Anyone familiar with Hardshell literature and language, as well as Hardshell behavior and social psychology, will agree that they place a high value on being humble. Members, especially preachers, are judged by how humble they appear to be; And, the Hardshells consider themselves expert judges on the matter, having the gift of "discernment of spirits" in this area. They work hard at giving the appearance of being humble and many converts to their cult often confess that Hardshell humility was one of the things that attracted them to the group. One can say that they, like the Colossian cult, "delight in humility." They even advertise themselves in this matter. For instance, on the Internet web page of one leading Hardshell church this is what is written:
"Come join us in worshipping our Lord in a humble traditional atmosphere of singing, preaching and praying as taught in the scriptures." ("Welcome to the website of "Beulah Primitive Baptist Church" known as "Midland Primitive Baptist Church"- see here)
What do they mean by a "humble traditional atmosphere"? Humble buildings? Humble language? Humble behavior?
In a section titled "Proud Preaching to Proud Preachers" Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor of Dawson Springs (Ky.) Primitive Baptist Church, wrote the following in "Confronting Our Culture Without Confrontation," a lesson he prepared to deliver to the "preacher's school" at the Cincinnati Primitive Baptist church (see here - emphasis mine):
"As I begin, I hope that this section is not my attempt to prove to you how proud I am of my humility. I realize that in our Primitive Baptist culture the right words to begin any message with are the presumed-proper words of self-expressed humbleness. I am sure that at times these words have come from the heart. And I am equally sure that at other times they are as shallow as the superficial humility they attempt to exalt. I fear that we sometimes attempt to flaunt before others the greatness of our humbleness. And when all is said and done, we proudly wear our self-proclaimed, self-proven, self-given and self-received humble badges with all the false and hypocritical honors connected therewith."
Many Hardshells will dismiss anything I say on this subject as they have judged that I am not humble and that I have an ax to grind against them. But, they can hardly reject it when I give substantiating evidence from Hardshells themselves. Such is the case with what Elder Winfrey has written. The words highlighted in the above citation help prove what I have said in this polemic on Hardshell humility. Some of those who read this blog may recall how Hardshell apologist Jason Brown attempted to justify my ill treatment by the Hardshells, when I was a young Hardshell preacher, by judging that I was not "humble."
Winfrey says that Hardshells are, like he was, "proud I am of my humility" and says "in our Primitive Baptist culture the right words to begin any message with are the presumed-proper words of self-expressed humbleness." How true! He also refers to "the superficial humility they attempt to exalt." That makes them Uriah Heep types. He says "we sometimes attempt to flaunt before others the greatness of our humbleness" and "we proudly wear our self-proclaimed, self-proven, self-given and self-received humble badges with all the false and hypocritical honors connected therewith."
I could rest my polemical case now, but let me add to the evidence by citing Winfrey further. He wrote (and preached to the preachers):
"So after that hypocritical attempt to prove to you that I know the difference between false and true humility, let me now state that my intended purpose for this initial section of the booklet is hopefully not to prove to you how great my humility is. Instead my hope is that this section will serve the purpose of allowing you to see that we all need to deal with the besetting sin of pride. Some need to deal with it more than others do. But even in the best of us, self seems to be the forefront of our concerns. And as you proceed to the next paragraphs where you find that I claim to be overwhelmed by preaching to preachers and preaching before God, be reminded that my pride has proved to be a far greater problem in my life than my self-declared humbleness. I have sinned many times by being too proud. I doubt very much that I have sinned nearly as often by being too humble. And perhaps it is the same with you."
This is all good. Confession is good for the soul. But, what he needs to do is to discover what it is in the Hardshell group that promotes this kind of fake humility. He writes further:
"And I say with much regret that I do believe that I am not the only Primitive Baptist preacher who has a problem with pride. Regretfully I fear that a spirit of pride and arrogance is generally found among many Primitive Baptist preachers in our land. As a matter of observation it seems to me that Primitive Baptist preachers have a strong tendency to be a group of proud men. I shamefully admit that I am among the chief of sinners in this category. But I regretfully observe that I am not alone in possessing too much self-worth."
What an honest confession! Remember that I got my undergraduate degree in sociology, which is a study of group behavior. I can testify to the truth of what Winfrey has written. But, again, why are many of the cults guilty of such? Is it not because they have the "we be the only ones" mentality? Is it not because they have exalted opinions of their own little group?
Winfrey said: "I fear that a spirit of pride and arrogance is generally found among many Primitive Baptist preachers in our land." And, "Primitive Baptist preachers have a strong tendency to be a group of proud men." Now, if I say this, or brother Kevin, we are dismissed. But, here we have one who is still in the group confessing all! How can Hardshells ignore this? He writes further:
"So as we attempt to honestly examine ourselves, we might ask if there is something about us as a group that accounts for this tendency toward pride. And the answer to such an honest quest for right and wrong always lies in the scriptures. The scriptures clearly declare that knowledge puffs up. (1 Corinthians 8:1) Do we have particular and unusual knowledge? I fear that most of us would quickly (and I fear arrogantly) answer that we do have special knowledge above the crowd."
Bingo! Cults cannot have real humility as long as they pride themselves in being the elite among Christians! If we do as Winfrey asks, and "ask if there is something about us as a group that accounts for this tendency toward pride," then what answer would the typical Hardshell give? Winfrey seemed to get it, for he said - "I fear that most of us would quickly (and I fear arrogantly) answer that we do have special knowledge above the crowd." Again, bingo! All cults claim to have "special knowledge" in which they pride themselves. It is a shame, however, that Winfrey does not rid himself of that "special knowledge"! For that is not really "special knowledge" but a heresy.
He writes further:
"According to God’s word man surely has a strong tendency to be proud of his knowledge. And I fear that we as a people are proof of the tendency. But regretfully pride in knowledge is not our only problem. Further observation seems to show that we as a people are very proud of being the people we are. It is the same problem that Jesus encountered in many of the Jews of His day. (John 8:39) They claimed to have a special status due to heritage and lineage. I fear that in addition to pride in our knowledge we as a people seem to have an inordinate pride in our heritage and lineage. The list could go on and further illustrations given, but perhaps this is sufficient to make the point."
What Winfrey has here been saying is what I have been saying for many years. And, not I alone, but many others before me. I ask my Hardshell brothers to simply take a good look at themselves. I could comment further on Winfrey's words, but will let them speak for themselves. His testimony is:
1. "And I fear that we as a people are proof of the tendency. But regretfully pride in knowledge is not our only problem."
2. "we as a people are very proud of being the people we are...claimed to have a special status"
3. "we as a people seem to have an inordinate pride in our heritage and lineage"
Now, my Hardshell brethren can ignore such words if they like, but I hope they will rather seriously consider them.
Winfrey said further:
"And if perhaps you do not believe that we have a problem with pride, I again go to the scriptures for answers. The proof of our pride seems to lie in the words of the scriptures, “Only by pride cometh contention…” (Proverbs 13:10) Is pride a significant problem among our people? In answer to the question concerning our pride let us first look at our state of contention. It seems that we live in a time that we can easily observe many contentions among our people. Across our land you can find heated discussions concerning our contentions. Our contentions are often the topic of conversation as we gather for worship. They are time and again the subjects of discussion at the lunch table after worship. And worst of all, our sermons are sometimes filled with slurs and innuendos about our brethren along with a so-called message of Christ and Him crucified."
In many of my writings I have called attention to the fact that the Hardshells, more than almost any other aberrant Christian group, are schismatic and that such is a sign of their cult and heretical status and of this Winfrey says: "concerning our pride let us first look at our state of contention" and "we live in a time that we can easily observe many contentions among our people."
Coming from me or Kevin, these words would be easily dismissed. However, as they come from one still inside the group, they cannot be so easily dismissed.
Hardshell Humble Jargon
Here are some of the words that one will hear often from the lips of the Hardshells, and which give the pretense of humility.
"If I be not deceived"
"If I know my heart"
"I am so full of sin"
"I am just a poor sinner"
"I am not worthy"
"Your humble servant"
"God's humble people"
"I am not educated"
"I am not a trained seminary preacher"
kneeling in prayer
Elder T. L. Webb, Sr. in his book "Little Things" (born 1874 - son of preacher J. G. Webb), published from Marshville, NC in 1941, wrote the following under "Biographical" on pages six and seven (emphasis mine):
"But, even in this, I seem to know very little that I can claim as evidence in my behalf. I wonder sometimes, after all these years of service, sacrifices and toils, if indeed I have ever been taught of God; and were I not allowed to supply the word hope, it seems that I would have nothing to offer, for when I sum it all up, about all I can say is that "Wherein I was once blind I can now see." But one thing encourages me to write, and that is, I think I might reach some poor, little one who, like myself, has such little assurance of these things that he has to go in doubts and fears...Yet I am not sure that I can recall the moment, the hour, the day or even the year, when I first became conscious of my depraved nature or when I was changed from nature to grace, if indeed I ever was."
This is typical of the way Hardshells talk. And, if you do not talk like this, you will be judged as being proud, and being judged as such, you will be shunned.
He wrote again:
"I have wondered if a consciousness of one's sinful condition, which causes him to mourn and beg for mercy, is evidence of a gracious state with the Lord, and if so, if it could be possible that I was changed at some early moment in life when I did not know what it meant? How I wish sometimes that I knew more about what it means to be born again. I can recall occasions in early life when it seemed that I trusted in Jesus with unaccountable joy, but did I not love Him and confidingly beg Him for mercy before this?" (page seven)
"So, after all, about all I know about a call to the work of the ministry is an impression of mind, over which I had no control, that has lingered with me all these years, and unless I have at some time really preached I do not suppose I have ever made my calling sure with anyone." (page seven)
"If I am not mistaken, I love the doctrine and order of God's house too well to sacrifice them..." (page 45)
"Precious brethren, may I, the poorest of the flock, if one at all, "beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" to pray for me that I may be more kind and gentle." (page 230)
"If not deceived, I still love the precious cause so ably represented by Elder Cayce and the paper..." (page 258)
Another Hardshell preacher, now living, corresponded with me a little over a year ago and he said to me - "I know I don't preach well, but maybe one day I'll do good."
Well, to my mind, these are evidences that the Hardshells, like the Colossian cult, "delight in humility and self deprecation" under a mask, but are really very proud and think more highly of themselves than their language at times seems to say. What say ye?