"We pass to the consideration of the Bible Society. We are aware, brethren, that this institution presents itself to the mind of the Christian as supported by the most plausible pretext. The idea of giving the Bible, without note or comment, to those who are unable to procure it for themselves, is in itself considered, calculated to meet the approbation of all who know the importance of the sacred Scriptures. But under this auspicious guise, we see reared in the case of the American Bible Society, an institution as foreign from anything which the gospel of Christ calls for, as are the kingdoms of this world from the kingdom of Christ. We see a combination formed, in which are united the man of the world, the vaunting professor, and the humble follower of Jesus; the leading characters in politics, the dignitaries in church, and from them some of every grade, down to the poor servant girl, who can snatch from her hard-earned wages fifty cents a year for the privilege of being a member. We see united in this combination all parties in politics, and all sects in religion; and the distinctive differences of the one, and the sectarian barriers of the other, in part thrown aside to form the union."
The Hardshells are infamous for attacking the motives of many people and organizations. They are well known for making ad hominem attacks. The Black Rockers condemn Bible societies because they are supported by people that they judge as being unworthy and unqualified to be involved in Bible distribution. If the presence of an unregenerate or worldly person in an othewise holy and good organization makes that organization evil, then why would not such a criterion condemn many churches, including those of the Hardshell denomination? One wonders what Bibles the Hardshells use? Who printed such Bibles? Was not the King James Version, so highly esteemed by most Hardshells, translated by men of denominations that the Hardshells would condemn?
The Hardshells speak of the guise or "pretext" of Christian religious organizations, such as Bible societies, as if those who are involved in such organizations are intentionally deceiving people about their purposes, and that they cannot possibly be pure and sincere in their motives. Who gave them the right to so sit in judgment of the motives of others? This is the very kind of judgment of others that the Lord condemns. (See I Cor. 4: 5 & James 4: 11) On the latter verse Dr. Gill wrote:
"Speak not evil one of another, brethren - The apostle here returns to his former subject, concerning the vices of the tongue, he had been upon in the preceding chapter, ( James 3:6-10 ) , and here mentions one, which professors of religion were too much guilty of, and that is, speaking evil one of another; which is done either by raising false reports, and bringing false charges; or by aggravating failings and infirmities; or by lessening and depreciating characters, and endeavouring to bring others into discredit and disesteem among men: this is a very great evil, and what the men of the world do, and from them it is expected; but for the saints to speak evil one of another, to sit and speak against a brother, and slander an own mother's son, is barbarous and unnatural."
Much of what is said against the supporters of Bible publishers and distributors is of this nature as is much of the entire Black Rock Address. The Hardshells condemn passing out Bibles because it is not totally supported by men who the Hardshells judge as being worthy. Because the motives of some who support Bible distribution societies may not be good, therefore the whole society is to be condemned! What kind of logic is that? Since Judas was a part of the college of apostles, therefore that college was no good? Because the church has members such as Diotrephes, Demas, Simon Magus, etc., therefore the church is not to be supported? If we accept the logic given above by the Black Rockers, then such can be concluded.
If the Gideon organization were in existence at the time of the Black Rock Address, I am sure it would be condemned also. It seems that the only organization that can publish and distribute Bibles is a Hardshell church, and yet none of them do it! Thus, if it were left up to them, there would be no Bibles! Again, what a glaring example of extremism is this condemnation of Bible publishing and distribution!
One thing is very obvious in these kinds of charges made by these extremist Black Rockers. They can countenance very little that others do in the name of Christ. This is nothing but what one would expect from self righteous cults. They condemn any kind of cooperation between Christians, any inter-denominational work. They are very standoffish. Is this attitude in keeping with the spirit of Christ? I think not. This reminds us of this instance recorded in the Gospels:
"And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9: 38-40)
The Hardshells condemn the good that other Christian churches and organizations do because they do not "follow" the Hardshells! "They follow not us"! Therefore, whatever good they do is to be condemned!
The Black Rockers continue:
"At the head of this vast body we see placed a few leading characters, who have in their hands the management of its enormous printing establishment, and its immense funds; and the control of its powerful influence, extended by means of agents and auxiliaries to every part of the United States. We behold its anniversary meetings converted into a great religious parade, and forming a theatre for the orator who is ambitious of preferment, either in pulpit, in the legislative hall, or at the bar, to display his eloquence, and elicit the cheers of the grave assemblage. Now, brethren, to justify our opposition to the Bible Society, it is not necessary for us to say that any of its members have manifested a disposition to employ its power for the subversion of our liberties."
What is this but more ad hominem attacks? Such attacks prove nothing! What they are saying against Bible publishing and distribution is simply sinister. It makes me think that they were inspired by the Devil in attacking such a noble enterprise. If the Devil wanted to attack Bible distribution, in a cloaked manner, could he have done any better than the Black Rockers? It seems to me that the Hardshells manifest jealousy and envy at such organizations. They have had large publishing organizations themselves, at times, but nothing as large as some Bible publishing organizations. Should we condemn Hardshell publishing companies because the leaders of those companies have charge of large sums of money? Or, because some of their leaders are not Simon pure? Further, how does supporting the American Bible society "manifest a disposition to employ its power for the subversion of our liberties"? How can they make such unfounded charges? Is it because some politicians support the society in order to win votes and win favor with the populace? If we can condemn Bible publishing societies for such a reason, then we can condemn the Christian church itself!
The Address continued:
"It is enough for us to say, lst, That such a monstrous combination, concentrating so much power in the hands of a few individuals, could never be necessary for supplying the destitute with Bibles. Individual printing establishments would readily be extended so as to supply Bibles to any amount, and in any language that might be called for, and at as cheap a rate as they have ever been sold by the Bible Society."
What are Hardshells advocating then? That the only legitimate Bible publishing and distribution organizations must not have leaders and officers? Have the Hardshells ever shown us a better way to publish and distribute Bibles? Further, it is laughable that they would condemn Bible societies being run by a group of individuals but condone it being done by a single individual! If done by a single person, would not that one person have all the power? If the attack is made under the pretense that power ought to be divided, then would it not be better for a society of individuals to do it than one person? Further, it takes lots of money to print and distribute Bibles! Should this noble work be confined to a single rich Christian? The work of translating Bibles into other languages and printing and distributing them should then be left to single individuals? And, if the only qualified individuals are the Hardshells, then the world will never have Bibles!
The Address continued:
"2nd, That the humble followers of Jesus could accomplish their benevolent wishes for supplying the needy with Bibles, with more effect, and more to their satisfaction, by managing the purchase and distribution of them for themselves; and such will never seek popular applause by having their liberality trumpeted abroad through the medium of the Bible Society."
Okay, good advice. But, when have the Hardshells ever followed their own advice? When have they ever been involved in Bible translating, publishing, and distribution? They then condemn that Bible society for seeking "popular applause." But, again, who made them the judges of the hearts of Christians? Further, to seek the support and approbation of Christians is not the same as seeking "popular applause."
The Black Rocker Hardshells then say:
"3rd, That the Bible Society, whether we consider it in its monied foundation for membership and directorship, in its hoarding up of funds, in its blending together all distinctions between the church and the world, or in its concentration of power, is an institution never contemplated by the Lord Jesus as connected with his kingdom; therefore not a command concerning it is given in the decree published, nor a sketch of it drawn in the pattern showed."
One cannot but wag his head in shame and disgust when the Hardshells condemn Bible publishers and distributors because of "its monied foundation." Do they not know that it takes money to print and distribute Bibles? Can they do it without money? How can anyone take them seriously when they argue this way? Also, why are they condemning Bible societies for "hoarding up of funds"? Doesn't any business enterprise reserve some of the profits for emergencies and for using such in the future for expansion? Do the Scriptures not condone prudence in business, especially in the Lord's business, in the business of publishing Bibles and in disseminating the word of God? The Hardshells like to condemn money, as if anything that requires it is evil. But, again, this is just pure nonsense.
Further, how do Bible societies, which are primarily run and supported by Christians, a "blending together all distinctions between the church and the world"? Because these societies do not refuse donations from non-Christians? But, do not unsaved visitors at Hardshell churches sometimes put money into their offering boxes? Or, do they refuse to allow anyone to give money that they do not know is saved, or is a member of their denomination? By allowing any to make donations into their collection boxes, are they also "blending together all distinctions between the church and the world"?
Further, they speak of the Bible Society as having a "concentration of power." But, this is untrue. As long as there are many groups publishing Bibles there will be no monopoly. If the Hardshells feared that only one society would have all the power of producing Bibles, and therefore have monopolistic power, then why did they not organize their own Bible publishing company? Today there are numerous Bible publishers, and no one has supreme power over it. The thing the Hardshells feared was never a reality.
Did the Lord not contemplate that there would be people who would involve themselves in making copies of the word? Did he not expect his own people to be involved in it? Who did the Lord think would do it? Why have the Hardshells done nothing to help publish Bibles?
Finally, the Black Rockers say:
"4th, That its vast combination of worldly power and influence lodged in the hands of a few renders it a dangerous engine against the liberties, both civil and religious, of our country, should it come under control of those disposed so to employ it. The above remarks apply with equal force to the other great national institutions, as the American Tract Society, and Sunday School Union."
The Bible Society's "vast combination of worldly power and influence"? Would it not have been better for the Hardshells, if they really fear such a concentration of power, to promote the creation of other Bible societies so that there would be competition in the Bible publishing business? Further, has time not proved that the fears expressed by the Hardshells were unfounded? Were they not acting like "chicken little" in the fears they were expressing?
It is no surprise that the Hardshells have often been called "do nothings." They can lambast and condemn the noble work of others, in printing Bibles and disimmenating knowledge of the word of God, but will not lift the finger to do anything in these things. Condemning others for simply printing and distributing Bibles, oftentimes for free to those who do not have them! Who can take the Black Rockers seriously?