Hardshell leader Elder J. H. Purifoy, in the latter end of the 19th century, wrote:
"I would like to see the expression 'final perseverance of the saints,' completely stricken out of our articles of faith, and instead say we believe in the EVERLASTING PRESERVATION of the saints..." (as cited in chapter 92 of my series "Hardshells & Perseverance")
Purifoy's testimony demonstrates that the Hardshells of the late 19th century were beginning to deny what their forefathers taught regarding the perseverance of the saints. He testifies that this was what their articles of faith had always taught and he wanted to change them. Yet, in spite of this, the Hardshells who wanted to change this article were a minority for the Hardshells who assembled in Fulton, Kentucky, in the year 1900, still held on to their belief in the perseverance of the saints. They endorsed the 1689 confession and left the section on perseverance as it reads, without any "clarification." That section says these things:
"Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon..."
"This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof."
"And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end."
These are the historic and traditional articles of faith of the Hardshell denomination and many of them, like Purifoy, changed those articles of faith to deny perseverance. Who was right? The Hardshell forefathers or today's Hardshells? Further, how can Hardshells today claim to believe as did their forefathers? That they have articles of faith that have remained unchanged from the primitive Baptists of prior centuries? How can they say that they have not changed in their doctrinal views throughout their history as a denomination?
In the early 1890s there was a division in the Mt. Carmel Regular Old School Baptist church in Luray, Virginia over the question regarding means and perseverance. There was a trial held in 1909 to determine which views were the historic views of the Old Baptists. Here is a part of the testimony given by Elder E.H. Burnam regarding the changes being proposed on the subject of perseverance.
Q. Now state if there was any further departure from the faith as laid down in the deed of 1849, especially with reference to the words “final perseverance of the saints to glory, etc.?”
A. This book---this same paper---Zion’s Advocate and Herald of the Truth, of the same date, June, 1891, contains this as one of its articles, on the second page of the cover, and numbered seven, seventh article: “The final preservation and eternal happiness of all the elect of God by grace.” Now the faith of the Old School Baptists or Regular Baptists, as they used to be called and are still called by us, was salvation by grace through faith, and the perseverance of the saints in grace to glory. The perseverance! The word perseverance instead of preservation. A clear distinction must be drawn between the two words. Preservation does not necessarily include faith, but perseverance could not exist without it. None persevere unto eternal life except through a God-given faith. Therefore, we hold that there has been a clear departure from the original faith on these two points that I have named. We hold to the ancient faith, just as it was, and expect to do so while life lasts, as the truth of God.
So, we can conclude that the Hardshells have forsaken the Old Baptist position regarding perseverance.
In further testimony, let me now cite from Elder John M. Watson on this matter. In his book "The Old Baptist Test," he wrote:
"...he perseveres because God keeps him by his power through faith unto salvation..." (page 480) And, he says "That he perseveres through the power of God." (page 482)
Elder C. B. Hassell wrote:
"The patience and the final perseverance of the saints, notwithstanding temporary distrust under Satan’s persecutions, which entailed loss of family, friends, possessions and bodily health, are illustrated in Job’s history." (chapter II, page 63, of Hassell's history)
Elder J. H. Oliphant, the moderator of the Fulton Convention, wrote a book called "The Perseverance of the Saints," and wrote this:
"God’s word is a stubborn truth that cannot be gainsaid. Where we have a plain thus saith the Lord, reason and philosophy must give way. Mark, xiii: 22, "For false Christs and false prophets shall arise and shall show signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." Doubtless all believers are the elect. And this text affirms it to be impossible to deceive the elect: Job, xvii: 9, "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." (Chapter 6)
These words are clear. Oliphant says that the elect can't be deceived (about their faith in Christ as Savior and Lord) and that they shall hold on their way.
Further, if one reads the Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s he will see that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints was taught in all of them and that this was put forward as being the historic teaching of the Old Baptists.
In fact, those Hardshells today who deny perseverance should quit singing the song "How Firm A Foundation," for line three says:
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
Notice how the song writer says that God will "cause thee to stand." This is what the Scriptures also say. God says "I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." (Isa. 41: 10) "Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14: 4) In these verses the words "uphold" and "holden up" mean "made to stand." In fact, in the New KJV "made to stand" is the translation of Romans 14: 4. What is this but the promise that God will insure that his people stand firm on the rock of Christ?
Those Hardshells today who say that they believe in the preservation of saints, but not in the perseverance of saints, are
1) Teaching contrary to the historic doctrine of the Old Baptists, even of their own founding fathers, as expressed in their accepted confessions of faith and in the writings of their leaders.
2) Denying the plain declarations of Scripture that affirm both preservation and perseverance.
3) Failing to see how these terms represent ideas that compliment each other rather than being opposed to each other.
If one looks at the passages of Scripture that are most often used to teach the certain preservation of all those who have been truly saved and converted, he will see how that preservation is more than simply preserving a physical (non moral) life, but a preservation of that which is created in the soul's rebirth, which is more than bare life, for it includes that love and trust in God and Christ that is born in the new birth. It is a preservation of the union brought about through a faith adherence to God and his Son Jesus.
Let us look at some of the Scripture passages that teach the preservation of the saints and see how they involve perseverance.
"Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (I Peter 1: 5)
Notice that God's preservation is through the means of faith, through belief of the truth, through trust in God and his promises.
Dr. Gill, in commenting upon this verse said:
"they are kept...in the fear of God, and faith of Christ, and love to both; and in the path of truth, from whence they can never finally and totally fall: for though they are not kept from the being of sin, and the workings of it, and slips and falls into it, yet from being destroyed by it; and though not from Satan, and his temptations, yet from being overcome by them; and though not entirely from unbelief, doubts, and fears, yet from final unbelief; for Christ prays for them, that their faith fail not; and from a final and total falling away from grace into sin: and they are kept thus..."
In commenting upon how this preservation is "through faith," he wrote:
"...through faith in the power and faithfulness of God; through faith looking to Christ, leaning on him, and living upon him; by faith getting the victory over the world, and every other enemy, and being more than conquerors, through Christ."
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phi. 4: 7)
Notice how this preservation involves the keeping of both the heart and mind, or keeping of the understanding and faith. Further, as we shall see, this keeping by God is visible in the saints keeping themselves.
"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." (I John 5: 18)
God keeps the believer but the believer also keeps himself.
"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life...Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy..." (Jude 1: 21, 24)
Notice how Jude mentions God's keeping of the believer and yet he admonishes the believer to keep himself. Jude did not think that one excluded the other as do our modern Hardshells.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." (John 8: 51)
Notice how keeping the words of Christ are stated as a condition for obtaining eternal life. Does this not plainly teach against those Hardshells who say that there are not admonitions to persevere for the purpose of being finally saved?
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him...Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings..." (John 14: 21-24)
"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (I John 2: 4)
Here Jesus again affirms that those who do not keep the words of Christ are liars, do not have the truth (reality) of salvation in them. He also says that if one keeps or perseveres in his allegiance to Christ and his words, then that person will be loved by God, will be finally saved. If a man loves me, if a man has been born again, he will keep the words of the Lord. Of course he does not mean perfectly, but he does mean he will do so generally and characteristically. The Hardshells want us to believe that there are many saved in Heaven who have not preserved the words of Christ, did not persevere. Yet, they are clearly against the Scripture in teaching this.