In a question and answer format, Elders Sylvester Hassell and R. H. Pitman answered questions. Here is one answered by Hassell that I want to focus attention upon.
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.
This is a statement that desperately needed enlargement and proof for its validity. Oddly, the learned "historian" failed to give us this. He obviously wrote this for the average unlearned Hardshell cult member who would take his word as fact without checking him out. He certainly would not want to say such a thing with scholarly ears listening. Noble Bereans would call on him to prove this totally unfounded assertion.
Before I enlarge upon all that is apparent from the above words of Sylvester Hassell, I would like to ask who were those designated as "some Baptists"? Were the following named people guilty of giving "careless expressions" when discussing the modus operandi of the Spirit in begetting children of God? And, did they "in their more exact expressions" contradict themselves?
Was this true of the signers of the 1644 and 1689 London Confessions?
Was it true of those who put forth and endorsed the Philadelphia Confession?
Was it true of Willian Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, John Spilsbury, Hercules Collins, Benjamin Keach?
Was it true of John Gill?
Was it true of all the first leaders of the Hardshells of the 1830s? Was it true of Sylvester's own father? Of Joshua Lawrence, Mark Bennett, and those who published the original "Primitive Baptist" periodical?
Hardshells like Hassell think that they are the only ones who now put forth those "more exact expressions" that define the new birth experience, that they are superior theologians to the names mentioned above.
What the question and answer affirms/implies
1. That only a small minority of Baptists have historically and traditionally believed in means. "Some" Baptists have advocated means? Now, Hassell surely knows that this is false, and that all Baptists prior to the rise of the Hardshells believed in means. So, then, why does he say "some Baptists"? Does he not want to leave the impression that the anti means view has been the view of the great majority of Baptists of prior centuries? Is he not being deceitful?
2. That the Baptist forefathers contradicted themselves in expressing their views on this matter. But, he asserts this but gives no proof for it.
3. That the Baptist forefathers repudiated the means position in their "more exact expressions." Again, if there ever was a need for evidence to prove this assertion, it was here! Why did Hassell not give us samples from those forefathers to substantiate his fantastic claim? Is it not because he had none? I have challenged today's Hardshells to give us those citations and they, like Hassell, remain silent as the grave. They assert things without the least shred of evidence.
4. Hassell does say that these Baptists did sometimes seem to affirm belief in means, but advises the Hardshell cult members to just ignore it as being as example of the fact that the Hardshell forefathers were not exact in their understanding as is Hassell and as are today's Hardshells. In other words, Hardshells are to apply Hassell's formula in interpreting the writings of Baptist forefathers.
5. The Baptist forefathers of the Hardshells denied the use of means and did so in their more exact expressions but did write some things carelessly at times that seemed to imply their belief in means, or to contradict their more exact statements of faith. But, again, we want the proof!
6. That Sylvester Hassell and his brethren, in the late 1800s, had finally given to the world a statement of Baptist belief on the new birth that was the most exact of all, having no careless expressions any longer. That is Hardshell arrogance, a trait that has characterized them from the beginning.