Sunday, November 17, 2013

Was S. Hassell Right?

Elder Sylvester Hassell's views on the Gospel being a means in regeneration may be viewed by looking at his answers to the following questions.

"Q. Have Baptists always denied the use of means in regeneration?

A. In careless expressions some Baptists have advanced this error, but the same men, when taking into consideration the entire teaching of the Scriptures on this point, have, in their more exact expressions, repudiated it."  (see here)

In the same question and answer writing, however, Hassell says:

"Jesus is the Great Preacher, and, by His omnipresent Spirit, He preaches His gospel savingly to His people (Isa. 61:1-3,10,11; Luke 4:16-30; Heb. 2:11,12; Psalm 110:3)."

Obviously Hassell thinks that his forefathers who affirmed the use of means in regeneration used "careless expressions" in their defense of the means position. One could take that to mean that Hassell denies that his forefathers actually believed and taught such a view, only seeming to do so. But, this seems unlikely because he says that these same Baptists in using such "careless expressions" actually "advanced this error." But, then he contradicts this statement by saying that the same people who advanced this error did not really believe or mean what they said, affirming that the same people "in their more exact expressions, repudiated it." So, he says that they at the same time both affirmed and denied the use of means in regeneration?

Hassell's apologetic is cunning and intended to deceive the Hardshell brotherhood to whom he is writing. He wants his Hardshell brethren to believe that his forefathers who affirmed the use of means in regeneration did not really mean or believe what they were saying, and that they sometimes wrote and advocated the exact opposite view. Yet, in our series on "What the First Hardshells Believed," we saw that the founding fathers of the Hardshell denomination were very clear and exact in affirming their belief, in harmony with the 1689 London Confession, that God regenerated his elect by the preaching of the Gospel. I have examined all the Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s and the writings of the first generation of Hardshell leaders who wrote in those periodicals, and I cannot find where they ever spoke out of both sides of their mouths on this issue, where they ever denied that regeneration was accomplished by the means of the Gospel. So, when Hassell affirms that they had "more exact expressions" where they repudiated what they elsewhere clearly affirmed, we find no evidence to substantiate what he says . Why did not Hassell simply give us those "more exact expressions"?

In my previous posting I cited the words of Sylvester's father, C.B. Hassell, who was very clear and exact in saying that when the elect "are made to believe" the Gospel, "by the teaching of the Holy Spirit." that they are "then no longer under the law but under grace--no longer dead in trespasses and sins but alive." and that this coming to evangelical faith was "their creation anew in Christ Jesus." Now, I do not find this to be in the category of "careless expressions," nor do I find where the older Hassell ever wrote denying what he here affirms.

I cited from the May 25th, 1839 issue of "The Primitive Baptist" where it was affirmed that the Gospel was "the power of God," the instrument "effecting regeneration and implanting in them eternal life." And, in the January 1840 issue of this paper, it is said that the Gospel "actually gives life to them that were dead" and speaks of the "gospel's quickening influence." Are these mere "careless expressions"?

Sylvester, after accusing his Baptist forefathers (including his own father) of using "careless expressions," and of advocating opposite views, being unstable on the issue, offers to give us what he considers to be an exact and careful expression of the question. He says that all the elect will hear and believe the Gospel because Jesus will personally preach it to each of them! Yet, this is not what was taught in "The Primitive Baptist" paper, Vol. 10, January 25th, 1845, for they say, about evangelical faith, that they "know of no other way" to come to faith in the Gospel, or in Christ, "but the way prescribed in the written word of God," saying "For we are told that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; and how can we hear without a preacher, and how can they preach except they be sent?"

But, it must be observed how the younger Hassell did not go so far as today's Hardshells, for he was still willing to affirm that all the elect will hear and believe the Gospel. His view, however, was one step away from the faith of his father, and one step short of today's Hardshells. Further, it is Sylvester's father that was clear and exact and Sylvester's statement on the question is what is a very "careless expression."

All this presents great difficulties for Hardshells as it respects their Landmarker views of church succession. Today's Hardshells would say that any church that believes in regeneration by the Gospel is not a genuine church and that a genuine church must come from a genuine church. By this standard, today's Hardshells are not genuine churches, for they have come from churches that believed in Gospel means.

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