Saturday, December 12, 2015

Robert Hall vs. Hardshell Hyperists

Robert Hall Sr. was a leader among 18th century English Particular Baptists.  He is known for his fight against "false Calvinism" or "Hyper Calvinism."  Especially in "Help To Zion's Travellers" does Hall refute the errors of the Hyper Calvinist concerning duty faith and Gospel offers and invitations.

In 1836 "The Christian Index" published from Hall his apology against the false Calvinists.  The Hardshells took notice of it and in the first volume of "The Primitive Baptist" periodical (1836) a response is made to the Index and to Hall's writing.  In this posting I will give that response and add some comments.

Vol. 1 of "The Primitive Baptist" (1836)

"False Calvinism" by Robert Hall

Robert Hall wrote a Preface to his father's popular little work, called "A Help to Zion's Travellers."  It has some valuable observations on hyper-Calvinism, which we do not think are reprinted in the regular editions of that distinguished author's works.

"Another principle," he says, "assumed as a basis by the high Calvinist is, that the same things cannot be the duty of man and the gift of God, or in other words, that what is matter of promise, can on no occasion be the matter of obligation.  The scriptures frequently affirm faith and repentance to be the gift of God;  hence it is concluded that they cannot be obligatory on the unregenerate, a conclusion diametrically opposed to innumerable passages of the Old and New Testaments, which insist in the most peremptory style on the true conversion and a lively faith as the most essential duties;  which other passages are equally expressive in exhibiting as matter of promise."  (pg. 373)

"Robert Hall maintains, as it is seen above, that faith and repentance are both, the duty of men, and the gift of GodThe Christian Index tells us that Hall quoted several passages of scripture from the Old and New Testaments, in proof of his doctrine, we should have been gratified if the Index had given us the references only to those passages of scripture, that we might examine his evidence.  The truth is, Robert Hall can offer no scripture to support his doctrine.  He, or any other person, may quote scripture, and that too with the view to sustain some proposed point of doctrine;  but after it is admitted that "the scriptures frequently affirm faith and repentance to be the gifts of God," no quotations from scripture, nor any mode of reasoning, to prove them duties and "obligatory on the unregenerate, can save Robert Hall or any of his advocates from the charge of absurdity."

This Hardshell says the same thing that James Wells would also say some thirty years after this (see the previous posting on Wells).  The Hyper Calvinist cannot see how faith and repentance can be duties and yet be necessary for salvation.  He cannot see how they can be BOTH duties and gifts or works of God.  Hall, and the true Calvinists, cannot understand why the Hyper or False Calvinist cannot see how they can both (logically speaking) be true, without contradiction, and how it is in fact the teaching of holy scripture.

Our Hardshell critic of Hall Sr. and Jr. says that no scripture was given to support the fact that faith and repentance were both duties and sovereign efficacious gifts of God.  This is what Wells also said of the duty faith position.  And yet, Hall, Fuller, and others have constantly quoted scripture to prove their thesis.  In fact, in my recent posting James Wells on Duty Faith, I cited several verses that prove the point.  Did this Hardshell not know of them?  Like Wells seemed not to know of them?

This Hardshell says that it is "absurd" to think that a gift cannot be a duty.  But, ironically, it is this Hardshell's reasoning that is absurd.  Further, calling the duty faith position "absurd" is no argument against the view but simply an opinion.  This Hardshell brother is certainly not doing as Wells would later advise and handle this subject with care!  Further, he is not willing to acknowledge, as did Wells, that the anti duty faith view was not the general view of the Baptists of former centuries, especially of those of the 17th century.  And, he does not seem to see how there are "problems on both sides of this question" as Wells acknowledged.  To this conceited Hardshell apologist, the great Calvinists and Particular Baptists of former times believed in what is "absurd"!  What arrogance!

Our Hardshell apologist responds further, saying -

"There is no law which says, Thou shalt believe in the Lord Jesus Christ:  nor is there any law which says, Thou shalt repent of thy sins.  Hence it is not duty which enjoins these...How can men owe that to God, which is a gift FROM HIM?"

This Hardshell offers two reasons why he cannot accept the duty faith position (if you recall, Wells gave three objections to the view).  First, he says there is no law commanding men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Second, he simply affirms (by use of a rhetorical) that what is a gift from God cannot also be a duty.

It is easy to reply to the first by simply citing the numerous passages that command all men to repent and believe (which I have done many times, and in recent postings on this subject).  But, let me just cite one.

"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent." (Acts 17: 30)

Did our Hardshell brother forget such verses?

One interesting note here is to observe how these first Hardshells (1830s) did not think faith and repentance were unnecessary for being finally saved in heaven, as do our modern day Hardshells.

The Hardshell rebuttal to Hall continued:

"We admit that man is bound to obey the divine commands of the law of God;  but it does not follow that faith and repentance are commanded."

Again, how can he not see that the scriptures show that faith and repentance are indeed commanded?

He continues:

"But waiting till they enquired,--what they should do, that is (not as duty to God, but,) to be saved, he directed them to repent, etc., adding the promise is unto you, etc.  The jailer also enquired how he could be saved.  The answer was, believe, etc.  This  was direction, instruction, etc., and not a command."

It was not a command?  Does this brother not know that such words (repent, believe, etc. are in the imperative mood and denotes a command?).  It was instruction, direction, but not command?  Now, who is really guilty of the "absurd"?

He continued:

"Once more.  If faith, repentance, etc., be duties obligatory upon the unregenerate, then condemnation came by the gospel as well as by the law." 

But, condemnation does come through the Gospel!  That does not mean that men who have not heard the Gospel are not condemned!  It only means that those who hear the Gospel and reject it INCREASE their sins and condemnation.  Isn't this brother affirming that rejection of the Gospel is no sin to the unregenerate?  Is he not saying that God is pleased that the unregenerate disbelieve his word and reject his offers of mercy and pardon, and reject his given Son?

He continued with his Hardshell reasoning, saying -

"For faith and repentance belong to gospel, and not to law."  

Is he saying that what is commanded by Jesus in the new testament is not law, not obligatory?  What did James refer to when he spoke of "the law of liberty" (James 1: 25)?  Was it not the Gospel?  If God "commands" all men to repent, is this not Gospel law?

He continued:

"And if the unregenerate owe it as duty to the gospel to repent, but fail, then the gospel must arraign them before its bar and pass sentence of condemnation against them.  Whereas there is no condemnation in the gospel, neither to those who have obeyed it, nor to those who have not."

He clearly affirms that rejection of the Gospel by the unregenerate is no sin!  No unregenerate person will be condemned for not obeying God's command to repent!  Now, who is being not only absurd but opposed to clear scripture teaching?

He continued:

"Indeed, sin is the transgression of the law: (I John 3: 14) but Robert Hall teaches that sin is the transgression of the gospel."  (pg. 375)

Do we have to prove to Hardshells that unbelief and rejection of Christ are sins?  Unbelievable!  Do we have to prove to them that sinners will be judged, in the day of final judgment, for their rejection of Christ and the Gospel?  Again, I have cited numerous passages through the years to prove these things (as others have before me).

Notice these verses, that this Hardshell seems to not know anything about.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me."  (jon 16: 8-9)

"And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."  (I John 3: 23)

"...he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."  (I John 5: 10)

No comments: