As has been demonstrated thus far, the old English Baptists of the 17th century who produced the 1644 and 1689 confessions were not only believers in means but were also supporters of mission organizations. The Welsh Baptists of the 1600s were also missionary, and in fellowship and agreement with the London association of Particular Baptist churches. The Philadelphia Association was also missionary and a promoter of educational schools for ministers. All the first Hardshell Associations were missionary before they became anti missionary.
In the remainder of this series I will review the printed histories put out by the Hardshells and analyze how they have reported the facts of "the division of 1832." We will first review what is written in Hassell's history, the leading historical authority among the Hardshell denomination, about the separation of the Hardshells from the Baptist family.
Hassell's Anti Mission Apology
The leading authority on history among the Hardshells is "The History of the Church of God" by Elders C.B. Hassell and his son Sylvester. Both were 19th century leaders in the newly formed "Primitive Baptist" Church and wrote as apologists for the new denomination in their debates with Missionary Baptists. In fact, the Kehukee Association collected and gave money to the above elders for the writing and publication of the history. Also, the Hardshells have kept the book in print for the past one hundred and fifty years. There can be no better place to begin an examination of what the Hardshells claim in regard to the history of Baptists and of the division of 1832.
Hassell, in chapter X, "THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE, AND MISSIONS," wrote:
"The Apostles were commanded by Christ to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Scripture prophecy makes it certain that, in God’s own best time, the Apostles, by their writings, will go into all the world, and a heavenly kingdom will take the place of all earthly kingdoms (Matt. 24:14; Rev. 11:15)."
Why does Hassell begin his apology regarding the mission controversy with the subject of the Great Commission? Is it not because the mission question is all the same as a debate about the Great Commission? I would remind the reader how I have fully dealt with the subject of the Commission in that series of chapters titled "Hardshells and the Great Commission." Hassell (the younger) believed in a coming millennial reign, which is a view rejected by today's Hardshells, and he manifests that belief in the above words. He also seems to believe, like the Postmillenialists, that the millennial kingdom will be brought about by God's providential use of the word of God.
So, according to Hassell, the Great Commission has not yet been fulfilled. Second, it will be fulfilled in the future by the Gospel being preached in "all the world." Third, the way in which the Apostles will "go" into all the world and preach the Gospel is by the "writings" of the Apostles going into all the world.
It is good that Hassell sees that the fulfillment of the Commission requires that the Gospel be preached to "every creature" in "all the world." It is also good that he sees that a heavenly or millennial kingdom will follow the present age in which the Gospel is preached. What is not good, however, is the fact that he thinks that the spreading of the new testament writings is the way in which the Commission will be fulfilled. He thinks that this will be "in God's own best time," which of course is true, although Hardshells have erred in allowing such a truth to lead them into practical antinomianism, or do-nothing-ism. Hassell gives excuse for the lack of Great Commission work by the Hardshells. It is because it is not God's time or God's way.
Remember that Elder John Watson, a leader in the newly formed denomination, said that he and his brethren had "violated" the Great Commission, which he said was "our Commission." The debate over mission work is a debate over fulfilling the Commission. What have the Hardshells done to take the Bible, or apostolic writings, to the people of the world?
"The Apostles must have understood Christ’s commandment to them better than subsequent uninspired men have understood it; but there is no clear Bible evidence, and, as admitted by all scholars, no other reliable evidence that the Apostles personally preached the gospel outside of the Roman Empire."
What is the point of Hassell in these words? Who denies that the Apostles had a better understanding of the work of the Great Commission? What difference does it make whether or not any of the apostles preached outside of the Roman Empire? Is it because Hassell limits "the world" to the Roman Empire? Is it because Hassell, like Beebe and other Hardshells, believes that the Great Commission was fulfilled by the apostles and is therefore no longer in operation?
As we have seen already, in our series on the Great Commission, Hassell did not believe that the Commission was given only to the apostles, nor that it was fulfilled. He did believe that the Commission was chiefly given to the apostles, but that it was also given to all who are called into the ministry since the days of the apostles.
"By the dissemination of the Greek language and civilization, and by the multiplication of the facilities for travel under the mighty dominion of Rome, the providence of God had gradually prepared the way for the apostolic preaching of the gospel, at the same time that the Spirit of God lead prepared a people to hear and be benefited by such preaching. No doubt the genuine future evangelization of the world will take place in a similar way. Not by such nineteenth-century machinery as unscriptural alliances, upon a money basis, of the world and the nominal “Church,” but by the providential assemblage of people from all nations at Jerusalem to hear the preaching of the Apostles, by persecution, by visions of the day and the night, by special communications of the Holy Spirit forbidding the Apostles to go in certain directions and commanding them to go in others, and by the Holy Spirit preceding and accompanying the Apostles, the gospel was preached throughout the Roman Empire."
This is Hardshell antinomianism and Hyper Calvinism cloaked in the guise of allegiance to the sovereignty of God. What Hassell is basically saying is that the Gospel will be preached in all the world, fulfilling the Great Commission, by God apart from any evangelistic efforts by the church. He is saying that it is God's responsibility to fulfil the Commission, and not that of the church. Thus, he is an antinomian as respects heeding the commands of the Great Commission.
These words of Hassell further show that he did not believe that the Great Commission had been fulfilled. He believed that it certainly would be fulfilled, because God will surely see to it. The fulfillment of the Commission is identical with "the future evangelization of the world." This brings up some interesting questions to ask of the Hardshells.
Is it correct to say that the Great Commission has never, nor will it ever, be fulfilled? Or, in other words, to say that it will fail of accomplishment? But, how could it be certainly fulfilled by Hardshell logic? Modern Hardshell logic says that if any work of God depends upon human means, then it is not certain. Does the fulfillment of the Great Commission depend upon the preaching of the Apostles, who were but human means?
Notice that Hassell now mentions several other methods whereby God will make certain that the good news message is brought to the ears of people scattered throughout the world. None of these ways are denied by those who believe that the church is bound to fulfill the Great Commission and to involve herself in the work of evangelization. Most of these methods I have already examined in previous chapters on the series on the Great Commission and the series on the history of Baptist mission work. But, all this can be true and yet not be the limit of the way in which God will see that the evangelion is taken to the four corners of the earth. Hassell speaks as though God only uses the preaching of his servants when they are forced to go elsewhere by persecution and excludes God's using of the church's active efforts apart from persecution. The logic of Hassell would say that the absence of persecution indicates that the Lord does not want others to hear the Gospel.
However, he does mention how the evangelism of the Apostles, which he confesses to be one of the ways in which God was fulfilling the Great Commission, nevertheless required them to "travel" on those Roman roads that providence made use of in order that "the preaching" of the Gospel might be heard, believed, and obeyed. And, as we have seen, the early Christians, individually and collectively, financially supported ministers so that they could travel those "facilities for travel" to people who had not heard the good news. Recall also how I cited from a leading Hardshell who testified in the "Mt. Carmel Church Trial" and how this Hardshell testified that he would not give one cent to help a preacher travel to preach the Gospel in foreign lands. Hardshells believe that God's missionaries are to somehow pay their own travel expenses.
Hassell does not want to send out missionaries who will gather people together to hear the word, for he believes that God will gather all people together to hear it when he gets ready for them to hear it. Again, it seems plain that Hassell wants to make evangelism the responsibility of God but not of his people. It is practical antinomianism.
"And during the early succeeding centuries, by social and commercial intercourse, by persecution, by conquest, by captivity, by slavery, by enlistment in the Roman armies, the inscrutable wisdom of God, which is able to overrule evil for good and make the wrath of man praise Him, diffused the light of saving truth, to some extent, among the barbarian nations dwelling on the borders of the Roman Empire. And during the Dark Ages the Cathari, the Patarenes, the Paulicians, the Albigenses, and the Waldenses, being persecuted in one country, fled to another, as commanded by Christ, and went in every direction preaching the word (Matt. 10:23; Acts 8:1-4). And in modern times the Baptists have suffered the most religious persecution, and have been driven from country to country, preaching the gospel."
This is but another example of Hardshell antinomianism and Hyper Calvinism. It is an attempt to justify the non-activity of the Hardshells in supporting church sponsored evangelistic enterprises. Notice the repeated use of the preposition "by." The spreading of the good news message in accordance with the Great Commission is by this, and by that, but not by agencies set up by associations of churches! Further, I have already addressed these arguments in the series on the Great Commission and on Hardshell Mission Opposition.
From chapter 22, Hassell also wrote:
"So that we feel called on to state it as a historical truth, not successfully to be denied, that wherever Missionary Societies, Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, Dorcas Societies, Mite Societies, Religious Fairs and Festivals, Temperance Societies, Sectarian Schools and Theological Seminaries in America prevail, there the doctrine of Phariseeism (modernly called Arminianism) prevails, there the doctrine of saving the souls of men from sin and from hell by works which men may do for themselves and for each other prevails."
By the standard that Hassell puts forth, Hassell is making a cult out of his denomination. By his logic the Hardshells, as a group, are the purest of Christians, for they do not have the various "societies" mentioned (although, as I have shown, they do have their publication and other societies). Of course, this standard is one of Hassell's own creation. We have as much authority to say that wherever you find do-nothing-ism, antinomianism, anti mission and anti evangelism, there you will find the Hardshell cult and heresy.
Also, it is not true that today's Hardshells are uninfected with Arminianism, for they are in many respects Arminian, as I have shown in sections of this book. Recall that both elders John Watson and John Clark, two well known first generation leaders of the Hardshell faction, both fought with the anti means wing of the movement (the "ultraists" and "modern innovators" as Watson called them), and answered the charge of being "Arminian" by rebutting that it was the anti means faction who were the true Arminians.
It seems to me that the doctrine of today's Hardshells, as we have seen, does not give to God the credit for their conversions to Christ, or for their "time salvation," or for their increased sanctification and perseverance. They say that they can only credit themselves. Their becoming converted is exactly in the manner taught by Arminians. It seems that the premise of Hassell is proven to be false, for Phariseeism and Arminianism do have a large place in today's Hardshell churches who do not have the societies denounced by Hassell.
"There the mark of the Beast and there persecution prevail. There fraternization with these in all sects and societies (Pedobaptists included) where salvation is reckoned of men prevails. In all these new things, comminglements and fraternizations, the New School party disprove their identity with Primitive Christians, and repudiate the faith and practice of the Apostles of the Lamb."
What a harsh sweeping condemnation of Baptists who support inter church cooperation in mission work! By his standard, all Baptist churches who support mission work have "the mark of the Beast," and are persecutors of the Lord's people! All churches are supporters of Antichrist except for the Hardshells! Only the "Primitive Baptists" are pure in faith and practice, are the only legitimate "church of Christ." Further, the assertion that those who support organizations for mission work or Christian education believe that "salvation is reckoned of men" is no proof of anything. It is simply Hassell's Hardshell view, one in which he offers no proof. He cannot prove that his Hardshell anti means, anti mission, or anti ministerial education is either scriptural or the teaching of his acknowledged ancestors. This I have fully shown.
"The other party treated the Old School with a great deal of contempt on account of the paucity of their numbers, their old-fashioned creed, their experience of grace, their want of education, and general deficiency in human polish."
Whether or not Hassell's accusation is true, he cannot possibly overlook his own contempt that he, like his Hardshell brethren, have shown towards those styled as "missionary" or "new school" Baptists. The periodicals of the 1830s are filled with severe denunciations against all Baptists who supported theological and Sunday Schools, and mission work. But, it did not stop with that first decade, for the Hardshells have been denouncing their Baptist brethren ever since. How much worse can it get than to accuse missionary Baptists with being in league with Satan?
Further, Hassell seems to think that his Hardshell brethren did not deserve any of the criticisms or labels that were given to them by those who opposed them. Further, he views all criticisms of the Hardshells as being persecution. This is a cult trait and tactic. Tell your followers that all criticism is only proof that you are the favorites of heaven. Though not a grounds for "contempt," it is nevertheless a ground for criticism and condemnation of Hardshell heresies and falsehoods.
Further, as I have shown, the Hardshell "creed" is not so old fashioned, for the Hardshells now reject the London and Philadelphia Confessions, reject the teachings of their Baptist forefathers, not being able to shown any creed that promotes their views prior to the middle nineteenth century.
Of course, Hassell does not want "the paucity of their numbers" to be looked at with any purpose to condemn. He can judge mission Baptists as part of Antichrist because of what he thinks is the fruit of their beliefs and practices, i.e., supporting the things he condemns, but can we not judge the Hardshells by the fruits of their having declared all others in darkness and only themselves in the light? Can we not judge their decline as a proof that God's blessing has not been upon them?
In the next chapter we will continue to analyze what Hassell says about the Hardshell justification for separating from the general Baptist family and for their harsh condemnation of all Baptists outside their own ranks.