Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hardshells & the London Confession II

Chapter 127

In the previous chapter it was noted how the Hardshells have been divided over the London Confession of faith.  Historically, it was adherence to this Confession that the founding fathers of the "Primitive Baptist Church" claimed to be the original Baptist church.  It was also shown how it was due to a departure from the teachings of the Confession regarding the absolute predestination of all things and of God's use of the Gospel in the salvation of the elect that led later generations to either twist and distort the Confession's teaching on those topics or to disregard it altogether and to admit that it does not teach basic Hardshell views.  The Fulton Confession was an attempt to justify the historic adherence to the Confession by denying that it taught absolute predestination of all things and the means position.  However, it was a failure, as Elder Hunt confessed, for the Confession clearly teaches those doctrines, a fact which many other Hardshells have frankly, though reluctantly, admitted.  In this chapter we will continue to cite from leading Hardshell writers for proof of this.

Ivey continued (emphasis mine - SG):

"Elder Cox's appendix suggests that in 1646 not all Particulars Baptists embraced certain principles of Calvinism. But, adoption of the overtly Calvinistic tenets of the 1689 Confession indicates if dissenting arguments were presented at the general conference, they were not publicly acknowledged. Inclusion of Chapter Ten, parts one and three, which deals with gospel instrumentality in the effectual call, and Chapter fourteen, part one, which describes saving faith through a concert of divine impartation and rational belief of the gospel, together with supporting scriptural references, all serve to demonstrate the commitment the conferees had to Calvin's doctrine. By expressing the heart of Calvin's theory of regeneration in their Confession they moved away from those brethren who held to primitive faith. This tends to indicate the theology of the 1689 Confession went beyond political expediency and embraced conscience. These brethren were Calvinists with regard to Gospel agency. It must be assumed they heartily believed what they wrote into their Confession."

Thus, Ivey agrees with Hanks, Tolley, Garrett, Sarrels, Hunt, and others, that the London Confession teaches the Gospel means position. 

In the forward to Ivey's work, he wrote:

"This book began as a simple desire to understand a seeming inconsistency which I believed existed in Primitive Baptist history relative to the question of our succession as Christ's church. I could not resolve the differences I perceive between Primitive Baptist Confessions of Faith and the 1689 London Confession of Faith. I heard various arguments relating to differences in language, but did not accept them because the King James Version of the Bible is written in the same language and is readily understandable. I was given an explanation that the London brethren were attempting to escape persecution and so, wrote an "acceptable" confession. This did not seem to make sense to me since the church has always been a dissenting body from popular religion and always suffered persecution for her convictions. It did not seem reasonable that men who came to Baptist conviction knowing full well the persecution they must suffer would suddenly lay their convictions aside to avoid persecution. My problem with resolving the language of the London Confession to Primitive Baptist faith was centered around the concepts of saving faith, and gospel agency as it is described in Articles 10 and 14 of the 1689 edition."

Ivey acknowledges that the Hardshells have a problem with the fact that the London Confession has been historically adopted by the "Primitive Baptist Church" as proof that they had a succession to Baptists of former centuries and were therefore not a new denomination.  The insurmountable difficulty is, however, that what the Confession teaches on Gospel instrumentality is opposed to Hardshell views.  He then states what has been one of the ways that his forefathers dealt with this problem.  He gives the response of those who wrote the foreward to the Fulton Confession wherein they sought to convince others that the old Confession did not really teach the Gospel means position, but only seems to do so, and that the reason why it only seemed to do so was because of the old English in which it was written.  Ivey rejects this line of reasoning and so should all others.  Ivey also gives another justification of the Hardshells in response to their historic acceptance of the Confession, a Confession which teaches contrary to Hardshell views.  He says that some Hardshells claim that the signers of the Confession really did not believe in Gospel means, even though the Confession says that they did.  Ivey rejects this position also for he saw that the signers of the Confession were not dishonest men or men who would lie about their beliefs (as charged by some Hardshells) through fear of persecution. 

The articles of the Confession that Ivey confesses are not in keeping with Hardshell beliefs are cited by him.  He says:

"In part these articles state:
Article 10, Part 1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto Life, he is pleased, in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call by his word, and Spirit, out of that state of sin, and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and Salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his Almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his Grace.
Article 14, Part 1. The Grace of Faith, whereby the Elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the Ministry of the Word; by which also and by the administration of Baptism, and the Lords Supper, Prayer and other means appointed of God, it is increased, and strengthened."
In response, Ivey writes:

"The archaic language and punctuation of the London Confession, to some measure, leaves the meanings of the these articles open to interpretations. However, inclusion of proof texts seem to indicate the London brethren believed in gospel agency, or instrumentality, in regeneration. Particularly, the use of II Thessalonians 2:13-14 as a proof text for Article 10 led me to conclude the authors believed that gospel utility includes its employment as a verbal instrument of effectual calling in regeneration. In addition, the use of Romans 10:14-17 to define the Ministry of the Word in Article 14 caused me to believe they were writing of the preached word, despite the use of capital punctuation. If I understand what they wrote, it is: The divine influence of faith, whereby the Elect are enabled to believe and thereby save their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily produced by the agency of the preached word."

There is no "archaic language" in the London Confession.  That is what some Hardshells want others to believe so that they can get them to believe that the Confession does not really say what it says.  Ivey is honest enough to acknowledge that the Confession's statements, as cited above, do in fact teach that God saves his people through the preaching of the Gospel. 

Ivey continued:
"My perplexity concerning the meanings of these articles was heightened when I read a copy of the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith. I discovered the language of Article 10, parts 1 and 3 in the two Confessions is identical. Also, I found the only difference in the language of Article 14, part 1 is the London Confession substituted the phrase, "by the administration of Baptism, and the Lords Supper, Prayer and other Means appointed of God" for the Westminster phrase "by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer." Apparently, the only hesitance the Particular Baptists had with this part of the article of the Westminster Confession was the latter's reference to baptism and the Lord's supper as sacraments. The only other difference I found was incidental punctuation and capitalization. At first, I thought capitalization had some significance, but upon closer review I discovered the original transcript of the London Confession used capitalization indiscriminately. Therefore, I was unable to determine any significance for capitalized words."

Ivey, like other Hardshells, find it impossible to honestly accept the reasoning of the elders who wrote the foreward and reworked the old London Confession in Fulton, Kentucky.  Ivey knows that the Confession's words unmistakedly teach the Gospel means position.  He also rejects the twisting of some Hardshells who argue that "the Word" by which men are effectually called is not the Gospel, is Christ, because "Word" is capitalized in the Confession.  He shows that this is no proof for the Confession made frequent use of capitalization.  He also sees that the texts the Confession refers to for proof of their affirmations shows that they meant the Gospel or the Scriptures by their use of "the Word." 

Ivey continued:
"Knowing that Presbyterian Calvinism teaches a principle of gospel agency in regeneration using the same two articles to set forth their position, I became convinced the early Particular Baptists also must have believed the same."

Ivey sees several reasons why it cannot be denied that the Confession taught the Gospel means position.  He cannot bring himself to accept the premises of the Fulton Convention whereby they sought to pervert the words and intention of the authors of the London Confession.  Ivey is simply saying what many other Hardshells, like the elders I have already cited, have also reluctantly confessed.  When I was a Hardshell elder and read the old Confession, there was no doubt in my mind about what they taught.  I also was forced to affirm what Sarrels and Hunt confessed about the authors of the Fulton Confession.  They were attempting to "explain away" the Confession's clear teachings,  a "literary effort of TORTURING of language," and to "to make this old article MEAN WHAT IT DOES NOT SAY."
Ivey continued:

"As I continued to ponder these things, it came to my attention that certain brethren, who no doubt are struggling with these same questions, are teaching gospel agency in regeneration and citing an historic perspective of church succession through the Particular Baptists as a point to support their theology. Simply put, they assert Primitive Baptists abandoned their true beliefs in the 19th century, claiming that until then all orthodox churches subscribed to the tenets of the 1689 London Confession of Faith. They reason abandonment of the London Confession occurred gradually through minor deviations in theology, which developed as an extremist response to anti-missionary, anti-Arminian sentiments. They have asserted that gospel means, or agency in regeneration is first, a bible doctrine and second, an historic belief of the Primitive Baptists owing to our historical connection to the London Confession. I knew this could not be the case. I have read articles of faith written prior to the 19th century, which do not support gospel means."

It is obvious that Ivey is unable to refute the points made by those "certain brethren" who affirm that the London Confession teaches the use of means and that the abandonment of this belief by the Hardshells, in the late 19th century, was a departure from the faith of the Baptists prior to the birth of the "Primitive Baptist" denomination.  How does Ivey respond to the points made by those brethren?  First, he says of the fact that the Gospel means position is "an historic belief of the Primitive Baptists," that he simply "knew this could not be the case."  Why could he not believe that this was in fact the case?  All the historical evidence shows it to be the case.  I suggest that the reason why he cannot accept the historical facts is because he is wedded to the Hardshell cult and to the belief that the Hardshell church is the church Jesus established and that it must have existed since the days of the Apostles, no matter what the evidence shows to the contrary!

He then says that he had "read articles of faith written prior to the 19th century which do not support gospel means."  Yet, he produces none of those articles!  He does attempt to do so in his book called "A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptists," but I have shown, in postings in my blog "The Old Baptist," that those citations do not affirm the views of the Hardshells.  In Ivey's book he tries to say that the Welsh Baptists who wrote the "Midlands Confession" did not believe in means and that it was one of the reasons why they would not fellowship the London churches who accepted the London Confession.  But, I have shown that this is false and will publish those postings in upcoming chapters on Hardshell history.  What Ivey does in his book is to cite pre 19th century articles of faith that he thinks can be made to deny gospel means, but looked at honestly and with other historical evidence, shows that Ivey is simply reading into those articles what he wants to read into them, the very thing he condemned the Fulton Confession as doing!

Ivey continued:

"I have read Elder Wilson Thompson's autobiography in which a detailed narrative is given of his opposition in 1858 to this doctrine. And, I have read the sermons of Elder Greg Thompson in which he valiantly proclaims God's sovereignty in regeneration and refutes the notions of gospel instrumentality in regeneration. Further, careful restudy of this issue led me to believe the bible void of a doctrine which invokes the gospel in any way to any degree as a requisite principle of new birth."

Citing the words of Hardshell founding father Wilson Thompson does not prove that the Baptists of the 19th century believed as did Thompson.  Further, Elder Thompson, though he rejected the idea that the  preaching of the Gospel was a means in "regeneration," he did not reject the idea that it was unnecessary in being "born again."  Thompson, like his associate, Elder Gilbert Beebe, another Hardshell founding father, that being "regenerated" was only a necessary stage that led to being born again, and that being born again was the same as being converted to Christ by the Gospel.  So, to cite Thompson proves nothing as to the point in debate.  Though Ivey claims to be a Baptist historian, especially of his own denomination, he shows how ignorant he is of what the first generation of Hardshells believed.  In previous chapters in this book we show that Elder Beebe believed that being born of God was the same as being saved by the Gospel.  This was also the view of other leaders in the 1830s, such as Samuel Trott, William Conrad, and James Osbourn.  In the above citation from Ivey, he equates being "regenerated" with the "new birth"  and seems to be ignorant of the fact that the first generation of Hardshells did not do so.  Those founding fathers may have believed that no means were used in "regeneration" but they did believe means were used in "new birth."

Ivey continued:
"All this deepened my desire to know more about the circumstance of the writing of the London Confession. I did not initiate this study to find some non-London Confession succession of the church; rather, my intent was simply to understand how the 1689 London Confession came to such wide acceptance among the Baptists. Also, from a historical perspective, I was anxious to know what events caused the Primitive Baptists to leave it. What I found was a Baptist succession which does not embrace the London Confession or, for some, has only coincidental contact."

Thus, Ivey came up with what he thought was a better solution to the problem of tracing Hardshell succession back prior to the 19th century.  He believes that his forefathers were wrong to trace their lineage through the London and Philadelphia confessions of faith.  The problem with Ivey's new solution is the fact that he was unable to find such a succession, even though he tried to do so.  Further, he has not dealt with the fact that nearly all the oldest churches and associations of the Hardshells endorsed either the London or Philadelphia confessions!  Ivey also acknowledges that the Hardshells have forsaken the London Confession!  It was good enough for his Hardshell forefathers but not for him!  What does that say?  He says he did research in order to discover the causes for the Hardshells abandoning the London Confession.  But, surely he knows the reason, though he is unwilling to acknowledge it.  It was because the Hardshells abandoned believing in means!

Ivey continued:

"Neither am I attacking our forefathers who met in Fulton, Kentucky, in 1900. To the contrary, I thank God for their efforts. These brethren were evidently struggling with the same issues, concerning the London Confession, with which I have struggled. They give historic precedence to my struggle. They arrived at a solution which satisfied themselves and their congregations. I applaud their efforts and its outcome. However, we cannot assume their solution is the last word on the matter. If they felt at liberty to scrutinize the London Confession from a theological perspective, is it not our privilege to scrutinize it from an historical vantage? I do not see the result of my work as confrontational towards theirs, rather as a complimentary addendum. Theological truths must always take precedent over historical perspective. But when theology and history agree, historical perspective compliments truth."

Ivey says that he is not attacking what his forefathers did to the old London Confession when they met in Fulton.  Yet, has he not shown them to be dishonest?  Has he not charged them with not accepting the plain statements of the Confession?  He acknowledges that they struggled with the teaching of the Confession regarding means in salvation.  He also rejects the "solution" that the Fulton elders invented, a solution which sought to convince the simple minded that the Confession really did not mean what it said!  Ivey says that he applauds their efforts and the outcome!  He also says that his work in writing "A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptists" is "a complimentary addendum" to what they wrote!  Though the authors of the Fulton Confession attempted to "explain away" the clear meaning of the Confession, Ivey does not want to condemn them for doing it!  Does this not show how he is a member of a cult?

Ivey continued:

"The Fulton brethren exercised their theological perspective of truth by adding footnotes to the London Confession. I have now come along and offered my applause for their work. I say to them, bravo! History affirms that your concerns were valid and your corrections accurate. Brethren in years past made the same corrections. It proves that the truths you penned at the bottom of the page are the same truths held by Old Baptists through the years. My work is merely an appreciative reaction to yours, a standing ovation."

Only a cult member would applaud the dishonesty of its leaders!  Also, Ivey can't even be consistent with himself.  He disagrees with the Fulton brethren about the Confession denying the Gospel means doctrine, and yet he says that their "concerns were valid" and "your corrections accurate."  How could they be "accurate" if they distorted the words of the Confession?  Yes, give these perverters of the old Confession a "standing ovation"!  Ivey has acknowledged that the Confession clearly teaches that God uses the Gospel and word of God as an instrument in salvation, and yet he praises the Fulton Hardshell Sanhedrin for perverting it!

1 comment:

Kevin Fralick said...

Bro. Stephen,

If the London Confession does not teach the gospel means position then the entire Calvinistic community who adhere to it has been deceived for centuries! This applies equally to the Westminster.

It's silly, and is a wonder that such is even questioned.