The Black Rock Address, in condemning Sunday Schools, said:
"Sunday Schools come next under consideration. These assume the same high stand as do Tract Societies. They claim the honor of converting their tens of thousands; of leading the tender minds of children to the knowledge of Jesus; of being as properly the instituted means of bringing children to the knowledge of salvation, as the preaching of the gospel that of bringing adults to the same knowledge, &c. Such arrogant pretensions we feel bound to oppose. First, because these as well as the pretensions of the Tract Societies are grounded upon the notion that conversion or regeneration is produced by impressions made upon the natural mind by means of religious sentiments instilled into it; and if the Holy Ghost is allowed to be at all concerned in the thing, it is in a way which implies his being somehow blended with the instruction, or necessarily attendant upon it; all of which we know to be wrong."
Though Sunday Schools may have at first been directed towards the young, it soon became a way of teaching the Bible to all age groups. Today, Sunday Schools have classes for all ages, even for adults. So, really, the opposition is not simply to having Bible classes for children only, but for having Bible classes at all. Today's Hardshells are not only against Sunday Schools for children but against having organized Bible classes for anyone.
As time passed after this declaration against teaching the Bible to children in a class setting, various Hardshells came to see how this was an extreme view and the Address itself would come to be a detriment to all efforts at teaching people the Bible in a class setting. The Black Rock Address took on an authority itself, equal with the Bible itself. When any Hardshell church recognized the extremism of the Address, and tried to begin Bible classes, the stiff and stern Hardshells would cry foul, and say that such was a violation of the principles of the Black Rock Address, as if it was an authority and could not possibly be in error.
One of the objections made against Sunday School Bible classes for young people is that it is claimed that they have been a means of converting sinners to Christ. But, who can deny that teaching the Scriptures to people does result in people being converted to Christ? To successfully deny this fact, the Hardshells would have to prove two things. First, they would have to prove that the teaching of the Scriptures is not a means in conversion. Second, they would have to prove that the Bible is not taught in Sunday Schools and Bible classes. The first they do not deny, as this is clearly taught in Scripture. For instance, Psalm 19: 7 says - "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." The second cannot be denied either, at least in the overwhelming majority of cases. Let us ask - if the Bible is taught in church sponsored Bible classes, is it "arrogant pretensions" to believe that many will come to a saving knowledge of the truth by such means? Are the Hardshells saying that people cannot come to such knowledge by Bible classes? Do they think that such knowledge can only come by the preacher preaching in regular worship services?
It is interesting how the Black Rockers, in the above words, equated being "regenerated" with being "converted," something that later Hardshells would not do. They say "conversion or regeneration." As we have already noted, the Black Rockers did not deny the use of means in "conversion or regeneration." When they condemned protracted and evangelistic meetings, they gave as one of their objections that there was often little doctrine preached and that this could produce no "conversion or regeneration" because, they affirmed, God had chosen his people to salvation "through belief of the truth." So, in condemning Sunday Schools they are not denying that the word of God is a means, but denying that Sunday Schools are a means of the means.
However, when the Hardshells say that Sunday School advocates believe "that conversion or regeneration is produced by impressions made upon the natural mind by means of religious sentiments instilled into it," they must be condemning those who think that moral suasion alone, or the word alone, is sufficient to bring about "conversion or regeneration." This kind of argument, however, I have already dealt with.
The Address says - "if the Holy Ghost is allowed to be at all concerned in the thing, it is in a way which implies his being somehow blended with the instruction, or necessarily attendant upon it." This is just what was noted in the previous chapter, a "speaking evil one of another," which is done, Dr. Gill says, "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." But, are we not to expect that the Holy Spirit will attend the preaching of the word? The Hardshells seem to think it an evil to expect such. Did not Peter say that those who have "reported" the Scriptures have also "preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven"? (I Peter 1: 12)
Making Disciples Of All Nations.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matt. 28: 19 NKJV) This is the authority that churches have for having classes for teaching the Bible to others. The word "disciple" does not denote in itself a born again child of God, but rather denotes one who is a learner or student. In the KJV it is "teach all nations." The Greek word mathēteuō means to teach, instruct, educate, or make students or disciples.
The Hardshells often argue that the command to teach was limited strictly to the ministry, but this is a falsehood. I have already proven, in the series on the Great Commission, that the Commission was given to the church, or to the whole Christian community. I shall recall two of those arguments here. First, if the Commission be limited to the ministry, then so must the Lord's Supper. The Lord told the apostles to keep the Lord's Supper that he instituted in their presence just as he instituted the Commission in their presence. Second, the Lord told those addressed, in the Commission, to teach the disciples to "observe ALL THINGS I HAVE COMMANDED YOU." Did he not command them to go into all the nations and teach the Gospel? If so, then how can we exclude this command to go and to teach from the "all things"? He did not say "teach the disciples to observe all things I have commanded you, except for the command to go and teach."
Every disciple is to be taught to observe the command to "go and teach." But, the Hardshells do not teach that it is the duty of every disciple to "go and teach," that it is not the duty of the church as a whole, and that it is not the duty of every disciple.
Now, it is true that not all Christians have a special gift or calling to teach, yet all have the duty to teach. Notice this verse.
"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (II Tim. 2: 2)
The Greek word for "men" is not the word that denotes a male, but is "anthropos" which denotes a human being of any gender. Therefore, everyone who has been instructed in the Gospel is called upon to instruct others. But, Hardshells do not believe that it is the calling of every Christian to teach others, but that it is a calling limited to those who are gifted to preach. The word "faithful" simply means people who have faith in Christ and the Gospel. Therefore, all who are people of faith are to "teach others" what they have learned. Now notice the same thing from this verse.
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Heb. 5: 12-13)
This was spoken to all the Hebrew Christians and not just to the ministry. Paul says that God wants all to become adults (mature) in the word and thus become teachers. A teacher Paul identifies as one who has passed from sucking the milk of the word to eating the meat of it. Those who have grown in their knowledge of the word have grown into spiritual adults and have become skilled in the word.
Why is it that Hardshells reject such a plain teaching of the word? They limit teaching to the clergy and yet they are the ones who were constantly warning others about the supposed "priestcraft" of ministers who attended theological schools and who were financially supported by the churches. To limit all teaching of the Bible to the ordained clergy comes closer to priestcraft than what the Hardshells pointed to as such.
Not only is it the duty of all Christians, in one way or another, to teach others the blessed truth of the Gospel, but it is also their joy and privilege to do so. If it is not, then why do the Hardshells sing the song "I Love To Tell The Story"?
I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do
Is this true only of the Hardshell clergy? If so, why do all the members sing it as if it expressed their own desire? Is it the "longing" only of the elders? Every Christian is called to this duty and this privilege and is a desire that is begotten in their hearts. When they hear of Christ and fall in love with him, they immediately want to find others to tell them the message.