Brother Newell, will you lead us in prayer?
Well, the last thing that we were discussing before we broke for lunch was how we would save discussions about issues involved in Landmarkism till later and talk about what we think the Hardshells of today need in order to bring about the blessing of God. You know, one of my favorite verses of the bible is Psalms 127:1 where it is said: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes in vain."
This verse does not give us any authority to blame the Lord for our vanities in labor, yet we are to give him the credit for vanity's opposite, which must involve success in labor, as the metaphors chosen show. The Psalmist contrasts meaningless or useless labor versus meaningful and useful labor.
If we want to "build up Zion" and to see her grow, mature, and prosper, then God will have to be the chief builder behind our work. Paul confidently said of his own labors "we are laborers together with God." And he said to the Corinthians "know that your labors are not in vain in the Lord."
But, how can we know that he is laboring with us in building the Hardshell church? In watching over her? Is he the master builder in the building efforts of the Hardshells? A joint laborer with them as he was with Paul?
A house that is in the process of being constructed is growing in size and members. To say a building is being built but yet no new no members are being added to it, or that it is not increasing in size, is a contradiction. When a building is being destroyed, or dismantled, members of the building are removed one by one until there are no members joined together. I just think you brothers are living in denial of this fact. You have a disease. The symptoms prove it. But, you refuse to accept the fact. You convince yourself that your failure to prosper is any sign of being out of the will of God.
I like that verse also. I certainly do want the Lord to be involved in our building and watching. I also want to see the church prosper, but not in the way the Arminians define "prosper." What you say about growth in numbers in relation to God blessed labors is difficult to refute. I will have to give that some more thought. I do recall that verse - "For the children of the desolate one are more numerous than the children of the married woman." (Isaiah 54:1) The churches of the world will always be "more numerous" than the Lord's true church.
About the manner in which we are to build up the Lord's church and bring about its prosperity, let me first say that we ought not to think that the Lord's doing the building excludes our building. That would be an Antinomian error, one into which many Hardshells have fallen. Paul said to the members of the early church "you are God's building," meaning that God was the builder. Did that exclude Paul from being involved in that building?
Further, you cannot exclude growth in numbers from the criteria for judging God's blessing on a work or group. If we do include growth in numbers as an evidence of blessing and approbation from the Lord, as we should, then by this criteria the Hardshells are not in a state of blessing. Luke, in writing the book of Acts, often linked growth in the number of disciples with the blessing of God on the word being preached. For instance he wrote in Acts 11: 21 - "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." Notice that the hand of the Lord being with the first evangelists in their preaching produced a great number of converts. By this criteria, the "Primitive Baptist Church" is not being blessed and owned by God.
A growth in numbers does not prove orthodoxy nor is it a sign of divine approval. Many heretical groups have grown in great numbers, such as the Catholics and Muslims. As far as the Antinomian error of which you speak, I would rather call it fatalism, and no one doubts that such an error has had its influence among our people. Further, our enemies have been prophesying of our death for two hundred years.
Bare survival is not prosperity. The "Primitive Baptist" church of today is at least "half dead" like the wounded man in the story of the good Samaritan. To me they are like the church at Sardis, to whom Christ said - "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead."
The prosperity and success of the Lord's church is guaranteed so long as she believes and practices the true faith of Christ. As far as heretical groups prospering in number, and this proving that growth in numbers is no sign of God's blessing, I will say that growth in numbers alone does not prove a good standing with God, but I do affirm that God's blessing of the word preached will always be prosperous as regarding the number of converts, as I showed already from the Acts passage. But, notice also Isaiah 55: 11.
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
I just find it fascinating that the Hardshells cannot see how their decline is a sign that they are not in line with the Lord in some serious way. And, they are not going to prosper till they discover what it is about them that is frowned upon by the Lord. They even want to make their decline a sign of God's blessing. Ironic indeed. And yet we find just the opposite sentiment in scripture. Notice God's judgment on Israel is evidenced by her decline in numbers.
"Wheras you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God." (Duet. 28:62)
Are not the Hardshells today left few in number? The word prosper, used often in connection with the word preached, necessarily includes growth in number. How can you say that the Hardshell church is prospering when she is not increasing in size?
Well, lots of our churches are growing, but they will never grow as fast nor be as large as worldly churches. Some are dying, and I agree that the Lord is not to blame, but rather we must be at fault. And, so far as being few in number, remember Stephen that the Lord's church is called a "little flock." Only few walk the narrow way by being in the Lord's visible church kingdom. Remember that in Noah's day only eight people were saved. Remember also that in the days of Elias there were only seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
We are indeed making progress. I thank God for where we now are in our conversation. We are addressing the question as to why the Hardshells have been in decline ever since their origin and why God has not been blessing their preaching as he did that of their forefathers, men like Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and Charles Spurgeon. And men in this country like John Leland and John Gano, Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, John Watson and R.W. Fain, etc. These are your forefathers as well as mine to some degree. God blessed their ministries and the churches in their care and fellowship and they prospered. Converts to Christ were not rare occurrences as they are in today's Hardshell churches, but were commonplace and expected.
You know, brother Sonny, you have had such great gifts given to you of God for the purpose of gospel preaching. I think of what a waste your talents have been as a result of your cult thinking and heretical beliefs. Rather than preaching to handfuls here and there, you could, like Spurgeon, preached to thousands regularly. Instead of seeing a few converts to hardshellism, you would have seen radical sinners transformed by the power of your preaching. You could have also been an excellent seminary professor. So much lost because of your going into hyper Calvinism.
Well, that is a lot to respond to. You certainly hit hard and get right to the point. No ambiguity with you. But, I at least admire the gentle way you are saying these things. And, of course I take a different view of things than you do relative to what you have just said. Moses could have been a great man in Egypt. Some have said that I would have made a good doctor or possibly some kind of engineer. But, I forsook those things as did Moses. I chose to suffer the loss of all things, including fame and fortune, in order to be a servant among God's little chosen flock, or the Primitive Baptists. And as far as my being a modern day Spurgeon, we know that Spurgeon, as great as he was, did not hold to the full truth, as well as the other men that you mention. I am glad that I did not begin my ministry thinking that the eternal well being of my neighbors was dependent upon my preaching. Had that been my thinking, I doubt I could have had a moment's rest or peace. I would always be worrying whether my time spent in meaningless pursuits could not have been used to save the souls of others. What a burden your doctrine of means puts on you. Remember, it is your doctrine that says that you will be held eternally responsible for not warning your neighbor about his eternal dangers.
Why don't we take a short break and return?