Elder Charles Smith is an old ministerial friend of mine from the years I was with the Hardshells here in Monroe, N.C. He was ordained here in the Bear Creek Association at the same time as my former father in law, Elder Newell Helms. They are both about the same age as my dad (early 80s), who is a long time friend of them both. I have a lot of memories of time spent with brother Charles and his wife Dora (who he said was very ill, a thing I was sad to hear). I had a high regard for him when I was a fellow Hardshell, although he did do some things that highly disappointed me.
I was in Walmart days ago and I saw Charles walking and I immediately called out to him, realizing that this was no accident, but the result of divine providence. We shook hands and I said, "you know who this is, don't you?" Not getting an immediate reply and seeing some curiosity in his eyes, I said - "this is Steve Garrett."
Now, I have not seen Charles in I suppose 15-20 years. In fact, I have several times over the past few years thought of the trip my wife and I took with him to Atlanta, Georgia to Nancy's Creek Primitive Baptist Church where Elder Harvey Fulmer was the pastor. This is the Fulmer who has published Watson's "Old Baptist Test" in modern times. In fact, I may have gotten my copy from Fulmer at that time. But more on this shortly.
After we exchanged info about how we were doing (I told him about both my wife's and my health problems over the past couple years and he told me about Dora) I immediately began to talk to him about Hardshell beliefs.
He obviously does not have a home computer, as many his age do not, and so probably was unfamiliar with my Internet writings.
In recounting our conversation, I cannot give the exact order for the subjects discussed, so will simply group them together by the nature of the subjects.
John 6:37and the Necessity of Faith
I cited Jesus' words where he said "all that the Father gives to me shall come to me." I told Charles that this verse affirms that all the elect would come to faith in Christ and that this was denied by him and neo Hardshells. "What does it mean to 'come to' Christ?" I asked him. "Does the context not show that it is identified with believing in Jesus?" I asked. He did not say anything. How could he?
I affirmed that this verse, like many others, taught the necessity of evangelical faith in Christ for being eternally saved. What did Charles say in rebuttal? Well, he went to talking about the difference between evangelical faith in Christ and faith in a Creator, how the latter may exist without the former, and that it is faith in a God/Creator that is "the faith of God's elect," or the faith that is universal to all the regenerated.
I was familiar with this line of reasoning from Hardshells and knew just what to say to him. I first asked him, "a belief in what God?" "Any god?" "So, all Muslims are saved?" He gave me a slight shake of the head with a look of disapproval but said nothing. "A person does not have to believe in the one true God of Israel?" This was the view espoused by Elder Sarrels in his Hardshell "Systematic Theology" and which I have soundly refuted.
Faith Does Not Come By Hearing
At some point in our discussion Charles said "there was no Bible (written revelation) for 3800 years and yet men had faith during that time" (paraphrase). Again, I thought to myself "I've heard that one before." I knew that Charles was going to try to prove that "believing" in God, or having saving "faith," did not require a written word of God, or a hearing of the word of God. My first response was to attack the premise of Charles that affirmed that there was no Bible for 3800 years. I knew that I could not give all the arguments against his assertions for reason of time constraint, so I would give a limited yet forceful reply. I first simply said, "Charles, you are wrong."
I first asked him "how do you know that there was no written revelation during that time?" I then said, "besides there was surely oral testimony of the word and truth of God." In other words, there was still no case where a person had faith (belief) apart from knowledge of revealed truth. I said to Charles that the Scriptures speak of the prophets of God existing from the beginning (or during that 3800 years).
“As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began” . (Acts 3:21)
"...the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world..." (Luke 11:50)
I also asked Charles - "did not Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesy of the coming of Christ?"
I told him how I had heard Hardshells argue this stuff, affirming the following:
1. Abel had faith (Heb. 11)
2. Abel had no word of God to believe
3. Faith does not require a word of God
Of course, it is premise #2 that is false, yet often assumed to be true by Hardshells. In fact, it is totally against the teaching of the apostle in Romans 10, who concluded, saying "so then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (vs. 14). What the Hardshell attempts to prove as true is the conclusion of the above syllogism which affirms that "faith does not come by hearing the word of God," the very opposite proposition of the apostle.
Further, as I told Charles, Abel did have faith that came by hearing the word of God, which word was first uttered in Genesis three when the Lord foretells of the coming of the Messiah, the "seed of the woman," and how the Messiah would suffer a wound in the conflict with the Serpent and his seed and who would however obtain the victory and undo the work of the Serpent.
Charles cited that portion of Romans 10 where Paul speaks of "their sound went into all the world." Again, I knew immediately where he was going to go with that and let him know basically that he need not elaborate the point for me to reply to it. The argument is put forth that this knowledge of God (sound, word, revelation) went into all the world apart from human messengers and thus must refer to that revelation of God in creation. In other words, Hardshells read the apostolic words as if they read - "the knowledge of God as Creator was universal because it is evident in creation itself." So, the faith that is necessary to salvation comes not by hearing the word of God as given through God's written revelation, but through his revelation in creation (a view utterly denounced by the London Confession and Dr. Gill and the Old Baptists).
Basically, Hardshells affirm, as I said, that faith does not come by hearing the word of God. And, when they read "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," they see these words - "faith in God as Creator comes from the seeing the creation" or "God is seen and understood by the things that are made" (as in 1: 17). They affirm that God's revelation of himself in creation is sufficient for producing that faith which is necessary for final salvation, and therefore requires no additional revelation for its production.
Thoughts in the back of my mind
He just doesn't know how extensive was a knowledge of the Gospel in times before Christ. If he knew the significance of Mazzaroth he would not have thought that the Gospel was not known in ancient history.
What does he think of the Scriptures I cited about the prophets prophesying of Christ since the world began? Of Enoch's preaching? Of Noah's preaching? Does he not see how his thesis is overthrown?
John 3: 36
I asked Charles if he believed that "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him"? (John 3:36) I said that the Hardshell view denies that all those who do not believe in Jesus are under wrath and that this is no minor error.
The Means Issue
We discussed the issue of means, either in regeneration or for final salvation. I knew that Charles had struggled in time past with this issue so I asked him - "You struggled with the issue of means at one time?"
I affirmed that the no means view was a new doctrine and that 1) no Baptist believed it prior to the birth of the Hardshell denomination, and 2) his own Hardshell forefathers of the 1830s and 1840s all believed in Gospel means and that being converted by the Gospel was essential for final salvation. He seemed to doubt what I was saying so I offered to send him the proof, the historical facts, but I asked him - "if I sent you the proof, would it make any difference?" And, what do you think his response was to my offer and query? Did he say - "oh yes, I would love to see that proof"? Did he say that he would gladly change his view of history (regarding his own denomination) if given proof of his errors? You guessed it! He cared not for proof or for facts! Again, this is simply more proof of his cult thinking, of him being wedded to his heresies.
Original Hardshells (including Bear Creek)
I even told Charles that the first Hardshells of the Bear Creek Association (formed in 1832 as a result of the Black Rock Address and the Hardshell separation/secession) were believers in means in the new birth and gave him these proofs (I have more than I could give him at this time. Besides, he already showed that he cared not for facts).
I told him that all the first great leaders of the Hardshells in the 1830s believed in Gospel means, including leaders in North Carolina (who were in fellowship with the Bear Creek Ass.) such as Joshua Lawrence and C. B. Hassell.
I asked him - "was not the Bear Creek Founded on Philadelphia confession?" He nodded yes. I said that the confession is clear on the use of means.
I informed him that Elder Hosea Preslar was a member of Lawyer's Spring church (Bear Creek) in the early 1800s at the time of the organization of the Bear Creek and that he taught the Gospel means position in his book "Thoughts on Divine Providence." He said the anti means view was a new doctrine and began among the followers of Daniel Parker. I told him that Preslar moved to middle Tennessee and became a close friend of Elder John Watson who also opposed the anti means brethren among the Parkerites.
In fact, I asked brother Charles if he had ever read Watson's "Old Baptist Test" (assuming that he had). I was surprised to learn that he had not read it.
Old Baptist Test Book
I could not believe that Charles had not read Dr. Watson's classic work. What did that reveal to me? Well, a lot. It certainly showed that he had done no real studying of the history of his Hardshell denomination. I saw that as a sad thing, revealing that he had his mind made up about the history of his people, and had no need to read any history or to get corrected by facts.
Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall
Charles brought up the fact that the oldest churches in this area were established by Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall of the Separate Baptists (he knew this much history). In fact, Hardshells acknowledge that nearly all the Hardshell churches in the southern states were formed by the preaching of ministers from the Sandy Creek Association of Separates, chiefly Daniel Marshall. However, what Smith does not know is that the Sandy Creek fathers were believers in Gospel means and did not hold to Hardshell heresies.
In fact, it is my intention to lay out more evidence in the future to show how the Separates were not Hardshell on the use of means and on the necessity of conversion for salvation. I also will show that the first preachers in the Bear Creek Association were generally believers in means.
I asked Charles how he could claim to be the old, primitive, or original Baptists and yet could not show how his Hardshell views were the historic and traditional views of Baptists prior to the 1840s. He made no reply.
When I was giving Charles such historical information, he looked at me and said "Steve, you are a very intelligent person" while his fingers were pointing to his head. I cut him off because I perceived where he was headed with those words. I have had this said to me by the Hardshells several times. I responded to Charles - "what has intelligence got to do with what I am talking about?" "I am talking about what are facts of history that require little intelligence to comprehend."
Charles then began to point to his heart (rather than to his head) and said "God revealed to my heart" what I know is the truth (or something to that effect). In other words, I was blinded by my intelligence while his lack of it was proof that he knew the truth. He had God reveal truth to his heart, but I had not had that experience. Again, more cult psychology.
Hardshell Liberal Movement
I asked Charles in a hurry as he was needing to go, "What do you think about Bradley and the 'liberal movement'"?
Well, he said he did not think much of it. Again, I was a little surprised because I thought Charles (at one point after joining the Hardshells) thought of returning to a belief in means and so would be sympathetic to Bradley and the liberal movement. He said that he thought that Elder Bradley had probably returned to a belief in means but has not announced it publicly.
I was glad for this meeting. It imputed great responsibility to him. He cannot plead ignorance. When he is judged by the Lord, he cannot claim that he was not warned. I gave him the facts, he is accountable to God with what he does with them. He gave all the marks of being a cult member and made me glad to have been set free from their schism.