Friday, April 28, 2006

History and Heresies of Hardshell Baptists, chapter 3

Here is chapter three of the series on Hardshell Baptists by Brother Bob Ross.


Subject: #3 -- HARDSHELLISM: THE ORIGINAL ISSUE [04/27--2006]

[Note: These articles are being posted on the Internet at this link:

Chapter Three:


Hardshell "Spirit Alone" Regeneration Theory Was of Later Development

The very heart of the PRIMITIVE BAPTIST religious denomination is its opposition to the Gospel's being preached to the unregenerate as a means providentially and sovereignly used by the Holy Spirit in bringing lost souls to Christ for salvation. The Hardshells contend that regeneration, or the New Birth, is a work performed by the Holy Spirit apart from and without the necessary use of any means whatsoever.

[This is the heresy adopted in the 1950s by Lassere Bradley, Jr. of Cincinnati, Ohio, and he has been its most notable advocate ever since. It is a matter of concern to Southern Baptists that Bradley has reported that he was "invited" to visit the campus at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. Is the Seminary in sympathy with the anti-Gospel heresy of Bradley, or what?]

Originally, at the rise of "anti-missionism" in the early 1800's, this does not appear to have been the case. If the Baptist histories can be relied upon, the original issues in the anti-missionism schism focused upon MISSION METHODOLOGY. The Kehukee Declaration, set forth by the Kehukee Association (North Carolina) in October 1827, objected to "the modern missionary movement and other institutions of men," and it specified "Missionary Societies, Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, Dorcas Societies, Mite Societies, Religious Fairs and Festivals, Temperance Societies, Sectarian Schools and Theological Seminaries" as the objects of their repudiation. [See Note at the end of this article.]

Likewise, the Black Rock Address, put together by GILBERT BEEBE (1800-1881), and set forth at Black Rock meeting-house, Baltimore, Maryland, September 1832, focused on similar mission methods, and not the particular theory of regeneration which later became the central issue with Hardshellism. All references to regeneration, or the new birth, in both the Kehukee Declaration and the Black Rock Address, appear perfectly consistent with the Baptist position set forth on Effectual Calling "by His Word and Spirit" in the London Confession of Faith. For example, note this statement:

"The plans of these [protracted or 'revival'] meetings are equally as objectionable; for, in the first place, all doctrinal preaching, or in other words, all illustrations of God's plan of salvation, are excluded from these meetings. Hence they would make believers of their converts without presenting any fixed TRUTHS to their minds to believe. Whereas God has chosen his people to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the TRUTH.--2 Thess. 2:13." (Black Rock Address, pp. 35, 36, Primitive Publications' reprint).

This objection sounds more like a Calvinist objection to Hardshellism than vice versa. It emphasizes the importance of "truth" in God's saving of His people.

The "means" to which the original anti-mission Baptists objected was not the Gospel as such, but to the METHODS which were being devised and used in various mission efforts. The objectors do not focus their opposition upon the Gospel as a "means" as presented in the London Confession which affirms that the elect are effectually called out of their state of sin and death "by His Word and Spirit" (London Confession, chapter 10, para. 1).

In the Potter-Throgmorton Debate, held at Fulton, Kentucky in 1887, Elder Lemuel Potter of the Primitive Baptists insisted upon the fact it was over the missionary methods, such as boards, and such things as Sunday Schools, that the "split" occurred in the year 1832 between the anti-missionaries and the missionaries. He says:

"I wish to notice some things in the speech we have just listened to. The first thing Mr. Throgmorton does is to say that he is not bound to show that the Baptists had Sunday Schools, missionary boards, etc., during all the ages. He is under no obligation to show that they always had them. He admits that. He is begging the question. I challenge him to tell what divided us except these very things. It was after the introduction of these things among us that we divided. If we never had them we would not have been divided yet." (Potter-Throgmorton Debate, page 86; published in 1888 in St. Louis by J. N. Hall and J. H. Milburn, representing Missionary Baptists, and by H. C. Roberts and S. F. Cayce, representing the Primitive Baptists).

In addition to objecting to "mission methods," the anti-mission people focused their attacks upon the MOTIVES of those who favored missions. Greed, avarice, and other such carnal, worldly, and money-centered motives were the motivation of the "means Baptists," according to the anti-mission leaders and magazines.

However, this ad hominem charge evidently began to "wear thin;" in time, the common Baptist membership did not generally respond to character assassination and unsubstantiated broadside incriminations of Baptists who promoted missions. The Hardshells wanted people to believe the worst about the missionary leaders, even applying prophetic Scriptures on the "apostasy" and the "Man of Sin." There just were not enough gullible people among the Baptists for such extremism to continuously find much acceptance.

As time passed, and the Hardshells found it more difficult to defend anti missionism by harping against methodology and motives, they eventually developed their "Spirit alone" regeneration theory, a more doctrinal approach than the original pure negativism. This, too, was very similar to the type of evolutionary development of theology in their anti-missions "brother," the Campbellite movement.

Campbellism, at the first, ridiculed the "hireling clergy," "aspiring priesthood," "missionary schemes," and other victims of Alexander Campbell's choosing, which were featured in his magazines [The Christian Baptist in the 1820's and The Millennial Harbinger from 1830]. But Campbellism, also, had to have something other than pure negativism with which to beguile the naive and gullible, and they developed the baptismal remission of sins hobby-horse. Around this "Kaaba" they have marched ever since.

Taylor, Parker, and Campbell

In 1819, John Taylor of Kentucky became one of the first -- if not the first -- to publish against the missionary cause, writing his Thoughts on Missions. [Passages are quoted in A Baptist Sourcebook by Robert A. Baker and A Sourcebook For Baptist Heritage by H. Leon McBeth]. A short biographical sketch of Taylor describes the rugged, pioneer life which this remarkable preacher fulfilled in the early years of the Kentucky settlement. There is no evidence that Taylor was ever of the Hardshell mindset on the new birth, but was truly evangelical in his spirit and work, preaching to the conversion of multitudes and the establishment of several churches. [On Taylor, see Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 1, chapter 6].

In his later years, Taylor was upset by a couple of young mission enthusiasts who sought to enlist his support in behalf of the missions cause under the leadership of Luther Rice, the friend of Adoniram Judson, the missionary in Burma. Taylor developed an antipathy to the missions cause, seeing "money" as its primary interest. He thought of Rice as "a modern Tetzel" and uttered other rather premature and extreme accusations. However, one will search in vain to find the Hardshell theory on regeneration in Taylor; his opposition focused upon methods, not on the doctrine of the London Confession on "means."

Taylor's pamphlet, however, went forth and helped serve the cause of anti-missionism. Spencer says Taylor "changed his mind on the subject" later, but "his pamphlet had gone forth on its pernicious mission, and probably did more to check the cause of missions, in Kentucky, than any other publication of the period." He died January 1836 in his eighty-fourth year.

Daniel Parker (1781-1844) published his Public Address on the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions in 1820. [A PUBLIC ADDRESS TO THE BAPTIST SOCIETY, AND FRIENDS OF RELIGION IN GENERAL, ON THE PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE OF THE BAPTIST BOARD OF FOREIGN MISSIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, by Elder Daniel Parker (1781-1844), 1988 PBL reprint of 1820 edition, 69 pp., Primitive Baptist Library, Carthage, IL].

"It makes me shudder," wrote Parker, "when I think I am the first one, (that I have knowledge of) among the thousands of zealous religions of America, that have ventured to draw the sword against the error, or to shoot at it and spare no arrows" -- referring, of course, to the "mission plan" (page 1 of the reprint of Parker's Address).

Parker was the chief opponent of missions from among the Baptists during the 1820's. In addition to all the usual objections to mission methods and the ad hominem allegations, Parker developed his "Two Seeds" theology and wrote treatises on the subject, the first in 1826. He also established The Church Advocate magazine, devoted to opposing missions. According to Spencer, Parker exerted a wide influence in the Mississippi Valley and managed to split two associations in the state of Kentucky. He and his small church left Illinois and moved to Texas (then under Mexican control); this was 1833-34. J. M. Carroll has an interesting account of Parker and "The Pilgrim Church" in his History of Texas Baptists (Chapter IX).

In all of the writings I have seen about Parker, or by him, there is no trace of the current Hardshell view on regeneration. In fact, I can find no evidence that modern Hardshells have any respect for Parker's "Two Seedism." Despite his opposition to missions in the 1820's and 1830's, modern Hardshells "distance" themselves from Parker's peculiar teaching as to the "Two Seeds."

Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) was very astute at observing the "winds" blowing among the Baptists, as he sought to capitalize on any element which would promote his divisive and proselyting movement. Sensing the developing divisiveness among Baptists, which had been engendered by the likes of Taylor and Parker, Campbell became the most outspoken critic of the missions cause.

B. H. Carroll Jr. says Campbell was the "greatest opposer" of missions, and says, "The truth is, Alexander Campbell was the father of twins, Hardshellism and Campbellism" (The Genesis of American Anti-Missionism, pages 93, 95). Certainly, Campbell possessed one of the most caustic and critical pens of the age, and his educational advantages surpassed Taylor's and Parker's by a great degree. He, too, focused his attack on mission methods and monies, and did not oppose missions on the grounds of a regeneration theory.

Briefly recalling the foregoing events and names which are related to the original anti-missionism movement serves to emphasize that the current Hardshell theory of "Spirit alone" -- regeneration was not really the issue. The original issue was METHODOLOGY, not theology.

In fact, except for a strong emphasis upon what is called "preparationalism," which is traceable to certain Puritan writers of the 17th century, such as Joseph Alleine and Richard Baxter, one would be hard-pressed to find any pre-1800 evidence for the elements of the current Hardshell theory on regeneration apart from the Gospel, at least among the Baptists. I find it rather obvious and amusing that Hardshells who dabble with history manage to "skirt around, over, and under" references in Baptist history which militate against the Hardshell theory.

C. B. Hassell

For example: HASSELL'S HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD by C. B. Hassell (revised by Sylvester Hassell, published by Beebe's Sons Publishers in 1866 and reprinted by Turner Lassetter in 1948) is the "Bible of church history" for most Hardshells. It is very definitely written with a propagandist motive against the missions cause and the use of "means" in regeneration.

Hassell devotes a few pages to WILLIAM FRISTOE (1742-1828) who pastored churches in the Ketocton Association, the first Baptist association formed in Virginia (1766). Fristoe established several new churches in Virginia, many preachers regarded him as their "spiritual father" in the faith, and he promoted domestic and foreign missions (See Cathcart's Baptist Encyclopedia). He wrote a little book, The History of the Ketocton Baptist Association (1808), and Hassell excerpts several statements from the book and refers to the Ketocton Association as a "Primitive Baptist Association." The truth is, during Fristoe's lifetime there was not a single "Primitive Baptist Association" on the face of the earth. You could have as easily found a Campbellite "Church of Christ" as you could have found a "Primitive Baptist Association."

Conveniently enough, Hassell fails to make any quotations from Fristoe's little book which emphasize "means" in the new birth, such as can be often found (example: pages 39, 53, 67, 108). Pages 106-109 of Fristoe's book are "On the doctrine of Regeneration" and the article covers (1) the necessity thereof, (2) what it is, or where it doth consist, and (3) the causes or means that effect the same.

The following material is a quotation from pages 108, 109 of this old book, a copy of which was graciously furnished to me in 1973 by William Revis, a Baptist pastor of Fairfax Station, Virginia:

"Now, lastly, the cause or means that effect this divine change. God is the only efficient cause -- his love the moving cause -- his Spirit and his Word the ministering cause. Thus we are said to be begotten by the word of his truth through the gospel, born again to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away; reserved in Heaven for you; who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.
"Oh, brethren! What a rich display of infinite wisdom, sovereign power and unmerited love, in devising and accomplishing such a glorious system of redemption and deliverance for the wretched self-ruined race, that they may partake of this divine blessing here in time, and receive precious faith, and precious promises, all flowing from the more precious Christ! O, beloved brethren! What infinite obligations are we under unto the adorable Jehovah, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, from the dead. O let us prize that blessed gospel, that reveals such a glorious hope -- that accomplishes such divine purposes -- and turns from darkness to light, from the power of sin and Satan, to serve the living God. Let us manifest in our lives, that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that by the power of the Holy Ghost.

We wonder if Elder S. T. Tolley's observation would not apply with regard to the above material as equally as it applies to the London Confession? Elder Tolley said:

"If a Primitive Baptist preacher should set forth such a statement [from the London Confession] from his pulpit you would clearly see the clamor that it would justly provoke" ( The Christian Baptist, June 1971, page 1).

So we do not marvel that Hassell failed to note the material in his pages which are devoted to William Fristoe, a true Baptist preacher, but NEVER a "Primitive Baptist" who repudiated "means" in regeneration.
Chapters previously mailed:

#1: "Hardshellism" - A Modern Cult
#2: Which Primitive Baptist Faction is the "Original Church"?

NOTE: In the current drift toward Hardshell doctrine on regeneration, it is similarly the case that methods are under attack by the rigid Hybrid Calvinists. They are opposing public invitations a the end of sermons, appeals for "decisions," use of the "sinner's prayer," early professions by children, aggressive personal soul winning, and any other method which urges sinners to an immediate response to the Gospel.


At Monday, October 16, 2006 3:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life always precedes action. That is true naturally and also spiritually. Regeneration(born again)must and does happen before one can have faith.Study your bible more KJV.


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