The Black Rock Address in condemning mission societies, wrote:
"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."
"President" and "Vice President" are "great swelling titles"? What about the numerous Hardshell societies, organizations, and corporations that have such officers? I have several books that have been published by Hardshell publication "societies." For instance, I have a book titled "The Writings of S.A. Paine" (a Hardshell debater at the turn of the twentieth century) and on the inside cover is this information:
Harp Of Ages, Inc.
Harvey L. Bass, President
A.E. Richards, Vice President
I also have copies of the "Old School Hymnal" and at the end of the Preface is this information:
E.D. Speir Sr. President
Lasserre Bradley Jr. Vice President
Roland U. Green Music Editor
Joe F. Hildreth Treasurer
R. Wayne Peters Secretary
I. Morgan Holcombe Director
Daniel R. Hall Director
Most, if not all, of these men are Hardshell elders. I could give more examples of such "societies" that the Hardshells have in existence. It seems that they are not averse to "presidents" and "vice presidents" and such "great swelling titles" when it comes to societies of their own making! "Consistency thou art a jewel"!
The Address continued:
"Very different from this is the mission order. The mission community being so arranged that from the little Mite Society, or the State Conventions, and from them on to the Triennial Convention, and General Board, there is formed a general amalgamation, and a concentration of power in the hands of a dozen dignitaries, who with some exceptions have the control of all the funds designed for supporting ministers among the destitute, at home and abroad, and the sovereign authority to designate who from among the professed ministers of Christ, shall be supported from these funds, and also to assign them the field of their labors."
One can oppose certain kinds of mission organizations and still not be opposed to them all. J.R. Graves led many in the Landmarker movement to oppose the board system of mission organizations, in the mid 1800s, yet they nevertheless supported church sponsored missions. Ben Bogard would continue the war against the board system into the twentieth century, holding a debate in 1910 with I.N. Penich over the question. It is not my intention here to get fully into this controversy. It is sufficient to point out that one can support mission organizations without supporting the board system. Many have written in support of the board system and their arguments seem to be sound. Who, after all, controls the boards? Is it not the churches themselves? Thus, if someone on the board is judged to not be doing things properly, he can be removed by a vote of the churches.
Further, the board of trustees of most Baptist mission organizations only appoint men to mission work who have been first recommended by a church or churches. Also, the board considers the minister's qualifications and his own mind relative to his field of labor. If two candidates apply to a board to be sent to a mission field in China, for instance, the board would look at the candidates qualifications and interview them to see which, if any, had a special burden or impression to go to China. Suppose one of them had such a burden that he had begun to learn the Chinese language and about Chinese history? Would such a person not be looked upon more favorably? Why would such investigation be wrong?
The Black Rockers condemn a board of trustees having so much power to appoint ministers as missionaries, and yet they forget that such boards are directly under the supervision of the churches themselves. The sovereignty remains with the churches. Further, do the Hardshells not know what it means to be a steward? Do stewards not have great power in supervising and controlling the assets of others? Trustees on Baptist boards are simply stewards.
The Hardshells object to mission boards assigning the field of labor for ministers who apply to the board to be appointed as a missionary. But, they fail to realize that this is done in conjunction with conversations with the churches and with the missionaries. If Baptists have been led of the Lord to send missionaries to Africa, for instance, and want to send missionaries to that part of the world, is ti wrong for them to raise money for that purpose and to ask ministers who may have a burden to go there, to apply to their appointed stewards and trustees for examination? Does not each minister have the right to apply or not? If he would rather go to India, rather than Africa, then he can make his thoughts and purposes known.
The Address continued:
"Yea, the authority to appoint females, and school-masters, and printers, and farmers, as such, to be solemnly set apart by prayer, and the impositions of hands, as missionaries of the cross, and to be supported from these funds. Whereas in ancient times the preachers of the gospel [were called] by the Holy Ghost. - Acts xiii. 1,4. 2nd."
This is not logical and is against what the Address has already acknowledged. They have affirmed that a person can, at the same time, be sent forth by both the church and the Lord. One does not exclude the other. Further, this was seen from the citation from Acts 13: 1-5 where Paul and Barnabas were sent forth by the church and by the Spirit. The church and Spirit often work together. John said "the Spirit and the bride say come" (Rev. 22: 17). In the area of mission work, it is the same. Both the church and Spirit act and speak as one.
The Address continued:
"In reference to ministerial support. - The gospel order is to extend support to them who preach the gospel; but the mission plan is to hire persons to preach. The gospel order is not to prefer one before another, and do nothing by partiality. See 1 Tim. v. 17,21. But the Mission Boards exclude all from participation in the benefits of their funds, who do not come under their direction and own their authority, however regularly they may have been set apart according to gospel order, to the work of the ministry, and however zealously they may be laboring to preach the gospel among the destitute."
But, those who decide on the qualifications for missionaries are godly men who have been appointed as stewards and overseers by the churches. If the churches feel as though a particular minister has been wrongly shunned by the board of stewards, then they may appeal to the board, and if need be, remove particular stewards.
And, as far as showing partiality is concerned, the Black Rockers are not ones to judge! They continuously do what they here condemn. They show partiality to their own anti mission ministers! Further, did not Paul say that the elders who rule well should be given "double honor"? (I Tim. 5: 17) Would it being showing partiality for the churches and ministers to decide which preachers were worthy of double honor? Further, the "honor" in these verses involved financial support. Some preachers deserve double support because of their qualifications. But, according to the Hardshells no one should make such a judgment, because it would be showing partiality!
Also, funds are always limited and there is no way that every minister who desires to be a missionary can be supported. The board, acting on behalf of the churches, should appoint the best qualified. Of course, no baptist board is going to appoint missionaries who do not recognize the authority of the board. Why should they? To reject the authority of the board is to reject the authority of the Baptist churches who appointed the board's members.
It seems obvious that some of the Black Rockers felt slighted when they were not approved for support by the mission organizations. Some of the most vocal of anti missionaries had at first applied to the boards, and being rejected, then went on a crusade against them. Daniel Parker applied and was rejected before he went on his tirade against them. So too with men like James Osbourn and Samuel Trott. Further, had the Hardshells not been so much at war with the mission organizations, and discouraged so many from financially supporting the boards, there would have been more funds for missionaries, and thus more missionaries.
The Address continued:
"And what is more, these Boards by their auxiliaries and agents, so scour every hole and corner to scrape up money for their funds that the people think they have nothing left to give a preacher who may come among them alone upon the authority of Christ, and by the fellowship of the church."
There is no doubt some truth in these words, but there is also likely some exaggeration. Was it wrong for preachers to seek financial support from Christians for mission work? Paul thought that it was good for Christians to give of their money to support those who were preaching the Gospel in areas where it has not been preached before. I have already cited his words to the church at Phillipi where he said "ye have well done" in sending funds to him, and "not because I desire a gift," he said, "but I desire fruit that may abound to your account." Those preachers who sought financial help in supporting missionaries wanted the people to please the Lord, to do well, to bear fruit that may abound to their accounts. Paul said the church at Corinth was "inferior" to other churches in this area and that he should have encouraged them to give of their money to support him and his fellow missionaries. Thus, missionaries who call upon the people of God to give of their money to support missions are really inviting them to become superior and to bear fruit that God will be pleased with.
Further, did not the Hardshells force themselves into the extreme of never teaching their people about their responsibility in giving? Every Hardshell preacher who reads this will know that this is the truth. And, so far as taking money from people to the point where they "have nothing left to give a preacher," one suspects again that many Hardshells opposed missionaries seeking financial support because they saw it as taking money away from them. It is the same movitation that we have already observed. The ignorant Hardshell preachers opposed educated ministers because they felt threatened in their own positions. Here they oppose their people giving money to mission organizations because it will take money away from them.
The Address continued:
"Formerly not only did preachers generally feel themselves bound to devote a part of their time to traveling and preaching among the destitute, but the people also among whom they came dispensing the word of life, felt themselves bound to contribute something to meet their expenses. These were the days when Christian affections flowed freely. Then the hearts of the preachers flowed out toward the people, and the affections of the people were manifested toward the preachers who visited them. There was then more preaching of the gospel among the people at large, according to the number of Baptists, than has ever been since the rage of missions commenced. How different are things now from what they were in those by-gone days."
There is so much that can be said in response to these things. The context of their examples are Baptist preachers in America, such as John Leland, in the 18 century, who often made excursions into the frontier lands to preach in areas that were seeing new settlers. Many of these settlers were already familiar with the Christian religion, to some extent, having immigrated from areas that had already been settled. So, to go preach in those areas was not the same as going to a heathen land. These preachers, like Leland, often had a church or churches to pastor, but may have only had to preach once or twice per month. During those times in the month when they did not have a regular preaching engagement in the churches they pastored, they would venture out into these destitute and thinly populated areas. Oftentimes these open air meetings were greatly blessed so that many were converted to Christ and new churches established. And, it is true that these traveling preachers would often receive donations from their new converts. But, it is also true that they received support from churches they pastored. This we shall show in later chapters when we get into the history of Baptist mission work.
It is not always the case, however, that the new converts in those destitute areas supported the new preacher. This was the case with Paul in Corinth, was it not? They did not support him after they had been converted. Why? Is it not because they did not know better? If Paul had not received support from other churches when he went to Corinth, he would have suffered want.
The Address continued:
"Now, generally speaking, persons who are novices in the gospel, however learned they may profess to be in the sciences, have taken the field in the place of those who, have been taught in the school of Christ, were capacitated to administer consolation to God's afflicted people."
Again, it is quite obvious that many anti mission preachers felt slighted and that this feeling motivated many of them in their opposition to missions. Daniel Parker no doubt felt insult when he was rejected for mission support. But, had I been on a Baptist mission board, and had limited funds, insufficient to support all who wanted support, I too would have excluded supporting Parker, a man who boasted of his ignorance. He certainly was one of the least qualified to be supported. Further, not supporting Parker as a missionary did not mean he could not continue to do what he had been doing in preaching and pastoring churches.
The Address continued:
"The missionary, instead of going into such neighborhoods as Christ's ministers used to visit, where they would be most likely to have an opportunity of administering food to the poor of the flock, seeks the more populous villages and towns, where he can attract the most attention, and do the most to promote the cause of missions and other popular institutions. His leading motive, judging from his movements, is not love to souls, but love of fame; hence his anxiety to have something to publish of what he has done, and hence his anxiety to constitute churches, even taking disaffected, disorderly, and as has been the case, excluded persons, to form a church, in the absence of better materials."
By these remarks the Black Rockers condemn the great Apostle Paul who often went into the most populous of cities to preach! By their own criterion they would have to say that in doing so he was seeking fame and money! And, that he went to these cities because he did not have any love for souls! Further, once again the Hardshells make ad hominem attacks in an attempt to prove their points. But, such prove nothing. They also attack the motives of those missionaries who went into population centers as if they were judges of the hearts of men. "His leading motive" they have the nerve to judge. But, again, they are doing what the Scriptures denounce.
And, as far as taking in excluded persons, the Hardshells later did this in great numbers themselves! Many of their churches have a history of doing this, especially in taking in members from Missionary and Arminian churches! But, it is doubtful that this was ever a common practice among missionaries who established churches in destitute locations. Probably, in some of the cases, these persons confessed their former sins and were taken into the newly formed churches. They may have immigrated from the eastern seaboard, but were now in the western wilderness, and to wait for them to get in contact with that former church would take months. Thus, the missionary preacher would in such cases simply take them in based upon their confession of wrong. I personally see no wrong in this in such cases.
The Address continued:
"And the people, instead of glowing with the affection for the preacher as such, feel burdened with the whole system of modern mendicancy, but have no resolution to shake off their oppression, because it is represented so deistical to withhold and so popular to give. Brethren, we cheerfully acknowledge that there have been some honorable exceptions to the character we have here drawn of the modern missionary, and some societies have existed under the name of Mission Societies which were in some important exceptions from the above drawn sketch; but on a general scale we believe we have given a correct view of the mission plans and operations, and of the effects which have resulted from them, and our hearts really sicken at this state of things. How can we therefore forbear to express our disapprobation of the system that has produced it?"
It seems to me that the above represents a very weak case for declaring all mission work of Baptists to be anti Christian. It certainly offers no reason to have declared all Baptists who supported missions as being in disorder and part of AntiChrist and Babylon! Truly the Hardshells have "thrown out the baby with the bathwater," as we have said. They acknowledge that their criticism and denunciation did not apply to all missionaries and mission organizations, but still they go on and declare non-fellowship with them all! Because some few Baptist church members "feel burdened" under the pleas for financial help with missions, therefore all pleas for such are wrong? Is it not the case that when some courageous Hardshell preachers began to teach their people about their duty to support their ministers, after a long period of their forefathers condemning all such preaching, that some covetous members felt anxiety? But, is this a reason to stop teaching the people about their duty? And, as fas as giving a "correct view of the mission plans and operations," that is simply not the case. In reading the Black Rock Address it becomes apparent that they did not represent things accurately.
Thus, we are finished looking at the Black Rock Address and have shown how their arguments against supporting Baptist mission organizations simply lack credibility. They do not show from the Scripture how such organizations are wrong or evil as they judge. In the next chapter we will look at some of the further argumentation against missions that was made later, after the 1832 Black Rock Address, by Hardshell apologists.