The Black Rock Address (see here for the entire address) wrote these words against mission organizations:
"We will now call your attention to the subject of Missions. Previous to stating our objections to the mission plans, we will meet some of the false charges brought against us relative to this subject, by a simple and unequivocal declaration, that we do regard as of the first importance the command given of Christ, primarily to His apostles, and through them to his ministers in every age, to "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," and do feel an earnest desire to be found acting in obedience thereunto, as the providence of God directs our way, and opens a door of utterance for us. We also believe it to be the duty of individuals and churches to contribute according to their abilities, for the support, not only of their pastors, but also of those who go preaching the gospel of Christ among the destitute."
The Hardshell Black Rockers felt that they had to first show that their opposition to missions was not due to a disobedience to the Great Commission. But, their simple denial is no proof of the validity of the accusation. In the series on "Hardshells and the Great Commission," I show how they err in many ways relative to that commission. I showed how they err in saying that the commission was only given to the apostles and clergy. Further, Elder John Watson wrote in "The Old Baptist Test" these words:
"Their connection with each other involves, in the plainest manner, the duty of preaching to every creature "repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." The Lord has ordained this way; our violation of it in the 19th century will not cause it to fail; others will do the work; it needs must be done; and this may be the cause why so few are coming into our churches! We have violated our commission. "Let us search and try our ways, and turn to the Lord."" (Pgs. 520)
So, looking beyond all the talk, the actions of the Hardshells show that they have done very little to fulfill the commission and to preach the Gospel to the destitute. This is why they have been historically known as "do nothings." Further, what Hardshell preacher has ever gone to a foreign country to preach the Gospel to the heathen? I realize there are a few Hardshells today, who are part of the "liberal movement," who are going to several other countries to preach. But, in these cases it is simply a case of them going into places where there are already Christians and converting them to Hardshellism, which is proselyting rather than evangelizing. The Hardshells, by the way the above objection and apology is worded, blame the Lord for this lack of evangelizing of the heathen rather than blame themselves. They say that they consider it "of the first importance" to go "into all the world," having an "earnest desire to be found acting in obedience" to the command of Christ, but none have gone outside of the United States to preach to those who have never heard. They say they will obey the command "as the providence of God directs our way, and opens a door of utterance for us." But, by this statement one would have to say that it is the Lord's fault for few of the Hardshells, if any, going "into all the world"! It must be because the Lord has not burdened any of them to go, right?
It is good that the Address encourages churches to support ministers in their going to preach to the destitute, to those who are without Gospel knowledge, but their subsequent history shows that such support was almost non-existent, and that later generations of Hardshells went to even further extremes than the original Black Rockers. In our series on the Great Commission there is proof given to substantiate this point. I cited from the Mt. Carmel Church trial where one Hardshell witness said that he would not give a cent to help defer the expenses of a preacher who felt that God had called him to preach the Gospel to the heathen. Further, it is doubtful that any Hardshell wants to go anywhere until the Lord himself pays the way! They say they do not rely upon money to go, but upon the Lord. Again, the Lord, by this criterion, gets the blame for 130 years of their not going "into all the world," which would include going outside of the United States. This is similar to the traditional way many Hardshell preachers begin their discourses, saying "I will preach if the Lord blesses." Of course, if they don't preach to the enjoyment of the hearers, who gets the blame? The Lord, because he didn't bless!
The Address continued:
"But we at the same time contend, that we have no right to depart from the order which the Master himself has seen fit to lay down, relative to the ministration of the word. We therefore cannot fellowship the plans for spreading the gospel, generally adopted at this day, under the name of Missions; because we consider those plans throughout a subversion of the order marked out in the New Testament."
Notice how the Hardshells use the word "order." In the introduction to the Address they speak of being "conformed to the Pattern showed in the mount." Again, like the word "scriptural," these are words that show their error that has been called "patternism." Again, as Bob Ross stated, none of them live up to such a standard. There is no such specific order or pattern that gives every detail as to how saints are to worship, teach, and work. The Hardshells have no pattern for their associations, singing schools, and a host of other things.
Since these Black Rockers thought the mission work of many Baptist churches was so far against the scriptures, they made it a test of fellowship, and judged that all who supported missions were no longer churches of Christ, but part of Antichrist and Babylon. This was a harsh judgment and action and manifested absolutely no charity or forbearance. They were truly living up to their name of Hardshell, for they were stubborn as mules, hard headed, and grossly intolerant. They could not simply let each church and Christian decide the matter, but went to war against any and all who supported the Baptist missions. They made threats, and began to accuse their mission supporting Baptist brethren by the most evil of epithets.
Further, they say that the mission supporting Baptists were subverting the order marked out in the New Testament, but they do not prove their case. They do not cite any Scripture to substantiate such charges. Where do the Scriptures forbid churches cooperating together to support missionary preachers? And, for appointing men to oversee the project? Is such not affirmed in these words:
"Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ." (II Cor. 8: 23)
By "our brethren" Paul means his fellow laborers in the mission of preaching the Gospel in all the world. And, what does he say about these missionaries? Paul says that "they are the messengers of the churches." They did not represent only one church, nor receive support from only one church, but from several, which shows that churches acted jointly, cooperatively, in supporting missionaries. Dr. Gill says - "they are the messengers of the churches; they were chosen and sent forth by the churches, not only to preach the Gospel, but particularly to take care of the ministration to the poor saints. They were messengers appointed by the churches for this service, and were also appointed to the service of the churches." (Commentary)
Paul also wrote these words to the church at Phillipi.
"Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God." (Phi. 4: 15-18)
Did Paul think it wrong for him to receive support from the church at Phillipi when preaching to people in Macedonia? Obviously not! Also, when he says "no church communicated with me," that is, sent him funds for support, he not only praises the Phillipian church, but shames those churches which did not send support. His words indicate that it was the duty and privilege for all the churches to send support. And, if all these churches did this by formal cooperation, choosing persons to oversee the communication of the funds to the apostle and his fellow missionaries, what would be wrong with that? What Scripture can the Hardshells cite to show that such would not be according to the "order" or "pattern"?
Some Hardshells today actually argue that it is wrong for a preacher to take money from the churches to preach to the heathen, arguing that such preachers should 1) pay their own way and support themselves while among the heathen, and 2) should expect that the heathen whom he converts to support him. They will argue this based upon these words of the Apostle Paul:
"For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong." (II Cor. 12: 13)
This verse, according to those Hardshells that are against any church supporting a minister on mission in destitute areas, shows that it is wrong for churches to support any minister except the one who preaches for them. They say that Paul was saying that he did wrong in taking support from other churches when preaching to the people in Corinth, that he should have taken no funds from other churches but should have gotten all his support either from the people in Corinth who he converted or from his trade of making tents. But, all this is a gross misreading of the words of the Apostle. Paul is acknowledging a wrong, but the wrong is not in his accepting support as a missionary from the churches. This cannot be his meaning for, as we have seen, he commended the church at Phillipi for dong just that. Paul does not say "wherein I was inferior," but "wherein you were inferior." Paul is saying that he was wrong to not say anything to them about their duty, once they had become Christians, to support him. Now, I am sure that Paul had his reasons. No preacher, who has just converted folks from paganism, and who are yet babes and know little, wants to start preaching about the duty of Christians to give of their money to the church and to church work. He wants to first ground them in Christ before teaching those things. On these verses Dr. Gill writes:
"except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? because he freely preached the Gospel to them, took no wages of them, but chose rather to work with his own hands, and supply his necessities, than to be troublesome to them; in this, indeed, they differed from other churches, who liberally contributed to their ministers, and honourably maintained them:
forgive me this wrong; not that the apostle seriously desired this, or thought that he had done them any real injury, and so acknowledges it; for if any wrong was done hereby, it was to himself, and not them; but it is an ironical way of speaking, and was a sharp rebuke to them, for their ignorance, ingratitude, and negligence." (commentary)
According to the Hardshell "old line" position, Paul did wrong in taking money from the churches when on mission to the area of Corinth. But, in this case, Paul should have returned the money to those churches and asked them to forgive him! But, this he did not do because it was not wrong for them to send him support. If receiving support from churches while he was away on the mission field was wrong, then why did he praise the church at Phillipi for doing so? The error of the Apostle, if it be an error, was that he waited too long in teaching the brethren at Corinth about supporting ministers and missionaries.
The Address begins to speak of that "order" which was "marked out" in the new testament. They say:
"lst. In reference to the medium by which the gospel minister is to be sent forth to labor in the field. Agreeable to the Prophecy going before, that out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, the Lord has manifestly established the order, that his ministers should be sent forth by the churches. But the mission plan is to send them out by a Mission Society."
One of the first things to notice is the contradiction that is evident in these remarks when compared with what Black Rockers have long been saying about the church "sending" forth preachers as missionaries. They have long said that the Great Commission could not have been given to the church because the command is to "go," rather than to "send." But, in these words there is acceptance of the fact that churches do in fact "send" forth preachers to preach.
Secondly, if the church is not under the Great Commission, then where is her authority for sending Gospel ministers? If she sends them out to preach the Gospel, and this is by the authority of Christ in the commission, then all the argumentation about the church not being given the commission because the commission command says "go" rather than "send," is rendered a mute point.
Further, the sending forth of ministers is not what is simply done in a church sponsored ordination service, but also includes them sending those already ordained to labor in specific fields. This is evident in the Book of Acts.
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." (13: 1-4)
The ones that the Church at Antioch "sent" were already ordained men, already prophets, apostles, and teachers. Thus, the laying on the hands by the prophets and teachers of the Antioch church was not an ordination. This view is supported by Dr. Gill in his commentary. The idea of them being sent forth by the church, through her leaders, is that they gave their blessing to the mission work that Paul and Barnabas had been called to by the Spirit. It is also fairly certain that the church contributed to their monetary needs, so that they were sent forth not only by the laying on of hands, and with a blessing of "God speed," but with financial means.
Further, it is to be specially noticed how the act of being "sent" was both declared to be by the church and by the Holy Spirit. This is important because much of what has been written against missions by the Hardshells has been to suggest that missionaries sent forth by the churches are not sent by the Holy Spirit. Men sent by the church have been called "man sent" preachers, as if the Holy Spirit could not have sent them because they were sent by men.
Further, the Black Rockers think that being sent forth by a "society" is contrary to them being sent forth by a "church." But, the Black Rockers refer to the church as a "society." So, the word in itself is no objection. When a minister is sent forth by a church, it is a church society. What they are objecting to is a certain kind of society. That there are indeed certain kinds of societies, or organizations, other than an individual church, that is worthy of support, is self evident. Suppose an association of Baptist churches decide that they can do more in supporting missionaries by cooperating together. That this is nearly always the case is self evident. This association agrees to support a minister in going to a particular area where there are no existing believers. The association forms a committee to receive funds from the various churches and forward the same to the missionary and also to receive reports from the missionary to convey to the churches of the association. Now, what in God's name is wrong with that? Is this not what our Baptist forefathers have been doing for centuries? Could we call the committee a society? Certainly. We could even call the association itself a society. Every Hardshell church that financially supports an association is supporting a society! Now, expand this further: suppose all the Baptist churches and associations decide to cooperate with each other and form a committee (society) to oversee the work of missions. Again, what scripture does this violate? Will the Hardshells be so stubborn and hard headed as to contend that only individual churches may support only their own missionaries? That they cannot cooperate with other churches?
The Address continued:
"The gospel society or church is to be composed of baptized believers; the poor is placed on an equal footing with the rich, and money is of no consideration, with regard to membership, or church privileges. Not so with Mission Societies; they are so organized that the unregenerate, the enemies of the Cross of Christ, have equal privileges as to membership, with the people of God, and money is the principal consideration; a certain sum entitles to membership, a larger sum to life membership, a still larger to directorship, so that their constitutions, contrary to the direction of James, are partial, saying to the rich man, sit thou here, and to the poor, stand thou there. In Christ's kingdom, all His subjects are sons, and have equal rights, and an equal voice, as well in calling persons into the ministry, as in other things. But the mission administration is all lodged in the hands of a few, who are distinguished from the rest, by great swelling titles, as Presidents, Vice Presidents, &c. Again, each gospel church acts as the independent kingdom of Christ in calling and sending forth its members into the ministry."
What the Black Rockers say of mission societies (organizations) may be true of some of them, but certainly not all of them. Mission societies that are strictly run by churches do not fit the description given. There are no doubt some societies that are not governed by the churches, but are organizations created by individuals apart from any official authority of any church or group of churches. Further, what is wrong with receiving money from people who may not be members of any church but who are nevertheless desirous of seeing the Gospel preached where it has not been preached hitherto? Still, none of the objections raised by the Black Rockers justify their declaring non-fellowship for all Baptist churches and individuals who support mission societies. One thing is sure, the reason why the heathen, for the past 180 years have heard the Gospel, received Bibles in their own languages, is not due to the Hardshells, but to these mission organizatons that the Black Rockers condemned! Need we say more? Did not Watson say, as I have already cited, "our violation of it in the 19th century will not cause it to fail; others will do the work." "Others will do the work"!