From the "Primitive Baptist" for June 8, 1839 we read (emphasis mine):
"He again asks: "How are those to hear where there are no Bibles, and no preachers to explain God's word." He now is speaking of heathens. If we are to judge of this matter from past events, we shall answer, that persecution will be the means of their hearing the true, genuine, unadulterated gospel of the Son of God. For persecution has been instrumental in sending the true evangelical gospel to the destitute Gentile nations of the earth, from the days of John the Baptist until now."
There are a few things to be examined from these early remarks by the Hardshells. First, it is obvious that the first Hardshells did not use the defense of later Hardshells, such as C. H. Cayce, in affirming that the heathen did not have to hear the Gospel in order to be saved. The first Hardshells did not deny that the Gospel was a means in the eternal salvation of the elect. For instance, Elder James Osbourne, a leader among the first anti-mission Hardshells, wrote:
"But if so be that the specific object which the Deity had in-view, and designed to accomplish by means of, or in a way compatible with the gospel which he ordained and promulgated, was the eternal salvation of the bride, the Lamb's wife, Rev. 21; 9; we then of course may safely conclude, that that specific object must and will be accomplished, just in that way and manner as infinite wisdom may have dictated. And lo, this is what we do believe and rejoice in; and in the gospel we also believe, every necessary arrangement and provision is made and permanently settled for the effecting the salvation of that church which was the object of God's everlasting love and delight, and which he gave to his Son before time began." (From the "Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor" for July, 1839, Vol. 3, pge 14)
Further, if one reads the issues of the "Primitive Baptist" in the 1830s, he will see that the view of Elder Osbourne was the stated view of the first Hardshells.
Second, the first Hardshells, believing that the elect must, and would, hear the Gospel and be saved, nevertheless rejected the mission organizations then being promoted by many Baptists. Their defense of such opposition was to affirm that the Lord would see that the elect hear the Gospel without these organizations. Their chief defense was to say that it is the Lord's sole responsibility to see that the elect hear the Gospel, and not the responsibility of churches and Christians. In so arguing they affirmed that the method the Lord uses to bring the Gospel to the elect was persecution. Is this correct?
While it is not to be denied that the Lord has used persecution to spread the Gospel, it is denied that this is his only or preferred method. In Acts 8: 4 we indeed see how the Lord used persecution to spread the disciples, and this spreading of the disciples produced a spreading of the Gospel. Luke wrote:
"Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."
No one denies that the Lord has used persecution to scatter the disciples, and in scattering them, he in effect was also scattering the word. The question is, however, was this his only method? Surely it is not his only method. Did the Apostle Paul travel around the Roman Empire as a result of persecution? No. Did he not go and preach as the Lord led him and as he was helped by the disciples? Further, when the Apostle was commissioned by the Lord, the Lord said to Paul:
"...for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee..." (Acts 26: 16-17)
Paul's going to the Gentiles was not the effect of being persecuted but the result of an order given to him by the Lord. Indeed the Lord had told his disciples - "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." (Matt. 10: 23) But, surely this was not always the reason why Paul went from one city to another. To assume this is to assume what is clearly not true from Scripture. Paul asked - "And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Rom. 10: 15) The Hardshells would add these words to the words of the Apostle - "how shall they go and preach except they be persecuted?"
In giving the orders of the Great Commission, there is no mention of persecution. The Lord did not say - "go into all the world and preach the Gospel only when you are persecuted and forced to do so."
Further, our Lord said these words prior to his ascension:
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1: 8)
Surely no one can think that the Lord was prophesying that this spreading of the Gospel would be strictly a result of persecution. The reason assigned for this success of the Gospel was the giving of Pentecostal power to the disciples and not the result of persecution.
It seems clear to me that the Hardshells present this apology for the spreading of the Gospel in order to justify their own lack of mission work, their own disobedience to the Lord's command to his disciples in the Great Commission. They want to say that the work of spreading the Gospel is all the Lord's work and responsibility and they therefore feel no responsibility or guilt.
Further, in the Acts 8: 4 passage, it is the disciples who went everywhere preaching the word, and not merely the ordained ministry. So, this passage goes against the Hardshell notion that the duty and commission to preach the Gospel was given solely to the ministry. Elder R. H. Pittman, in the Mt. Carmel Church trial, from which I have already given reference, was questioned about this. Notice his answers:
Q. You preach the gospel, don’t you?
A. I try to.
Q. You believe that anybody can preach the gospel, don’t you, ordained or not ordained?
A. I don’t believe that it is the duty of all men to preach the gospel.
Q. But the right, isn’t it?
A. No; I believe it is the duty of some men to preach the gospel.
Pittman's answers show the Hardshell spirit as regards the preaching of the Gospel. The average Hardshell lay person feels no duty to proclaim the good news, believing that only ministers should have such a burden. Yet, as I have pointed out, Hardshell congregations will sing the song "I Love To Tell The Story," in which are the lines "I love to tell the story, for some have never heard The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word."
If one researches the history of the spread of the Gospel, he will see that persecution has not been the only way that the Lord has used to inform men of the blessed truth of the Gospel. In England in the 17th century, as we shall see, the Particular Baptists who wrote and endorsed the 1689 London Confession, were heavily involved in sending missionaries to Wales and other parts of the British Isles. It was not persecution, therefore, that took the Gospel into those areas, but the cooperative work of those Baptists.
Also, many of the oldest Hardshell churches in the southern United States were founded by the missionary work of churches and ministers in the Sandy Creek Association, men like Daniel Marshall. Marshall helped to convert many of the early settlers in the southern states and to form them into churches and he went into those areas, not because he was persecuted and had to flee to those areas, but because he was a missionary and was supported by the churches in the Sandy Creek Association. And, I repeat, many of these old churches later became Hardshell churches.
Thus, the apologetic defense given by the Hardshells for why they do not involve themselves in mission work is untenable and does not excuse themselves from their own responsibility. The confession of Elder John Watson, one of the founding fathers of the Hardshell church, still echoes loud and clear - "we have violated our commission."
In a "Circular Letter to the Old School Baptists Throughout the United States" by Elder Joshua Lawrence (March 9, 1839, Vol. 4), Lawrence wrote:
"...that missions is the invention of men, a plan of priestcraft, a spirit of intrigue and covetousness, and contrary to the book, and a destroyer of brotherly love."
This is typical of the kind of language and harsh judgment given by the Hardshells throughout their history against Baptists who supported mission work. No Hardshell ought to complain about harsh language being used against them by Missionary Baptists when their own history is full of such scathing rebukes and denunciations.
"This was my opinion after many years observation, and every step they have advanced has but the more confirmed me in the correctness of my opinion, that it is but another popish speculation, another crusade against the heathen to take the city of Jerusalem for wealth and plunder, or gain by godliness, or to make merchandize of the saints, to fill the pockets of proud priests; for some of them rather beg than work, yet I have never seen one that said, enough, enough."
When Lawrence says "after many years," he is referring to the period of time from 1792 till 1827, the former being the date the Hardshells assign to Andrew Fuller beginning missionary work and the latter date to the Kehukee Association's declaration against mission work by churches. That is thirty five years. I also mentioned in the early chapters of this book how Elder Griffin, in his book "The History of the Mississippi Baptists," also acknowledged that mission work existed for many years before anyone rose to oppose it. Both Griffin and Lawrence admit these facts, and yet want to say that such work was the cause of division among the Baptists. But, the cause of the division was the rising up of men like Lawrence who began, after many years, to oppose mission work.
Again, notice the harsh language and the cruel judgment given by Lawrence against his fellow Baptists who had been supporting mission work for at least 35 years.
"Ye hirelings, ye beggars, ye agents, ye sea-scourers, ye Boards, ye conventionists, ye traders in memberships, ye track venders and money hirelings, this is not the good old way."
Again, more evil speaking against Lawrence's Baptist brethren.
"To say nothing of presidents, vice presidents, corresponding secretaries, auditors, etc. etc., titles borrowed from the world of mankind, with directors and directresses, all of the devil's and men's making and bringing into the church of God; not one of which titles is to be found in an apostolic church nor the great and good Book, you well know but is the length of the foot of antichrist to a hair's breadth, fro the title of archbishop through all the grades of popery even to the un and friar. Then whoseoever is on the Lord's side gird on his sword of truth, and slay every man his brother missionary; for they have brought these abominations into the church of God, to bear grief, division and distress, and troubled, greatly troubled, the Baptist camp of Israel; having no warrant from the Book for these above things."
Of course, I have already shown how the Hardshells are hypocrites in these things, having many organizations where they themselves have men with such titles. And, notice again how Lawrence puts all Baptists who supported missions in league with Antichrist. And notice how Lawrence calls his Hardshell brethren to "slay every man his brother missionary." With such language, no Hardshell can claim that the Missionary Baptists are evil speakers. Further, it was not mission work that caused division, for this was part of Baptist history for many years, as Lawrence and Griffin acknowledge, but it was the contentious and schismatic rise of the Hardshells that caused the division and disruption.
"And now, dear brethren, try this experiment one year; and in the close, I hope you will not be able to say, your dollar is thrown away. Even although it was for the information you will obtain from different States, how the Old School cause is going on."
This was written by Lawrence as a plea for money to support the Hardshell periodical "The Primitive Baptist." One can clearly see the hypocrisy. He denounces as hireling beggars those Baptists who asked for money to support missions, but sees nothing wrong with his own solicitation for money to support his beloved periodical. Money for "the old school cause," the cause of opposing mission work, is good, but money to support mission work is filthy lucre!
"However, we neither ask, nor wish to compel any Old School Baptist, or any of its patrons to take it (the "Primitive Baptist" periodical - SG) longer than they see cause so to do with a free will, as all men's purses belong to themselves to dispose of as they choose to do. Yet I, Joshua Lawrence, will say, that although I care no more what the missionists may say of me than that of the croaking of so many frogs in a pond, yet I say the Old School Baptists will repent it to let the Primitive Baptist go down, when perhaps too late. Think for yourselves, and so shall I; but this I know to be a fact, that most of the Old School Baptists are a closefisted and covetous set, or else they would not have treated their ministers as they have done for sixty years."
Surely anyone not in the cult can see what a grand admission this is by Hardshell leader Lawrence. He says his Old School Baptists "are a closefisted and covetous set," and that they were guilty of ill treating their ministers by not financially supporting them for sixty years. Is this not what they showed themselves to be in their failure to support mission work and to denounce all those who supported them? Also, even after the death of Lawrence and the first generation of Hardshells, the Hardshells continued to so decry money that their ministers continued to be defrauded.
Lawrence goes on in the same article to speak of how the New School went to one extreme in demanding money while the Old School went to the other.
In the next chapter we will look at a confession made in recent years by a long standing elder in the Hardshell church and in which he acknowledges how the Black Rock Address was an extreme and the cause of the decline of the Hardshell church.