Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wilson Thompson's Fall

The following is an excerpt from my series on Hardshells and the Great Commission" (chapter 72).  I think it needs to be  read and studied by every Hardshell.

Elder Wilson Thompson, a leading Hardshell "founding father," and of whom I will have much to say in future chapters, said:

"When I was raised from the water the first thought that I recollect was, “O! that sinners could but see and feel the beauties of a Savior’s love!” Such a weighty and painful sense of their blind and dead condition came over me that I felt a strong desire to speak of the glorious plan of salvation." (Autobiography, chapter three)

That is wonderful to read! A precious story! Sad, however, that this evangelistic spirit was soon lost by this brother! How did he lose this zeal? What happened?

Before I answer those questions, from citations from his "Autobiography," I want to cite statements from him where this early missionary spirit was at work in his heart and conscience. After that I will cite him on the great "ephiphany" that he experienced one day on a lonely dusty road in the wilderness of Kentucky.

From Chapter twelve, a chapter titled - "Conflict and Deliverance," this Elder writes:

"...for I had viewed the missionary scheme only as being a benevolent plan for promoting the spread of the gospel. Whether or not it was a scriptural plan, I had not examined, nor once questioned.

My mind became greatly impressed with the vast importance of preaching the gospel to ALL nations. And as these poor heathen savages were among us (Indians - SG), and we had their land, and had greatly reduced their numbers, I felt that I would seize the opportunity now offered for carrying the gospel among them."

I must stop at this point and ask every Hardshell to answer this simple question about what Thompson has written about his early desires to be a missionary. Was he at this time being led by the Spirit and word of God or by the devil? This is a very important question! They must answer it! If they say yes, then they will not be able, justly or consistently, to say that his later experience, wherein he lost this missionary spirit, was also of God rather than, as I believe, was of the devil and of the flesh.

Thompson continues:

"I soon made my resolution known to the churches, but I met with strong opposition from all the members. My house soon became crowded, day and night, with my best friends, often pleading with tears in their eyes for me NOT to go. They presented their own destitute condition, if I should leave them; and then they would point out all the horrors and privations that I must endure in spending a life among these superstitious and cruel barbarians. Elder William Jones, whom I regarded as an able teacher in Israel, came, with several others, and stayed most of two days and one night. He labored hard to persuade me to abandon the undertaking, but all to no effect. No one said a word about the enterprise being wrong or anti-scriptural; all seemed to admit that the wonderful movements, the zeal and perseverance now so suddenly and so simultaneously springing up in the United States and Europe did surely give some strong indications that the time was at hand when the gospel was to be preached to every nation. All this was admitted, but I must not leave them to engage in this work."

I must here pause and emphasize several important points from these words of the great "Father Thompson."

First, observe how Thompson, by his narration of the discussions among the Baptists concerning his stated "resolution" to go fulfill the "Great Commission," by going to Indiana and preaching the gospel, with the great Missionary Baptist, Elder Isaac McCoy, that he gives us a picture of what the Baptists believed about missions and the "Great Commission."

Thompson basically admits that there was not an anti-mission Hardshell Baptist in existence! There was no opposition to the sending of missionaries, by the church, to heathens who had never heard the gospel! The only opposition was from friends who wanted him to stay because they wanted him as pastor!

Anyone reading this story, thus far, must be awestruck with the missionary zeal that filled the heart of Wilson Thompson! He came out of the waters of baptism wanting to preach the gospel to dead sinners, and believed that their salvation depended upon it.

He believed, and who can doubt it, that he had been providentially prepared for this mission trip to the Indians, and to join Elder McCoy!

Who can doubt that he was being led by the Spirit of God to do as he had been prepared to do and had been inspired to do? Well, what happened to quench this missionary Spirit that was sent to him by the Lord? Are we not all now anxious to see the "end of the story"?

He continues:

"This, I thought, looked selfish in them; for if the time had come for the gospel to be preached to those heathen people, some one must go and preach it, and I believed then, as I do now, that God fixes the field of labor for each of His called ministers, and in that place alone will they be profitable. And when He is about to move one of His ministers from one place to another, circumstances and impressions will open up the way. My mind was not decided as yet, as to whether I should finally engage as a missionary or not; this should depend on my impressions and their evidence respecting my duty as presented to my mind. I must be satisfied what was the Lord’s will, and that should govern me without regarding ease or toil, privation or plenty; and for this knowledge I was seeking and praying, fully believing that God would direct me, for I was submissive to His will. This I told to all that talked to me."

I must here pause again to emphasize certain points from his testimony. First, he clearly was not of the view, at this state in his life and ministry, that the "Great Commission" had been fulfilled! So, even though he had fellowship with another Hardshell "founding father," with Elder Gilbert Beebe, he nevertheless disagreed with Beebe, who promoted the idea that it had been fulfilled. Thompson may have later changed his views on the "Great Commission," after he became an "anti-mission" or Hardshell Baptist, but he did not believe such things at the first, nor did the Baptists with whom he was associated.

Second, about going to preach the gospel to the "heathen," he says - "someone must go and do it." Oh that the Hardshells of today would heed these words of their beloved founder!

Third, he says that his "mind was not decided as yet as to whether he should engage as a missionary or not." Obviously then Thompson, at the start, did not believe it was against the bible or Baptist beliefs for him to be a missionary to the heathen!

Thompson continues:

"My contemplated winter tour to Raccoon Station and thence though the Indian tribes in the Wabash Valley, and so on to Fort Wayne, where Elder McCoy designed a location, would probably show, by the next spring, what the prospect of success was, and what the path of duty would probably be. I met their arguments on privations and hardships by saying: “I was born in the new settlements of Kentucky, which the Indians called the ‘‘bloody ground’’, in the year 1788, and I had been raised to the use of the rifle; the chase of the deer, the bear, the panther, and other wild animals, was the sport of my leisure hours; I had learned most of the habits of the Indians, and was used to camp life; I was a woodsman that could not lose my compass, and I did not know but the Omnipotent Disposer of events might have been superintending my education in the forest as a college far more suitable for an Indian missionary than any school of science could be. These matters time would doubtless develop.” I further told my friends that I hoped to be found submissively waiting and observing the openings of Providence, prayerfully seeking for wisdom to understand them, and for the leadings of the Holy Spirit to guide me in the right way that I might not go astray, for “it was not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

Thompson was clearly in the Spirit with these thoughts! The Holy Spirit was definitely laying out to him clearly his duty. How can anyone reading these words today and not see a beautiful picture of how God both prepares and calls a missionary! But, what happens to stop him?

He continues:

"I started home alone on foot, and as I was walking fast and in a thinking mood, suddenly these words came to my mind: “Who hath required this at your hand? ” It thrilled through my whole frame and set me all of a shiver. I stood motionless, except a shaking from head to foot, with eyes bent toward the ground. I could not answer the interrogation, but this inquiry started calmly in my mind: “God ‘‘worketh all things after counsel of His own will"; if He intends to send the gospel to the Indians, or to any other heathen nation, He has not only fixed the time for it but has arranged the system. And have you the evidence that this is either the time or the system which He hath appointed?” I saw myself on the verge of a precipice, and, like a blind man, was about to leap I knew not whither. I stood without moving hand or foot, and trembling with solemn awe! In my mind I said: “Lord, shall I know what Thy system is and whether this is it or not? O, Lord, teach me, and let not my feet be taken in the snare of the crafty.” The reply to my mind was quick and satisfactory: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.’’ Search it carefully and you will find the Lord’’s plan.”

During all this time I stood like a statue in the road. It seemed to me that I must have stood there half an hour without raising my eyes from the ground or moving a limb. I often look back to that time as the most solemn period in all my life. When the last-mentioned text came so forcibly to my mind, I was fully satisfied that this new system of missions was of human origin. It was new, and I knew but very little about it; but the text relieved me, by fully convincing me that I would find the Lord’s plan plainly set out in the Scriptures. My trembling left me at once. I felt calm, but still I was anxious to discover the Divine system for the spread of the gospel among the heathen. I proceeded homeward with my mind at ease, and I have never felt that sort of mission fever since."

Lost his "mission fever"! A mission fever that clearly was of the Lord! Here is the story of the Hardshell denomination exemplified in the experience of one man! If one knows the history of this denomination, and of their affection for dreams, visions, and such experiences as The following Thompson had on that lonely road, he will agree with this observation.

I have already written much about Elder Wilson Thompson and his son Elder Grigg Thompson, and also his descendents and other relatives, Elders R.W. Thompson and Elder J. M. Thompson, all Hardshell debaters and apologists.

If the reader wants to see some things I have written previously on Wilson Thompson, he should read chapter 57 titled "The Original Paradigm." In that chapter I also show how Wilson Thompson seemed to hold to the "Three Stage Model" of the "new birth" as fellow Kentuckian, Elder William Conrad. So, we have Beebe, Trott, Thompson, and Conrad who clearly taught this view.

My dad (Elder Eddie K. Garrett, Sr.) told me recently that when he first came among the Hardshells, and when he had spent a lot of time with Elder S. T. Tolley (editor of the "The Christian Baptist" and whom I know personally, having been in his home several times, and whom both Brother Ross and myself have cited in our writings on the Hardshells), that he asked Elder Tolley about the view that there were "stages" in the new birth after the model I have discussed. He apparently was considering that view when seeking out the Hardshells. He said to me - "Elder Tolly told me - 'the Old Baptists will not have that.'"

Well, Tolley was wrong! In fact, that was the common first view of the Hardshells! Stay tuned! More to come!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pink Overthrows Hardshell Principles

Having come to a more sound position in the Bible one of the great joys that I now receive as a lover of books, particularly old ones, is to read a powerful quotation which goes against what I used to believe and teach.  It may not directly address the thing as a whole yet refutes its principles, apart from which the system cannot exist.  It always puts a smile on my face for I am reminded of the time when the Lord taught me the very same truths.

Hardshell Conditionalism did not originate until the latter part of the 19th century. Consequently, you will not find the heresy directly addressed by any of the great theologians of the past.  Refutations exist when they affirm principles or subordinate doctrines which run contrary to it.  Once you know what to look for (and I do), it’s a piece of cake to prove that no one espoused this system prior to the 19th century.

I’m currently reading through Arthur W. Pink’s Gleanings in Joshua and am at the chapter entitled ‘Victory at Jericho’. I came across the following quote from the gifted writer which serves as a powerful rebuttal to many of the building blocks necessary to erect Conditionalism.

He writes:

"And ye shall compass the city: all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they have made a long blast with the rams’ horns, when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him" (vv. 3-5). In view of the preceding verse, that may strike some of our readers as a very strange requirement. If the Lord had definitely given Jericho into the hands of Joshua, why were such elaborate preparations as these necessary for its overthrow? Let those who feel the force of any such difficulty weigh attentively what we are about to say. In reality, those verses exemplify and illustrate a principle which it is most important for us to apprehend. That principle may be stated thus: the disclosure of God’s gracious purpose and the absolute certainty of its accomplishment in no wise renders needless the discharge of our responsibilities. God’s assuring us of the sureness of the end does not set aside the indispensability of the use of means. Thus, here again, as everywhere, we see preserved the balance of Truth.

So far from the Divine promises being designed to promote inactivity on our part, they are given as a spur unto the same, to assure us that if our efforts square with the Divine Rule, they will not be in vain. The gracious declaration that God had given Jericho into the hand of Israel did not discharge them from the performance of their duty, but was to assure them of certain success in the same. That principle operates throughout in the accomplishment of the Divine purpose. The truth of election is not revealed in order to license a spirit of fatalism, but to rejoice our hearts by the knowledge that the whole of Adam’s race is not doomed to destruction. Nor are the elect mechanically delivered from destruction apart from any action of theirs, for though they be "chosen to salvation," yet it is "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth" (2 Thess. 2:13)—unless the Truth be embraced by them no salvation would be theirs, for "he that believeth not shall be damned." Likewise the revealed truth that Christ will yet "see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied" (Isa. 53), that "all that the Father giveth Him shall come to Him" (John 6:37), does not render needless the preaching of the Gospel to every creature, for that preaching is the very means which God has appointed and which the Holy Spirit makes effectual in drawing unto Christ those for whom He died. We must not divide what God has joined together.

It is the sundering of those things which God has connected—wherein He has made the one dependent upon another—which has wrought so much evil and caused so many useless divisions among His people. For example, in the twin truths of Divine preservation and Christian perseverance. Our assurance of glorification in no wise sets aside the need for care and caution, self-denial and striving against sin on our part. There is a narrow way to be trodden if Life is to be reached (Matthew 7:14), a race to be run if the prize is to be secured (Heb. 12:1; Philippians 3:14). We are indeed "kept by the power of God,’ yet "through faith" (1 Pet. 1:5) and not irrespective of its exercise; and faith eyes and makes use of the Divine precepts equally with the Divine promises, and heeds God’s admonitions and warnings as well as appropriates His comforts and encouragements. God has nowhere declared that He will preserve the reckless and presumptuous. He preserves in faith and holiness, and not in carnality and worldliness. Christ has guaranteed, the eternal security of a certain company, but He was careful to first describe the marks of those who belong to it: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and they shall never perish" (John 10:27, 28), but no such assurance is given unto any who disregard His voice and follow a course of self-will and self-pleasing. God’s promise of Heaven to the believer is far from signifying that he will not have to fight his way there.

The appointed means must never be separated from the appointed end.”

This is rock solid truth, so I give a huge amen to everything Pink says here!  But it’s not as if similar statements do not exist in other Calvinistic writings that I must choose this particular one. It’s just that this one contains so many individual lessons and the inseparable connection between them.  Each progression of thought is a refutation of some principle or doctrine upholding Conditionalism, and is a lesson that its proponents need to learn.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pelagianism in The Banner of Love

"I will say that there is no gospel in telling men what they must do or can do to be saved and if they fail they will be damned for their lack of doing it.  To call on dead sinners to repent and believe the gospel implies there is an ability in them to perform such acts." (Ricky Harcrow, "If salvation is by free grace why preach the Gospel?", Banner of Love Feb. 2015)

When I read these words from the current issue of The Banner of Love for the first time my first impulse was to do as usual.  I would rebut this anti-gospel nonsense by asserting that warnings and exhortations are an essential component of the gospel of Christ, and that the second statement is blatant Pelagianism, pure and simple! But then my mind turned to where it often goes nowadays.  I began to think of all the indoctrinated souls that would be receiving this teaching in the mail and accept it without question.

This happens a lot.

Ever since the Lord delivered me from the heretical position I used to occupy, I think of my former acquaintances quite often.  Most of the time I am overcome with sadness for I know the things that they are being taught.  I think of the many friends I made while among them; and how they, not being as learned in the deeper things of theology as they ought, are simply unaware that these words are condoning one of the major errors that faced the early church!  They will swallow this 'command implies ability' teaching hook, line, and sinker.  Oh, how sorrowful I become when I think of the hundreds of souls who are being taught Pelagianism and know it not!!

And one stands in wonder how anyone could assert that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ contains no exhortations to being saved or warnings if they fail to comply with its terms! How much of the teachings of Jesus and that of Paul are immediately cast into the wastebasket when such a position is maintained?  Why, they are both full of exhortations and warnings!  The New Testament would essentially have to be re-written were such the case.

What we’re seeing is the full germination of what began as a small seed in the mid-19th century.  A ministry concerned only with “feeding the sheep” and comforting those “already regenerated” took off about this time. Elder John Watson took notice of this sad omission in the ministry of his contemporaries, writing: 

“But the worst deviation of all is, that of our not exhorting both saint and sinner as enjoined in the word of God. A gospel without exhortations may not be 'another gospel' but it is not a full one; it would want many things which the Lord has ordained for the good of his people.  Our cold doctrinal, non-exhorting way of preaching, has doubtless already produced bad results.”

"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'."

Much of this anti-evangelistic spirit results from the belief that effectual calling through the means of the gospel is not compatible with the depravity of man.  It naturally follows then that the elder's next statement would be to assert that calling upon the lost to repent and believe implies they are capable of doing so:

"To call on dead sinners to repent and believe the gospel implies there is an ability in them to perform such acts."

This is nothing but sheer unadultered Pelagianism for it is clearly affirmed that commands imply ability!

Excuse me but they most certainly do not.  A command only illuminates what a person is obligated to perform, and not what they are able to do.  To command the lost to come to Christ “no more implies that fallen man has the power (in himself) to come, than ‘Stretch forth thine hand’ implied that the man with the withered arm had ability (in himself) to comply” (Arthur W. Pink).

I suspect that my deceived “Primitive” Baptist friends are totally oblivious to the fact that they are regurgitating the same philosophy as the 16th century Dutch humanist Erasmus.  However, instead of using it to deny the total depravity of man as he did, they opt for the only perceived alternative by shifting the gospel call to this side of regeneration where the man is now able to comply.  Though the end result is different, they both stem from the faulty reasoning that ability is the limit of obligation. It is for that very reason why Martin Luther, who thoroughly refuted the claims of Erasmus, can be of help to them. His grand work The Bondage of the Will is just as much a refutation of Hardshell Pelagianism as it is of Erasmus’s version.  Here’s a recommended sampling.