinite wisdom may have dictated. And lo, this is what we do believe and rejoice in; and in the gospel we also believe, every necessary arrangement and provision is made and permanently settled for the effecting the salvation of that church which was the object of God's everlasting love and delight, and which he gave to his Son before time began.

That God ordained the GOSPEL, and promulgated the same, with a settled purpose to save sinners thereby; and hence in this his gospel he says, "I will give them an heart to know me, that 1 am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God : for they shall return unto me with,their whole heart." And again says the Lord, 'Zaccheus make haste and come down, for to day I must abide at thy house.' And again it is said, 'As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.' And we are told that the Lord works in men to will and to do of his own good pleasure; and that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost; Jer. 24, 7; Luke, 19, 5; Acts, 11, 48; Phil. 2, 13; Luke 19, 10. (14, 15)."
(pg. 14)

In a Philadelphia Assocation Circular Letter on "Effectual Calling," Elder John Gano, pastor of the First Baptist Church, New York City, wrote the following in 1784.  He was sent out from the Philadelphia Association to North Carolina prior to the formation of the Kehukee Association and was instrumental in forming churches of the "Regular" or "Particular" Baptist faith. 

"I. The call. This is an act of sovereign grace, which flows from the everlasting love of God, and is such an irresistible impression made by the Holy Spirit upon the human soul, as to effect a blessed change. This impression or call is sometimes immediate, as in the instance of Paul and others; though more ordinarily through the instrumentality of the word and providence of God. Though in both the impression or power upon the soul or rational principle of operation must be the same. This may be considered as one power capable of exerting itself in various modes; as in perceiving, choosing, refusing, loving, hating, &c. Likewise the impression before mentioned may be viewed as one spiritual principle of operation in the soul, exerting itself in divers ways, rather than as different principles of grace.

IV. Its efficacy.  This call produces a consciousness of the absolute impossibility of our contributing in the least degree towards a recovery from this wretched condition, and destroys all confidence of help in the flesh. It is a call to Christ, and gives a view of him in his suitableness and ability as a Saviour; the merit of his obedience and sacrifice, and the treasures of his grace are all brought into view, which creates desires of an interest in him, and resolutions of looking unto and relying wholly upon him for salvation; at the same time cordially acknowledging desert of rejection from him, and yet strengthened to rely entirely upon and surrender all unto the disposal of Christ; setting to our seals that God is true; believing the record he has given of his Son, which is eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. The changes produced are from darkness to light, from bondage to liberty, from alienation and estrangedness to Christ to a state of nearness and fellowship with him and his saints. This call administers peace of conscience towards God, and disposes its subjects to peace with mankind, so far as is consistent with righteousness."

This is clearly an affirmation of the Gospel means position and what he understood the Philadelphia and London Confessions to teach.

In a another circular letter by the same association, the oldest in America, Elder David Jones wrote on "Saving Faith" in 1788 these words:

"Saving faith may be thus defined, "That grace whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, which is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word." By this grace the person is enabled to believe all divine truths revealed in the holy scriptures; and in particular to apprehend the Lord Jesus Christ and to rely alone on his atoning blood for acceptance in the sight of God. The apostle, speaking of salvation1 said, "By grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God," Eph. ii. 8. The same apostle informs us that the Ephesians were dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others; but when the gospel of Christ was preached, the Holy Ghost working with the word, opened their hearts to receive it, and by his powerful operations implanted this grace, by which they were enabled to believe the record that God has given of his Son. The precious grace of faith is a free and sovereign gift of God, conveyed through the power of the Holy Ghost, and the instrumentality of the word; and is co-existent with regeneration, if not an essential part of it; and as it is not of ourselves, we see that all boasting is excluded, so that we may all say, "by the grace of God, we are what we are.""

Again, it is clear that the leaders of the Philadelphia Association believed in Gospel means and is why they adopted the London Confession with some things added, and called it the Philadelphia Confession, the Confession that most Hardshell churches adopted before their departure from the faith in the great division of 1832.

In 1795 Elder Samuel Jones, D. D., wrote a circular letter for the Association on "The Gospel" and said:

"In the Gospel we find free grace, free mercy, free pardon ; faith and repentance are freely given, and, with them, a new heart, a new nature, new life, all is new, all is free.

The applications of the Gospel under the influence of the divine Spirit, in the work of conviction and conversion, is absolutely necessary, in order to our receiving saving benefit from it. In this precious work of grace in our hearts, the Law and Gospel, considered as means, go hand in hand, and are often found in the same verse. By the one is the knowledge of sin, by the other the discovery of deliverance. The one worketh despair, the other faith and hope."

"...who in God's own time and way are renewed and sanctified, made holy here and happy hereafter. To this end means are appointed, chiefly the word and the ministration thereof; wherein the state of the sinner by nature, and the way of recovery through rich grace is unfolded; and it pleases God to enlighten the mind; move on the affections, and subdue the will. The sinner is awakened and convicted; he sees his danger; is filled with concern of mind; enquires what he must do to be saved; has repentance unto life given him; is led to see the fulness, freeness, suitableness, and glory of the way of life through a Redeemer; is enabled to lay hold by faith of this hope; is transformed by the renewing of his mind; has the constraining love of God shed abroad in his heart; is humbled and abased in himself, yet triumphs in the mercy and power of God; and thus being filled with holy zeal, he goes on his way rejoicing."

Again, this is clear proof that the Baptists of the oldest Particular Baptist Association in America believed the same thing that is affirmed in the London Confession of 1689.

The Kehukee Association is the fourth oldest Association in America, after the Philadelphia, Charleston, and Sandy Creek Associations.  This Association divided over the mission question, and other related points, and the Hardshell faction became one of the leading voices for the newly formed "Primitive Baptist Church."  This Association originally believed in Gospel means, in missions, theological education for ministers, and many other things that many in the Association would later declare non-fellowship for.  Here are three articles from the Kehukee Associations own Confession of 1777 which show that the Association originally believed the Gospel means position.

Kehukee Articles of faith (1777)

7. We believe in God's appointed time and way (by means which he has obtained) the elect shall be called, justified 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.
8. We believe that justification in the sight of God is only by imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, received and applied by faith alone.
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 workings of God's Holy Spirit.

In a 1791 circular letter "On the Maintenance of the Ministry" (see here), Elder Martin Ross wrote:

"The Messengers of the several Baptist churches belonging to the United Baptist Association, formerly called the Kehukeee Association, met at the Flat Swamp meeting-house, in Pitt county, North Carolina, October, 1791: To the several churches in union with this Association, send greeting: —


OUR Divine Lord and Master, in the course of an indulgent providence, hath favored us with another anniversary interview, by which we obtain knowledge of the circumstances of the churches that compose this convention; and we also received agreeable information concerning the interest and growth of our adorable Redeemer’s kingdom in many other places. And it must give peculiar pleasure to every gracious soul to hear, "that he who sitteth between the cherubims has stretched forth his mighty arm, and is making a willing people in the day of his power."

And since Almighty God, in carrying on this glorious work, is pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, it therefore becomes necessary that there should be a number of preachers or ministers of the Gospel. And according to the direction of our last Association, we proceed, in our circular letter, at this time, to make a few observations on the necessary support or maintenance of Gospel ministers; although we are very sorry that there should be the least occasion to write or speak upon that subject..." [p. 83]

"Finally, brethren, those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen, do; and the God of peace shall be with you."

Clearly the Kehukee Baptists were not Hardshell and anti-missionaries in 1791! They believed that preachers of the gospel preach a gospel that saves believers in Christ. They also believed in the church financially supporting evangelists.

Elder William Fristoe, brother to Elder Daniel Fristoe, wrote a history of the Ketocton Association (1808). In this history there is given "A Summary of the leading Principles holden by this Association," and here are a couple of those principles (emphasis mine - SG).

THIRDLY -That the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God; that they were given by divine inspiration, and that this system of divine revelation comprehends everything necessary for us to know concerning God and the direction of our obedience to Him. By this divine book God hath made revelation of His gracious design in saving poor sinners, and pointed out the way through the mediation of the Lord Jesus, that by the instrumentality of this sacred word, stubborn and obstinate sinners are brought into the obedience of faith, and the incorrigible left without excuse; and that by this word of the Lord all men shall be judged in the last day.

EIGHTHLY-That those that are redeemed by Christ, are in due time called to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus -embracing Him as the only way to God, and saviour of poor sinners. This effectual calling is accomplished by the agency of the Holy Ghost operating in a free, irresistible and unfrusterable manner, by which the understanding is enlightened, and the will subjected to Christ. Hence the scriptures testify that they are made willing in the day of His power. This internal change, or new birth in the soul, is wholly ascribed to the power of God; for it is said of the regenerate: They are begotten of God, quickened of God, born of God -all expressive that it is the Lord's work, and He is entitled to the praise."  (see here)

"On the doctrine of Regeneration" - SECOND LETTER - By William Fristoe, we read:

"Now, lastly, the cause or means that effect this divine change. God is the only efficient cause -His love the moving cause -His spirit and His word the ministering cause. Thus we are said to be begotten by the word of His truth through the gospel, born again to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away; reserved in Heaven for you; who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. oh, brethren! what a rich display of infinite wisdom, sovereign power and unmerited love, in devising and accomplishing such a glorious system of redemption and deliverance for the wretched self-ruined race, that they may partake of this divine blessing here in time, and receive precious faith, and precious promises, all flowing from the more precious Christ! O, beloved brethren! what infinite obligations are we under unto the adorable Jehovah, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, from the dead. O let us prize that blessed gospel, that reveals such a glorious hope -that accomplishes such divine purposes -and turns from darkness to light, from the power of sin and Satan, to serve the living God. Let us manifest in our lives, that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that by the power of the Holy Ghost."  (see here)

Needless to say, this is not Hardshell "Primitive Baptist" teaching.

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