Thursday, October 17, 2013

Elder Watson Condemns Hardshell Error

Elder (Dr.) John Watson in his "Old Baptist Test" wrote these words (emphasis mine):

""And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 15: 15-16. The unscriptural sayings which have been predicated of this text, have done much heretical mischief among the Old Baptists. Some of our ultraists are occasionally heard to say, in our pulpits, that they have no authority to preach to sinners, and they seem to glory in their fancied exemption. Nothing appears to give them greater offence, or savors more of Arminianism, with them, than for sinners to be exhorted to repent!" (pages 327-28)

Elder Watson was one of the main leaders in the anti-mission movement and founding father of the "Primitive Baptist" church. His book was published just after the Civil War and just before his death. He was a major leader of Baptist in the then western territories, especially of middle Tennessee. Every Hardshell ought to read this book. It will surely show him what was the doctrinal beliefs of the first Hardshells.

Who does the elder refer to when he speaks of his "ultraist" brethren? It was those who denied that the Great Commission was still in operation, and who denied that the Gospel is to be preached to dead sinners, and who denied that the Gospel was a means in the eternal salvation of sinners. By these standards, today's Hardshells are "ultraists" and are not in agreement with Elder Watson, whose views were the standard view of the first generation of Hardshells. Elder Watson wrote frequently in the "Signs of the Times," the "Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor," the "Primitive Baptist," and even was a co-editor of the "Old Baptist Banner," all periodicals of the 1830s. He was in fellowship with the first great leaders among the "Old School" Baptist, and was a close friend to such men as Elder Grigg Thompson, Elder John Clark, Elder James Osbourn, and other such notables.

It is interesting how the "ultraists" not only rejected the idea that the Gospel was to be preached to the spiritually dead, but even rejoiced in the idea. Elder Watson rightly saw this as a disgusting thing. It can be truly said that the day that the Hardshells took on this idea is the day that "Ichabod" was written over them.

Also, Watson considers such errors to be "heretical." He also says that such heresies had caused much "mischief" among the Old Schoolers. If he were alive today he would no doubt stand amazed at how much more serious was this mischief. Later in his book, on page 517, he wrote:

"Our not exhorting sinners to repent and believe, is a gross deviation from the gospel rule, and a palpable perversion of the great commission under which we preach."

Notice Watson's further description of the heresy that the "ultraist" had begun to believe and preach. He says their heresy is a "gross deviation from the gospel rule" and a "palpable perversion of the great commission." Would that today's Hardshells would repent of their error and listen to Elder Watson, who wrote this for their benefit.

Watson went on to say:

"Let us pursue the revealed method of God, and not the assumed one which we now follow. If ultraist, in their blindness, call us Arminian, let us bear it for the truth's sake. We had better suffer ourselves than deviate from our commission." (page 517-18)

Notice how Watson not only identifies the ultraist Hardshells as heretics, but says that they are blind. They are the ones who call those who believe in means "Arminian," which is a falsehood.

He also wrote:

"The violation of our commission has engendered a spirit of coldness and indifference about those yet unbrought; by some they are not cared for, prayed for, nor preached unto; this spirit in like manner extends to the "babes" in Christ, the sheep, and the sheep only, are fed." (page 521)

Watson says that the ultraist Hardshells had violated the commission, which is no minor transgression. He says their anti means doctrine had created a spirit in them that lacked any concern for the lost. He no doubt would agree that such a spirit and heresy has turned them into a cult, were he here today.

Elder Watson continued (pages 327-28):

"That the commission extends to such, is apparent from the fact that some believe, and some do not. Those who believe were unbelievers before, and the unbelieving of others can only be predicated of their hearing. What said the prophet? "O ye dry bones, hear ye the word of the Lord." I would just state here, at once, that I have no idea that sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, will ever believe through the mere preaching of the Gospel, or through the exhortations of the Lord's ministers, any more than that the dry bones would have lived through the prophesying of the prophet, apart from what the Lord did for them. But that fact does not nullify the commission to preach to them, but on the contrary, greatly strengthens it. The divine assurance that God's word will prosper in the thing whereunto He hath sent it, affords great encouragement to preach to sinners."

The force of Watson's logic on the commission is based upon the assumption that those who are "unbelievers," who are not believers in the Gospel, are "dead in trespasses and sins." He says that the command to preach the Gospel even to unbelievers is proof that it is to be preached to those who are spiritually dead. But, this shows that Watson believed that the terms "unbeliever" and "dead" are connected. If one is an unbeliever, then he is dead. If one is dead, then he is an unbeliever. Such logic, however, would never be conceded to by today's ultraist Hardshells who believe that there are many who are unbelievers but who are spiritually alive.

In proving that the Gospel is to be preached to the spiritually dead, and that it is a means in the hand of God in raising the dead, Watson goes to the story of Ezekiel's prophesying to the dry dead bones. It was this story that overthrew all my arguments against means, when I was a Hardshell believer in the Spirit alone view. All the arguments that Hardshells have ever made against the means view can be overcome by a simple look at the story of Ezekiel and the raising of the dead. Perhaps this is why the Hardshells of today do not want to debate, for in debate they would have to deal with how Ezekiel's raising of the dead destroys all their logical arguments.

Elder Watson continued:

"The Antinomian will not regard any thing in the light of means, and in his doctrine will not allow even the Lord to employ them, says that the Lord is not dependent on means, and can do all His work without them. Now, the truth is, had it been the will or the way of the Lord, He could have breathed upon the dry bones as well without the prophesying of the prophet as with it, and could have given repentance to John's converts, or to Paul's, without their preaching; but their preaching to such, even to those dead in trespasses and sins, had been included in the divine plan, and it needs must be done, let it be termed means, the will or way of the Lord, as you please." (pages 327-28)

Watson correctly identifies the anti means ultraist Hardshells as being "Antinomian."

Watson's book is filled with such refutation of the anti means doctrine that later, after his death, took over the "Primitive" or "Old School" Baptist denomination. It would be good if all Hardshells today would read his book and consider what he says.

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