In this posting I will show what the first Hardshells believed relative to the parable of the soil and seed (Matt. 13) and compare that with what is now the predominant view among Hardshells. Of course, the first Hardshells were correct on this parable and their children have departed from their historic roots.
In the citations that follow one will see a change in how "Primitive Baptists" have historically and traditionally interpreted the parable of the sower and the seed.
This is one of my favorite passages in all the Scriptures, and it plays a key role in my belief about salvation. I have defended the truth of this parable against both Campbellism and neo Hardshellism, and have pointed out that their erroneous views on the parable represent but another similarity existing between these two twin cults. (For more on these several similarities - SEE HERE)
I have done extensive study over the years of this passage, both hermeneutically and historically and I am confident that the Campbellite (and Arminian) view of the passage cannot be defended and neither can the neo Hardshell view. For further extensive writing on this parable, for instance, see my posting Chpt. 35 - "Parable of The Sower & Seed" (SEE HERE)
In tracing the history of this drastic change in the interpretation of this important parable, I will begin with Elder Sylvester Hassell, the credentials of whom no Hardshell will be bold enough to question, wrote the following under his sub heading of "NEW THEORIES" and which was part of his long writing about an extensive trip he made among the Hardshells. He said (emphasis mine):
"I am very glad to say that I did not hear any anti-trinitarianism, or dualism, or fatalism, or pantheism preached; but one or more of some other extremes and dangerous innovations were either advocated by one or more of the ministers present, or reported to me as being advocated by others of our able ministers—such as the apparent denial of any real fundamental change in regeneration or the new birth; the applying of every passage in the Bible to none but the children of God (calling the wayside, the stony ground, and the thorny ground hearers, the parable of the Sower, the five fooling virgins, the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, persons accepted by the dog and swine, the idolatrous, the unbelieving, the infidel, the blind, the lost, the damned—calling those who still maintained the odious and horrible characters children of God); the declaration that the whole object of preaching is to comfort the children of God (just as though such passages as 2 Tim. iv 2, 1; Thess. v. 14, 1; 1 Tim. v. 20; Tit. i. 13, ii. 15; Rev ii. 5, 16 and iii. 19 were not in the Scriptures), and..." ( - SEE HERE)
Now, was Elder Hassell right in calling the neo Hardshell interpretation of the parable an "extreme" and "dangerous innovation"? Or, was he wrong? What Hardshell "historian" wants to come along and prove Hassell wrong in thus describing today's Hardshell view on the parable? Would Hassell not know what was the historical view of the Hardshell forefathers in the faith?
Further, who wants to deny the facts that I will present in the rest of this posting? We will show that Hassell was right on this point. But, before I do that, let me cite these words of Hassell in the same section as the above citation. He said, in regard to such an interpretation of the parable:
"The new and brilliant discoveries (sarcasm - SG), theories and imaginary revelations seem to me to be luring on some of our able ministers and the churches that follow them to the Niagara of Infidelity. I dare not, neither do I wish to fall in with them. I prefer to remain on the eternal rock of plainly revealed truth..."
Well, amen to that! What a condemnation of today's Hardshell hermeneutics! Neither Kevin nor I want to "fall in with them" either!
The original view of the first Hardshells, on the parable of the sower and the seed, like many other areas of Bible interpretation, was the correct view, one in keeping with proper rules of scripture interpretation and with the teachings of the old Baptists of former times. They correctly taught that of the four characters who heard the word of God, or received the glad tidings, only the character denominated by "good ground" was truly elect and regenerated. However, today's Hardshells nearly all teach that all four characters are born again children of God.
How did this drastic change take place? If it is an issue of church fellowship, as some Hardshells today probably think, then how can they account for the words of Hassell? How can they account for the fact that the predominant view of the Hardshells till the days of Cayce, Potter, and Daily, etc., was that the characters represented by the shallow, stony, and thorny grounds were all unregenerate sinners and doomed to Hell? If they were right, then neo Hardshells are wrong, and have gravely departed from the faith. If they were wrong, then neo Hardshells must say that they descended from heretical seed. A real dilemma, hey? They also claim, by this change in interpretation, that they know more than their own forefathers! What arrogance!
In Vol. 3 (1838) of the "Primitive Baptist" periodical (SEE HERE) we find the following views expressed regarding the state of the characters described in the parable. (emphasis mine)
"The first parable showeth the effect of the gospel preached by the Son of man with its effect on different persons, compared to the way side, stony ground, thorn, and good ground hearers; which showeth that three-fourths of his gospel preaching is lost, as only the good ground hearers bro't fruit. And this is true under the preaching of all his ministers, as well as his. So then the field in the first parable is the world, in which the gospel or word is preached; the field, in the second parable, is the world, in which the effects of the preaching of that gospel on good ground hearers produces the children of his kingdom. Hence it is said, born not of flesh, blood, or will of men; but of the word of God, that liveth and abideth forever. And again: I have begotten you through the gospel, etc...Well then, this is the true meaning of the kingdom of heaven in this text: the church of Christ in the field of this world, or Christians by the agency of the Spirit of God and gospel preaching sowed among mankind..." (pg. 306)
Is that not clear? That was in 1838! The great leaders of the newly formed denomination read this periodical and these words far and wide. They wrote into this paper. If they had any objection to this view they would have expressed it, would they not? Not only do they teach that the birth of the Spirit was the effect of the preaching of the Gospel but that those in the parable who did not believe and persevere were eternally lost. Again, it is brother Kevin and I who are the real Old Baptists.
Now let us jump forward to the time period when Hassell wrote his words and see who might be one of those "able ministers" who was taking a new and dangerous interpretation of this parable.
In "Parable of The Sower & Seed" I cited these words from C. H. Cayce (Editorials, Vol. I, page 132):
"We are aware that many of our brethren hold the position that the hearers denominated as the "wayside," the "stony places," and the "thorns" were all unregenerated...But we do not think these represent three classes of unregenerate and the good ground, and that only, represents the regenerate. This would give us three classes of unregenerate and only one class of children of God. All God's children, according to this view, would be a fruit-bearing class."
Cayce and Hassell lived in the same time period, though Hassell was older. I cannot think but that Cayce knows that Hassell is one of those who disagree with Cayce's novel interpretation. Notice that Cayce denies that all of the children of God will be fruit bearing, an idea Hassell and Cayce's forefathers would have repudiated.
But, notice how that in Cayce's day, the new view of Cayce was not the majority view, even by Cayce's admission! Hassell saw it as a serious departure, and a symptom of a most deadly disease.
To show that Cayce's view is the view of nearly all Hardshells today, let me just cite these examples.
At the web page PrimitiveBaptist.Net (SEE HERE), the Hardshell writer, Philip N. Conley, wrote (emphasis mine):
"In addition to this, the parable of the sower is vitally important to our understanding of Christ’s teachings (Well, amen to that! - SG). He declares this great importance to the disciples, “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13) Our Lord Himself makes it plain that if we do not understand the true teaching of this parable, then we cannot understand any of the rest that follow (I said this several times in debates with Campbellites on this parable) - SG). This is the first parable He gave, and we must rightly divide what He teaches to the glory of God, edification of the saints, and in this case, the utilization of further understanding in other teachings."
Well all this is excellent. But, let us see him handle it carelessly, being guilty of the very thing he warns against. It is ironic indeed.
He continued, giving us his thesis:
"We will attempt to journey through the four pieces of ground that our Lord talks about in this parable and show forth that all pieces of ground represent His children at different seasons in their lives."
That is Cayce's view, the new view, one condemned by Hassell as an "extreme" and "dangerous innovation." But, it is the one that prevailed. Cayce's view won out, sad to say. So, which view is the view of our old Baptist forefathers? Can Hardshells find anyone in their church ancestry who taught their view on the parable before the days of men like Cayce?
"...this parable (or any other teaching of the Bible) should not be used to try to prove in our daily lives who is a child of God and who is not."
Is this not but one of the effects that Hassell warned about in opposing this novel view? Those who have espoused Cayce's view now say that this parable (that is all important, remember?) "should not be used to try to prove...who is a child of God and who is not." Is that not the most dangerous and heretical of teachings? No wonder Hassell did not want to have anything to do with it. The only ones I expect to say such a thing are Universalists. In fact, this novel interpretation of the parable leads logically to Universalism.
Wrote Tom Hagler in an Internet article titled "Two Familiar Parables" (SEE HERE):
"Notice that in each case, whether it be “by the way side,” in “stony places,” or among “the thorns,” the parable always starts by saying they hear the word. Based on this, we know these individuals are children of God..."
I answer such nonsensical reasoning in my writings on this parable (referred to above). So, I don't want to repeat that rebuttal here. What I do want to comment upon is the obvious arrogance of today's Hardshells who claim to have special revelation about this passage that no one ever had before! Further, all who hear with their physical ears are people who have "received" the word into their hearts. Thus, by this reasoning, all who hear the Gospel are saved. Universalism!
"This parable gives the various conditions the child of God may be found in, and the result that may occur."
The Hardshells of today read the parable of the sower and what do they see? They see Gospel and Christ rejectors as "regenerate" and "children of God"! They see men who do not have hearts that are good and honest as "regenerate"! It is foolishness in theology.
Oh that is such "comforting" food! Tell those who reject Christ, who have not crowned him lord and king in their hearts, who serve Satan and their own lusts, that they are children of God! Give hope to the hypocrites and tell wicked men they are probably saved after all! The fact that they have heard the Gospel, listened to it, they are saved! If they don't receive Christ, it is okay. Such a "damnable heresy"!