Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elder Mark Bennett

Elder Mark Bennett (1798-1875) was the first editor of "The Primitive Baptist" periodical, the second "Old School" periodical began after the 1832 split via the "Black Rock Address." That periodical was begun in 1836 and was sponsored by the Kehukee Association, who had declared against missions, theological schools, etc., in 1827. The leaders of this Association were Elders Mark Bennett, Burwell Temple, C.B. Hassell, Joshua Lawrence, Joseph Biggs, etc. It lasted till late in the 1860s. Many years after this Elder S. F. Cayce, father of C.H. Cayce, began a paper and called it also "The Primitive Baptist."

If one reads the issues of this periodical in the 1830s through the start of the 1850s, he will see how Elder Bennett did much writing for this paper and was affectionately addressed by PBs from all over the country. Elder Bennett was an apologetic spokesman for the Hardshells in defending their declaration of non fellowship for all Baptists who supported missions, schools, etc. Of course, he was a strong advocate for doctrines that are today denied by Hardshells. For instance, he believed that the preaching of the gospel was God's means of calling and saving his elect. He believed in the absolute predestination of all things (as did the editor of the other PB paper, Gilbert Beebe, editor of "The Signs of the Times"), and he believed in the perseverance of the saints, or in what is today sometimes called "Lordship salvation." These doctrines were the professed belief of all those who wrote to this old periodical. What they taught and protested against was what they thought were unscriptural and new methods for spreading the gospel and for training men for the ministry.

What is interesting about Elder Bennett is the fact that in the early 1850s he saw the errors of the Hardshells, the very errors he had long defended, and he left them and became a Calvinistic Missionary Baptist. This was a shock to the newly formed denomination. Bennett was their spokesman! He had updated their history and was well informed in regard to them. The Hardshells arranged for a debate and called on Elder Grigg Thompson to debate Bennett. Thompson was a leading debater and defender of the PBs and surely he could help undo the damage caused by Bennett's defection! They had two debates on the issues dividing the Missionary Baptists from the Hardshells. The transcripts of the debate were published in a book. As of this date I have not been able to find this available to read on the Internet. However, this information about the book and the debate can be found on the Internet.

A debate between Elder Mark Bennett, a Missionary Baptist preacher of N.C., and Elder G.M. Thompson, of Ky., a minister of the Old School Baptist Church, at New-Hope M.H., Edgecombe County, N. Carolina, on the 27th day of Sept., 1852 ...

Debate on whether the Modern Missionary Enterprise is supported or condemned by the word of God, with Bennett arguing in support of the Missionary stance, and Thompson arguing against.

Bennett did not leave quietly. In this respect, he and I have something in common! As I wrote in a posting titled The Seceder Hardshells, Bennett wrote in 1854 a book called "Review of the history of the Kehukee Baptist Association," which had this info attached to it - "to which are added the comparative claims of Missionary Baptists and Anti-missionary Baptists to scriptural and unaltered religious usages."

Here is what I found written in "The Primitive Baptist" in 1853.

"Notice — We shall endeavour get out the Debate between Elder G. M. Thompson and Mr. Mark Bennet to take with us to the above appointments, so that all those who wish to procure the Debate as above mentioned, those who have subscribed, and others who can make it convenient, can do so without the expense of mailage. The, subscriptions are coming in freely for the Debate and as we expect only to strike about 2,000 copies, those who wish to secure the work at 25 cents per copy, had better send in their amount of subscription at the most earliest opportunity — whether they be Whigs or Democrats, — Missionary or Anti- Missionary, Professor or no Professor, — all in a greater or lesser degree may face some anxiety to see the organization, and grounds occupied by each, speaker, the scripture introduced for proof on either side, and the arguments and explanations thereon; will we think satisfy to the amount of 25 cents, if no more. Mr. Bennett taking the affirmative, the Modern Missionary system was according to scripture. Elder G. M. Thompson, the negative. Each spake 30 minutes at a time until they had spoken twice each. Then at the close one hour's intermission was given; and then Thompson taking the affirmative, Bennett the negative, to speak as above described of thirty minutes speeches each, so as to consume two hours. After the close, Mr. Bennett challenged Thompson again, which was accepted by Thompson, to take place in Goldsborough under the same rules as the first. The Thompson's and Bennett's Debates are now out of Press, and will, in a few days be ready for delivery, at 25 cents per copy."

What is interesting about this is a fact little known by today's Hardshells. Later Elder Grigg Thompson himself would leave the newly formed "Primitive Baptists" to become a "United Baptists." But, that is another story!

Here are some history notes I have collected over the years on the departure of Elder Bennett (emphasis mine).

"The launching of ventures in missions, education, and other benevolences was displeasing to many North Carolina Baptists. In fact, the Kehukee Association severed relations with the others in 1827, beginning the Anti-Missionary, Primitive, or Old School Baptist schism. Survival necessitated that the Old School Baptists voice their views through a periodical. Accordingly, Joshua Lawrence, aggressive but unlearned Old School Baptist leader, persuaded Mark Bennett to edit a proposed paper. Known as the Primitive Baptist, a specimen number appeared in Tarborough October 3, 1835. It made clear, in the following passage, the founder's position: "This publication is principally intended to defend the old school United Baptists from the many aspersions cast upon them by deluded persons professing their own faith, because they cannot conscientiously engage in the various money-making schemes of the day, . . .Believing that Theological Schools, Bible, Missionary, Tract, and Sunday School Union Societies are the same in principle — unscriptural — savor more of 'lucre' than of 'good-will towards men' we are opposed to them.

Lawrence, who wrote frequently for the Primitive Baptist, and Bennett, the editor, soon had an altercation over the conduct of the paper. Bennett's fidelity to scriptural views having been questioned, he examined the policy of the paper more carefully. As a result he decided that the Old School Baptists were wrong, resigned the editorship, and wrote Thomas Meredith that he had yielded his heart to missions, as heaven's instrument, and ceased his opposition.

For eight years George Howard, the printer, got out the Primitive Baptist without the help of an editor. In 1848, however, Burwell Temple, an Old School minister, acquired ownership and moved the paper from Tarborough to his farm nine miles east of Raleigh. Here he edited and published this semimonthly newspaper until after the Civil War." 

I hope to write more about Elder Bennett and about others who have had a similar experience to his and have been forced, by conscience, to leave the Hardshells.

No comments: