In the previous chapter we began looking at the stated opposition of the first Hardshells against protracted and revival meetings and examined some of their arguments against them. In this chapter we will continue to do the same.
The Address continued:
"Some may be ready to inquire whether protracted meetings, as such, may not with propriety be held, providing they be held without excluding doctrinal preaching, or introducing any of these new plans. However others may judge and act, we cannot approve of such meetings for the following reasons."
"lst. Because by appointing and holding a protracted meeting, as such, although we may not carry it to the same excesses to which others do, yet as most people will make no distinction between it and those meetings where all the borrowed machinery from Methodist campmeetings is introduced, we shall generally be considered as countenancing those meetings."
These words reveal one of the traits of the Hardshell cult. They have such an animosity towards what they judge as "Arminianism" and with the "Missionary Baptists" that they strive to avoid anything that is connected with those people. I used to hear some Hardshells oppose singing certain songs because, as they said, "the Missionaries and Arminians sing those songs." Even though the songs did not advocate any doctrines which the Hardshells considered as false, yet they refused to sing them because the above groups sang them. In the above words of the Address, they say that they cannot approve of preappointed revival or protracted meetings because "most people will make no distinction between" the protracted meetings of the Hardshells and those held by Arminians and Mission Baptists. They have the mentality of not wanting to be like other groups and so do all they can to be different. Is this also why they have been reluctant to meet every Sunday, choosing to continue to meet only once or twice per month? Is this why they rarely hold prayer meetings?
Most Hardshell churches will not "pass the offering plate" but choose to only have a box for persons to donate money to the church. Is this because the Scriptures dictate the manner of collecting contributions? No. It is rather because the Arminian and Mission Baptist churches pass the collection plate and the Hardshells do not want to do what they do. Notice these words regarding the criticism that Elder Lasserre Bradley and the Cincinnati church received regarding their having appointed protracted meetings.
"In recent years there have been some among the Primitive Baptists who have been advocating changing some of our practices because they claim them to be man made traditions. A leading proponent of this movement is Elder Lasserre Bradley Jr., pastor of the Cincinnati Primitive Baptist church...In The Baptist Witness dated November 1996 you will find an article entitled "A visit to Black Rock"...The article touches on protracted meetings, camp meetings and Sunday schools; inferring that the Primitive Baptists have developed man made traditions in these areas by not wanting to "look like others" or being more concerned with "opposing the other side" than being biblical correct." ("The Old Paths versus Man Made Traditions" - see here)
The Black Rockers could not approve of having a protracted meeting even if it avoided the errors of the high pressure revivalists and confined their meetings to simply preaching Bible doctrine! Is this not intensely revealing about their cult mentality? They have a mentality similar to that of the Amish. If some other group of Christians do a certain thing, the Hardshells do not want to come close to doing it, no matter how scriptural and right it might be in itself. The Scriptures speak of "abstaining from all appearance of evil," but the Hardshells want to abstain from all appearance of being like any other group of Christians, especially those they label as Arminian and Missionary. Elder Bradley realized this and spoke of the Hardshells developing man made traditions out of the desire to not "look like others."
The Hardshells have often been characterized by "anti ism," for they are opposers of nearly everything that Arminians or Mission Baptists practice. Reading the Black Rock Address demonstrates this very clearly.
Elder Henry Sheets, who answered the Hardshell apologists regarding their claims to being the old or primitive Baptists, in his book "A History of the Liberty Baptist Association: From Its Organization in 1832 to 1906," wrote:
"Our Anti-mission brethren are very unlike the Primitive Baptists in their decided opposition to revival meetings. We never hear them pray for a revival of religion or know of them making a protracted effort. Who ever hears one of their preachers exhorting the unconverted to repent?"
"Before the split our Baptist brethren did this, and they had glorious revivals and large ingatherings into their churches. Even the historic old Kehukee, now so decidedly opposed to revival measures, was at one time much in favor with them; they prayed for them and otherwise greatly encouraged them. We quote from Burkitt and Read's History, pages 145-146,
"The ministers used frequently, at the close of worships, to sing a spiritual song suited to the occasion, and go through the congregation, and shake hands with people while singing. The ministers usually, at the close of preaching, would tell the congregation, that if there were any persons who felt themselves lost and condemned, under the guilt and burden of their sins, that if they would come near the stage, and kneel down, they would pray for them. Shame at first kept many back, but as the work increased, numbers apparently under strong conviction would come and fall down before the Lord at the feet of the ministers, and crave an interest in their prayers. Sometimes twenty or thirty at a time. And at some Union Meetings, two or three hundred would come, and try to come as near as they could. This very much engaged the ministers, and many confessed that the Lord heard the prayers of His ministers, and had reason to hope their souls were relieved from the burden of their sins, through the blood of Christ. It had a powerful effect on the spectators to see their wives, their husbands, children, neighbors, etc, so solicitous for the salvation of their souls; and was sometimes a means of their conviction. Many ladies of quality, at times were so powerfully wrought on as to come and kneel down in the dust in their silks to be prayed for."
"Strange as it may seem to people living now, there is not one word anywhere, in all the old church records or Baptist histories examined, where they opposed revival measures at first. In fact, such a thing seems never to have been thought of. But, on the other hand, they carried them on for some time."
"That they ever should have taken such a stand in regard to revival measures is beyond comprehension, unless, in their opposition to us in almost everything else, they thought that they ought to oppose this measure also." (Chapter 26, pages 186-188, see here)
Thus, it is obvious that the opposition to revival and protracted meetings was a new thing and the Hardshells have no claim to being "primitive" in this opposition.
Elder J. H. Oliphant, a leading Hardshell at the turn of the twentieth century, wrote:
"Between 1860 and 1870 a dozen or more Baptist preachers in Indiana broke away from the old paths, went into the protracted meeting business, and would take in over one hundred at a single meeting. Mourner’s benches, Arminian preaching, etc. Yet they made the plea that they were the “Old Baptists,” the true successors of those who held the London confession of faith." ("Church Divisions," 1910 - see here)
What a picture of the Hardshell cult mentality! Was it breaking away from the old paths for those Baptist preachers to hold protracted meetings? No! Was it a bad thing to see over a hundred people profess Christ in one of these meetings? No! What does Oliphant mean by "Arminian preaching"? Was it the kind that Elder Leland did, who said that the best preaching had a little Arminianism mixed with it? Was it the kind of preaching done by the old Kehukee brethren before the rise of the Hardshells? Was it the kind of preaching that the Parkerites condemned among the Old Baptists, the kind that the "ultrast" and "modern innovators" who were denying means and the use of exhortation in preaching, as Elder Watson spoke about? Also, it is a falsehood, as I have shown, for the Hardshells to pretend that they are the "true successors of those who held the London confession of faith"!
As I have stated in previous chapters, the Hardshells actually think it is a mark of their spirituality and correctness for them to be baptizing so few! Thus, when they read of the successes of others, they consider it a proof that they are preaching falsely. Had the Hardshells been present in the Book of Acts when some three thousand were converted or when more than five thousand were converted, they would have accused the Apostle of preaching like Arminians and that the converts could not be genuine! This attitude reminds me of the words of Jude - "These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage." (Jude 1: 16 NIV) Such are the Hardshells! It is also reminds me of Isaiah 65: 5 - "Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou."
The Black Rock Address continued:
"2nd. Because the motives we could have for conforming to the custom of holding these newly invented meetings are such as we think cannot bear the test. For we must be induced thus to conform to the reigning custom either in order to shun the reproach generally attached to those who will not conform to what is popular, or to try the experiment whether our holding a four days' meeting will not induce the Holy Ghost to produce a revival among us commensurate with the strange fire enkindled by others; or else we must be led to this plan from having imbibed the notion that the Holy Ghost is somehow so the creature of human feelings that he is led to regenerate persons by our getting their animal feelings excited; and therefore that in the same proportion as we can by any measure get the feelings of the people aroused, there will be a revival of religion. This latter motive can scarcely be supposed to have place with any who would not go the whole length of every popular measure."
It was a falsehood for the Black Rockers to refer to revival and protracted meetings as being "newly invented" as has been shown. Notice again how one of the reasons to oppose revival and protracted meetings is to not "conform" to what others are doing, as if all that others are doing is error!
One cannot really understand fully what the Black Rockers were opposing without understanding the revival methods of the Methodists, mentioned by the Black Rockers specifically, and of Charles Finney, who had been conducting successful revival and protracted meetings in New York in the immediate years leading up to 1832. Though it is true that Finney went overboard in his tactics, the Hardshells clearly went to another extreme in their opposition. But more on this in the next chapters.