Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hardshells & Mission Opposition XVIII

Chapter 161

Elder Grigg Thompson wrote:

"The devil is your enemy, and a cunning, artful one; and when he sees that persecutions and tortures will not destroy you, but that you grow and prosper under them, he will clothe himself as an angel of light, and come to you claiming to be a humble follower of Christ, whose soul is full of love for the blessed cause; and he wants to see the standard of Immanuel planted in every land, and the world converted to the religion of Jesus; and to effect this, we must have a system of cooperation through which we can concentrate all our forces and means; and we will soon see the world converted, and the millennial glory ushered in upon us."

Elder Grigg Thompson was the oldest son of Hardshell founding father Wilson Thompson. Grigg was a young minister at the time of the Black Rock Address and the Hardshell separation from the Baptists. He, like his fellow seceders, does not have anything good to say about his Baptist brethren who were supporting missions and trying to fulfill the Great Commission. He says that the devil was behind the mission movement, was motivating these Baptists. He says it was really the devil's scheme to send the Gospel to the heathen. What an outrageious charge! How ludicrous! The devil wants the Gospel preached in all the world? No one in his right mind will believe such a thing! Talk about calling good evil! All the people who desired to see the Gospel go to where it had not yet come are in league with the devil and doing his business! This is simply more proof that the Hardshells are a cult.

What Thompson is really objecting to is churches cooperating together, or acting in concert. As I highlighted in the above citation, Thompson rejects churches having "a system of cooperation" in doing the Lord's work. In reply to this, it must be stated that such cooperation was not unknown in the apostolic churches. Let us look at some Scriptures which show that this cooperation existed.

"And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind...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: 18-19, 23)

What we learn from this passage is that a single brother was chosen and sent by not one church, but by "the churches" (plural) to travel with the apostle, both to preach and to assist in missionary work. Obviously these churches acted in concert and cooperation, the very thing that Thompson and the Hardshells condemn and call a new thing! Dr. Gill in his commentary said these things about this brother:

"...this brother's praise seems to be on account of his preaching the Gospel...he was also appointed by the joint suffrages of the churches, which were made by the lifting up or stretching out of the hand, as the word here used signifies; this brother was not chosen to this service by a few private persons, or by a single church only, but by several churches..."

Notice that Gill says that the churches acted in concert in appointing this brother to travel with the Apostle, and who was in charge of the "grace," or funds, collected by the churches, and to be administered and distributed by Paul and those with him. Gill says that this brother was appointed by the "joint suffrages" or votes of the churches, who acted together in inter church cooperation!

Thompson continued:

"You love Christ and want the glorious gospel preached to all the world, and ask him, How is this to be effected? He answers you: "By forming a great national convention, and then State conventions; and let your churches, associations, and State conventions be auxiliary to the national convention. Let memberships, life memberships, and directorships be sold to raise money; let salaried officers be appointed to transact the business, and let salaried agents be appointed to travel all over the country to raise funds for this glorious purpose, and then the world will soon be evangelized." When you have heard all this, go to your copy, and see if you find it there; hunt for the agents Christ sent out to collect money from the people; look, and find if you can, where a great convention, and auxiliary conventions were formed; and find, if you can, where he ordered that members, directorships, etc., should be sold for money. If you find nothing of the kind in your copy, shun it as you would the devil; for it is one of his devices to lead you away from Christ; and by following it you will forfeit your communion with Christ and his church."

Again, this is more proof that the Hardshells are a cult. To denounce the entire Christian world in such terms shows it clearly. All who support mission enterprises are following the devices of the devil! Who can believe such nonsense? Those who support missionary work are led away from communion with Christ and his church! Only the Hardshells, by their opposition to such mission work, are in communion with Christ and his church! The devil motivates all the Christians who support mission work! Yet, as we shall see, Thompson condemns not only the apostolic churches, but the Old Baptists who put forth the 1689 Confession in London, and the Philadelphia Confession put forth by the churches of the Philadelphia Association in 1742, for they acted together in supporting mission work.

Again, we see the argument from silence used. We see the error of Hardshell patternism. By this same reasoning, Thompson would have to say that associations, singing schools, and all forms of cooperation among churches are devil inspired! The devil created associations and singing schools among the Hardshells! How can I say this? By simply applying the reasoning of Thompson! If you cannot find something specifically mentioned in the Scriptures, then it is of the devil! That is his argument and it is absolutely ridiculous. He said - "If you find nothing of the kind in your copy, shun it as you would the devil." But, where can he find his associations? His singing schools? His church clerks? His church buildings? His radio preaching?

How does Thompson know that preachers and others, in the days of the Apostles, did not solicit money from the churches to support missionaries and poor saints? An argument from silence, in this instance, is no proof. We know that the churches did send money for such purposes and this is enough proof. Did not the Apostles and other preachers constantly tell the early Christians to "remember the poor"? (Gal. 2: 10) Why would they have excluded the command to remember the missionaries? Did not Paul say this to the first Christians?

"Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." (Gal. 6: 6)

What does he mean by communicating? Does he not mean the same thing that he wrote to the church at Phillipi when he wrote these words?

"Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 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." (4: 14-15)

Paul instructed Timothy to say this to Christians with financial means:

"That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." (I Tim. 6: 18)

He also said the same to the Hebrews, saying -

"But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." (Heb. 13: 16)

On Galatians 6: 6 Dr. Gill wrote:

"communicate to him that teacheth; who is commissioned, and qualified and sent forth by Christ, and whose office in the church is to teach the word, to preach the Gospel, to instruct men in the truths of it, and teach them their duty also to God and men, such are to be communicated to; that is, such as are under their instructions ought to impart of their worldly substance to them, for their honourable and comfortable support and maintenance; for since they spend their time, and make use of their talents, gifts, and abilities, for their instruction in spiritual things, it is but reasonable, and no such great matter, that they partake of their carnal things; and especially since it is the will and ordinance of Christ, that they that preach the Gospel should live of it."

In commenting upon Philippians 4: 14 Dr. Gill wrote:

"yet he observes they did well in communicating to him; for communicating to poor saints or ministers is a considerable branch of well doing; it is a good work when it is done in faith, and from love, and with a view to the glory, honour, and interest of Christ; it is what is agreeable to the will of God, and is an odour of a sweet smell, and acceptable to him."

In commenting upon Hebrews 13: 16 Dr. Gill wrote:

"But to do good and to communicate forget not,.... Which is to be understood, not of doing good works in general, but of acts of beneficence, or communicating to "the poor", as the Syriac version renders it: the apostle proceeds to take notice of another sort of sacrifice, which continues under the Gospel dispensation; and that is, alms; which should be attended to: alms should be given, or beneficence be exercised to all men in need, even to our enemies, as well as to our friends and relations; and especially to poor saints, and ministers of the Gospel: and this believers should not "forget"; which shows that it is a duty of importance; and that men are too apt to neglect it, and should be stirred up unto it."

Obviously then, it was a practice for the Apostle to teach new converts about what good works they should do, and one of them was to support teachers of the word, and certainly this would include those who were on the mission field taking the Gospel to where it had not yet gone. So, they taught the people not only to remember the poor but to remember those who were laboring in teaching and preaching the Gospel. Thompson and the Hardshells would charge the Apostle with soliciting funds!

And, about mission organizations selling positions in a mission organization, that is probably not a good practice. But, it certainly does not rise to the level of being an evil as Thompson makes it out to be. Now, for a mission organization to simply have officers can be no evil. If it is, what shall we say about Hardshell organizations that have them? I already referred to some examples of this. Further, do not Associations have officers, such as Moderators and Clerks? Do they not also appoint committees? Committees to investigate church problems and to write circular letters, for instance? Do they also not send agents (representatives) to visit their fellow Associations? "Consistency thou art a jewel"!

Further, Thompson's condemnation of state conventions and of such supporting missionaries is also highly untenable and unsound. What are conventions but an association of associations? Since the Hardshells condone Associations, and Associations doing work on behalf of the churches, what is wrong with an Association of Associations? In fact, the Hardshells have such in the fact that all their Associations have "sister Associations" with whom they have "formal correspondence." In this we see the practice of associations cooperating together. Hardshells have traditionally used such as a way of executing decrees. In other words, when one Association declares non-fellowship with a minister or church, the sister Associations who are in direct fellowship are called upon to officially recognize that act. I referred to this in the early chapters of this book in the case of the Powell's Valley Association declaring non-fellowship with my dad and his church for their views on the fall of Satan and a sister Association, the Bear Creek Association of North Carolina, was obligated to recognize it. Thus, they have, practically speaking, a kind of convention themselves.

Consider also the fact that the Black Rock Address, which Thompson was proud to defend, is itself a called convention! "Consistency thou art a jewel"! Also, the Fulton meeting in 1900, which was for the purpose of endorsing and editing the 1689 London Confession, was called a convention! Further, many times in Hardshell history there have been churches who acted in cooperation to call and hold what were called "peace meetings"!

Thompson continued:

"I shall not speak of all the institutions gotten up by men, called benevolent, and claiming your fellowship and support, as efficient means of grace for the conversion and salvation of sinners. Not one of their agents, or missionaries have ever yet said, "I am full and abound;" but their covetous hearts are forever crying, "Give, give; we must have more money, or our cause will perish;" and to raise the funds, church festivals, oyster, or strawberry suppers, sham post-offices, etc., are gotten up, and tricks of deception practiced. Dear child of God, look at your copy, and ask yourself the question, Can I live in fellowship with these things, and practice them, and say, "I abide in Christ, and walk as he walked?" ("The Primitive Preacher," section titled "Abiding In Christ")

In addressing these complaints by Thompson, let us begin with his cry against benevolent work. Hardshells are against any kind of church benevolent work, although they claim that they believe it is a good work for individual Christians to do, like giving to the poor. Now, it is not my intention to deal with the question of church benevolent work fully at this time. However, it seems to me that if it is good for a single Christian to give to the poor, then nothing could be wrong with a church acting together to do the same. When Paul said that Christians "remember the poor," there is no reason to restrict this to individuals working alone to the exclusion of the churches. In a passage already referred to, did not the churches act together to give funds to Paul and "the brother" to be for the poor saints in Judea? Are we to believe that this was right but not right to give to any other of the poor? Did not Paul say - "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith"? Certainly believers are to come first, given precedence. But, when the needs of poor believers have been met, and there is still means and opportunity, the poor among "all men" should be helped.

Thompson next objects to benevolent work, such as helping the poor, being an "efficient means of grace." We certainly do agree that such benevolent work can never be an "efficient" means in saving sinners. The efficient means would be the will and power of God, and the atonement of Christ and work of the Spirit. But, such may become instrumental means when the Lord blesses and intends for it to be such. I do not doubt that there have been many occasions where a poor lost soul has been given food, clothing, and shelter from good Samaritan Christians and who have later been converted, and that the inititial kind deed was enough to bring the lost soul to listen to the Gospel message.

Next, Thompson draws a false comparison between Paul once saying that he had sufficient support on hand to minister to his necessities, and the fact that missionary organizations are never saying "we have enough for now." The two cases being compared are not alike. First, Paul himself was not always in such a situation, for at other times he was in want. In I Corinthians 4: 11 he wrote - "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace." In II Corinthians 11: 27 he spoke of being "in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."

Consider also the fact that Paul was referring to himself, not to every missionary then preaching the Gospel. Mission organizations never have enough because there are always new places to send missionaries and always new people volunteering for missionary work.

Thompson once again shows the Hardshell spirit when he attacks his Baptist brethren for supporting missionary work and speaks of their "covetous hearts." Again, who made him a judge of the hearts of men? How can he so judge the motives of others? If anyone, however, can be judged as being covetous, at least in practice, it is the Hardshells who say that they will not give a single penny to help ministers who have gone to destitute areas to bring the saving Gospel of Christ to lost souls!

Thompson objects to churches and missionary organizations raising funds by having sales and suppers. Yet, many Hardshell churches have used these same methods to help raise money to build nice church buildings. In the past few years, Union Grove Primitive Baptist church here in Monroe, North Carolina, where I used to attend, built a grand new building and they raised money by baking cakes and selling them, and by other methods. Many churches have yard sales to raise funds. But, Thompson would have to condemn all these Hardsehll churches! Or, would it be okay to raise money by these methods for building church meeting houses but not okay to do it to help the poor and to help missionaries?

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