Friday, January 3, 2014
History of Baptist Mission Work II
According to a "Primitive Baptist" web page (see here), this is what is intended to be conveyed by the use of the adjective "primitive" with "Baptist" by the Hardshells:
"Primitive means 'original' and in doctrine and practice, the Primitive Baptists are identical to the original English and Welsh Baptists who immigrated to colonial America. More importantly, the Primitive Baptists are identical to the primitive or first century church in doctrine and practice."
The Hardshells on the above web page make an unfounded and ignorant claim about being one with, or a legitimate descendent of, the Old English and Welsh Baptists, and with the first Baptists in America. This is a claim that has no historical evidence to support it and a mountain of evidence to show that they are themselves not "primitive." Beebe, as we have seen, did not claim identity with the old English and Welsh Baptists because he knew that they had supported mission organizations and theological education for ministers. Further, as we have seen, they are certainly not like the first Christians in doctrine or practice.
In our day, two Hardshell elders, who claim to have studied the history of their denomination and of the Particular Baptists, and written books on the subject, are Harold Hunt and Michael Ivey. I have already referred to the claims of Hunt in our series "Hardshells and the London Confession."
Hunt, though knowing that his Hardshell brethren had historically claimed succession from the churches who first published the London Confession, believed that his brethren were wrong, for he correctly believed that the old London churches believed in Gospel means, missionary societies, and theological schools. To Hunt this showed that the Calvinistic Missionary Baptists were most like them, and not the Hardshells.
Ivey, he also saw how the Hardshells of former days, who argued that the Hardshells were the rightful heirs of the Baptist churches who first wrote and endorsed the 1689 Confession, were wrong in that claim. This revelation forced Ivey, as it did Hunt, to admit that the Hardshells cannot find succession through the old London churches. Ivey tried to find another ancestral line for his Hardshell group. So did Hunt. But, as we have seen, they are "wish histories," a term R.E. Pound, expert on the history of the Old Baptists, said of Ivey's history. But, more on Hardshell histories later.
Elder Sheets in his book "History of the Liberty Baptist Association," wrote:
"Our Baptist people from the days of Christ to the present time have always been missionary in spirit and practice; though at times held back by a spirit of lethargy. The Antimission Baptists claim that the system of modern missions is too modern, and ought therefore to be rejected. But the missionary spirit is no new thing; it is old as the church. We learn that the early Christians "went everywhere preaching the word."" (chapter 25, page 181)
Sheets repeats the theme of the first apologists against the Hardshells, which is that the church of Jesus Christ has always been a missionary baptist church. Saying this, however, is with the acknowledgment that there have been times when the church of Christ was not active in mission work. This inactivity has these causes: first, persecution, second, lethargy, and third, hyper Calvinism and antinomianism. So, what is affirmed is that the church of Jesus Christ has been in favor of mission work, and has promoted it when she could. Further, when we say that persecution has hindered open evangelism and mission work, this does not exclude the fact that God has often used persecution to scatter believers and thus scatter the seed of the kingdom.
"Paul and Barnabas were sent out as missionaries. This work may not have been done in the same way or under the same name that we do it. As time wore on, great changes took place, yet it was really the work of spreading the Gospel. It was carried on according to the plan best adapted to their surroundings."
First, Elder Sheets affirms what we have shown in this book, particularly in the series "Hardshells and Mission Opposition," relative to the church at Antioch sending out missionaries, and how the Scriptures show that the early Christians were intensely involved in evangelistic and missionary work. He also states that the missionary work of later Christians does not have to be precisely spelled out in Scripture to be right and proper.
"After the Romish hierarchy was fully established, our people were driven back, tortured in almost every conceivable way; and vast numbers of them were put to death. Thus during the hundreds of years which found them in the wilderness, it was impossible for them to do anything in the way of sending out the gospel as we do it now."
It is important to keep these things in mind in order to explain why the church, at times, has not been engaged in missionary work. To argue that the absence of missionary work during those times is evidence that those churches were opposed to mission work, is not a valid logical deduction.
"Neither can they claim the old records as sustaining them. From the organization of this work in England, in 1792, up to about 1826, there was no division of sentiment on the subject of missions (except the Kehukee Association, which divided in 1827), till 1832."
In these words, Sheets focuses in on the period of time between 1792 and 1826. It has already been shown, from facts of history, that the English Baptists who adhered to the 1689 London Confession, were supporters of mission organizations and theological schools. But, the date of 1792 is important because it is the date in which a foreign missionary society was formed in England by Fuller, Carey, and other Baptists. Many Hardshells say this is the date for the birth of the "new school" or "missionary" Baptists. The time period from 1792-1826 is important for analyzing the attitude of the Baptists in general to mission work and to ministerial education. And, what have we learned? We learned that all the Associations, in that period, supported those things. Thirty four years when the Baptists supported mission and education societies without any Hardshell opposition by any Association. We agree with the Hardshells in saying that the churches, between 1810 and 1820, were all one, but not all one in opposition to these things, but one in support of them.
"But even the Kehukee Association, anti-mission that she now is, was at one time in favor of missions.
She contributed as follows to the General Meeting of Correspondence: $3, in 1812; $5, in 1813; and $5, in 1814. Here is another record of hers: "Bro. Bennett Barrow was appointed the standing secretary of this Association, to correspond with the Board of Foreign Missions." This, with others, shows that at one time she was thoroughly in accord with us in mission work. But since 1827 she has persistently opposed this work."
How do the Hardshells deal with these facts? Griffin, as we have seen, admits that the first Baptists of the Mississippi territory were supporters of mission and education organizations for 30-40 years before the Hardshells first began to organize a protest. Spencer, the historian who has already been cited, said that there was not an anti-mission Baptist in Kentucky prior to 1816, and that the Baptists of Kentucky and Tennessee were for many years supporters of mission and education entities. The Kehukee also supported such things for many years before the Hardshell faction arose on the scene to organize opposition.
"We find as early as 1772 that the Philadelphia Association paid money to traveling preachers (missionaries). The Association voted a vote of thanks with the interest on Association funds, together with £6 more to Morgan Edwards "for his services in traveling and visiting the churches to the southward."
Here is the old Philadelphia Association, the oldest in America, involved itself in paying money to missionaries. Other aged associations, in correspondence with the Philadelphia, voiced no protest against the missionary doings of the Philadelphia Association.
"Elder James Osbourn was perhaps the leading spirit in bringing about the split. Yet this item from the record tells us where he once was: "In 1817 'a committee was appointed for Domestic Missionary Affairs,' and Brethren O. B. Brown, James Osbourn and Spencer H. Cone were appointed as Home Missionaries." James Osbourn appointed a Missionary! He was Then a Primitive Baptist."
The story of Osbourn is really the story of the whole denomination that Osbourn helped to produce. Osbourn supported missionary organizations, was himself a missionary, before he denounced all of it as being of the Devil. So too the whole Baptist denomination was a supporter of missionary work for decades before the Hardshells arose to attempt an overthrow and reformation.
"The trouble in the Mt. Pleasant Association mainly grew out of the fact that some of the members of some of its churches had united with the Central Society for missionary purposes. A portion of the Association was so bitterly opposed to said society and the object of its organization, that they determined to withdraw fellowship from all who had countenanced the society, on the ground that it was a human invention and unauthorized in the Scriptures. These brethren were no doubt honest in their opposition to the Central Society, but it does seem strange that they could not see that Baptist Associations are as really human inventions as are mission societies."
The bitter opposition that Sheets refers to in the Mt. Pleasant Association was similar to what appeared and occurred in many other Associations of the time. The acts of excommunication that were executed by associations against individuals are truly acts wholly lacking that charity which is characteristic of the church of Christ. It is a new unheard of thing, and which, as has been shown, was the real cause of the division. The Hardshells showed no forbearance, patience, or forgiveness for their brethren but cast them off and denounced them as being followers of Antichrist.
Sheets, of course, demolishes the argument of the Hardshells, involving "patternism," which has been addressed already. He shows that the Hardshells are hypocrites in regard to their chief proposition. They argue that mission societies are to be condemned because they are not specifically mentioned or defined in Scripture. But, by the same reasoning, associations ought to be condemned. So, why do they not condemn associations? In supporting associations, do they not give up their right to argue from silence? Their right to condemn mission and educational entities because they are not mentioned in Scripture is taken away.
"The following extract is from the doings of the Old Welsh Association, the first of modern times:
"In the association held at Swansea, in 1654, the church at Llantrisaint proposed to assist the church at Abergavenny, now Llanwenarth, to support their minister, which also they did. From the messenger of Llantrisaint, also, the proposal to revive the ancient order of things came the preceding year; that is, to encourage and support the missionary cause." (History Welsh Baptists, by Davis, p. 85.)
These facts about the 17th century Welsh Baptists did not get mentioned by Michael Ivey in his work "A Welch Succession of Primitive Baptists." His thesis affirmed that the Welsh Baptist of the 17th century believed like the Hardshells, and were at odds with the "missionary" and "new school" Baptists who produced the 1689 London Confession.
"The anti-missionary Baptists claim that the missionary enterprise is a "modern invention." They, no doubt, think that it is; but the very opposite is true. Missions are as old as Christianity—no new thing, not even among the Baptists. By the foregoing extract we learn that over 200 years ago the Welsh Baptists promoted missions, and considered the "missionary cause" a part of the "ancient order of things." We hope the reader will not pass on without carefully reading the quotation again." (pg. 229)
Such facts as these demolish the claims of the Hardshells.
"The oldest Baptists this side of the bloody age—the times of persecution, when God's true witnesses lived in seclusion to escape the cruelties of the Romish Church—were Missionary Baptists. Tell it to all around you, and wherever you go. The real Old School, or Primitive Baptists, in every age of ecclesiastical history, have been the most zealous supporters of missions, home and foreign. This is written advisedly; we know whereof we affirm."
The Hardshell historians, what do they do with such facts? Do they tell them to their people when they write their version of Baptist history? Griffin was honest enough to report how the first Baptists in Mississippi were missionary, and that for about 40 years before the opposers were spawned. Do many not rather "hide in oblivion" such facts and put out a false revisionist history that will keep the cult members deceived?
I also repeat, how it is the Landmarker views of the Hardshells that create these difficulties for the Hardshells relative to their historical claims. Had they followed the example of Alexander Campbell, who's movement parallels that of the Hardshells, they would have admitted that they were a new sect, and claimed that the church of Christ needed to be restored. Had the Hardshells begun as a restoration movement, then they would not have to claim that they had existed unbroken back to the days of the apostles.
"The first and oldest Baptist churches and associations of America were Missionary Baptists, the Old Philadelphia, the Warren, the Charleston and the Kehukee Associations, all had missionary plans for promoting the spread of the gospel."
Again, these are facts which demolish Hardshell apologies for rightful succession.
Sheets, citing another, wrote:
"After quoting history showing that the old associations were really missionary in spirit and practice, the author concludes as follows:
"Fidelity to the truth compels us to say that the anti-missionary party were the aggressors in this controversy. There can be, we think, no doubt on this subject, and in confirmation of the truth of what we say, we refer the reader to the propositions of Uriel Sebree at the meeting in 1835, submitted in behalf of the friends of missions, as follows:
"First. We are willing to be at peace upon the principles of the United Baptists of the United States.
"Second. We are willing to be at peace, if the association will adhere to the advice given at its last session, yielding to all the liberty of conscience upon the subject of missions."
"Both these propositions were rejected by the opposers of missions; hence we say they were the aggressors, for both these propositions were reasonable and in perfect harmony with the original principles of the Association and of the Baptist denomination generally." (pg. 230)
Anyone who has read much of the language uttered by the first anti missionaries will see that the spirit that motivated them was not of God. A hateful, strife and conflict loving spirit was manifested. It is a spirit that condemns and says "come not near to me, stand by yourself, for I am holier than you." It is a spirit that seeks to lord it over the minds and consciences of others, to take away the right of personal conscience. It is a spirit that esteems self better, and smarter, than others. It is a stubborn spirit, one that refuses forbearance.
In the next chapter, we will continue to cite and discuss what Elder Sheets wrote in his writings on the history of the Hardshells.