Elder John M. Watson's book "The Old Baptist Test" is a must read for anyone doing serious study into the history of the "Primitive Baptist Church." As has been noted before, Elder Watson was a first generation leader of the newly formed denomination, and labored during the formative years of the 1830s through the middle of the 1860s. His views can be taken as an example of what the first generation Hardshells believed and may be compared with what today's Hardshells believe. He recorded how many of the "Primitive" or "Old School" Baptists were going to extremes in their fight against Baptists who supported mission work and religious education. I am sure that this old preacher died (1866) grieving over these extreme departures from the historic old Baptist faith, and he called those who were promoting these new doctrines "modern innovators," "ultraists," etc.
It is impossible for anyone to read the following citations from Watson (together with previous citations given in preceding postings) and deny that Watson believed in the Gospel means position. Yet, this is exactly what Elder Lemuel Potter did in his 1887 debate with W.P. Throgmorton. He affirmed that Watson did not advocate the means position. But, Potter either cannot read plain English or told a falsehood. Further, Elder Potter may be considered as one of the creators of modern Hardshellism, being one of the "modern innovators" and "ultraist" that Watson warned against. Potter, together with men like John R. Daily, T.S. Dalton, Charles Waters, C.H. Cayce, and R.W. and J.M. Thompson, Walter Cash, helped to make the Hardshell church into what it is today.
"A gospel without exhortation; without a call on the sinner to repent and believe; a gospel which does not in word address itself to all; is not the gospel which Christ ordained subordinately for the bringing in of his "other sheep."" (page 86)
Watson says that the Hardshells who were against preaching the Gospel to the unregenerate, and denying that it was a means in regeneration, were not in possession of the true Gospel. This is a serious indictment. Today's Hardshells think that they are the only ones who are preaching the true Gospel, but the truth is, they do not preach it if they do not believe the Gospel is to be preached to all. Further, the day that the Hardshells discarded this belief and practice is the day that the Hardshell church began to wither and die, and the day when they became a cult. They will never again see escape from this curse until they once again begin to preach to sinners and to exhort them to believe and repent in order to be saved.
When I was a young Hardshell pastor, I struggled with this issue. I wanted to urge sinners about their situation, and point them to the way of salvation. I was concerned about the lack of conversions and wanted to bring my sermon messages to a point where I exhorted the sinner about his need to call on Christ. I gave the typical Hardshell invitation at the end of every sermon which was simply to say "the doors of the church are open for anyone who wants to join." But, to me, this was simply not the best or only way.
Watson also wrote:
"Let us take a practical example. We have it on record in the 13th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch of Pisidia, had any of our ultra brethren been there and heard their zealous appeal to all those present, they would have called them Armminians." (ibid)
Today's Hardshells are totally made of "ultra" brethren, people who will not preach to dead sinners as did Christ and his apostles. If one today preaches in such a fashion, he would indeed be called "Arminian" by the neo Hardshells. In failing to preach evangelistically to sinners, today's Hardshells are not in league with the Old Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries, their forefathers, and not in league with their own founding fathers of the 19th century, with men like Leland, Watson, Fain, and Grigg Thompson, men who regularly called upon sinners to believe in Christ for salvation.
Watson also wrote:
"Let us see: The zealous preacher calls on all to repent, earnestly, faithfully and I may add, gospelly, but alas! the old brother whose head has got wrong, whose heart has grown cold, says all cannot repent, some have not the power to do so. How does he know? Peradventure the Lord has given the power to repent to the very ones whom he has in his feelings excluded.." (page 87)
In this quotation, and the preceding one, Watson mentions giving "zealous appeal," to the lost, and doing so "earnestly," a thing which you will not see in today's Hardshell churches. They feel no burden to the lost nor believe that their preaching has any power to raise the spiritually dead to life. Watson says that these ultra Hardshells not only do not preach the Gospel but have hearts that have grown cold and who had heads that are wrong. Simply put, today's Hardshells do not believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
Watson also wrote:
"How mortifying to the feelings of a faithful preacher to be called an Arminian on account of preaching according to the very commission which Christ gave for the rule and government of his ministry. Brethren preachers, it is high time that we strive to please God in this affair rather than men. It is high time indeed that some of us were waking up on this subject; let us rather exhort our opposing brethren to pray the Lord that he would open the hearts of our hearers to attend to the truths which we may preach, knowing that none will heed to profit without this blessing, to the great end that the 'other sheep" of our day may be brought in. Here again the objector says, why pray for that which is sure? This, verily is the very reason why we should pray for it..." (page 88)
Oh that these words of wisdom would have been heeded by the Hardshells! They need little comment. There is one historical observation that ought to be made, however. Obviously by 1866 the anti means view of regeneration was gaining ground. What brought about this change? Is it not because the opposition to mission methods by itself lacked strength? Did simply attacking methods, after awhile, begin to "wear thin" as Brother Ross has stated in his work?
"There are yet a few who contend for the general outward call of the Gospel, but we doctrinise it too much, lest some ultra brother should conclude that we are Arminians." (page 89)
Notice the historical significance of these words of Watson. He says "there are yet a few," which indicates that in 1866 the no means position had gotten the upper hand. Watson says that it was the tactic of the "ultra brother" to label all who believed in the outward general call of the Gospel, or in exhorting the lost, or in Gospel means regeneration, as "Arminian" that led to the dwindling of those who held to the Gospel means position. These ultraist brethren used cult tactics to win in this war. They threatened the side who retained a belief in means. They intimidated them.
"Further, I was much surprised as well as mortified that they evinced so little concern about the unbrought "other sheep" which the Saviour said he must bring. They lay great stress on these words of the Saviour, but do not regard other things which he connected with the bringing them in as they ought to do. I heard but few prayers for the sending forth of laborers into his field; nor did I see much concern in any way about them." (page 181)
Watson says that he was both "surprised" and "mortified" to see so little concern about the lost. But, it really ought not to have been a surprise for it should have been evident to such a learned man as Watson to have foreseen what the opposition to missions, religious education, and evangelism, would eventually lead to. We who look back see clearly how such opposition led to a change in doctrine regarding means and perseverance.
It is to the credit of Watson that he felt mortified by the unconcern and apathy that his fellow Hardshells showed towards the lost, especially in foreign lands. Watson saw this unbecoming spirit begin to take over the newly formed denomination, and if he were alive today he would see how such a spirit has pervaded the denomination. A Christian who has no concern about sending the Gospel to the lost, that they might be saved, is a Christian who has a spirit that ought to be condemned.
"I felt inclined to ask these orthodox Christians, if they believed that any of the "other sheep" are now among the heathen nations? and if they were watching the providence of God in regard to them? Moreover, if they felt under any obligations to search them out; to pray unto the Lord to bring them in; and to encourage, aid and send out any who may feel called of the Lord to preach to them?"
How would today's Hardshells respond to such questions? If they searched their hearts, would they not have to confess that they live from day to day with little or no concern for the lost souls in heathen lands? Do they not feel no obligation towards them? Do they not think that it is God's responsibiility alone and not theirs? What is this but Antinomianism?
Further, Watson mentions encouraging, aiding, and sending out those who have been called to preach to those poor lost heathens. But, as we have already seen, today's Hardshells feel no duty or desire to do any of these things. Recall how I cited from Hardshell testimony in the Mt. Carmel Church trial in which a Hardshell said that he felt no duty to even give encouragement or one cent to help such a preacher to preach to the heathen.
"I find that the great extravagance of many who have engaged in this work has had a very bad influence on these people, and probably prevented them in some instances from performing their duty toward the "other sheep" which may be in distant countries. And I really fear should any one profess a call of this kind, he would not receive the fellowship and assistance which he would be entitled to. Thus I fear they do not act as did those who heeded all the commandments of the Lord." (pages 181-82)
What is Watson saying? Is he not saying that the Hardshells, in opposing mission methods of others, went to an opposite extreme? He says their opposition to the "great extravagance" of some Mission Baptists led them to neglect their "duty" towards the elect who are lost in heathen darkness. He testifies of his fear that this Hardshell extremism would lead to the Hardshells doing nothing to help see that the Gospel was sent to the heathen. His fears, as history shows, was indeed what actually materialized. The Hardshells today have violated the commission of the Lord, and are a disobedient people, not doing what the Lord has commanded them today. Why do they think that they shall escape the judgment of God for this?
"Who of us are...sinning in propagating Protestant heresies, or Old Baptist ultraisms. We can readily see the absurdities of Romanism, the errors of many Protestant sects, and avoid them, but we do not recognize, as heresies, those hurtful ultraisms which are eating, as doth a canker, upon our very vitals as a denomination-a denomination which very justly boasts of its antiquity, and of having never acknowledged any other rule of faith and practice but that of the Bible. But some of our brethren are interpreting many of its blessed truths in such a way as to lead off their hearers from the Old Baptist platform of principles." (page 300)
What Watson here says is what I have been saying throughout my writings against the Hardshells. If Watson were alive today, he would join Elder Fralick and me in writing against the errors of today's Hardshells. The modern Hardshell church has seen the cancer of "Old Baptist ultraisms" metastasize and reach its final stage. These ultraisms he labels as "heresies." He says that these new interpretations of Scripture, wherein means are denied, and duty to fulfill the Great Commission is set aside, etc., were leading the denomination away "from the Old Baptist platform of principles." This is exactly what brother Fralick and I have been also proclaiming.
Was Watson wrong when he says that these ultraisms of those who were calling themselves "Old" or "Primitive" Baptists was a departure from the historic teaching of their Old Baptist forefathers? What Hardshell can come forward today with the evidence to disprove his assertion? Have we not presented all kinds of evidence in my book and in my blogs that show that the Hardshell no means view is an innovation in doctrine, not held to by the ancestors of the Hardshells?
"No wonder we have perversions, heresies, debates and divisions among us, from such a deceitful handling of the Word of God; a part carried far beyond its true import, and another portion suppressed just as may subserve their tenets or fancies." (page 319)
Notice again how Watson says that the no means, Spirit alone, view of regeneration, and the denial that the Great Commission is yet an obligation of the church, is the result not only of faulty interpretation of Scripture, but from a "deceitful handling of the Word of God." How accurate is this judgment! The hermeneutics of the Hardshells is so faulty. They feel no judgment for their handling of the word of God in the manner they do. They twist it, they pervert it, and feel no sense of wrong for doing it. They do not realize how great an evil it is to as they do. The Scriptures that teach against their peculiar beliefs they truly do suppress or else try to make them say what they obviously do not say. They come to the Scriptures with their "fancies," with their peculiar tenets and presuppositions and are guilty of eisegesis. I hopefully will have a couple chapters on "Hardshell Hermeneutics" and "Hardshell Amillenialism" which will demonstrate the errors of the Hardshells in how they interpret Scripture.
"To show that the will of God is in His word, of His own will, says James, begat he us with the word of truth. The proof that His everlasting love is in it, is that with loving kindness He draws believers to Christ." (page 421)
This is the truth that was discarded by second and third generation Hardshells, and which had even begun in the latter days of Watson's life. They deny that the word of truth is God's instrument in begetting sinners to life. Today's Hardshells are suffering the consequences of such a departure from the Scriptures and the historic Baptist faith.