In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, most Baptist ministers were not very well educated and many historians have suggested that many of them saw missionary and seminary trained ministers as threats to their standing in the churches, and for this reason opposed missionaries and seminary trained ministers.
Dr. J.M. Peck, foremost warrior against the anti missionaries, and one who debated Hardshell founding father Daniel Parker, had the following recorded in his memoirs titled "Forty Years of Pioneer Life - Part 4" (see here):
"To give full opportunity to investigate the subject (of whether to make support of missions a test of fellowship - SG), the question was postponed one month. Fearing such an investigation might expose the designs of the anti-mission party, .four preachers rode from thirty to fifty miles to attend the church meeting. It was in the month of February; the creeks were high; and two of these zealous visitors swam Sugar creek on their horses, at the risk of their lives. One of these men was quite a simple hearted, weak brother, whose small mind was led by the others. But he loved to hear himself talk, while in a confused manner he uttered words that lacked ideas. He was interrupted by a motion, which was put by the moderator and decided in the affirmative, of this purport:
"That Brother J n be requested to state explicitly his objections against missionaries."
His reply was honestly made, as follows:
"We don't care any thing about them missionaries that's gone amongst them heathens way off yonder. But what do they come among us for? We don't want them here in Illinois."
The moderator replied: 'We live in a free country, and Baptist churches love liberty. We need not give them money unless we choose, and we are not obliged to hear them preach if we do not like them. Come, Brother J n, let the church know your real objections."
"Well, if you must know, Brother Moderator, you know the big trees in the woods overshadow the little ones; and these missionaries will be all great, learned men, and the people will all go to hear them preach, and we shall all be put down. That's the objection." (pg. 111)
What the Hardshell said was no doubt the truth behind much of the opposition to both missionaries and theologically educated ministers. The unlearned preachers felt threatened by them and so they opposed them and used as a pretense their opposition to mission enterprises and theological schools. In doing so, these unlearned ministers would be lifting up themselves. As I said in chapter five on "Hardshell Extremism," the Hardshells glorified ignorance, making their ignorance a blessing and a mark of distinction!
Peck's biographer also wrote:
"The anti-mission Baptists about this period came into an organization by themselves, sundering churches and associations very frequently to secure themselves against the infection of contact or fellowship with those who were seeking by all lawful means to carry into effect our Divine Master's great commission—to publish the gospel to every creature. Thus was the singular spectacle presented of a party separating themselves from their brethren, denouncing and excluding them, on the pretence of greater piety and more exact conformity to New-Testament order, whose chief peculiarity consisted in their opposition to the Saviour's mandate, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature"—evangelize all nations. It is vain to pretend that these ministers and churches were only opposing some (to them) objectionable methods of complying with the risen Saviour's commission, for they did not prosecute any other method. Jealousy, least they in their ignorance should be cast into the shade—prejudice which shuts itself in and will not come to the light—and the covetousness which grudges any expense for educational or evangelizing purposes, were probably the main elements of this opposition. Mr. Peck had full experience of their combined power. But he had counted the cost, and now set his face like a flint against this array of opposition." (pg. 229)
What Peck said about the "pretence" of the Hardshells in their opposition to missionaries and seminary preachers is no doubt true. They thought of themselves as being more pious, more orthodox, more qaulified, than the missionaries and educated ministers. In opposing missionary preachers and theological education they thought they were doing God service, such was their ignorance and prejudice. They also manifested jealousy towards such and feared for their own positions. This is interesting and ironical seeing that the charge made by the Hardshells against the missionaries is that they depended on money rather than on the Lord. Why didn't these Hardshells who feared for their pastoral positions not trust the Lord to take care of them and to give them a place to preach? Why did they have to resort to warring against other preachers as a method to secure themselves in their positions?
Further, Peck argues that the fact that the Hardshells did nothing in the way of fulfilling the Great Commission demonstrates that their objections were only a smokescreen. Did they really and conscientiously have concern for spreading the Gospel by what they considered to be a scriptural method? Then why has history shown that they have not done it? Did not Elder Watson admit that he and his Hardshell brethren had violated the Great Commission?
It is no doubt also true, in many cases, that the opposers of supporting missions was due to covetousness and greed. Most Hardshells, especially in the 19th century, did very little to support their ministers. They may boast about their preachers educating themselves, but they would not support them so as to give them the needed time to do so! John T. Christian in his history wrote:
"Contemporaneous with the formation of the Triennial Convention there began among some Baptists an aggressive campaign against missions, education, Sunday schools, and indeed almost everything that organization fostered...Ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstandings were the fruitful source of many of these denominational dissensions...Others feared that educated men would take their places." ("A History of the Baptists" Chapter Seven "The Anti-Effort Secession from the Baptists")
Again, there is no doubt that much of this is true, and did we have the time and space to do so, numerous examples could be put forth to prove it. Let anyone interested just read the "Mt. Carmel Church Trial" testimony and he will see how Hardshells were opposed to giving any financial support to ministers who went off to preach to the destitute regions. In fact, I have several such citations in my series on "Hardshells and the Great Commission."
Many Hardshells claim that John Clarke, pastor of the first Particular Baptist church in America, was a Hardshell Baptist in religious views. But, he was not, as I have shown in writings in my blogs. He believed that none would be saved except those who believed in Christ, and that salvation for the elect was by the preaching of the Gospel. But, interestingly, he also had formal training in theology, language and medicine, which shows that he was not against theological education for ministers. He was also in correspondence and fellowship with the London Baptists who wrote the 1689 Confession, and it is clear, as we shall later see, that they supported ministerial education, not to mention their belief that the salvation of the elect, or their effectual calling, was by means of the preaching of the Gospel.
Further, what can we say about the statement in the Black Rock Address that theological schools were "pests" and could not be expected to produce anything but "pests"? By their estimation, such would be Elder Clarke! Yet, they claim him as one of their ablest ministers! "Consistency thou art a jewel"!
Further, many of the ministers who labored among the London Particular Baptists, and who endorsed the 1689 London Confession, such as Hanserd Knollys, were taught theology and biblical languages in the university. These are the men that Hardshells, at least in the 19th century, claimed as their forefathers.
In a piece recently written (2012) as a master's thesis, Anna B. Holdorf wrote:
"Anti-mission Baptists, who esteemed the Bible as the sole religious authority on earth, found it difficult to understand why it was necessary for teachers and theologians to instruct others how to interpret the Bible. After all, they pointed out, Jesus himself had “commenced his ministry…without education.” Daniel Parker boasted, as did many other anti-missionists, that he was uneducated. He wrote that he had “no knowledge of the English grammar, only as my bible has taught me.” Parker further noted that the doctrinal “errors” that marked the beliefs of pro-mission Baptists “nearly all originated amongst the wise and learned.” Catholicism, he claimed, first gave education “a seat in religion,” and he warned Baptists against assuming characteristics of the “Popish dominion” for themselves." ("GALVANIZED BY THE GOSPEL: NINETEENTH-CENTURY BAPTIST MISSIONS AND THE ANTI-MISSION RESPONSE," pg. 59 - see here)
The attitude of Parker relative to his ignorance has been typical of a large number of Hardshells. The best preachers were those who introduced their sermons by spending time telling the congregation how ignorant they were, how humble and unworthy they are. But, some of these same ones are the most egotistical of men and are simply nothing more than Charles Dicken's character Uriah Heep. He was a fictional character created by Dickens' novel "David Copperfield." and who was known for his cloying humility. His humility was cloaked, for he was not sincere, though he often spoke of his "humbleness."
Further, consider that Elder R. V. Sarrels, who I have cited from in this book, wrote a work that he called a "systematic theology," one that is made from a Hardshell perspective. What is this but a way of teaching Hardshell doctrine to ministers and laity without a classroom? If he can educate ministers and all via a book, why can the Hardshells not do it personally in a classroom?
Jesse Mercer, who I have previously mentioned, who was in sympathy with some of the objections first made by the Hardshells, nevertheless could not accept their stubborn opposition to theological education for Baptist ministers. In the "History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia," By Samuel Boykin, it is said:
"Or, what evil can there be in forming and encouraging plans for the revival of experimental and practical religion? Or, can there be any sin in giving effect to the useful plans of the several Associations? Or, can it be thought a bad thing to furnish the means for the education of young, pious and indigent men, who are approved by their churches, as called of God to the Baptist ministry? Or, can it be regarded by any as an immoral thing to promote pious and useful education in the Baptist denomination? We cannot conclude that any man whose mind has been in any wise imbued by that wisdom which is necessary to direct, will pretend that there is any cause in any of these objects to break the union of the churches." (pg. 249, - see here)
Absolutely spot on! Hardshells often referred to missionary and theologically trained ministers as followers of antiChrist, and in league with Babylon, the mother of harlots. They made support of missionaries and ministerial education to be one of the greatest of evils. But, no one in his right mind, can possibly think that it is a great evil. But, who ever thought that the Black Rockers were in their right minds to declare all Baptists who supported such as in disorder and in league with antiChrist? No wonder that men like Dr. R.B.C. Howell, an opponent of the Hardshells in Tennessee at the time of the division, called them "new test men." That was because they initiated a new test of fellowship over these things. Howell wrote:
"The name given by them to the antimissionaries is the most appropriate we have yet seen--New Test men. We propose that the self styled Old School, be hereafter called New Test. What say you brethren? It is not reproachful, and conveys the exact description of those brethren and Churches, who have done so much evil by introducing a new test of fellowship that is, making friendship to the Convention a crime for which they will exclude a member, and enmity the ground of his reception." (Page 38 - "The Baptist" - Vol. V. Jan. 1839 No. 1)
In the next couple chapters we will consider the Hardshell opposition to missions, and then we will follow with chapters looking at the historical evidence that shows that the Old Baptists have been in favor of missions and ministerial education going back to their formal beginning in the 17th century.