From my years of research into the history of the "Primitive Baptist" denomination, I have discovered that Elder E H. Burnam, a "Primitive Baptist" preacher in the latter half of the 19th century, and who was an associate editor with Elder John Clark on the Hardshell paper "Zion's Advocate," was correct when he stated the following in the "Mt. Carmel Church Trial."
"It was left to the last quarter of the 19th century to give birth among the Old Order of Baptists to the notion of regeneration without faith, or that it is not necessary that one should exercise repentance, faith, or any spiritual gift, in order to be saved, a heresy than which none more pernicious was ever put forth by any professing to be followers of Christ."
Elder W. T. Pence, an associate of Elder Burnam, debated Elder Lemuel Potter on the issue of whether the Bible taught the use of means in regeneration. Elder Potter wrote this about the debate:
"Elder Pence claimed that we could not find a single author or commentator, prior to fifty years ago, that took the Anti-means position. He referred to Dr. Watson, and the London Confession of Faith, and to Dr. Gill, and other authors, in order to prove that the Baptists had heretofore believed in the doctrine of means, and that our position among the Old School Baptists was entirely new."
(see here where I cited this previously)
Let us name the leaders of the first generation of Hardshells and look at what they are on record as believing.
Elder Joshua Lawrence, a leader in the Kehukee Association and in the anti mission movement in North Carolina and in the eastern states. He is on record as affirming the Gospel means position.
Elder Gilbert Beebe, a signer of the Black Rock Address and editor of the first and foremost Hardshell periodical, The "Signs of the Times," and he is on record as affirming that the new birth followed regeneration, being distinct from it, and was the same experience as "conversion," or that experience that comes to those who hear the Gospel of Christ and believe in him.
Elder Samuel Trott, a close associate of Beebe and frequent writer on the Signs of the Times periodical, he held the same view as Beebe.
Elder John Watson, a leader of the Baptists on the western frontier and of middle Tennessee, and a supporter of "The Old Baptist Banner" periodical, published out of Nashville in the late 1830s by Watson's associate, Elder Washington Lowe, is also on record as believing the Gospel means position.
Elder John Clark was a frequent writer to all four of the first Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s, along with Elder Watson, and eventually started the paper "Zion's Advocate" in 1852 and all through this paper, even in the first issue, the means position was advocated.
Elder Wilson Thompson is often cited where he denies that God uses the means of the Gospel in the "regeneration" of sinners. But, what is often overlooked is the fact that he was in fellowship with Elders Gilbert Beebe, Samuel Trott, and William Conrad, and others, who espoused the view that regeneration was a distinct preparatory work from being born again, and that the former was effected without the means of faith and Gospel preaching, but that the latter was through faith and through the Gospel. He certainly did not believe that many of God's elect would die without coming to faith in Christ.
Elder William Conrad also believed as did Elders Trott and Beebe that the new birth was to be equated with the experience of Gospel conversion. He was a leader in Kentucky in the early to mid 1800s.
Elder Mark Bennett was editor of "The Primitive Baptist" and a leader of the denomination and the above periodical is filled with statements affirming the use of Gospel preaching in regenerating or giving spiritual birth to the elect.
Elder Burwell Temple also was a later editor of "The Primitive Baptist" and no doubt believed the Gospel means position.
Elder Daniel Jewett was editor of "The Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor" and there is clear evidence in that paper that he and his fellow writers and his readers believed that the Lord used the preaching of the word to give birth to, or eternally save, his elect.
Elder James Osbourn was without question one of the foremost ring leaders of the newly formed Hardshell denomination and travelled widely after the division within the general Hardshell Baptist family and he is on record as also affirming the Gospel means position.
Elder Lawrence Greatrake was an outspoken early advocate for the Regular Baptists who opposed missions, Sunday Schools, theological schools, etc., and yet he is on record as supporting the Gospel means position.
Elder John Taylor, though he was one of the first to speak against the rise of mission organizations, Sunday Schools, and seminaries, he nevertheless shows by his writings that he believed that God uses Gospel preaching to call his elect to life and salvation.
Elder John Leland, like Elder Taylor, with whom he was friends, opposed the same things that the early Hardshells opposed, but nevertheless shows by his writings that he believed in the means position.
Elder Hosea Preslar, first a leader in the Bear Creek Association in North Carolina, and later a resident of middle Tennessee and friend of Elder Watson, is also on record as believing in the means position.
Elder Stephen Gard, a close ally of Wilson Thompson, and leader in the Miami Association in Ohio, is also on record as believing in Gospel means.
I find that it was not till the latter quarter of the nineteenth century, as Elder Burnam testified, that the "Primitive Baptists" began to embrace the anti means position. The founding fathers of the evolved Hardshell denomination are men such as R.W. Thompson (who preached this view in his debate with a Campbellite in Reynoldsburg, Ohio in 1874), and Elder Lemuel Potter, who defended this view in the 1880s and 1890s in debates with Elder W. T. Pence and Elder W. P. Throgmorton, and Elders C. H. Waters and T.S. Dalton about the same time. Two elders who took up the new hybrid doctrine and make it stick with the Hardshells were two great debaters, namely Elders C. H. Cayce and John R. Daily.
I have challenged the Hardshells to prove Elders Pence and Burnam wrong on their thesis that the anti means position is a new position, not only as regards Baptists of pre 19th century times, but even among their own denomination. When I debated Jason Brown here on this blog, I often challenged him to give us the citations from men of the early 19th century, among the Hardshells, who promoted the anti means position. He could not do it. I have challenged my father, who has preached for the Hardshells for nearly 50 years, and he cannot do it. Thus, the evidence for a verdict is clear. Today's Hardshells who deny that the elect are regenerated and eternally saved by the Gospel are a new denomination, or "modern innovators," as Elder Watson called them. If any Hardshell has evidence to prove that there were advocates for the anti means position in the 1830s, or 1840s, or even the 1850s, let him come forward and give us the evidence.