Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Elder William Conrad's Important Testimony

A while back I cited proof that Hardshell founding father, Elder William Conrad (1797-1882) of Kentucky, ministerial associate of Elders Wilson Thompson and T. P. Dudley, believed that regeneration and the new birth were distinct and separate events, as did most of the first generation leaders of the Hardshell denomination, as did Elders Gilbert Beebe and Samuel Trott, and that the new birth was accomplished by the means of gospel knowledge.  He was also in full fellowship with Elder Burnam who was a spokesman for those who believed in means among the "Old School Baptists."  See here for my previous posting. For a picture of the elderly Conrad see here

In this entry I want to look at some other things from Conrad's autobiography that show that our modern Hardshells have drifted far away from the views of their founding fathers, and certainly much farther away from the views of the old Baptists who wrote the London Baptist Confessions of the 17th century.

Conrad wrote:

"And after over three years passed away from the time of arrest, and my discovery of myself a poor, lost sinner when an apprentice boy at my instructor's leather table, as above referred to. About this time the blessed Lord opened up to my view the mighty depths of my iniquities, and my strength became weaker than water, and especially on the fourth Saturday evening and the first hours of its night when it seemed that I should weep myself in view of the dreadful guilt; the power and wrath of God seemed directly to burst forth on my guilty soul, when all at once I felt, as I thought life had ceased or fled, and yet remember that while prayer in my heart ceased, these words poured into my heart, "God wipeth away all tears from their eyes." O, what a calm then succeeded, my burden and all my trouble gone; the calm was such that I was not sensible of any want or need. On Monday after the Saturday above named, being the fourth Saturday in August, 1820, about noon on that blessed Monday, the day of days to me, I found myself at a stand beside two walnut stumps in my corn field, gazing up in a northeast direction, when the glorious mystery so long out of my sight all shone to my astonished soul in these words, "that on account of what Jesus hath done, God would remain just and save such a poor sinner as I had felt myself to be." Oh yes, save me from my sins for what Jesus done then. I looked and wondered and admired this glorious way so opened up to my view, that from the first to the present is safe to my trembling heart as it yet looks and wonders." 

Did Conrad believe that he was saved or born again while under conviction of sin? No, he did not. First, if he was already saved when the Spirit was witnessing to him of his unsaved state, then the Holy Spirit would have been lying to him! Notice that Conrad prays for God to "save me from my sins for what Jesus done." He obviously did not believe that he was already saved at that point!

Conrad wrote;

"I must narrow down, and let it suffice me to say once more, (it may be the last time I may mention the leather table in my old friend's shop,) there first the light of life shined in my heart--opened up to my view my wretchedness and woe, at which time my sorrow began. Over three years after I was brought to a stand near two walnut stumps in my corn field. There Jesus was first revealed, and there wonder, love and joy in Jesus first shone and filled my soul. From that time to this, when my thoughts go out to my first sight and love of Jesus, these two walnut stumps serve as a beacon on a high hill, pointing to the sacred spot where Jesus was first revealed to me."

Notice again how Conrad's state of conviction was one which testified to him of his wretched state. Also notice how Jesus was not revealed to him in the new birth till after his conviction.

Conrad wrote:

"On the fourth Saturday in the next month, September, 1820, I ventured forward to join the church claiming to be regular Baptist, called Dry Ridge; was received and baptized next morning by Elder Jared Riley, then an acceptable and orderly minister in doctrine and practice among old Baptists."

"...and directly I set to work in my mind to gather evidence as best I could into a pile, and so prove that I was born again. Presently, I grasped as I thought of at least a scrap to show; and presently, as I thought, found another evidence, and aimed to place it with the first evidence, but the first was out of sight, and so all my efforts failed--I could have but the one at a time. My pile or number of witnesses did not grow, so I was greatly nonplused, for I thought I ought to know that I was born again as I knew other things, but failed to know: and so I was brought to a pause, greatly straightened."

"I thought I ought to know that I was born again"! Does that sound like modern Hardshell thinking? Further, what proof did Conrad obtain? Was his proof of being born again his conviction of sin or his coming to faith in Christ?

Conrad wrote:

"I was thrust into great trouble and doubts, and fear that I was not born again, nor had tasted the Lord was gracious. Thus, I felt weaker than water, and especially when I would think of the members who had made profession before I moved to the county, and I but a stripling, just baptized; that surely they should know of the doctrine and what the joyful sound was."

"And during this train of exercise I became deeply solicitous in mind for and in behalf, of poor sinners, and felt such anxiety of soul for their salvation that I felt I must, and many times, young and unworthy as I felt myself to be, went in secret, and where I might, and tried to pray God to save them with everlasting salvation."

Hardshells do not believe in praying for the eternal salvation of sinners.  They do not feel any "anxiety of soul for their salvation" as did Elder Conrad.  To them, whoever would say such a thing are Arminians, and certainly not Hardshell Baptists.  But, in saying this, they indict one of their own forefathers!  The only "salvation" that the Hardshells "pray for" is the temporal salvation of those who are already eternally saved.  I suggest that the view of Elder Conrad represents the real "Old Baptist" point of view and that today's Hardshells have departed from it and are therefore calling themselves by a false name by calling themselves "Primitive" Baptists. 

About his own salvation experience, Conrad wrote:

"On reaching it, I was enabled to bow down partly, leaning against it, and if ever I did pray for my own soul's salvation and deliverance from wrath and condemnation, I did beside that tree, pray for poor sinners; that the blessed God would save them with an everlasting salvation; feeling deeply sensible that there was none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. And still, while my mind was so engaged in searching the Scriptures, and my heart drawn out on the precious portions of' God's word that so fully testified, beyond a doubt, that salvation was and is by grace alone abounding to the chief of sinners, as in the writer's own case...I have been trying to stop and trying to preach, over fifty-two years."  (chapter one)

Why would he pray for his own soul's salvation from wrath and condemnation if he was already saved? He obviously believed that he needed to be saved "with an everlasting salvation." When did he find peace with God and was born again? When he believed!

Conrad wrote:

"I may here add, as did Peter, on the day of Pentecost with many other words, I did testify and exhort my congregation (in Barracks No. 1) to repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance...I felt during the effort to preach on that occasion, rather an unusual liberty in speaking, and a warm desire for the salvation of the poor soldiers and guards, as well as my dear fellow-prisoners."

Does that sound like modern Hardshell talk?

Conrad wrote:

"The Lord, as I trust, on that occasion gave me a spirit of love to God, His blessed gospel and the dear little congregation, with deep solicitude for their well-being, not only for the time-being, but also for their well-being in eternity; that the Lord, by His spirit, would quicken or circumcise their poor hearts and fit them for the service of God here and His everlasting enjoyment in heaven, where the weary are at rest and the wicked cease from troubling."

Praying for the regeneration and eternal salvation of lost sinners! Are you like Conrad my modern Hardshell brothers?

Conrad wrote:

"For, under all the circumstances surrounding us that day, and the uncommon attention and appearance of all seemed to lead me forcibly to the conclusion that the Lord was in our midst while speaking and hearing. I remember I was lead out to address the soldiers and guard, and that personally showing that they too must be born again or never see the face of God in peace; that they too as well as us, were sinners of Adam's family, and that as such they should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance; for, without which the Master hath said of all such, that if ye die in your sins, whither I go ye can not come, hence, be no longer deceived with the vain thought that it is time enough yet to turn to God, for he hath said we shall love the Lord our God with all our soul and all our mind and all our heart;, and our neighbor as ourselves. O think, dear congregation, have you obeyed God and your neighbor as yourself; yes, whether we will or wilt not, or whether we can or can not repent and turn to God. O, is there any under the sound of my voice this blessed day that feels in their soul, I would but could not repent though I endeavor often; this stony heart will never relent till Jesus makes it soft. Dear soul, if such your feelings are, be advised by one that wishes you well. O hear what the spirit of God hath declared of one Jesus: "Him hath God exalted with his right; hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." This blessed exaltation with God's right hand and the object of such exaltation is, that every trembling soul who would but can not repent might look to this exalted Prince and Savior, who has to give all that a perishing sinner needs in the midst of his cry-I would but can't repent, though I endeavor often. And for your encouragement no such perishing sinner has ever been refused or turned away from this Prince without the blessed gift of repentance."  (Chapter 19)

What Hardshells believe and preach to sinners like this? Remember that Conrad represents the belief and practice of the Old Baptists of his day!

I remember as a young preacher preaching at old Rays Fork church in Kentucky where Conrad was once a pastor. They certainly did not believe as their forefather did!

Conrad wrote:

"We will venture to remark that there is not a Christian in all the universe but was shown by the spirit of grace in due time that he was in league with Satan, and that his soul and body was sunk under the destruction of sin, and so far from being actually united to Christ. He saw under the light of grace that he was condemned by the very law he expected justification by, and therefore, in great anguish of heart with a deep-felt sensibility cries: "O Lord undertake thou for me." The spirit of life awakened this person from the sleep of death, he sees his danger, bewails his case as a sinner united to destruction and no hope of a union according to law. When he fully realizes his entire helplessness, this same spirit of grace which brought him to see himself thus justly condemned shows him that Jesus bore his sins in his own body on the tree of the cross, and infuses in him a faith and hope that Jesus died for his sins, and under the light of this grace he can understand how his sins was imputed or placed to the account of Christ, and for which Christ died. On the other hand he can, with the same light see how he can be justified and actually united and eternally saved by the imputation of Christ's righteousness unto him; he now understands but never before how Christ bore him and carried him all the days of old; and on this point every Christian in the world stands and rejoices in hope of the glory of God."

In the belief of his day, the old Baptists believed that conviction of sin was a preparation for being born again, and not an evidence of it, as today's Hardshells believe. Conrad and the old Baptists of his day believed that one must be brought to repentance and faith in order to be born again and be eternally saved.

Conrad wrote:

"There is also a begetting and being born, but our being born does not give us life; we are born because we have life; but there is a begetting, and previous to this begetting there is no vital or actual existence; but there is eternal decreed, purposed or treasured in Christ before it is given, and in due time we are said to receive it according to the election of grace; and therefore we are said to be the Temple of God, which is holy, which temple ye are."

Notice that! He believed that regeneration preceded the new birth as did Wilson Thompson, Gilbert Beebe, and most of the first Hardshells. That is why some of their oldest church articles of faith say that all the elect will be regenerated and converted, or regenerated and born again.

Conrad wrote:

"And lastly, that I am now among the oldest in profession that claims to be an Old School Baptist in our part of Kentucky...And, as above, having lived near fifty-five years an unworthy member among them, that these, these considerations connected with my own personal knowledge, while thus to mingle and commingle among the people with whom we have been so long identified." 

"This then always has been, and is now the faith of the Regular Baptist Church of Christ. We use the term "Regular" to show that the Church has been in existence from the days of John the Baptist."

Thus the testimony of Conrad is detrimental to today's Hardshells! It shows how they have departed from the faith. Further, if they say that Conrad was a heretic, then they indict all their forefathers as being heretics and invalidate their own legitimate baptisms, ordinations, etc. (because of their Landmarker views)

Conrad wrote:

"And lastly, the people of God are not only united to him as their representative from eternity but to him as their shepherd, husband, prophet, priest, king, redeemer, Emanuel, everlasting father and Jehovah, our righteousness; on this stand and plead your union not only by decree or purpose, but vitally or actually by the grace of faith in his name and for the merit and worth of thy divine surety."

Conrad believed in the eternal union of the elect to Christ, but, unlike the two Seeders, and men like Trott and Beebe, and Daniel Parker and T.P. Dudley, he did not believe that this union was a "vital union." He did not believe that "vital union" took place till one was united to Christ by a gospel faith. Again, that is not what today's Hardshells believe.

Conrad wrote:

"That part of my history which relates to doctrines and heresies that are and have been troubling God's dear circumcised children in these last days-these days of darkness and gloom that hath overtaken the Zion of our God near the close of this nineteenth century, with the great departures in life and in practice from the old landmarks, of which we have made mention in the above; that which did not come under our own personal observation as eye witnesses. We have given and have in our possession the printed documents to which we referred, as well as those documents, of which we have copied a part of what we have written.

And, as above, having lived near fifty-five years an unworthy member among them, that these, these considerations connected with my own personal knowledge, while thus to mingle and commingle among the people with whom we have been so long identified." (Chapter 25)

And, it should be stated that Elder Conrad was a friend and close associate with Elder Burnam who testified in the Mt. Carmel church trial that it was in the last quarter of the 19th century when many of those calling themselves "Primitive" or "Regular" Baptists departed from the faith.

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