Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tennessee Association Originally Espoused Means

In the previous posting I showed where the Powell's Valley Association of Primitive Baptists as late as 1879 still espoused the Gospel means position, which was the position of most "Primitive" or Hardshell Baptists up till the Civil War and was still the position of many Hardshell churches well into the twentieth century

Most Hardshells who know most about their history will want their fellow cult members to believe that the anti means view was the view of nearly all Hardshells from 1832 till about 1890 when Elders Pence and Burnam (means side) and Potter (anti means side) butted heads in debate over the issue.  Then, these Hardshell "historians" want their fellow Hardshells to believe that the split that resulted from this debate showed 1) that the means view was new among the Hardshells, and 2) that those favoring Pence and Burnam represented an extreme minority.  But, the historical facts will not substantiate this Hardshell revision of history.

It can be shown that the rejection of the Gospel means position among the Hardshells was gradual, and occurred mostly during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century.  In this posting I will cite from the minutes of the Tennessee Association of Primitive Baptists, but first let me cite this from the web page of today's "Progressive" Primitive Baptist Tennessee Association.  (emphasis mine)

"By 1843, the Tennessee Association of Primitive Baptist was comprised of 9 churches in Sevier and Blount Counties, Tennessee. These churches embrace the original twelve “Articles of Faith”, or religious principles, that they had in their beginning with the addition of a thirteenth article that states: We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ should have no organic connection to any society or institution of man not authorized by God’s word. The association grew to include churches in North and South Carolina, as well as Tennessee, which totaled 22 by 1912. It was at the 110th annual session of the Tennessee Association of Primitive Baptist held at the Green Brier Church, Sevier County, that Elder William Brickey addressed the association by letter concerning the topics of: Eternal Two-Seedism, or Parkerism, Absolute Predestinarianism, Eternal Vital-Unionism, and Arminianism. At the 1913 session the association recommended that the churches which comprised the Tennessee Association to say by church act whether they adopt or accept the said advice concerning preaching of repentance to unregenerated sinners. Part of the Tennessee Association split off and joined with the Nolachucky Association and remain with them to this day. The remaining seven churches assumed the name The Original Tennessee Association of Primitive Baptist in 1914."

We are progressive in relation to most Primitive Baptists, we preach repentance to unregenerated sinners, have Sunday school, attend worship service weekly, have a mid-week service, and support footwashing meetings and revivals in each church."

When I was traveling among the Hardshells as a young Hardshell preacher, I visited with folks who were members of the "Tennessee-Nolachucky Association of Primitive Baptists."  This association was created in 1913 as a result of the Gospel means division.  Now, who held to the original view of the old Tennessee Association, the means or the anti means side?  Well, we shall see.

In the Association minutes for 1897 we have this circular given to the churches. (emphasis mine)


Very Dear Brethren

We are glad the time has come when we address you in an epistolary way, for which purpose we have chosen for our subject - "Preaching the gospel to sinners."  We are glad to believe that you are a unit upon this subject, but we wish to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance how "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24-27)  This is the language of our blessed Saviour to His Apostles after his resurrection and is today our authority as His ministers for preaching the gospel to sinners."  But let us go back a moment to the Old Testament and see if the prophets did not warn the wicked...Jonah preached to wicked Nineveh, and Jesus tell us they repented at his preaching.  John the Baptist preached repentance to sinners, and many believed and were baptized.  Jesus preached, "Repent ye, and except ye repent ye shall perish.  But while he was preaching to sinners and they drew near to Him, there was some murmured against Him, just like some professing Primitive Baptists are going (sic) today, calling us Armenians (sic) for preaching the gospel to sinners.  One of them (a preacher too) called the very language of Jesus in Matthew 23:37 Arminianism.  So if they call the Master of the house Beelzebub how much more shall they call those of his household.  But let us see if it was Baptists, or even Christians, that murmured against Him.  Nay, verily, it was the Scribes and Pharisees.  Now is it possible, dear brethren, that this same opposing spirit has found its way among Primitive Baptists, if so pray that good Lord to move it away, and show them that Jesus died for sinners, and would have His ministers to tell them so.

In the first commission the apostles were limited to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but in the second commission, in all the world to every creature, but begin at Jerusalem. Jerusalem at this time was the very sink of sin and seat of hypocrisy, and gulf where true religion was tried to be drowned.  The very shambles and slaughter-shop for saints, and, to heighten their crimes, cried for the blood of Christ to be upon them and their children.  Paul said they were contrary to all men...and yet they must be the first to have the gospel preached to them.  So when the time had fully come that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them, Peter gets up and goes to preaching the death and resurrection of Christ to some of the very ones that crucified Him, and when they heard his preaching they were convicted for sin and cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"  And Peter again exhorted them, and they gladly received his word and were baptized, and now it does seem to us that any Bible reader could see that the Lord, by His Spirit, make the preaching of the gospel effectual in the conviction and conversion of sinners.

It was the same power that converted Saul of Tarsus that converted those on the day of Pentecost.  To Saul it was the word of Jesus without the apostles; to them it was the word of Jesus by the mouth of the apostle Peter.  To each it was the power of God unto salvation.  Jesus said to dead Lazarus, "come forth," and he came forth. Peter said to Tabitha, "arise," and she opened her eyes and sat up.  The same power that raised Lazarus raised Tabitha.  The same power that attended the preaching of Jesus to the conversion of sinners attends the preaching of His ministers today to the conversion of sinners, to the extent of His purpose in sending it. It is by his spirit and in His name that His ministers preach the gospel,  It is by His spirit their preaching is made effectual to both saint and sinner.  The power is His, the work is His, and the glory shall be His.

Stephen died at the hands of those he was preaching to.  Paul preached to sinners and he was a minister by whom they believed.  Some tell us that the sinner is dead, and cannot therefore hear the word of the Lord when preached to them.  But does not the apostle tell us that hearing comes by the word of God.  Peter says that we are born by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.  So then how shall they hear without a preacher.  Some tell us that there are two words or gospel - one preached by the spirit, the other by God's called ministers.  But unless there had been two Lords crucified, there could be no ground for two gospels, but one Lord, and in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.  Now the apostles tell us that the gospel is the power of God, the wisdom of God the word of God, the gospel of God, the grace of God-the Son of God, crucified, risen and exalted form poor lost sinners.  And now, dear brethren, if this gospel is not sufficient to save poor lost sinners we know that we are all lost world without end.

And now, if the Lord Jesus Himself and His holy apostles traveled and preached this gospel to poor lost sinners and many were converted by their preaching, how can we claim to be His ministers if we do not preach the same thing.  John Bunyan, a strong Baptist preacher of the sixteenth century, preached this gospel to sinners, for which he lay in Bedford jail twelve years;  not accepting deliverance on the ground that he would not preach it any more.  The churches of the Kehuke Association of one hundred years ago maintained that in order to the ordination of a minister, his preaching was to tend to the conviction and conversion of sinners.  The Tennessee Association was organized upon the same principle:  and her ministers have ever since its organization preached the gospel to sinners in the name of Jesus.  And by it the churches have been built up and God's name glorified thereby.  We will here give you a brief extract from the pen of Elder Wm. Brickey, in Towaliga Messenger, on which he says, "The apostle Paul thought it necessary that the gospel should first be preached to the unbelieving Jews:  How many of us claiming to be Primitive Baptists believe it necessary that the gospel be preached to unbelievers.  If we differ from the apostles in faith and practice, how can we claim to be apostolic Baptists."  Again he says "How many thousands of the Lord's people in all days past and present have borne testimony that they were convicted and converted under the preaching of the gospel by the Lord's ministers.  How can we get up in the face of all these witnesses and say it was all a delusion, and they were all mistaken.

So now, dear brethren, it is the spirit of Christ to weep over poor lost sinners and preach the gospel to them, and we rejoice to know that this spirit is with the churches and ministers of the Tennessee Association today."

Associations in correspondence with the Tennessee Association were the Powell's Valley, the Nola Chuckey, and the Hiwassee, all which previously also held to the means position.

The old and historic Cades Cove church was a member of this association and remained true to the means position of their forefathers, just like the Alabaha Association.

The baptisms of today's Hardshells descend from men who held to the Gospel means view, which is the original view of the "Primitive Baptist" denomination. 

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